Superman is not an easy character to bring into a live action fan production. Let’s think beyond the logistics of special effects. I’m talking just about the character of Superman and the disguise he wears in the form of mild mannered Clark Kent. We’ve certainly seen a representation of the character in fan favorite films such as John Fiorella’s Grayson and Sandy Collora’s World’s Finest. Those appearances are more frosting on a fan film cake. Muscled men downing the costume we’re all familiar with for that lovely eye candy to get those Fanboy juices flowing. The only fan film that comes to mind that actually explores the character is Tomorrow’s Memoir. And that may be a stretch because the filmmakers didn’t come right out and say that the character in that short film was actually Superman. It was all implied, but anyone who knows the character clearly can see the parallels. And yes – there are other fan productions out there that utilize the Superman character that are either bastardizations of what Christopher Reeve did or the films just aren’t good enough to bring into this review.
It seems that just this past year there’s been a few Superman virtuosos popping up prepared to put their fan film stamp on the Last Son of Krypton. Superman: Requiem and the newly announced Superman: The Golden Child are two projects getting some positive buzz out there on the internet. At this point who knows if they’ll be any good. I personally haven’t seen enough information on either to make a determination. They may be genius. They may live out their life hidden in a whirlpool of YouTube videos between the likes of Chris Croker and Two Girls, One Cup.
Another production ablaze with buzz is Johnny K. Wu’s S: A Superman Fan Film. This one is the closest to be let out of the gate with an online world release date of October 1st. There’s plenty of stills out there of the film as well as the trailer which I did make comment on when posting it on the Fan Film Follies news section. My critique then holds up and I’ll revisit what that is. Johnny sent along an almost completed version of the full seventeen minute film. I guess they have some sound work and remixing to take care of before the initial release.
Let me indicate this before I go on. I don’t like to write critiques of fan films. I can tear Hollywood movies a new asshole left and right all day long without a problem. Hollywood has millions of dollars to make movies and they mostly make crap. Plus what do they care what I have to say? They just don’t get my money. Fan film makers have hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars to work with. I can really appreciate how they do so much with so little. They also don’t get my money because as we all know they can’t make a cent off someone else’s intellectual property. They release their films online for free. How crazy is that? With the Fan Film Follies I either post fan films I really think bring something new to the fan film table or I simply ignore them letting them disappear into obscurity. I don’t do reviews.
BUT! Are you ready for the BUT, Johnny? When someone sends me an advance copy of their film they do so with the expectation of getting more exposure for their efforts in the hope to build some kind of following as they move closer to their release date. So here it goes. The no holds barred review of Johnny K. Wu’s S: A Superman Fan Film.
My biggest critique off fan films that I indicate over and over again in writing for the site and also through the Fan Film Podcast is both sound and acting. Even potentially good fan films suffer because the wrong decisions are made in casting and/or no one is concentrating on one of the most important aspects of making any movie and that is sound. OK. Unless you’re making a silent movie I take exception. S already has two of my worst pet peeves covered. I know at the time of writing this review Johnny and his team were remixing the sound for the film. And it does need it especially in the parts where all the action occurs. It’s clear they had an Audio Engineer during their initial shoot so kudos to that individual.
George Tutie as Superman. George is built. They have his shirt off at one point torn from the climactic end battle. I’m not sure if that was intended for the story or Johnny wanted to show the audience his actor does have muscles or a combination of both, but either way George is clearly ripped. Does he have the body of Superman? No. I would instantly cast him as Peter Parker in my next Spiderman fan film, but he’s not proportioned for the character of Superman the way Michael O’Hearn was in World’s Finest. How do you find a muscle bound person who looks like Superman and who can actually act? Beats the hell out of me. I get what Johnny was after with someone athletic who could deliver a convincing performance. All I could think of in the back of my mind while watching the film was that classic line from Star Wars, “Aren’t you a little short to be a Storm Trooper?” – “Aren’t you a little skinny to be a Superman?”
The rest of the characters were well cast bringing in solid performances. If I was to be nitpicky (and I will be) when Lex Luthor played by E Ray Goodwin Jr. first shows up he’s way to smiley for the lack of a better word. He was like Lex Luthor light. I’m not sure if this was a decision made by the actor or the direction he was given, but he seemed like the Mister Rogers of Superman villains. I was waiting for Mr. McFeely to show up and deliver some mail made of Kryptonite. I understand what was trying to be conveyed. Lex was trying to be convincing to the fact that he’s a “changed man”. It just seemed forced. As the film progressed Goodwin fell into the Luthor we all know and loath. When you see the film in October you’ll instantly pick up on what I mean.
Extra big kudos for delivering a villain not yet seen in a live action fan film. This villain being in the form of Brainiac played by B Kyle Znamenak. Everything about the look and the performance was spot on.
When I first posted the trailer to S: A Superman Fan Film I commented how I was distracted in my viewing by all the heavy CGI. It was explained to me by Johnny when I raised this point initially that he was going for a more comic book look so the reason for the big use of After Effects and the green screen. I’m not exactly the picture of youth. I’m more an old school, practical effects kind of guy. To put my review in perspective I’m not overly crazy about a majority of the mainstream movies that come out with intense computer graphics. The Playstation 3/XBOX 360 video game generation may well dismiss it as awesome, but it my opinion it distracts and detracts from the story being presented. I’m not talking in all cases. The remake of Clash of the Titans comes instantly to mind as an overuse of the tool making a terribly written movie terrible looking. On the flip side the genius that was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings uses CGI fittingly only when practical effects couldn’t cut the butter.
In S I can accept certain shots that could never of been done practically. We are talking a limited budgeted fan film here. And we’re also talking about one of the most difficult superheroes to bring to the live action world. That’s why we don’t see many fan films based on the character as opposed to the Batman who has at least a trillion popping up all over the viral video sites. It’s just easier to make a film about a guy dressed up as a bat rather than some boy falling from the sky from another planet who can fly, lift mountains, shoot beams of light out of his eyes, see into the girl’s locker room (unless it’s a lead wall), and has a rogue’s gallery equally as difficult to bring to live action.
I should also mention in closing that the fight scenes were well planned and executed. That’s what steamed my cookies about Superman Returns. Not only was it an ejaculation of what Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve already did there was no giant battle. No crashing through buildings. No fisticuffs in the middle of the streets of Metropolis. S: A Superman Fan Film has these elements that the fans want to see. That I want to see! And although I piss and moan about the use of CGI in this short film the action elements are well designed and paced.
THE SUM UP
S: A Superman Fan Film is well written, well acted and more importantly has something to say. We get a surprise ending that will leave the hardcore fanboy and girls in mass debate.
S: A Superman Fan Film relies too much on CGI. Annoyingly so. That’s really my only biggest bitch towards the film. Superman fans are going to love it.