If you proceed to see this movie, take tissues with you. You’ll be likely to have a Geek-gasm.
I think it is safe to say that Superman Returns is definitely the comic book movie of the year and quite possibly the best comic book related movie made to date. Is it a perfect movie? No, not really. Is it as close to perfect as we’ve seen yet? Yeah, it is. Anyhow, enough of that – on with the full review (does contain spoilers)!
I do wish I had a copy of this movie to watch as there are a lot of subtleties hidden away which act to give certain scenes real power. There’s also a considerable amount of symbolism which establishes certain characters in many ways you might not at first realise. This may have been a movie about the Man of Steel and yet the feats of strength and use of powers weren’t the main focus (otherwise would have been a mere popcorn flick like X-Men 3), instead this was a movie about a being with the powers of a demi-god attempting to once again find his place amongst humanity. He can do almost anything he could want thanks to his Kryptonian heritage but being able to throw large islands into space simply is not going to help him acheive what he really wants.
It is the story of love between a man who may not belong, yet is perhaps the most human of us all, and the woman that he can probably no longer ever be with.
Brandon Routh makes a very impressive debut as the Man of Tomorrow, there’s no doubt about that at all. His demeanour as Clark Kent is very similar to that of the late Christopher Reeve’s yet Routh still manages to make the role his own. Switch over to the Superman role and the difference is sometimes quite startling; all the necessary confidence and just the feeling that everything will be alright just because he’s Superman is right there, plastered over the screen. Routh manages to bring across both the insecure Kent as well as the heroic Superman – and yet also able to communicate the human side of both, conveying the conflict he’s feeling over the situation with Lois very effectively.
Kate Bosworth probably wasn’t a presence in her role as Lois Lane as Routh was with Superman but that can be regarded as a ‘gimme’ since Kal-El is the central character. It was certainly a solid performance by Bosworth, who you normally wouldn’t think suits the Lois Lane persona. However, all the necessary attributes of the feisty and driven reporter were there and the moments where she appeared insecure were done very well.
Kevin Spacey‘s Lex Luthor was remarkable, surpassing that of the great Gene Hackman. The meglomaniac genius was really shown for what a nutcase he is and yet the character somehow avoided the pitfall of going into ‘campy’ territory. Luthor had a plan which would set him up as the richest man on the planet and to hell with anyone that dared stand in his way.
As for the rest of the cast? Marsden did a fine job as well, though he was relegated to a more background role as Lane’s current man. He certain came across as a lot more human and capable than in his role as ‘Cyclops’ in the X-Men movies. Normally child actors tend to assist greatly in ruining a movie (see Blues Brothers 2000) yet Tristan Lake Leabu in his role as Jason White/Lane/Kent did well – he was present and even offed one of the bad guys and yet didn’t come across as ‘cutesy’. Chances are good that little Jason will be a plot point for the inevitable sequel but in what way? Traumatised youth? Revenge route for Lex? Hero in training?
The plot was classic and traditional superhero stuff, which for the Superman franchise is perfect – since he is the traditional and classic superhero. There’s some great setup as Superman gets shot at by a rather large gun, even taking a bullet to the eye – a series of heroic events which really set Superman up as an inhuman force for good, not a man. The hovering above Earth listening for trouble placed Kal squarely in the Messiah/Saviour department – watching over humanity and pulling their collective bacon out of the fire whenever necessary. Luthor’s evil scheme was a logical progression from the first two Reeve Superman movies – using the Kryptonian technology he found out about in Superman II, keeping with the real estate theme and generally caring only about himself.
The plot included all the elements you’d expect in a good Superman adventure story. There’s the complicated relationship with Lois Lane (now made all the more tangled!), Lex being the nefarious villain and even the almost obligatory exposure to Kryptonite.
The special effects, as could be expected, were near flawless. The entire scene were the shuttle/plane are in trouble were extremely well done, especially where Kal El flew right through the second plane wing and lowered the plane onto the baseball diamond. Of course, the standard for the film’s special effects/CGI was established during the opening credits which included what is possibly the best space travel sequence seen on film. This sequences was especially well designed, it paid tribute to the Reeve films but also surpassed it – while providing a visual delight which could still surprise you (such as the two ringed planet which turned out to be only half there).
Not that much to say about the music other than it is great that they stuck to the original 1978 theme and didn’t try some weird remix. The piano playing on the Gertrude was strangely creepy, adding a certain suspense to the scenes with the thug with the tatooed head.
- The saving of the plane; a tribute to how Superman and Lois first met in the comics.
- Gotham City is mentioned.
- The rock that Lex steals was found in Ethiopia in 1978, the year Reeve’s Superman was released.
- At the end of the movie, Jason appears to be wearing Justice League PJ’s which seem to feature Superman and Aquaman.
- The cover to Action Comics #1 is given a homage as Superman lowers Kitty’s car after saving it.
- As Lex’s model set is on fire, you can see a plant on fire which looks exactly like the chemical plant fire from Superman III.
- Perry White mutters ‘Great Caesers Ghost!’, a staple piece of dialogue from the comics.
- The bartender was played by Jack Larson who was Jimmy Olsen in the original Adventures of Superman TV series.
In short, Superman Returns is a great film that you’ll most likely finish watching feeling what the character of Superman is all about – Hope.