Archive for November 13, 2021

Mustard

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , on November 13, 2021 by dcairns

When I spoke to Richard Lester about his career he was at pains to make clear that his work on SUPERMAN (as a go-between going between Richard Donner and the Salkinds) and SUPERMAN II, finishing the film Donner started, was strictly professional and impersonal. “You were able to get more of your sensibility into SUPERMAN III,” I ventured. “Yes. And that didn’t work.”

SUPERMAN III is indeed flawed, there is some kind of mismatch between Lester the satirist, grounded in some kind of social reality, and the comic book fantasy of Supes, and this weirdly results in a film that’s MORE comic-book and juvenile than its predecessors, maybe because Lester can’t take the thing seriously enough to indulge in the epic chunkiness of Donner, whosaw the thing in terms of myth. Well, to Lester, myths exist to be examined and debunked.

It’s probably a perfect entertainment for the under-tens, but as a fifteen-year-old I remember being offended by nonsense like a weather satellite being reprogrammed to make weather instead of analysing it. When the baddies try to slip some kryptonite to Superman, pretending it’s an award for his services, they don’t sculpt it into a convincing medal, they just hand it to him in a lump. That seems kind of charming to me now, and there’s something benign about a superhero movie actually aimed at little kids, as it should be.

But what’s with the mustard motif?

This first appears as a literal splash of mustard on Jimmy Olsen’s sweater, before the very very Lester title sequence, a chain reaction of Tatiesque chaos on the streets of Metropolis (Calgary). In the next scene, Clark Kent spots the stain using his supervision. But even before then, a girl in mustard coloured kneepads and cap rollerskates into the hot dog cart and propels it into a set of mustard call boxes, toppling them into mustard plantpots.

To say nothing of the mustard dicky-bows of the runaway wind-up penguins, and the jumper worn by the chap Superman rescues, echoed by the parking sign he’s run into:

There’s more. I think it maybe has something to do with Superman’s colours being mirrored throughout the film: a traffic jam is all red white and blue and yellowcabs. One green car (for kryptonite?) has crept in. Lana Lang is associated with a softer yellow, matching the Kansas wheatfields (of Alberta) while the Smallville sweater than nearly gives Clark’s secret identity away is definite mustard.

Maybe the further answer is that when the defective synthetic kryptonite turns Superman bad, the colours of his costume get muddied, turning the yellow of his S emblem into a muddy… mustard?

The car wrecks are all red, white, blue and yellow too. A lot of effort has been gone to, Antonioni style, in this Milton Keynes junkyard.

Okay, I’m satisfied that this is all about the costume. Although it should be noted that Superman gets his powers thanks to earth’s yellow sun, which we see in the closing shot. Turns out it really is yellow. Sorta mustard, in fact.