Saturday, July 01, 2006


Superman Returns!


That John Williams theme. Every geek my age can't help but feel stirred at that crashing martial beat as a red-and-blue streak crosses the sky. Frankly, it's too bad Williams didn't score the whole thing, as the rest of the music was fairly generic. Brandon Routh does an excellent job of playing Christopher Reeve playing Superman. Actually, as Clark Kent, Routh is at times virtually indistinguishable from Reeve back in '78. I had originally thought, looking at stills, that he was too slim to be believable as a superhero, but it wasn't that bad on screen. Kevin Spacey does an excellent job out-hamming Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, but he adds an air of menace that Hackman never had. You believe Spacey's Luthor would kill someone with his bare hands and never think twice. Kate Bosworth looks WAY too young to be believable as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She's twenty-three but looks maybe 18 in the movie. It's supposed to be five years after Superman left, so she was working at the Daily Planet as what? A high school intern? Couldn't Bryan Singer have cast someone who was at least old enough to have graduated college? I have to say I did NOT like the new costume. The brick-red on the cape and shorts and boots is too dark and detracts from the whole familiar American flag theme. And the cape's material seems too much like pleather, okay for the Batman, maybe, but not Superman. I also found myself missing the gold "S" shield on the cape, as well. The story is good, but drags at points and would've benefitted from some tighter editing. Singer goes way over the top with the religious iconography, practically hammering it home. From a Pieta scene with Ma Kent at the beginning, to guards gambling after they beat the crap out of a temporarily depowered Superman, to Lex Luthor piercing his side, to a cruciform Man of Steel plunging to Earth, to a nurse finding that "the tomb was empty," to Marlon Brando's recorded voice intoning, "My only son..." Enough already, Singer! We get it! Geez! So to speak. And, of course, there's Super Out of Wedlock Boy. I really saw no need for this particular plot point at all, really and I found myself annoyed by it the longer it went on. And poor James Marsden! His characters just can't catch a break. Superhumans are either disentigrating them or muscling in on their girlfriends by being a Super-stalker. The idea of Superman scanning my house, by the way, is actually pretty creepy. I would've liked to see Superman actually fight somebody, even Luthor, as opposed to spending the whole movie lifting or catching things. The cinematography is practically claustrophobic; seemed like half the damn movie was an extreme closeup of something or other or someone's face.
Okay, so that was the bad. The good was, it's an entertaining film. Singer is obviously a fanboy, obviously has a great deal of reverance for the source material, both the comic and the iconic 1978 film and it shows in the respect and love he demonstrates for the characters. Singer also adds some nice touches, like Superman having to fight the semi-real laws of physics to rescue a crashing airplane, a thug who nevertheless plays the piano and is nice to children, and a cameo by Jack Larson. Overall, I have to agree that the world needs Superman and this was a classy if slightly plodding vehicle to bring him back on the big screen.

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