Superman Returns – A Movie Review

*minor spoiler warning*

Let’s get something straight: Superman is, by nature of his super powers, always in danger of being utterly boring.  Everyone likes Superman, but few people think he’s terribly interesting.  Let’s face it, how much suspense can a Superman story have when the guy can lift mountains and get shot in the eye with bullets and be fine?  So, if you’re going to jumpstart a Superman movie franchise, you’d better bring something different to the table.

And Bryan Singer, the director of Superman Returns, has done just that.

You all know the premise of the story for Superman Returns.  It takes place five years after the events of Superman I and II from the late seventies and early eighties (but pretend those movies only happened five years ago).  Superman III and IV have been erased from existence.  

Superman left Earth five years ago and has returned to a world that has moved on without him.  The love of his life, Lois Lane, is engaged and has a small child.  In fact, she has won a Pulitzer for writing an article about just how little Superman matters.  Of course, the heart of this story deals with Superman trying to adapt to the changes that have occurred with the woman he loves.  Does he respect her new life, or does he try to win her back?  This is truly a fight that Superman’s powers will not give him an advantage with.

Now, does that mean that Superman Returns is just a sappy love story?  Not at all.  There is action to spare in this film, and finally, finally, technology has caught up to what we all want to see from Superman.  You will believe a man can fly.  You will be cheering from your seat.

I thought our newest Superman, Brandon Routh, did just fine.  Yes, Singer is paying homage to Superman I and II, but I didn’t see Routh as simply imitating the iconic Christopher Reeve.  There were consistencies with the character of Clark Kent and Superman between the two actors, and I think that is done to satisfy the audience who enjoyed the previous films.  But let’s understand something: Superman is a big, dark-haired, blue-eyed, square-jawed guy.  Of course Routh and Reeve are going to look similar!  They both played Superman!  Their both big, dark-haired, square-jawed guys!

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was great.  He harnessed the comedic timing of Gene Hackman from Superman I and II, but he also brought some real danger to the character.  At times I laughed hysterically at Spacey, and at other times he gave me nervous chills, and I had no problem with that.

Kate Bosworth was not given a fair shake as Lois Lane.  With the small possibility of spoiling a small part of the film, Lois sucks as a mother.  Seriously, she’s got to be the worst mother of all time.  My wife and I both walked out of that film saying, “Wow, they really painted Lois Lane in a poor light, didn’t they?”  I think Bosworth is a decent enough actress, she just didn’t have a great depiction of character to work with. 

I took slight issue with a major component of the film that presents itself near the end, and I won’t spoil it, but it certainly rubbed me a bit wrong.  However, I understand this is a Superman for 2006 and they are desperately trying to make him a character in need of emotional resolution, so I’m not going to make a big stink of it.  I’d rather have a Superman with change I don’t care for than the same old stereotypical Superman that everyone would get tired of after a few movies. 

There were also many, many plot holes, but as my old Shakespeare professor use to say, “We must employ the suspension of disbelief.”  In other words, don’t think about things too hard, just enjoy the show!

I’ll tell you this, the music made the film magical.  The intro was just like the intro to Superman I and II, and that was a perfect touch.  I literally had goose bumps as that wonderful John Williams’ theme song started up with some updating by composer John Ottman.   

In other words, for me, this movie worked, despite some early concerns.  The special effects were magnificent, the costume and the small “s” shield were just fine, the acting was more than adequate, and the movie had real heart, especially because it embraced the Superman movies that came before it. 

It definitely lived up to my expectations and then some.