Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint
Running Time: 154 min.
** (out of ****)
There's something really arrogant and stupid about Superman Returns. The movie assumes we can just pick up where we left off in the Superman saga even though it's been nearly twenty years since we last saw any of the characters on screen and they're now being played by different actors. It doesn't establish anything and we're just expected to "go with it" because it's Superman. Just because it's Superman the movie feels no need to let us know the characters or put them in an interesting situation. This effort was phoned in to milk more money out of D.C. Comics' biggest cash cow. By the end of the film I had just one question: Why? What was the purpose of this? If anything, this movie only exists to remind us how how great a job Christopher Nolan did at reviving the Batman franchise last year.
Superman (Brandon Routh) has returned to Earth after a lengthy visit to what's left of his home planet Krypton to discover Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is engaged, has a young son and has basically gone on with her life without him. Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is out of prison and plotting to build a continent of made of Kryptonite that will wipe out all of North America. Could I ask just once in a super hero movie that the super villain have a feasible plan to destroy the world? Or if not a feasible one (I realize this is fantasy), a realistic way of going about it that would actually cause some kind of fear or dread in the audience and make the film feel like something other than a live-action cartoon.
The script's ridiculous insistance of picking up where it left off (wherever that was) proves to be a huge distraction. If this is a continuation of the Superman saga how come Lois doesn't know Superman is Clark Kent? In this movie we're back to the beginning and Lois has no idea, like the writers wanted to have their cake and eat it too. I promised myself I would make it through the review without comparing Brandon Routh to Chistopher Reeve. It's really not fair. They should be able to cast whoever they want as Superman without worrying how he'll stack up to Reeve and I think they made the right move picking an unknown. The problem is they picked the wrong unknown. Routh isn't necessarily bad, or good. He's just there. He isn't much of anything. At times it looks like he's just a guy pretending to be Superman for Halloween. I kept waiting for the real Superman to appear and take him out. The costume's a little cooler looking than the past, but Routh looks ridiculous in it. So much so I caught myself laughing at times during the film when he's standing there trying to strike a Superman pose. He has a look on his face like, "Look at me...I'm Superman."
To be fair, he did a much better job as Clark, but we're given so little time with that character it has no impact. Kevin Spacey does an okay, if unmemorable job as Lex Luthor, but he's not given much to work with so it's understandable. I was surprised how little screen time he had actually. I was racking my brain trying to figure out who would have made a better choice as Lois than Kate Bosworth and then it occured to me. Anyone. She brings absolutely nothing to the role and her character's whiny and petulant throughout the film, like a child. Lois Lane is supposed to be fiesty and strong-willed. I'll believe Lex Luthor can build a continent that will destroy North America, but I cannot buy that this woman actually won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. I don't think I've ever appreciated Margot Kidder as much as during this movie.
Superman Returns is never boring and I was pleased that the special effects, particularly of him flying, didn't look fake or too CGI like they did in the Spiderman movies. There's a scene early in the film where he stops a plane crash that's really well done and thriling. The set and production design is also top notch, but I can't say I'm happy with them making Metropolis look like it's out of a comic book. Lately, there's a disturbing trend going on in Hollywood to make these superhero movies as cartoonish as possible and aimed at five year olds. I really enjoyed Batman Begins because it had a dark, gritty realism to it and took the time to explain the origins of Batman. You have to cater to all audiences, not just kids and comic book fanatics. NBC's Heroes has struck a cord with viewers because they like seeing real everyday people discovering something special and extraordinary.
If you want to see Superman I suggest buying Richard Donner's great original and the recently released uncut version of Superman 2. It's tough to reconcile that Bryan Singer, the mastermind behind the Usual Suspects, was responsible this mess. I can take solace in the fact this movie dissapointed at the box office, so maybe this a sign audiences are beginning to smarten up. If anything, watch Superman Returns just for the opening credits so you can one again hear John Williams' legendary score. Unfortunately, it's in a movie undeserving of it.