With the release of the second full trailer and an extensive article in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, I am quickly reaching the end of my fanboy-induced patience regarding the new film, Superman Returns. Wednesday can’t come soon enough. I find this impatience startlingly as this is the first time in a while where that fanboy sense, which has been steadily been disappearing as more adult matters find assured prioritization, has been allowed to make a quick return engagement.
Superman: The Movie was released in December of 1978, just in time for the Christmas holiday. Star Wars came out a full-year earlier, but to my second-grade mind, Star Wars’ appeal, not to mention its merchandising, which I was set to strike big-time that year with a little help from Jolly St. Nick, was still growing strong. However, being weaned on comic books thanks to my grandfather, Darth Vader, X-Wing fighters and the entire mystical Force couldn’t compete with the likes of Superman. After all, this movie had promised that I would believe a man could fly.
On opening day, my parents pulled a totally unexpected move, and one that would forever endear them to me beyond the obvious: they took me out of school early in order to catch the matinee premiere. My folks were rather hardened with the idea of skipping school for fake illnesses, so deliberately pulling me out early to see a movie – and a superhero movie at that – was, well, inconceivable.
With the Eighties getting ready to warm up and looking to replace Disco with New Wave and Carter with Reagan, modern-day theater multiplexes were still in their infancy. One of the nearby malls had a General Cinemas boasting an incredible, wait for it, six screens (I would see Superman II at this theater two summers later) while the Eric at a competing mall a much-less mind-blowing twin. There were still three one-screen houses in the area that presented first-run movies and were always a treat to visit. The carpets were plush, the screens huge, and scent of popcorn was eternally permeating. The Harwan was in Mt. Ephraim and would end up with the longest lifespan going on to show second- or third-run screenings right up into the new millennium. The Westmont, located in, you guessed it, Westmont, sported a balcony. In its later years the Westmont would split its room into two screens and eventually became a village playhouse. The Westmont has since closed up, vacantly sitting on what I’m sure is pretty valuable land. Finally, The Century theater sat directly on the corner of the White Horse Pike and King’s Highway, about a mile-and-a-half east from the Harwan. The Century was abandoned, eventually torn down against significant public protest, became a drug store for a fortnight, and is once again abandoned. In 1978, however, the Century was still king. That is where I saw Superman and, yes, I believed.
Almost thirty years later, a new Superman movie, one to potentially rival Dick Donner’s 1978 epic is about to be released. Responsibilities will not permit me to skip work for a matinee, nor do I have the patience to wait in a queue with teenagers and college students for a midnight showing. I will most assuredly being seeing the film in the 24-room strong, corporate-sponsored, and equally-soulless mega-theater complex that’s within walking distance from my Cherry Hill house, but my wife will be there with me. We’ll hold hands during the exciting parts and she’ll smile as the youth returns to eyes that are quickly forgetting childhood dreams. I can’t wait.
Much like that winter in 1978, I find that it’s not just the film of Superman Returns that is exciting my inner-child, but the build up for the event. The anticipation for the release, which can be just as, if not more, powerful than the actual film. There is another film, also with anticipation, being released later in July that should be producing excitement from my college years with just as much fervor as Superman has had to my primary school days, but sadly isn’t. The film: Clerks II.
No need for a discussion or breakdown here on Kevin Smith’s rebellious and nigh-vulgar look at the convenience store industry that debuted in 1994 that spawned a short-lived animated series and couple of comic books and, oh yes, four more features all based on his characters. But then Smith said goodbye and looked eager to continue his growth as a filmmaker, which I applauded. Jersey Girl was released ten years after his debut and although not his strongest film, took him out of the pool he was playing in, which definitely seemed to quickly be running out of water.
Clerks II, however, seems like a retread, a return to comfortable ground, a way to play it safe, which is uncharacteristic of Smith, lending to my reasons for indecisiveness and the cause of lukewarm feelings. If he is giving in, or up, no longer catering to the rebelliousness of youth and refusing to live by his dreams, then why should we as viewers or fans? Staying in comfortable environs means commuting to college instead of living on campus, giving into the past is like continuing to use the air popper when microwave popcorn is just so much quicker and comes pre-buttered.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe this feeling is exactly what Smith is counting on and is looking forward to disproving. Maybe his jokes will still be relevant, much like a man in blue tights and a red cape is still relevant, and still needed.
I will see Clerks II. Not on opening night, but with my friends. Maybe once the crowds have calmed down. I’ll sneak in my flask and divide the warm liquor into each of our cool cups of soda. I’ll laugh and permit my non-jaded youth to once again jump free in the twinkling of my eyes.