‘Superman & Lois’ Paints a Timely, Tarnished Picture of the Man of Steel’s Hometown

The show’s cinematography, color, and production design craft a modern approach to truth, justice, and the American way.

“ Superman & Lois, ” whose second season arrives on HBO Max today, international relations and security network ’ t your typical Superman floor. For one thing, it gives the man of Steel and his Pulitzer-winning wife a copulate of adolescent sons. For another, it has a distinctly modern — interpret besides : post-recession — approach to Superman ’ s hometown, which it achieves through its adept interplay between production design and photography. If you aren ’ t watching the show, you might be missing out on a timely depiction of Superman ’ s home, one that demands to be seen not only on its own terms, but as a thoughtful update to the interpretation that exists within the cinematic memory .
After Clark Kent ( Tyler Hoechlin ) and Lois Lane ( Elizabeth Tulloch ) lose their jobs at the Daily Planet, courtesy of a corporate buyout, they move their family from the bustle Metropolis to Smallville, Kansas, where their sons Jordan ( Alex Garfin ) and Johnathan ( Jordan Elsass ) have never lived. It ’ s surely an adjustment for the teens, but what makes it equally an adaptation for the audience is the setting ’ s stark contrast to the Smallville we ’ ve come to know on screen .

The coarse render of the town, a good as its location in Kansas, traces back to Richard Donner ’ s “ Superman : The Movie ” from 1978. This Smallville is painted with bright and sentimental hues ; it ’ s a town of whiten picket fences, charitable neighbors, 1950s prosperity, and Norman Rockwell. It was the old populace — an idyllic world, compared to the crime-ridden, New York-esque Metropolis to which a wide-eyed Clark ( Christopher Reeve ) finally moves, bringing with him a undimmed bolshevik and blue ( and red, white, and blue ) simplicity when he donned his celebrated cape. By the time “ Superman & Lois ” began in 2021, this iteration of small-town America — which had long been America ’ south imagination of itself — was already a broken dream. While the testify ’ sulfur presentation ( a brief flashback collage of Superman ’ s childhood ) hints at a vivacity, some of the first images we see of Smallville in the present day are foreclosure signs and empty streets .
A still of the Kent family farm from Superman: The Movie screengrab
A home under foreclosure in "Superman & Lois" screengrab
When Hoechlin ’ s Clark moves back home, what he finds is a downtrodden, frustrated Smallville on the verge of leaning correct — or leaning toward whichever pot or politician can promise its citizens jobs — and what his children find is a town full of boredom, and nihilism dulled by alcohol and a apparent opioid crisis. The show is by no means a “ iniquity and game ” boot ( Superman himself maintains his wide-eyed optimism, and brings the lapp to the people of Kansas ), but compared to the bright CW shows out of which the serial spin — the cheaper and flimsier “ Supergirl ” and “ The Flash ” — “ Superman & Lois ” is a cut above, in its exacting creation of time and place, wrestling between the dark reality of mod America and Midwestern nostalgia .

The display ’ s 2.20:1 widescreen aspect proportion ( compared to the 16:9 of its aforesaid peers ) already places it in a distinctly vintage cinematic space. This classical aesthetic is enhanced far by the function of anamorphic lenses ( the Panavision B series, primitively designed in the 1960s ), which both capture the width of the landscape and subtly curve its corners, as if they were painted by brush-stroke. Director Lee Toland Krieger and cinematographer Gavin Struthers set the ocular stage in the first gear two episodes, before handing the reins to cinematographers Stephen Maier and Gordon Verheul. There have been better hours of “ Superman & Lois ” ( largely in its first gear temper ) arsenic well as periodic worse ones ( by and large in its second season ), but they ’ ve rarely strayed from the portrayal and careful compositions Krieger and Struthers first introduced .
Most scenes are negotiation exchanges, and the show is better for it, since the relationships between the characters to not only to each other, but to their surroundings, is cardinal to their stories. Series product couturier Dan Hermansen has a major hand in this deoxyadenosine monophosphate well — and not just because there always seems to be a handle or surface for Clark to rest on, as he mutely reflects on his approach to parenting. Hermansen ’ mho invention of the Kent class farm, whose foundations are held powerfully together but whose surface has begun to wither and rust, is a key mirror image of the trials faced by the Kents after their move. Their inability to adjust manifests in aggressive ( and passive aggressive ) ways, which has a tendency to fray their family dynamics, but ultimately, the settlement of each narrative sees them leaning on each other for comfort .
A desolate Smallville street in "Superman & Lois" screengrab
Hermansen ’ s designs for the rest of Smallville serve a exchangeable purpose, particularly as supporting, non-superhero characters grow in importance, as does their affair in local politics. The narrative approach is simple — Clark ’ s high-school sweetheart Lana ( Emmanuelle Chriqui ) hopes to supplant the township ’ s cartoonishly corrupt mayor — but what makes it shine is the immediacy with which any scene can tell you about Smallville and its people ( or its increasing miss thereof ; fewer extras can be seen walking its streets as the show goes on, and as people move away ). The town ’ mho designs, like its fade maroon dining car upholstery, hint at a once-bright venue whose luster has been worn down. This specially works in tandem with the color marking by concluding colorist Shane Harris, who imbues the put with a dusty level. flush the costumes that likely popped on typeset often find themselves muted onscreen, as if they need to find a means to regain their original hues .
The american heartland of Clark ’ randomness memories exists as if within the cultural consciousness ; you could, if you so choose, make the case that the Smallville of “ Superman : The Movie ” is what this Smallville finally became. Its landscapes are silent strike, if slenderly subdued. Its people are still polite and neighborly, despite being bogged down by economic woes. It ’ mho hush a conception of the american dream, but an american dream that needs to be fought for, and returned to, through the actions of its people — which the camera captures not as mere television subplot, but as its own extension of cinematic myth, transformed by reality.

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