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The Ridiculousness that is "Superman II"

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Have you ever re-watched a movie you loved as a kid, only to step back afterwards and say, "Hmmm, that is a lot sillier than I remember..."? For me, Supeman II is just such a movie.

I recently watched "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut." (There is a whole long story about how Richard Donner got dumped from the original production and a lot of his footage was cut, etc. I am not going into that here - look it up yourself on Wikipedia) For a long time, I considered Superman II my favorite superhero movie. Upon re-watching, I realized that while still thoroughly enjoyable, Superman II has ridiculous point after ridiculous point. Here, I will point out a few (it could take a whole book to point them all out).

And yes, there actually is a take-away lesson from this breakdown...

Note: These are technically spoilers, but really, the movie came out in 1982. If you haven't seen it by now...

Ridiculous Point #1: Superman Keeps a Chevy at the North Pole

After Superman gives up his powers, he and Lois drive back to civilization. Why on Earth (or Krypton for that matter) does Superman have a car at the Fortress of Solitude, first of all, and secondly, how does a 1978 Chevy adequately navigate the frozen tundra of the north pole where there are no roads and clearly no snow plowing?

Ridiculous Point #2: Clark Kent walks to the North Pole

After the "power giving up" scene, Clark and Lois are at a diner when Clark realizes that the three Kryptonian bad guys are on Earth and decides that he needs to return to the North Pole to get his powers back. We next see Clark walking and trying to hitchhike back to the North Pole! Why is he walking? They have a car! (see point #1)

Can you imagine the conversation between him and Lois?

Clark: "Well honey, I have to trek through blizzards and across miles of frozen tundra to try a last ditch attempt to get my powers back so I can stop three people just as powerful as me."
Lois: "Well, I have a job to get back to."
Clark: "I'm kind of humanity's only hope of avoiding persecution and oppression for all of time."
Lois: "I don't really like public transportation"
Clark: "Hmm, good point. You take the car."

Absurd! On top of that, are we forgetting that the North Pole is not connected to North America? How does one walk and hitchhike there anyway?

Ridiculous Point #3: Clark gives up his powers without asking Lois

After some romantic time at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman gives up his powers to be with Lois. Very romantic. Of course, he doesn't talk with her first about it! I know married couples that bicker and argue when one of them decides to pick up Chinese food for dinner instead of pizza without consulting the other. Wouldn't you consider "giving up your position as the most unbelievably powerful person on the planet and the defender of all that is good and pure in the world without talking to your love first," a bad way to start a relationship? Dr. Phil would have a field day with this!

Of course, there's another level of absurdity here:

Ridiculous Point #4: Lois is fine with Superman giving up his powers.

In the span of one day, Lois discovers/confirms that Clark Kent is Superman, gets whisked away to the North Pole, and watches Superman give up his powers to be with her. One problem: Lois has been in love with Superman, not Clark Kent! So the first day she finally lands her dream man, he goes and changes back to Clark, the guy she has been ignoring forever. Somehow we are to believe that she is fine with this...

I used to date a girl, who, a couple of months after we broke up, got one of those ridiculously short cropped haircuts that very few women can pull off. You know what? I was much less attracted to her. That's just a haircut! Superman gave up everything that made him special and that Lois was attracted to! And don't give me that inner beauty bunk here - If she was attracted to inner beauty, she would have been down with Clark long ago. Besides, what is the first thing Clark does when he returns to civilization without his powers? Gets in a fight. Yeah, he's a real winner...

Ridiculous Point #5: The absurd level of coincidences:

I understand that a certain level of coincidence goes hand in hand with storytelling (though ideally, there should only be one chance event that kicks things off, and then things should follow logically along). This movie takes it to a new level.

Here are a few of these coincidences:

As far as absurdity goes, the coincidences aren't so bad, but something about it really stuck out to me.

Ridiculous Point #6: Otis is evidently Sherlock Holmes

This is a really small nitpick, but it has bothered me since I first saw the movie 26 years ago. Luthor and Otis are chatting it up in jail, and Otis says "Superman always flies off." Luthor replies, "where?" Otis comes back with, "North." Which is the realization that Superman has something important to the north.

Here's my problem. Otis is an idiot! Ned Beatty plays him brilliantly as a buffoon. How does he recognize that Superman always flies away north? Quick, right now, tell me which compass direction you are facing. Do you know? If you are in a very familiar location, you might. Chances are you had to think about it, and maybe got it wrong. For Otis to come to this realization, he would need to:

  1. Be aware, every time Superman leaves, which way north is
  2. Pay attention to the direction that Superman leaves in
  3. Be able to recall and piece together the above two pieces of information to draw a conclusion.

On top of that, are we to assume that Superman travels back to the North Pole every single time he finished a mission. Doesn't he ever fly back to his Metropolis apartment? Back to work at the Daily Planet? Back to visit Ma Kent in Kansas? Off in another direction to save someone else? Or maybe just off to Tahiti for a much needed vacation...?

When you consider these last questions, doesn't it seem unlikely that even Luthor, the "greatest criminal mind on the planet," would deduce that Superman has something towards the north...?

(Totally random aside: every time I type "ridiculous" I hear David Thewlis's voice from "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" casting the "Ridiculous" spell. It's amazing how the mind works. Or doesn't, as the case may be)

Those are just a few of the ridiculous things from Superman II. Amazingly, I still had a great time re-watching it. Superman II does one thing really well: it captures the feel of a comic book, especially in the battle scenes. Rather than taking the route of X-men, where the characters wear black leather instead of the comic book costumes, or Spiderman, where Sam Raimi played with the colors of the city and buildings to fit in with Spiderman's outfit, Superman wears his full-on blue and red costume on the gray streets of New York, and it looks somehow right.

On top of that, the battle is awesome! Up until Spiderman 2 came out, the Superman II battle scene was my favorite comic book movie battle ever! It really captured the comic book feel of super-powered beings going at it.

Then there's Terrance Mann, who plays General Zod so absurdly over the top it truly makes the movie.

That is why all the ridiculousness is forgivable. Superman II understands what it is supposed to be - a comic book brought to the big screen. As long as it achieves that goal, every thing else is forgivable. Unlike comedies that aren't funny, horror movies that aren't scary, and romances with no romance, Superman II does achieve its primary goal.

And that brings us to the point of this analysis: Whatever you are doing, make sure you understand your primary goal. With your career, what is your most important task or function? As an entrepreneur, what is your primary focus? Why are people hiring you? When buying a big ticket item, what is the most important feature or benefit to you?

Of course, not having weak points is the strongest position of all. But you can't be all things to all people (even yourself). Figure out what the most important thing is, focus on that, and the rest may very well be forgivable.

Avish Parashar is a dynamic professional speaker who shows organizations and individuals how to get what they want using the Art and Science of improv comedy. He weaves together humorous stories, witty observations, and interactive exercises from improvisational comedy to get people laughing, learning, and motivated! Avish is most commonly called upon to deliver programs on Motivation, Sales, and Communication

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