After the Superman

After the Thin Man: written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on a story by Dashiell Hammett; directed by W.S. Van Dyke; starring William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), James Stewart (David Graham), Elissa Landi (Selma Landis) and Joseph Calleia (Dancer) (1936): Frothy second movie in the classic Thin Man franchise is uncharacteristically long for its era (113 minutes!) and in need of a trim of about 20 of those minutes, pretty much all from the beginning. Perpetually drunk Nick and Nora Charles return to San Francisco after a New York vacation to find another murder to solve with the occasional help/hindrance of dog Asta and the police.

Unfortunately, the film takes its own sweet time getting to that murder, and there’s only so many party sequences one can watch. Witty bon mots and double-takes and double-entendres result, along with Jimmy Stewart as the second lead, a love-lorn bachelor. Eventually a murder occurs for Nick and Nora to solve. Also much shouting. Still, diverting fun. Recommended.

Superman vs. The Elite: written by Joe Kelly, based on his 2001 comic-book story “What So Funny ‘Bout Truth, Justice, and the American Way?”; directed by Michael Chang; starring the voices of George Newbern (Superman), Pauley Perrette (Lois Lane), Robin Atkin Downes (Manchester Black) and Dee Bradley Baker (Atomic Skull) (2012): One of DC/Warner’s periodic attempts to make their superheroes look like anime characters. Joe Kelly, with what I’d assume is some editorial direction from up the food chain, somewhat mucks up his excellent early-oughts Superman comic-book story “What So Funny ‘Bout Truth, Justice, and the American Way?”. That story was a response to the ultraviolent superheroes of the time, specifically Wildstorm’s The Authority.

Here, Superman is made to look like something of a moralizing twit by the reduction in the Elite’s tendency to create collateral damage among innocent bystanders. Their designs on world governance remain pretty much the same, but the movie also delves into the back-story of team-leader Manchester Black, making him more sympathetic and making the team as a whole less irresponsible and less power-hungry.

It doesn’t help that a sub-plot sees Superman-villain-B-lister the Atomic Skull escape from jail twice and kill dozens of innocent bystanders. Somewhere, the concrete reasons for why one wouldn’t want super-powered vigilantes running around killing people gets lost in translation. And why do cities persist in jailing supervillains so close to their downtown cores? The anime style isn’t particularly compelling, occasionally making Superman look more like one of the Ripping Friends. Lightly recommended, but you’d be better off reading the comic book instead.

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