Reviews & Previews - Superman Returns

Posted on Monday, July 03, 2006 at 06:00 PM

Superman Returns

By: S. Tran

Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Running Time: 154 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence.

Something Old, Something New

Of course there is also something blue, and that would be Big Blue himself. The word "iconic" certainly applies when you are dealing with perhaps the most recognizable comic book character in the world. People who wouldn't know Wolverine from sardines instantly recognize the "S" and Bryan Singer certainly seemed to understand this in making this film. The reverence that Singer has for the source material and the original Superman films with Christopher Reeve are evident throughout the movie. Whether it adds or detracts from the movie is debatable and is a matter of taste.

Superman Returns borrows heavily from prior incarnations of Superman, both the print version and the film versions. For fans there are plenty of nice moments in the film that they should recognize including a recreation of the cover of the original Superman comic book. For the more casual fans you will recognize many of the set design elements from the Christopher Reeve movies and even Marlon Brando is dusted off for a brief cameo as Jor-El, Superman's father. Part of the reason for this is because Superman Returns is supposed to be a sequel to the prior films. In that sense recycling some of the elements makes sense.

While I liked the nostalgic touches, I thought that Singer went a little too far in reaching back. Not only does he bring back Lex Luthor as the bad guy but Luthor is again joined by a female companion who becomes horrified when she learns the true scope of Luthor's plan. Speaking of plans, Luthor has yet another weird ocean front property scheme that makes about as much sense as the one in the original movie. I felt Singer went a little overboard and should have tried to introduce something new for the audience. It almost seemed at times I was watching the original movie with some updated special effects.

Within the sometimes flawed story we are introduced to a new man of steel in Brandon Routh. One of the oddest complaints I have seen is that people think Routh just tries to mimic Reeve's bungling Clark Kent. I think this criticism is unfair. I'm not sure what else they expected to see as this was supposed to be a sequel. Was Routh supposed to play Clark Kent as some sort of leather jacket wearing bad boy all of a sudden? Routh wasn't trying to be Reeve, he was trying to be Superman as Clark Kent and in that sense he does a good job.

If Routh is almost as good as Reeve as Clark Kent I think he actually surpasses Reeve as Superman. Even though Routh lacks the same physical presence, he creates a Superman who seems more powerful, more serious than before, partly because of the advancement in special effects but also due to a very good performance by Routh. This a more world weary Superman and despite his youngish looks Routh is convincing as a being of almost unlimited power trying to save lives while being denied a real life of his own.

Its a shame that the newest version of Lois Lane played by Kate Bosworth isn't able to match the performance of Routh. Bosworth has the same problem Katie Holmes had in Batman Begins, she simply looks and acts too young to be a Pulitzer Prize winning, crack reporter. In one scene she is supposed to show her savvy by asking some hard hitting questions and instead comes off as a precocious child trying to act grown up. While she is certainly prettier than Margot Kidder she pales in comparison to Kidder's version of Lois Lane and you wonder why the world's most powerful being would be interested in her.

I wanted to give the movie a higher rating but there were a couple of plot holes in the movie that I thought were simply unforgivable. This was disappointing because of the care Singer seemed to take in honouring the franchise in the rest of the movie but this may just be me being picky. Overall this is an effective and enjoyable film and should win over new fans while giving the old fans something to like as well. The special effects are top notch and there is a good mixture of action and drama. The plot itself was a little weak and I didn't like the direction the movie took with the Superman-Lois Lane story line, but it will be interesting to see what they can do with it in the next film.


3.5 stars out of 5.


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