Superman III: Revisted

Superman III revisited. In this series I re-watch a movie I haven’t seen in a long time to look at it with new eyes, and (hopefully) more experience. This time I revisit Superman III.

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I haven’t seen Superman III since I was a kid and couldn’t really remember much of it. Re-watching it again, I can see why it wasn’t worth remembering. The basic plot is that tycoon Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) has ambitions to dominate more global markets. Webster discovers a talented computer programmer, Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), and Webster forces Gorman to use his programming talent to manipulate the world and to combat Superman (Reeve).

The opening sequence of Superman III is a series of mishaps: A blind man’s dog runs away, the dog knocks over a lady, the blind man mistakes a street lane painter as his dog and starts following it. Somewhere amidst this chaos, a man gets trapped inside a flooding car and Superman must save him.

I wondered what kind of story this was establishing. Is this a story about all the things that go wrong in the world that Superman can’t fix? Is it a story about him struggling to decide between who to help and who to abandon, even if that sometimes means between choosing who lives and who dies? This was me giving Superman III too much credit. Superman III is a Superman story told as a screwball comedy. It is a strange movie. It is a boring movie. And I didn’t think it was a funny movie.

Here are six thoughts I had when revisited Superman III.

Smallville: Skippable Episode Guide

Awhile back I offered to make someone on the Smallville subreddit an abridged guide to Smallville that skipped all unncessary episodes. My offer was ignored, but another user recently found my post and asked me if I would still be willing to make the guide. So here it is! The following is my skippable episodes guide to Smallville.

Please note that I created this guide to cater specifically to that reddit user’s request, who was only interested in the main storyline. This creates some problems because typically when you make a skippable episode guide you only include the best episodes (in addition to ones that follow the main plot) and Smallville‘s main storyline episodes aren’t the best episodes. For example, the Season Four episode “Sacred” is a terrible episode. But in that episode we learn about an important set of stones that are integral to the season. Following the main storyline also skips over a lot of great episodes, like the Ryan episode in the first season (which I snuck in anyway) and the Alicia episodes in the third and fourth seasons (which I also snuck in anyway).

Smallville is also unusual in that it continuously reinvents its history. At first we learn about how Clark fits in with the Native American legend of Naman. Later we learn about how Clark is also known among the Veritas group as The Traveler. By the time we’re learning about The Traveler, the Native American legend is hardly referenced again. So is the Native American legend really part of the main storyline? What I decided was that each season focused on a particular story or villain and I tried to include the episodes that developed that story.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’d consider reworking this in order to make the best possible list for the most number of people. For example, if you think the will-they-won’t-they, on-again-off-again Lana storyline is essential, I’m willing to hear that argument. Or if you would just prefer a list of the most pleasant Smallville episodes, let me know.

Final note: If you’re a first time viewer watching the show, I’ve separated the article into two parts: The first part is spoiler-free list of the episodes you need to watch, the second part is spoiler-heavy description for fans to explain why I cut what I cut.

Here is the abridged guide to Smallville that let’s you know what episodes you can skip.

Doctor Strange: Imagery and Storytelling Through His Hands

While watching Doctor Strange I noticed a considerable focus on Doctor Strange’s hands. Because Doctor Strange’s journey begins when he damages his hands, they are a big part of the story’s purpose and the camera spends a lot of time on his hands as he progresses through the story.

Here is a quick breakdown of how images of Doctor Strange’s hands are used to describe his mindset and where he is in his journey.

White and Black Hats: The Morality of Westworld

In Westerns there is a long tradition of good guys wearing white hats and bad guys wearing black hats. I believe Westworld is playing around with this tradition.

White and black hats goes all the way back to silent films. It’s not an absolute rule all Westerns follow. In fact, many films (like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) deliberately subvert the idea by eliminating white hats to imply moral ambiguity amongst the characters. However, it is imagery we see again and again in Westerns.

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I believe that Westworld is conscious of this traditional Western imagery and is playing with the concept — and that it is worth paying attention to which hat a character wears. Here is a brief analysis of six Westworld characters and the hats they wear.

Joss Whedon: Master of Character

As I re-watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I find there are a lot of character building episodes where a character faces a personal challenge and overcomes it. The further in the show I go, however, I realize that these character building episodes result in no real character change whatsoever. By the next episode, the character falls back into their normal personality and rhythms.

This is like false character building, in that the character goes through the process of changing, but never actually changes. While these aren’t bad episodes and are even fulfilling, we as an audience respond more strongly when we get to be party to a character changing, from their beginning state, to the conflict, to the character that emerges. There’s a deeper connection to this kind of character building. But so far, Deep Space Nine is missing that kind of character building.

As I thought about this, I realized other shows skimp on character building too. To help illustrate how character building is done properly, I decided to contrast some poor examples of character building episodes with a few episodes from a master of character building, Joss Whedon. While a couple of the Whedon episodes I mention are written by other writers (Steven DeKnight, Marti Noxon, and Douglas Petrie) many of the character threads that lead to these character building episodes run throughout the season, and for the purposes of making the title of this piece more simple, I’m giving the works of Whedon the nod here, rather than the man himself (though I suspect he had input on these character arcs).

Here are three examples of shows that did character building poorly, and three more examples where Joss Whedon shows did it better.