Sunday, October 17, 2010

In short: Süpermen Dönüyor (1979)

aka Turkish Superman

aka The Return of Superman

Whatever you think you know about Superman from those American movies is wrong: the last survivor of the planet Krypton (which, and I quote: "exploded seven lightyears ago") didn't grow up in Kansas, but in Turkey. His name also isn't Clark Kent, but Tayfun (Tayfun Demir). The rest of his background is mostly as you remember, though. Please just keep in mind that his kidnapping-prone journalist love interest is now called Alev (Güngör Bayrak) and the Daily Planet consists of three desks in two office rooms.

Anyway, a bad guy named Ekrem (Yildirim Gencer) has invented a ray that can transform any metal into gold and also moonlights as a death ray. Ekrem's only problem is that he needs Krypton Stone as an energy source for his ray, and the only known specimens of that element (as well as a formula to produce more of it) are in the hands of the upright Professor Hetin (Esref Kolcak) who just happens to be Alev's father. Hetin certainly isn't going to give the element or his inventions to just anyone, so Ekrem makes dastardly plans (that for some reason start with trying to kill Alev instead of kidnapping her as a hostage) to steal them from the professor.

Fortunately, Superman is there to show Ekrem and his henchpeople the errors of their ways.

For once, a Turkish pop movie known as Turkish whatever actually deserves the title, but it's also for once a movie of its type I don't care much for.

On paper, Turkish Superman contains all the mandatory elements to make me happy: utter disregard for copyright laws as demonstrated by the film's hero being Superman in exactly the iconic costume, and even parts of the music being borrowed from the US movie (the James Bond theme also features quite prominently), special effects so special the substitution of Christmas ornaments for stars and planets in the film's intro isn't even their worst moment, a jumpy plot that just can't sit still for longer than five seconds, and Kunt Tulgar, Copperhead himself, in the director's chair.

Unfortunately, all this potential adds up to less than I had hoped for. Tulgar is a much weaker director than for example Yilmaz Atadeniz or Cetin Inanc are. Tulgar's frankly boring point and shoot style is only useful to demonstrate how much more creative his peers were visually. Atadeniz' and Inanc's films were often raw and sloppy, yet also full of an energy and excitement that made their films irresistible. Turkish Superman is only hectic in comparison.

The film's not made better by the fact that its Superman Tayfun Denim spends most of his time with the creepy smirk of a serial killer on his face. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had ripped someone's head off while wearing that expression. And what do you know? Turkish Superman does kill people.

The movie further suffers from the simple problem that Superman as a character just isn't a very good fit for the two-fisted action style Turkish popular cinema is specialized in. There's not much room for longer fisticuffs or interesting stunts when your film's hero is untouchable by normal physical means and so strong he wins his fights with a single punch. The easiest way out of this particular problem is to give our hero an equally super-powered foe, but Tulgar's film doesn't use this method, either for budgetary reasons or to ape the first US Superman of the 70s more closely.

Consequently, I found it extremely difficult to get excited about Tayfun or his adventures, and excitement is usually what Turkish pop cinema has going for it.


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