Thursday, June 14, 2007

The "Shouldabeen" Lois Lane

Few superhero movies contain as much charisma and character as Richard Donner's superb "Superman" (1978). The film shines brightly as the gold standard of superhero films. Looking back on it through the lens of history, it appears even more impressive. Nearly every aspect of the film's production was executed with success; the gravitas of the opening Krypton sequences (and subsequent tragedy), the sweet nostalgia for midwest Americana in its second act, and the movie-within-a-movie aspect of its third act, which takes place in the big city of Metropolis.

One aspect of the film that sometimes gets overlooked is its wholly original and satisfying characterization of Lois Lane. Margot Kidder's Lois is a strange bird; quirky and weird, fascinated with the morbid (her first scenes show her giddily finishing up a big story for The Daily Planet on the East Side murder spree) and an inability to spell ("How do you spell 'massacre'?"). Not to be overlooked, she brings a great deal of humor to the role; her scenes with Christopher Reeve as Clark/Superman are snappy and hilarous, reminiscent of the best screwball comedies.
Much like Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday," or Claudette Colbert in "It Happened One Night," Kidder's Lois Lane is strange, yet cute. She's strong, yet vulnerable. In a word, she's complex. And much of this is to be owed to director Donner and the consummate actress, Kidder. She went on to reprise her role in the nearly-as-brilliant "Superman II" and two more ridiculous sequels.

Flash forward a few decades, as a new Superman film was being developed by director Tim Burton... ahem, J.J. Abrams... I mean, Joseph McGinty... gosh, I meant Brett Ratner... oh, no wait, it was Bryan Singer. Yep, Bryan Singer ended up with the job. "Superman Returns" was Singer's attempt to continue the story where it left off in "Superman II." This was not exactly a reboot (a la "Batman Begins"), this was a fresh continuation of the world and events from the first two Superman films.

Casting Brandon Routh as Clark Kent/Superman was a good start, at least on paper. He has many similarities to Christopher Reeve; they were both relative unknowns when they were cast, each have deep, captivating voices, and have physiques appropriate for The Man of Steel. Routh, however, did not have a fraction of Reeve's charisma. But I digress.

On paper, the casting of Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, with a cast rounded out by Frank Langella, Parker Posey and Eva Marie Saint, seemed inspired. However, the filmmakers made an enormous error with the casting of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.

If the film was designed as a standalone or as a complete reboot, perhaps this casting could have worked. Bosworth has proved herself in the past, doing a fine job in otherwise mediocre, forgettable films ("Blue Crush," "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton"). But with "Superman Returns," a film that is ostensibly a continuation of "Superman II," including numerous references and homages to the two original films, Bosworth was a disastrous, seemingly studio-driven choice, one obviously fueled by Bosworth's popularity.

(Lest you think I'm picking on Bosworth, let me clearly state that the miscasting of Bosworth was simply one error in a giant sea of errors when it comes to the creation of the dreadful film "Superman Begins." The filmmakers could have used a time machine to get 1978-version Margot Kidder to perform in this film, and it still would have been awful.)

Most obviously, Bosworth's sheepish and muted screen presence does not match the character-- the rugged, tough, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from Metropolis. The film clearly states that five years have passed since the events of "Superman II," yet Lois has the physical and emotional appearance of a second-year university student (Bosworth was 23 when she made the film). There was no depth, no gravitas, no honesty to this characterization. When Kidder's Lois entered the frame, the viewer could feel the electricity and excitement; she commanded the frame with her amazing screen presence. When Bosworth's Lois entered the frame, the viewer is left wondering why this girl with the bad wig is loitering around the offices of The Daily Planet.

Although it's clear that a better choice for Lois Lane would not have even remotely saved the film, it's fun to fantasize about alternative choices. Who would have been a better choice for Lois Lane?
Anyone who watches NBC's "The Office" knows Rashida Jones, who joined the magnificent cast when Jim Halpert leaves the office and works at another branch of Dunder Mifflin, and meets Karen (Jones). Boy, she would have made a fantastic Lois Lane.

Physically, Jones and Kidder have a lot in common. She's an exquisite actress, bringing a genuinely unique characterization to television with her role in "The Office," a role that requires a great deal of charisma and weight. I may be imagining it, but I think Jones even has a bit of a squeak in her voice, just as Kidder has ("You've got me? Who's got you?!"). She also is the perfect age to play the continuation of Kidder's Lois (Margot Kidder was 30 when she originally played Lois, Jones was 30 in 2006), and as indicated by her performance on "The Office," she clearly has the acting chops to portray Lois as an experienced, well-travelled, award-winning Daily Planet reporter.

But most importanly, Rashida Jones has a twinkle in her eye, just as Kidder. I could easily see her pulling off the quirky weirdness that Kidder brought to the role.

She would have been perfect for Lois Lane.

Or Maura Tierney.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you about Bosworth's complete lack of screen presence in this film. You know, the whole time I was watching, I was saying to myself that Parker Posey would have served better as Lois Lane. She's just a bit off center and could definately pull it off as a tough-as-nails reporter.

Anonymous said...

I think she is fine,Kate and Brandon is really fascinating.

TareX said...

Rashida Jones' resemblance of the 1978 Lois Lane struck me on the first episode of The Office she appeared.

Not only looks, but character. She was charismatic, witty, with that Lois Lane sarcastic sense of humor.

I can't believe she wasn't considered. That's just POOOOOOOR casting. Not Bosworth's fault.

I loved Superman Returns, nonetheless. But Rashida would have made it a lot better.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't see any resemblance to Margot Kidder in Rashida Jones. That and, she isn't White...technically. I could only imagine the typical media uproar if they were to cast a black or biracial Lois Lane. Though I'd love to see it regardless of what most people might tihnk. In any event, she would of been much better than Kate Bosworth, who I don't remember ever really being that popular.

Ironically, I do see Erica Durance, who plays Lois Lane on Smallville, as a young Margot Kidder. I wonder if she was cast because she somewhat looks like her?

Unknown said...

It's so funny cause today I was wondering who Rashida Jones reminded me of... and (Lois Lane) Margot Kidder came to mind so I googled it and came across this article. She's a perfect Lois Lane that Rashida Jones!

Anonymous said...


Tomasino said...

I was thinking of that same thing earlier today. My pick for Lois was Robin Tunney, though. Have a look:

Celluloid Geek said...

Unlike you i actually really love Superman Returns. Of course i have my problems with it but overall i think it's a fine addition to Supes' history.

I was however left cold by Bosworth. I think her acting itself is okay but she was too young and out of her depth. She's much better in smaller projects.

Rashida Jones would be a fitting choice for Lois or any comic book character, she has a certain something. She was my pick for April O'Neil in TMNT.

But the Lois i've always wanted to see is Courtney Cox. Or Parker Posey. Hell having Posey and Bosworth swap roles would have worked very well, imo

Unknown said...

Yesss totally son when I look at Margot kidder I see robin Tunney and when I see robin Tunney I see Margot kidder it's weird and I really agree with your comment about robin tunney making a good Lois lane And then they can call it the craft meets superman

Unknown said...

Wait isn't Erica durance that girl who plays in saving hope

Unknown said...

Robin Tunney was the only choice.
But Alas....