He’s back and you know what? Those glasses are still working their charm!
Five years after exploring the deepest, darkest parts of the galaxy, Superman (Brandon Routh) finally returns back to Earth. Why? Well, it seems like his time had finally come for him to get back to his old ways and schedule. Miraculously enough, around the same time that Superman reappears, so does Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. And through Kent’s eyes, Superman gets to see just how much life has changed in the past five years. For one, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now engaged and with a child, even if she still hasn’t quite gotten over Superman; Perry White (Frank Langella) still heckles Clark over giving him crappy stories; and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), well, is awaiting for Superman’s arrival so that he can launch his evil, dastardly plan of taking over the world and being rid of the super-dude, once and for all. Obviously, Superman won’t let this happen, but he’s going to have a lot of issues battling Luthor if he can’t get his personal issues in order, or if he can’t keep those that he loves, out of harm’s way.
But when you’re Superman, sometimes, that’s a lot easier said then done.
I’ve got to give Bryan Singer credit for going all out with Superman Returns. Not only does his fanboy love shine through each and every single scene of this movie, but even for those who may not already be on-board with Superman in the first place, well, he doesn’t forget to reach out to. In a way, Superman is the quintessential, perfect human being, except for the fact that he isn’t a human being – he’s an alien. While this may sound all cool and rad, especially if you had all of the skills and capabilities that Superman had, Singer shows that there’s something actually very sad about this fact.
After all, don’t forget that Superman’s whole family, let alone, his race perished within the first five minutes of the original 1978 flick. Now, it’s just him, all by himself, left to make up his own legacy for his own good, where nobody’s there to really care, love, or support him, except for maybe a select few. But once again, because he’s Superman, he can’t get too close, nor trust anybody quite as well – some people will try to take advantage of him, whereas others may not want to be bothered with a possibly dangerous alien from outer-space.
This inherent sadness is what drives Superman himself, and it’s also what drives a good portion of Superman Returns.
In a way, it’s not your typical superhero summer blockbuster, but at the same time, it sort of is. It isn’t because there’s so much more attention to the tenderness and the humanity of this character, rather than just how much ass he can kick, and what sorts of heavy stuff he can lift. Then again, it sort of is because Singer can’t help himself from getting lost in all of the crazy, high-intensity set-pieces that can be deafeningly loud, but still equally as effective. This mixture of two sides of Singer may not always work, but when it does come together, it comes together so well that it makes me wonder why they don’t just give every superhero story to Singer.
After all, the guy has done some pretty wonders with the X-Men, so why not anymore heroes?
Regardless, there’s a lot to really be touched by with Superman Returns in that it really does ask for us to reach out and feel something for Superman himself. This may sound almost too simple, it’s stupid, but you’d be surprised how very few superhero movies actually seem to try and get us care for their title characters, more than just because they’re going to save the day from the bad guy. Here, Singer shows that there’s more to Superman than just what meets the eye; sure, he’s good-looking, super-strong, jacked, and not the person you want to pick a fight with, but he’s so lonely in this vast, wide world where people don’t know what to do with him, and after awhile, it begins to take a toll on him and make him wonder what any of it is worth. Should he continue to fight the good fight for Earth? Or should he just stick it out all on his own?
Either way, Brandon Routh does a solid enough job as Superman/Clark Kent to where he doesn’t get in the way of the character. Routh has obviously received flack over the years for not amounting to much after this role, which is wrong, because not only does the guy have some charm to him, but he’s also a sympathetic figure, and not just another pretty-boy asking for our compassion. You can almost look at Superman here like a sick little puppy that needs a home, a bone, and somewhere to shed his fur. Obviously, this works in the movie’s favor, and it’s definitely because of Routh.
As the iconic Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth may seem too young at first, but eventually, she works well into the role and gives us the sense that she’s the same old kick-ass heroine that she was in the older movies, and comics; James Marsden plays her fiancee who may, or may not be a dick, but may also just be a simple, everyday guy thrown into the shadow of Superman; Frank Langella gets some fun moments and lines as Perry White; Parker Posey plays Lex Luthor’s right-hand-women Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey), and does a nice job showing that there’s more humanity to her this time around; and as for Lex Luthor, well, Kevin Spacey does a good job in the role, however, there’s still a big issue with him.
A big, big one.
What’s bothersome about Luthor here is that, yes, he’s the stereotypical villain in a comic book movie, so obviously we can expect there to be some unbelievability. However, the plan that Luthor eventually hatches to take over the world, which would entail wiping out the rest of the human race for some reason, just seems so random and out-of-this-world. The movie seems to treat this as some grand master plan from Luthor, even though he is a crazed-loon and, for the most part, he doesn’t have the right head on his shoulders. While I could easily just pass this off as a small thing to nitpick at, it really doesn’t end-up that way and instead, turns out to take the bulk of the later-half of the story where the emotions are extra heavy and we’re really asked to pay attention.
It works, but still, it comes close to not doing so at all.
Consensus: With an extra bit of attention to the heart and soul of its title character, Superman Returns works both as a silly, yet exciting superhero flick, as well as a tender look at the loneliness these kinds of characters embody.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz
I remember enjoying the scene where he reassured airplane passengers that it was a statistically safe way to travel!
You like this a bit more than I, but I do enjoy it. Spacey was my highlight from an acting standpoint, but Routh acquitted himself nicely. The plane rescue might be the best scene in any Superman movie. Luthor’s plan was ridiculous, but not really much crazier, if at all, than in the ’78 version. Solid flick with a bunch of issues.
SR, flawed as it is, is too damn like-able and even though I felt that it was way too much of a wink and love letter to Donner’s vision, and did not have it’s own identity at times, it still works and has that iconic, classic superhero charm. Good write up, Dan!
The only part of this film I can watch without falling into a coma is the plane rescue midway through.
Superman Returns is messy, overlong and weakly acted, but with an interesting storyline, great score and nice light tone.
The plane rescue is one of my favourite scenes. I will always remember watching that at the cinema and being blown away. The rest of the film is a bit meh. The Kid and Kryptonite island and all, just seemed a bit much when there was a simpler story underneath.
I remember enjoying Superman Returns more than most people did when I first saw it. I’ve watched it a couple times since and I definitely see the issues with it.
First off, the movie is not totally clear if its a reboot, a sequel, or a redo of the 1978 film. I agree that Brandon Routh gets a lot more shit than he deserves, but it seemed like he was doing more of an impression of Christopher Reeves instead of his own adaptation of Clark Kent. I enjoy Kevin Spacey in almost anything but I feel like he was also doing an impression of Gene Hackman instead of an actual adaptation.
Secondly, the movie is really just dull at times. While its fun and definitely a different take on the superhero genre, I can’t really sit through this movie without falling asleep sometimes. I just didn’t think the stakes were nearly high enough and I would have preferred something different than the same old villain (Lex Luthor) and cheery clumsy Clark Kent the same way it had been forever.
All I’ve wanted for the new DCU is for them to delve into new villains like Brainiac, Metallo, etc. And delve more into Clark Kent/Jor El as a character instead of just the Christopher Reeves caricature.
Overall, its not the worst superhero film and I really enjoy the different tone Singer takes with it, but I think it was good he went back to X-men.
[…] Superman Returns (2006) […]