Superman Returns – Good Movie, Bad Theater

My wife and I hired a sitter Saturday night so we could escape to dinner and a movie (this was only the fourth or fifth time we’ve been out without our daughter since her birth). I wanted to see Superman Returns; my wife wanted to see… Superman Returns. Weird.

Since our date night began early—about 5 PM (we had planned to attend Naperville’s Ribfest to eat festive ribs standing up over yellow jacket swarmed trash cans while listening to REO Speedwagon’s live “new stuff” but the weather looked too thunderstorm-y)—we stopped by the theater and picked up our tickets for the 7:20 show. I had a feeling it was sold out, but it wasn’t. Before I ran into the box office, my wife told me to ask the ticket booth guy if there was any good restaurants in the area. Me: “Two adults for the 7:20 Superman.” Booth Goon says something away from the mike while staring at his computer screen. Me: “What?” Booth Goon: “$17.50.” I pass my credit card into the trough under the glass. Booth Goon speaks again, I still think I’m involved, “What?” Then I realize he’s talking to his booth mate. Card, tickets and receipt are thrown into the trough at me. I hop back in my car. My wife asks, ” Did they know any good restaurants?” Me: “No.” We drive around to kill some time and end up at a sports bar in the movie theater parking lot that served very dry fried meat.

We got in line for the 7:20 show at 6:50 behind only a few other moviegoers. I had to run to the bathroom and when I returned the line was gone. My wife had picked prime seats: on the aisle, first upper level row, right behind the handicap seats. With a good twenty minutes to kill before the trailers we watched all the other Superman fans find a seat.

Now here’s where things get bad. At least 3 kids under the age of two were looking for seats with their parents. We couldn’t imagine these infants and toddlers behaving themselves for 157 minutes. And they didn’t: into the first trailer one of the kids was balling, his rotten dad stomps down the aisle, all pissed. The worst is the dad and toddler don’t even leave, they just wait out the tantrum in the hallway leading into the theater.

Another infant bomb explodes during the Spider-Man 3 trailer. I really wanted the whole audience’s attention silently focused on the teaser footage: black costume, Eddie Brock, Mary Jane all “What’s up, Peter?”, Harry, Sandman doing a great imitation of the evil sandstorm from the Mummy, shooting webs, good/evil reflections. Instead, I get screaming babies. Aargh, everyone needs to leave and we need to rewind that back.

We were paying a sitter $8 an hour to watch our kid. Why couldn’t everyone else do the same? Or stay home. My wife and I quietly plotted to request our money back after the film. We were pretty sure the theater had a “no kids under 6 in the evening” policy. Though the policy clearly wasn’t enforced, we forgot to ask for our money.

The 12 year old kid sitting in front of us was awesome, though. He kept looking back in my direction, and asking, “Spider-Man 3 almost here?” His father was sitting right behind me and would shush him. When we’re introduced to Lex Luthor for the first time he let out a loud, breathy, “Lex!” He reminded me of this one kid in our audience at the first Harry Potter movie who freaked out laughing hysterically when all the owls landed in Harry’s yard with acceptance letters. I guess he really enjoyed that part of the book.

I really liked Superman Returns. His powers are interpreted well with great effects (my favorites are heat-wave heat-vision and breaking the speed of sound barrier when taking off flying). Things that usually kill blockbusters like kids and jealous boyfriends are handled with surprise and subtlety. The legacy of Superman I and II lives on in this new movie through John Williams original theme music, Marlon Brando’s voice overs, Superman’s public service announcements after he saves the day and Superman’s temperament. It’s just a great summer blockbuster. I’m glad I saw it in the theater despite all the hassle.

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