Being genuinely wary of superhero movies, the recent take on Batman in Batman Begins has given me new hope concerning the direction of the genre. While to me Batman is much cooler and more believable than Superman, he still fits into the classic role of a DC superhero that really can’t be topped by any other superhero icon. With that said, it’s no surprise, then, that I went into the new Superman Returns with not only high expectations but also a genuine interest in the movie. Also, being directed by Brian Singer of The Usual Suspects fame (and X-Men) doesn’t hurt.
In this fifth installment of Superman’s adventures on film, our hero (Brandon Routh) has gone off to search for his home planet, which astronomers thought was still around. Having found nothing, Superman returns to Earth after being away for 5 years, only to discover that the world has moved on without him. Taking his job back at The Daily Planet, Superman slips back into his role as “mild-mannered reporter” Clark Kent, and discovers much to his dismay that love-interest Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on as well, living with her boyfriend and having what appears to be his child, who is about 5 years old. Elsewhere, Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has escaped prison and travels to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, steals a set of alien crystals and prepares to use them to create a living land mass off the coast of the United States, which will eventually destroy the country as it grows.
The film is not as campy as I make it sound – in fact it’s not campy at all. Routh’s performance as the new Man of Steel, supplanting the late Christopher Reeves, is genuinely heartfelt, and he fits the role well. Spacey should also be noted for his serious yet maniacal portrayal of Luthor. Like Batman Begins, the storyline and characters are presented very realistically, and it seems as if the filmmakers take great care in portraying Superman as more than a flat good-doer, giving him emotions and feelings.
One should go into the movie with some knowledge of the Superman mythos, as the movie does little to explain backstory and character relatioships, instead relying on its predecessors Superman and Superman II to fill viewers in. Indeed, the callbacks to the original 1978 film are evident in the easily-recognizable John Williams theme, the zooming title text, and numerous lines and other references. Again, like Batman, having not seen the other movies of the series I feel that I cannot fully appreciate these callbacks, however I’m sure someone more familiar with the franchise will.
There is little on the negative side in relation to this movie, however something that bothered me the most was the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane. Because Lois Lane has moved on, there now exists a weird sort of love-triangle between Lane, Superman, and her boyfriend that seems rather inhibiting. Also the kid annoys me for more reasons then he should. Lastly, something about the ending and the length of the movie had it going for Lord of the Rings status. I suppose I really shouldn’t complain, though, because I’m sure this movie could have just as easily been another Hulk or Fantastic 4. It appears as though the 15 year wait for this movie, however, has helped the franchise, and with Spiderman returning next year and Batman the year after that, it seems like there’s going to be a consistent 3-year cycle of good, faithful superhero movies.
Superman Returns: 7/10
(wonderful special effects and great entertainment, but still not really my genre)