Clark Kent may have been brought up by humble Kansas farmers,
but his origins couldn't be less down-to-earth - he arrived
in a spaceship from another planet during a meteor shower.
Now a teenager with burgeoning superpowers, Clark struggles
to preserve his secret, even from his closest friends, Pete,
Chloe, Lana and Lex, while protecting innocent people from
the strange side effects of the meteor rocks...
series is an excellent example of how to successfully re-launch
and re-brand a long-running character. Executive producers
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have preserved the essence of
the Superman legend (a powerful but morally upright
alien striving to save people from peril) and the setting
of the classic Superboy comics (the titular town of
Smallville), but have stirred them up in a whole new mix.
Into this mix are thrown the "alien teen" aspect of Roswell
and the "monster of the week" element of The X-Files.
of the superpowered villains from the comics have yet made
it into the TV show, so Clark (Tom Welling) faces new foes
each week in the shape of ordinary humans who have been mutated
in various ways by the green meteor rocks (which comics fans
will recognise as Kryptonite). Kryptonite affecting humans
is an innovation of this new mythology, though we soon discover
that the rocks still have the power to weaken Clark, as they
did on the radio, in the comics and in the movies. Many of
the mutated "monsters of the week" are unfortunately similar
to characters that have appeared in the aforementioned X-Files,
including an electrically charged kid (Adrian McMorran) in
the pilot episode, a pyrokinetic (Dan Lauria) in Hothead,
a shape-shifter (Lizzy Caplan) in X-Ray, a fat-sucking
fiend (Amy Adams) in Craving and killer bees in Drone.
What really drives home the similarities is the music of Mark
Snow, who also scored the entire run of The X-Files.
episode Leech sees Clark's powers transferred to an
ordinary boy (Shawn Ashmore) via a lightning strike, a plotline
that was used in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of
Superman. But I suppose this is an irresistible idea that
has been used in many other versions of the Superman
saga as well.
Gough and Millar are careful not to put off any casual viewers
by ramming unwieldy chunks of 65-year-old mythology down their
throats, the producers respect the character's heritage and
pay homage to it in subtle ways. Fans of the D.C. Comics series
will appreciate the nickname "fortress of solitude" for Clark's
personal barnyard retreat, as well as references to Cadmus
Labs, a scientist called Hamilton, and the fact that Clark
frequently wears blue or red, the colours of Superman's costume.
In fact, there is a grand tradition in the comic series for
such reinvention and gradual reintegration of old mythology,
most famously in John Byrne's revisionist Man of Steel
mini-series, which established, as Smallville does,
that Clark's powers developed over a number of years as he
approached adulthood. Another nod to D.C. is the long-haired
look of Lionel Luthor (John Glover), which resembles the cloned
body that Lex Luthor inhabited in the comics during the mid-1990s.
The movies are also acknowledged in the casting of Annette
O'Toole, who played Lana Lang in Superman III, who
takes on the role of Clark's adoptive mother, Martha Kent.
casting is another major factor in this series' favour, especially
in the case of Tom Welling, who combines the look and heroism
of Superman with convincing teenage angst; John Schneider,
who proves that there's more to his repertoire than Bo Duke
with his portrayal of Clark's devoted father Jonathan; and
Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor, who constantly defies our
expectations of the character while the writers simultaneously
hint at his potential future as Superman's arch nemesis.
The only truly disappointing character is Pete Ross, played
by Sam Jones III. The actor's performance is fine, but he
doesn't get enough to do, and all too often comes across as
little more than a token black kid. The deleted scenes on
the final disc attest to the fact that he would have had a
greater amount of screen time had certain episodes not needed
to be trimmed for time reasons. Thankfully, this shortcoming
is a matter that is addressed in the second season, when a
major plot development affords Pete a greater role.
box set's special features include the aforementioned deleted
scenes - six minutes' worth from the first two episodes, Pilot
and Metamorphosis. There are also some storyboard comparisons
to scenes in the pilot; audio commentaries for both the pilot
and Metamorphosis by Gough, Millar and pilot director
David Nutter; and interactive DVD-ROM features. Not much relating
to episodes after Metamorphosis, though.
annoying thing about the special features is that they are
listed on the main menu of every disc, even though there aren't
any on discs 2-5. If you select "FEATURES" on discs 2-5, you
only get through to an unhelpful message that reads: "Check
out the other discs from Season One for Special Features."
Gee, thanks! Why bother listing the features at all? Surely
it wouldn't have been that much trouble to have designed
a different main menu for discs 2-5?
aside from the inconvenience of the menu listings, which you
soon get wise to if you consult the booklet inside the pack,
this affordable box set is really rather super.
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