- Bryan Singer
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Monday, July 24, 2006
Clark Kent/Superman (Brandon Routh) returns to Earth after having gone away for 5 years in a sort of soul-searching trip. Clark soon gets his job back at the Daily Planet where fearless reporter Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) still works. But he soon learns that she has moved on and now has a son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), and a steady boyfriend, Richard (James Marsden). Not only that, but sheís just won a Pulitzer price for an article about how the world doesnít need Superman. That fact is put to the test when the superhero goes back to his old ways of fighting for justice. Thatíll put him face-to-face with his old nemesis, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), who is looking for revenge, and world domination, after having spent some time in jail.
After countless years of development hell, Warner Bros. finally green-lighted Bryan Singer to helm what he likes to describe as his dream project. He developed Superman Returns based on a script by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, shot it for many grueling months Down Under and ended up delivering what many claim is the most expensive movie ever made. Thatís not entirely his fault, as many millions were spent before he was even attached to it. But every second and ever penny were worth it, for he came up with a timeless adventure full of action, fantasy, comedy and romance that seamlessly blend together into an exciting experience for all ages.
The movie starts with an opening credits sequence that is almost identical to those of the first Superman flicks, down to the untouched classic score. It is a weird feeling watching all those new names coming up instead of the old ones, but it proves to be a nice homage; just the first of many more to come. In spite of how it looks at first, this isnít a direct sequel to Superman II. Itís sort of a mish-mash, for there are elements that put it directly after it chronologically, but there are others that take it a step back. Superman and Lois did have something in the past, but Lois doesnít know the true identity of the hero. After a while I just gave up trying to put the dots together and opted to follow the story in the realm of its own world.
Bryan Singer was very brave in the decisions he made. Instead of making some sort of non-stop action romp, he opted to give the characters some space to breathe. This is a romance as much as it is a good-vs-evil tale. Many people might be put off by this, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The love story between Lois, Superman, Clark Kent and Richard White never becomes hokey, but instead seems as real as it can likely get given the larger-than-life circumstances. I liked that Richard really is a good guy, not the usual jerk we want to see disappear. And that is just an added element to an already tragic story about a girl who loves a superhero who canít make up his mind about telling her the truth because really... what good would it make?
If you look closely, Superman represents sort of a Christ figure. Itís there, but itís not over-played. The movie truly is about the meaning of family, of the legacy you leave to your children, the love inherent for your son, from your father, from your mother. It is a tale about the spiritual search to be accepted and to do the right thing, to protect your loved ones, to be there. It is about how heroism lies even in the smaller details. It shows how even the strongest person can have a vulnerable side in more ways than one. It is a good-natured movie with a huge heart; a universal tale.
And yes, there is plenty of mayhem as well. Lex Luthor is back and heís pissed. Revenge is sweet and he knows it. Heís got the perfect plan to create a new continent, and it is an evil enough plan to cause much distress and destruction. Thereís a jaw-dropping sequence involving a plane and a shuttle at the beginning that you have to see to believe. A boat incident later on is also amazing, and the climactic battle is exhilarating. The action might not come that often, but when it does itís spectacular. The advances in special effects certainly show, especially in the scenes where Superman flies (of which there are plenty). This time youíre not analyzing every detail, youíre just experiencing it as it is. And believe me, itís awe-inspiring.
I have the pleasure of having seen the movie both in its normal and IMAX 3-D versions. The latter has about 20 minutes of footage that was adapted for the format after it was shot. The experience is certainly exciting even though the technology isnít perfect yet, so if you have the opportunity to watch it that way, do so. If you havenít, donít worry, it doesnít demerit the already exceptional action sequences.
A minor quibble I can come up with is the length. I think it should have been shorter, if anything to accelerate the pace a bit. Quick cuts here and there mightíve helped, although itís nothing serious. The robbery stop, for instance, takes too long. But really, the current 154 minutes fly by. An interesting detail is that the music composer, John Ottman, is also the co-editor. Kudos for letting go of his ego and respecting John Williamsís memorable score, even enhancing it. I also didnít love the way Superman hears voices from a long distance. The sound is robotic and I hated it. There are also quite many scenes in which characters get the feeling that an earthquake is coming, something that gets tiring after a while. Only the first one (in Smallville) seemed especially creative (loved the Scrabble sight!).
Brandon Routh gladly surprised me. I didnít think I would like him that much, looking as though he was chosen for his resemblance to Christopher Reeve more than anything else. But he grows on you instantly. The part suits him and he suits the part. It is excellent casting. I was also dubious of Kate Bosworth at first. Sheís a good actress, but her face screams sweetness and thatís not who Lois is. Ultimately I bought her in the role because she is very good, but I still donít like her looks juxtaposed to the character. Kevin Spacey takes over for Gene Hackman and I have to say I like his Lex a lot better. He is still goofy, but heís also menacing and this time you really believe he can make a lot of damage.
The supporting cast is excellent as well. My favorite supporting character is, hands-down, Kitty Kowalski, Lexís bimbo mistress played with expert panache by Parker Posey. The movie soars when sheís on-screen. James Marsden is perfect as Loisís boyfriend, and so is Frank Langella as Perry White. Sam Huntingtonís Jimmy Olsen is spot-on. Eva Marie Saint appears briefly, but gives a lot of weight to the role of Martha Kent. Marlon Brando also appears taking advantage of todayís technology. The Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen of the original Superman TV series, Noel Neill and Jack Larson, also show up. Neillís role is especially chewy. And how Kal Penn was able to get a top credit is beyond me. His agent must be good, because he barely speaks a line in the entire movie as one of Lexís sidekicks.
Technical aspects are impeccable all the way, from the cinematography to the costumes to the production design, giving the movie an old-fashioned feeling despite it being set in todayís world. Thatís not an easy thing to accomplish, but itís there.
And finally, I loved the involvement of a couple of dogs in the story. Yes, youíre right; itís a love fest around here!
ďWow, thatís really something Lex. Itís freaking Gone With The Wind.Ē
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Other reviews of Superman Returns (2006): Groucho