Eye For Film >> Movies >> Smallville: Season One (2001) Film Review
Smallville: Season One
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
Despite being the king of superheroes (Batman fans pipe down), Superman rarely gets the treatment he deserves. Apart from the first Superman movie, the franchise got progressively worse (Nucleur man? Seriously?), the comics are mainly too zany and as for Lois And Clark, the second series onward pretty much turned into a sit-com. Looking to change this with a fresh approach, non-fans Alfred Gough and Miles Millar chose to tell the story of Superman’s early years with the mantra "no tights, no flights"…
After a sudden meteor shower strikes middle-American town Smallville, kind farmers Jonathan (John Schneider) and Martha Kent (Annette O’Toole) find a small child beside an alien craft and decide to raise him as their own. Years later, as a fully-grown teen, Clark (Tom Welling) has developed incredible abilities –including super-speed and near invulnerability – which his parents help him keep secret from everyone around him; even best friends Pete Ross (Sam Jones III) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack).
However, while trying to romance dream-girl Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) and making fast-friends with troubled playboy Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), Clark takes it upon himself to stop them doing harm.
Pleasingly, Smallville is the best on-screen version of Superman that we have had in a long time. Though brought down substantially by too many villain-of-the week plotlines, the show excels in all other areas. The effects are particularly well done for TV (you've got to love Clark’s super-speeding to get to school on time), the production values are impressive (the scenery is just perfect) and there are loads of well-measured in-jokes that every geek with an S-symbol T-shirt will love (“blue’s a good colour on you”).
However, perhaps best of all is the character work. Instead of the usual bumbling reporter-come-costumed hero saga, here we focus on the Boy of Steel struggling with his powers, his relationship with his parents (an excellently cast Schneider and O’Toole) and his literal feelings of alienation. As for Lex, though the decision to include him goes against the comics, his plotlines are more intriguing (investigating the Kents, blackmailing dodgy reporters, hiring meteor scientists) as they don’t have the burden of silly villains. Notes for next time, more “bald lothario” obsessing over weird happenings, less girls controlling bees.
Ultimately, this is where the series falls down, as too many episodes are spoiled thanks to ridiculous ‘freak of the week’ plots. Though very strong when it looks elsewhere (episodes Rogue and Zero for example), Smallville frequently descends into nonsense where the meteor rocks turn the locals into Buffy The Vampire Slayer-type baddies, which interrupts the intellectual chess match between Lex and his father (a bearded, brilliant, business-is-war John Glover). While this template produces some memorable moments (suc as the visions in Hour Glass), it stretches credibility like a lycra blue suit.
However, when it comes to casting, Smallville couldn’t have got it any more right. In what must have been a near-impossible role to fill, the incredibly good-looking Welling is faultless. While his blue eyes, tall frame and dark hair make him aesthetically ideal for Clark Kent, the smiley frontman conveys the loneliness of the character impressively and his relationship with his father is the heart of the show. Since each past generation have their ‘own’ Superman (George Reeves in the Fifties, Chris Reeves in the Seventies/Eighties and Dean Cain in the Nineties), the modern fan now has a face to put to the last son of Krypton.
Elsewhere, Rosenbaum is an excellent Lex Luthor (more conflicted anti-hero than nefarious evil-doer), both Schneider and O’Toole (who played Lana Lang in Superman III) are perfect fits as the Kent parents and Mack is likeable as new-to-the-Superman universe Chloe Sullivan. There are cameos from a then-unknown Amy Adams, the always excellent Tony Todd and a pre-The OC Adam Brody. Oh and a bath-taking Kelly Brook.
Overall, though Smallville is stolen from five-star greatness by too many meteor-powered bad-guys, season one has to be seen as a success. With pitch-perfect casting, some excellent character work and lots of strong moments to remember, this is a fine (and long overdue, I may add) addition to the Superman mythology.Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2009