Sunday, September 07, 2008
Hollywood-spawned superhero fantasy movies abound nowadays. Some of them are reprisals of classics like the Spiderman franchise and Fantastic Four whereas some are altogether fresh from their creators’ imagination, like Hancock. Some of them are animated like The Incredibles while still others are brought to life by real human actors like Lara Croft and Hulk. By virtue of their wholesome appeal, superhero fantasy movies almost always become box-office hits, not only because they provide great escape from current problematic realities but also because the allegedly “lost” generation of today needs heroes to identify with.
In the vein of superhero subcategory of fantasy genre do the Hollywood movies Superman Returns and X-Men fall. Both science-fiction classics, Superman Returns and X-Men were helmed by famous director Bryan Singer at the turn of the millennium, the first film having been released in 2006 while the latter, in 2000. Although the abovementioned are already striking in their parallelisms, there are more to these films for comparison.
First, both films are originally from comics. Superman first saw light as part of many anthology features in Action Comics #1 published on June 1938 by the National Periodical Publications, now called DC Comics. Due to the strip’s popularity, National had to produce a separate strip altogether for Superman exactly a year after, trailblazing the superhero comic book. For twenty years from 1986 to 2006, it went with the new title Adventures of Superman but carried on with the original title up until the present issues. Meanwhile, X-Men was born in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men #1 published on September 1963 by Marvel Comics. The creation of this team of fictional superheroes is credited to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. X-Men is so popular a comic series that, like Superman, it has successfully penetrated the multimedia, from television to video games.
Second, both films are faithful to their comics origin. For its part, Superman Returns adheres to the plot of an inhabitant from planet Krypton sent to earth where he becomes a champion of justice and truth. Also, he is still romantically linked to Lois Lane whom he works with at the news bureau The Daily Planet. He likewise wears the obligatory red and blue costume that he reveals when the world in distress needs him. On the other hand, X-Men is loyal to the plot of mutants with superhuman abilities out to protect themselves and the world that fears their evolutionary mutant superpowers. Also, the X-Men are still under the custody of Professor X who trains them against his archnemesis Magneto and the villainous Brotherhood of Mutants. They also get to wear costumes, although their bright-colored costumes in comics are tamed into earth colors in the film version(s).
Third, both films run the motif of epic heroes out to sacrifice themselves for the sake of not only national, but also global survival. In Superman Returns, Superman appears to save humans from criminal elements lurking across the globe. For instance, he stops a distressed airplane from crashing into a baseball field. Most importantly, he thwarts the plan of his archenemy Lex Luthor to build a Kryptonite continent that will erase North America from the face of the earth. Even as Krypton is Superman’s Achilles’ heel, he took great pains to throw the growing crystal landmass out in space. Meanwhile, in X-Men, Professor X’s trained mutants battle it out against Magneto’s followers who hatched an evil plan to mutate convening world leaders in a conspiracy to democratize mutant creatures. Even as they are endangered from the very people they are saving, the X-Men team halts Magneto’s scheme to turn humans into the very creatures they are afraid of.
Fourth, both films have the protagonists maintaining double identities. In Superman Returns, Superman has a human alter-ego, Clark Kent, who works as a gentle-mannered reporter. On the other hand, X-Men has mutants hiding their superpowered identity in the mask of ordinary citizens, for which Senator Kelly files the Mutant Registration Bill in an effort to distinguish the so-called homo superiors from normal humans.
Fifth, both films have then-unknown actors playing major roles, something of an enormous risk in big-budgeted, celebrity-capitalizing Hollywood films. In Superman Returns, a relatively unknown Brandon Routh jumps from the television to the silverscreen. Meanwhile, in X-Men, Australian actor Hugh Jackman bags the coveted role of Wolverine, which seems the film’s most hyped-about character than renowned actress Halle Berry ’s Storm or Oscar Awardee Anna Paquin’s Rogue.
Finally, both films will eventually generate sequels owing to their success at the tills. Superman Returns’ sequel, Superman: Man of Steel, is currently filming and is due for release in 2011. On the other hand, X-Men’s sequels, X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand, were already shown in 2003 and 2006, respectively, completing the expected trilogy.
Whereas the abovementioned show how similar Superman Returns is to X-Men, there are also points wherein the two films are different. First, there is only a single superhero in Superman Returns while there are many in X-Men, from Storm to Wolverine to Jean Grey to Rogue to Professor X, to name a few. Second, the superpowers are diverse in both films, with Superman having a steel-like composition, x-ray vision and bullet-speed pace whereas with Storm having the ability to control the weather, with Wolverine having a self-healing ability, and with Rogue having the capacity to absorb other mutants’ super-ability. Third, in Superman Returns, the superhero is not an earthling but an alien from outer space whereas in X-Men, the mutants are still humans after all. Fourth, Superman is already expert in his use of his abilities whereas the X-men experiment with their ability for the first time in their battle scene at the film’s finale, their super-strength gaining better footing at the second and third installment of the X-Men franchise. Lastly, the films trace their roots from rival camps: Superman Returns, as already mentioned, harks back from DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers Entertainment whereas X-Men, from Marvel Comics, a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment.
It is seen that there is a whole lot of oneness and difference in the Hollywood superhero fantasy movies Superman Returns and X-Men. The stable popularity both are enjoying is a proof that indeed, in their similarities and uniqueness, their followers find not only entertainment values but also means through which this contemporary generation can construct its identity.