Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Popularised by Star Wars prequel tinkering that sought to minimise Jar Jar Binks capers, the fan edit has become a legitimate form of post-modern ownership. Given the amount of retroactively abused childhoods floating around, and the easy availability of professional level editing software, it was only natural that a fan community would take a more direct role in film presentation. Superman Redeemed is one of the more famous examples of this audience level participation. Devised by fanedit.org user ADigitalman, the Redeemed project seeks to salvage a worthwhile sequel to Richard Donner's film(s) using sequences and plot devices from lacklustre entries Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. III has been gutted, jettisoning Richard Pryor's toothless comedy contribution and Robert Vaughn's sub-Luthor slick dicking, leaving the bare frame of Clark's return to Smallville. Director Richard Lester's gag opportunism has also been pruned, although not entirely eliminated. Quest for Peace survives as a Cold War overlord parable, and a series of overlit Luthor intrigue scenes culminating in the birth and direction of evil super-doppelganger Nuclear Man. Connecting tissue is provided by Superman II outtakes, and John Williams' score for Superman: The Movie.
It's an ambitious project; ADigitalman has to contend with wildly different film stocks, shooting styles, and special effects budgets, whilst maintaining a narrative consistency. For the most part, he succeeds. Although Superman Redeemed lacks the polish and rugged continuity of a singular production, the doubling effect created by amalgamating two distinct separates creates a carnival atmosphere that harks back to Superman's daffy Silver Age adventures. Redeemed juggles twin commitments to Lana Lang and Lois Lane. Since each relationship derives from an elsewhere, each is favoured without concession. The super-bachelor playing his two favourite girls off against each other. The battles with Nuclear Man are supplemented with the corrupt Superman sequence from III. Nuclear Man's touch is so caustic it causes Superman to undergo a red Kryptonite separation adventure. After battling a gang of evil Kryptonians in the previous movie, it's rather pleasing that this sequel further plays with the idea that a hero's worst enemies are simply mischief minded echoes. Internal images here, after II's external manifestations. For Redeemed's climax Superman must run a gauntlet of shade copies. This reflection termination peril also lends the absurd Nuclear Man a palpable sense of menace, a necessary inclusion since he still looks like a baked hairdresser playing Legion of Superheroes.
A shame that little more could be done with a forced disarmament subplot that sees Superman stray from benevolent protector into Krypto-fascist messiah. Although, on consideration, what little ADigitalman adds does speak volumes. The pro-change introspection Superman suffers after receiving a 'please help!' letter from Cold War kid Jeremy is beefed up with a hotline soundbite from Marlon Brando. This minor loop addition reveals some interesting predicaments for Superman. Is his God-Father advocating a more direct role in human evolution? Does that put the mission at odds with the son's own observations and readings? Superman plays the dutiful offspring, dogmatically realising his father's word, before reconsidering the position and deciding to play hands off. Whether intended or not, this scrap of barely acknowledged character turmoil leads rather well into the isolationist hero of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.
Not even close to being an official Warner Bros sanctioned product, Superman Redeemed can be found through the usual channels of online distribution.