Well… I suppose Superman Returns is what it is… a device used by Warner Brothers to re-launch a franchise full of promise and intrigue which hasn’t seen the lights of a screen since this author had hair and a much smaller waist. This was, for me, an event I have been LONG waiting for.
I’ll break down my thoughts of this film into the most important areas without giving away too much of the plot.
Superman returns to Metropolis… Luthor is up to his old tactics again… and Superman is hurt that Lois has moved on. That’s about it… but the true magic of Superman is always an easily understandable plot, which I’ll grant the filmmakers this time. Okay, now let’s see how it’s executed.
Going with an unknown for Superman was an excellent idea. Casting other names was also a good choice. But for me, these ‘names’ could have well been anyone standing in these roles. Take for example Frank Langella, the old school Dracula who typically plays a mean old man with doleful subtlety. What a waste… anyone could have played the part of Perry White, editor of The Daily Planet. He didn’t make it his own character… he didn’t OWN it as someone once had.
Brandon Routh as Superman. The golden chalice of fame has been placed at his feet, yet I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes tonight. Imagine trying to live up to the distinction that Christopher Reeve set in motion. Nuff said. Did he take the cape to erase “Reeve” and write his own name? No. Did he do a good job? Absolutely! But did he manage to convince me he really was the man of steel? Not at all. And what about the duality of his character… Clark Kent and Superman? Okay, he’s no Bruce Wayne/Batman by any stretch, but there was little variance in each persona represented. At times watching this, all I had to do was squint my eyes, and Clark Kent was Superman. Posture, mannerisms and/or behavior were almost identical, just add or subtract some glasses and a comb. To me, his performance was two-dimensional… and at times, quite stale. There were moments where that could be disputed, but sadly… few and far between.
Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. Hats off to Mr. Singer for wrangling in this resplendent character. She added a depth and believability to Lois Lane that no other Superman movie has had to date. (Margot Kidder, IMO, was never a good choice in visual terms.) She conveyed not only sincerity, but also the emotional punch to give any audience member a TKO. Bravo, Ms. Bosworth.
There will be countless arguments, pro and con about how a film is made and directed. No one will ever be completely happy with any film they feel so strongly about, and I for one can be included in that statement. I will shamelessly admit however, when those familiar opening credits flew across the screen, I honestly felt myself choke up… it took me back to my youth as the stirring John Williams’ theme made me want to jump up out of my seat and cheer for the man of steel all over again. But the pure magic of what Superman is, or was… was simply not there. I wanted this to be something special, and I feel that isn’t asking too much from the filmmakers. It’s a curse that beleaguered George Lucas when he made the last batch of Star Wars films.
Lightening rarely strikes twice, and some would argue that Superman is just being taken into a new direction. That’s understandable, but if it is… why re-use footage from the 1978 film… and pick up five years after Superman II left off? (And publicly announce Richard Donner was consulted during this production.) If this is a new direction for Superman, then they should have started from scratch and created an entirely new legend.
The story flowed as expected with few surprises save one, which I won’t spoil here. The powerful engine of Superman seemed to sputter towards the finish line and stall as it crossed it. I would say it was anti-climatic, but it didn’t feel like there was any satisfying resolution on any plot device introduced. I wanted the characters to absolve the obvious friction, and embrace their true motives… this was one of the biggest problems I had with the entire film. Off topic, but what the hell is it with films these days where nothing is resolved and story lines are left to dangle like cheap Christmas lights? For God’s sake, the reason why I go to see a movie is to escape and see things work out for the better good, or to get the girl (or guy) in the end. Make us cheer, Hollywood! Make us cry at the right moment, and give us a reason to appreciate what we DO have in our lives! Geez!!!
Lex, explain to us why you really hate Superman so much! Just because you were in jail for five years? Come on, dude… show us the core of your motivation.
Superman, baby… get your shovel and dig down further as to why you dumped the hottest babe on the planet. We want to know, and so does she. If it isn’t justified, then the script doctors should have performed surgery on that way back in story development. But it really took you FIVE years of hanging out in deep space to find absolutely nothing remaining of your home planet? What does someone do in the middle of deep space for five years? Yawwwwwn.
But don’t cancel your movie night to see this just yet. It’s a fun ride with some great flying sequences that make the original set of films look like grade school fanfilms-- in special effect terms, that is. Its definitely worth seeing, but don’t hold your breath expecting to be blown away.
Overall grade? C+