Written by Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Directed by Bryan Singer
Running Time: 2:34
for some intense action violence.
The Man of Steel is back in Superman Returns and he's better than ever.
Astronomers think they've found the remnants of Krypton so Superman flies out to see if anyone is left alive. He's gone for five years and in that time, the people of Earth have moved on, especially Lois Lane. When Superman returns, he finds Lois dating Richard White, and she has a five year old son, Jason. She recently wrote an editorial about why the world is better off without Superman which won her the Pulitzer Prize. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is up to no good again. After being on trial for the better part of those five years, he's released because Superman couldn't appear as a witness. This time, Lex knows a lot more than he used to. He discovers Superman's Fortress of Solitude and in it, the secrets of all of the known galaxies. Lex wants to use the special crystals left for Superman by his father Jor-El, to take over the world and kill a few billion people at the same time. Oh, and of course, kill Superman as well.
I have to admit, I got goose bumps just watching the opening credits of Superman Returns because they use the John Williams score from the original film. Even the style of the text is the same. And when you add in the fact that they use clips from Marlon Brando's performance, there's a lot to connect the new film with the old one. Not the least of which is Brandon Routh as Clark Kent/Superman. For better or worse, Routh will be compared to Christopher Reeve, because Reeve was Superman. Unlike Batman Begins where Christian Bale re-started the franchise, there was no reason to compare Bale to the previous actors who played Batman, because none of them were associated with the role (as evidenced by three different actors playing Batman in four movies.) Tobey Maguire was a well known actor before he took the role of Spider-Man. Christopher Reeve however, was, and will always be, Superman. So Routh had huge shoes to fill because of the universal love everyone has for Reeve. And Routh stepped up to the plate and delivered, big time. There are moments where you swear you're watching a younger version of Reeve. That's not to say Routh mimicked Reeve's performance, but there are times when you can hear it in his voice, or see it in the way he plays with his glasses or stumbles around the office. At the same time, Routh makes the role his own with his All-American chiseled good looks and wholesome charm. Superman has always been the one superhero that always stood for truth and justice. He was never the type you thought could fall to the dark side or would do something bad even if the result was good. He is the ultimate symbol for all that is good in the world, and Routh embodies that spirit wholeheartedly.
The rest of the cast was also very strong. I had my doubt about Kate Bosworth stepping into the role of Lois Lane, but I realized that I never really liked Margot Kidder's performance, so I was more accepting of Bosworth's take on the character. She at least seems to be the same age as Superman so I can understand the heartbreak she went through when he left. James Marsden, on break from his role as Cyclops in the X-Men series, was solid as Lois Lane's new love interest. What I liked most about what they did with his character was that they didn't go the usual route of making him an ass. He was a stand-up guy, which made Superman even more conflicted over whether to fight for Lois. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor is just perfect casting. Gene Hackman's version of Lex was always loud and over-the-top, while extremely entertaining. Spacey makes Lex less obnoxious, but much, much meaner. His plan to take over the world and kill Superman may not be original, but the way he goes about it is very dark. There is a moment in the film where it all comes to a head and it will leave you holding your breath. And the last actor of note is young Tristan Lake Laebu as Jason, Lois's child. A lot of times when you put a kid into a movie like this, he'll be annoying or even worse, a bad actor. But Tristan was just the right amount of cute and held his own amongst the rest of the experienced cast.
The interesting thing about Superman Returns is that the Lex taking-over-the-world story line isn't the main focus of the film. The main story is really all about Superman returning after his five year absence and wondering whether he's still needed in the world. Quickly he sees that most people need him, but the one person he wants to need him is Lois, and she seems to have moved on. There are a few set pieces that are completely action-packed, including one with Superman saving an airplane full of people and a good 30 minute water sequence that was breathtaking. But considering the movie is a little over two-and-a-half hours long, there wasn't nearly as much action as I expected. The filmmakers concentrated more on an actual story than just throwing a ton of special effects in to keep people happy. The dialogue was refreshing and not completely cheesy or corny as some movies are. There was a definite will-they-or-won't-they romance going on between Superman and Lois, as well as there being a big secret that isn't fully realized till the end of the film. The filmmakers would intercut the Superman/Lois story with the Lex story so that the movie never got bogged down in one or the other for too long. When the two stories finally collided, it made for an energetic final act that showcased things happening to Superman that you never would have expected. The one thing the movie doesn't do though, is answer one huge question: How do people not see that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person???
The one thing about movies such as Superman Returns is that it loses something on the small screen. The movie is just so expansive that when you see it in a theater you feel like you're really seeing something special. On a television screen it doesn't give you the same sense of awe. The transfer is extremely sharp, which isn't a huge surprise considering the movie was shot digitally in the first place. None of this is to say that it wasn't good watching it on TV, it just wasn't the same as the theater. There are a few extras on the Two-Disc, Special Edition DVD. There are about 10 deleted scenes, which don't offer much in terms of story or anything, which would of course explain why they were deleted. There is an interesting, albeit very short, documentary on how they created footage of Marlon Brando from the original movie and used it in this one. And there is a 5-part behind-the-scenes documentary which was fun to watch and shows just how enormous an undertaking the entire process was. In particular, watch the final part because at the end there are a lot of funny outtakes, including a blooper from Mr. Brando himself.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought Superman Returns was a great reboot to the franchise. Bryan Singer and company decided to make a film instead of a special effects movie and it paid off in spades. This is definitely a must-see movie on the big screen.
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