Friday, March 25, 2011

Staying Optimistic: Superman XXX: A Porn Parody

"[A]s in the movie musical, the episodic structure of the hard-core narrative is something more than a flimsy excuse for sexual numbers: it is part and parcel of the way the genre goes about resolving the often contradictory desires of its characters" (134). Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible." 1989.

Thanks to FanGirlTastic, who flatteringly asked me to start reviewing XXX new releases for them, I received a glitzy DVD of Vivid's second superhero "parody" (this term is becoming meaningless), Superman XXX: A Porn Parody. Over the last couple of years (since 2008's Cry Wolf, I guess), I have witnessed feature porn deteriorate at an alarming pace, seemingly in a panic to emulate the high octane sex of gonzo, as well as separate out the plot from the sex scenes presumably in an effort to adapt to the internet. This results in feature films that do not feel like complete, integrated narratives with sex woven into the plot. In addition, performers fuck out of character, exhibiting sex tricks and demonstrating a level of experience that contradicts what we have learned about the persona thus far in the script. There are exceptions of course, but frankly I have been almost exclusively watching features from the 70s and 80s, while my modern viewing habits center around gonzo and the like, which have their own genre-specific appeal.


Then came the "parody plague," as naysayers like to call it, offering nerds such as myself the cruel glimmer of hope that perhaps some of these flicks might return to form and construct sex as part of the narrative. Alas, it was not to be. The closest I have found to an integrated porn parody, complete with decent lighting, acting, and scripting, is Batman XXX. It's not perfect by any means, but most of the time the performers attempt some level of characterization, and the film as a whole felt complete. With the success of Batman, Vivid announced a whole line of Superhero parodies. Great! I thought. With the bigger budget, the proven interest on the part of the audience (many of whom we might presume are not regular porn consumers), and Axel "Son of Lasse" Braun at the helm, things can only get better. The sex, which was semi-integrated in Batman, will become even more characterized and integral to the plot; the script and plotting will take more risks; etc etc.


So, it was with the bitterest of disappointments that, after dabbling with the FF button only 20mins into Superman, I hit STOP at about the 30min mark. Naturally, I went back and watched the rest for this review, but only because I had to. Watching Superman makes me wonder what the goal was. Save your "It's just porn!" babble. Everything's "just" something, but why not be as good as so many of us *know* it can be? I doubt the gonzo-exclusive crowd are going to be too interested in buying features, and those who are sitting down to watch a feature are clearly not looking to watch gonzo. They bought a feature. They're two different sub-genres, both valuable in their own right, both genres I am a fan of, but they are fundamentally different. I just don't get it. And it makes me sad.


Ok, enough boo-hooing. Here's the scoop, as Jimmy might say: the film opens with General Zod (Ben English) and his peeps being banished for attempting to start a "New Order" on planet Krypton that would make its citizens turn on its rulers and create general tyrrany. Subsequent to said banishment, an airliner, piloted by boozing Evan Stone and Alec Knight, is in bad weather and about to take a nosedive thanks to the sexual distractions offered by flight attendant Lexi Belle. The first scene actually involves some verbal play, as is wont with Evan Stone, and I swear I even heard some homoerotic exchanges between pilot and copilot which frankly got me all hopeful for a rollicking good time. In spite of Evan's shenanigans, the sex is just what you might expect, as if someone is checking the boxes on a list of acts that must be included for fear of the raincoater's wrath. Still, not bad, and I enjoyed the effects, what with the room teeter-tottering throughout thanks to no one being at the helm (insert "at the helm" innuendo here).


Thankfully, Clark Kent, aka. Superman (aka. crossover performer Ryan Driller), is on board and not being serviced, so he has time to go change, fly outside, pick the plane up by its wing, and escort everyone to safety. Oh, and the effects aren't terrible! I've seen many more aggravating things on the Syfy Channel.


Next up, we're introduced to the familiar newsroom where Perry (Will Ryder) is yelling at Jimmy (James Deen) about getting the "flying man" scoop, and Lois Lane (Andy San Dimas) is being a general star. GGG favourite Kristina Rose pops up as the receptionist, directing new-hire Clark Kent into the office, and the interactions work pretty well in these newsroom scenes. That is until everything comes to a screeching halt for the overlong and out-of-character sex scene between Jimmy and the receptionist. Lex Luthor (Eric Masterson) has just announced on television that he has launched a missile, bwahahaha, much to everyone's consternation, but never fear because Superman has dispelled the threat in about 8 seconds...just in time to cut to Kristina Rose sucking off James Deen in the storage room. The scene actually begins in an admirably fractured way, with Clark interrupting them while trying to find a place to change into his supersuit, and then Jimmy taking photographs out of the window of Superman saving the day. However, after these initially hopeful signs of some integration, the scene becomes just another scene from any other movie. This is not Jimmy fucking, but James Deen, and the receptionist is simply Kristina Rose. So, it's James Deen and Kristina Rose fucking, which has nothing to do with their characters. Result: boring. I skipped the second part of this scene. The interesting thing is, it's all about context (I am an uberfan of Ms. Rose, after all). This might be a hot or interesting scene if it were in the context of a different genre -- indeed, it may have played out rather differently within a different genre -- but within a feature I'm just left there scratching my head and watching the DVD timer.


The remaining plot (there is very little of it) follows the familiar 1980s route, with Lex damning his futile efforts at destroying Metropolis, Zod exacting his vengeance on Earth, and Superman booting up while simultaneously courting a frankly ravishing Lois Lane on the side (Andy San Dimas really stands out when she's given the chance -- I'm a fan). The remaining sex scenes threaten to do interesting things, especially Lois Lane's sexual assault at the hands of Zod and Co., in which Andy does a good job of staying in character at least part of the time, inflecting the scene with a certain edge. In fact, the scenes featuring San Dimas and Driller are easily the most compelling (though, again, the sex reverts back to prototype) -- during these brief moments, I thought I was about to start liking the film.

"...not to mention an extra baby wipe."

Yet, in spite of San Dimas and Driller, some interesting framing, notably good videography, and the occasional interesting or witty moment, the narrative is entirely overwhelmed by the sex. It's not even necessarily about having less sex and more plot -- sex and plot are not mutually exclusive, in my opinion. Sex is just as valuable and meaningful a signifier as any other physical act, and I've seen it used as such in hundreds of excellent films. But when you isolate the plot from the sex, that's when things start to become fractured to the point of feeling like two genres competing for dollars, and that's when things start to become boring.


Furthermore, and maybe I'm just plain wrong about this, but the sexual allure of a superhero porn flick strikes me as being rooted in seeing Lois Lane and Superman/Clark Kent uncensored, not a porn starlet/star doing what they usually do, but dressed in a costume (which usually comes off anyway). I detect an effort in this direction with Batman, and glimmers of it in Superman -- certainly, the talent is there -- but I eagerly and perhaps overly optimistically await the full package at some point in the near future. Maybe in the sequel?

9 comments:

Lee Jones said...

Am I to assume that the "vivid.com" bug is actually present in commercially released DVDs of the movie? If so, that's ridiculously unprofessional.

That's what you do with SCREENERS, not how you treat the buying public.

BlackSix said...

The best recent porn 'parody' (really a tribute of sorts) I've seen was Sex Files, I'd like to check out their sequel, which looks even more ambitious. Films in the Romance series from New Sensations like Lost and Found are also impressively put together features with a good mix of plot and sex scenes with gonzo-heat but feature intimacy.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Lee -- as far as I can tell, the DVD I was sent is the real deal, complete packaging etc. Unless screeners look exactly like the product on the shelf, this is indeed what is being commercially released.

BS -- I thought about Sex Files while I was writing that sentence. I recall the sex scenes didn't work for me though, for some reason. I think in general though, that flick impressed me so thanks for bringing it up. I will certainly be checking out the sequel.I've been reading an increasing number of positive reviews of the Romance line -- I really need to catch up on those. Thanks!

BlackSix said...

I'd agree that in Sex Files there were a few scenes that didn't fit into the flow of the story, but overall it was much better than other parodies I've seen and the final sex scene between Rosano and Kimberly Kane was effective I thought.

Lee Jones said...

GGG, I'm with you in regards to The Sex Files. I thought it was a good movie with poorly integrated (and overly long) sex scenes.

Roger Feelbert said...

Yet again, you're able to perfectly verbalize something I've felt but haven't had the ability to lay out: the fact that the sex scenes in contemporary features are basically gonzo scenes dropped in the middle of the narrative.

It's even more astounding when you consider the fact that the industry is (supposedly) trying to craft features with more attention to story in order to combat "scene pirates." Why the realization that integrated scenes are the key to that sort of ambition is mind boggling....

BlackSix said...

Unfortunately, these days I think the overlong sex scenes are here to stay, I don't think anyone can get away with making a feature with 5-10 minute long sex scenes anymore.

christine said...

Thanks for this, GGG.
I was toying with the idea of picking this up. As I believe I've mentioned, I love Deen (most of the time) and I'm a bit of a comic nerd.
But it seems like Batman is the way to go at this point.
The more I read your opinion, the more clearly I see your views. My feelings regarding modern porn features mirror yours, I just didn't know it until now.

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Lee: yes, exactly. I think I didn't *hate* The Sex Files though, because it had strengths in other areas.

Mr. Feelbert: thank you! Glad to be of service. :)

BS: Yeah, it's pretty depressing. I think I used to more tolerant when I watched a lot of Wicked flicks back in the day (well, like 4 years ago, which in modern porn years is about a decade. Can you believe Cry Wolf was only three years ago??).

christine: always a pleasure when you stop by. :) I'm glad I could articulate this for you! Yeah, check out Batman -- there's more Deen for your buck in that anyway, as he is the Boy Wonder. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

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