Film Reviews

SUPERMAN RETURNS

By • Jun 28th, 2006 •

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Warner Bros. Pictures Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Original Pictures a Jon Peters production in association with Bad Hat Harry Prods.
MPAA rating PG-13 / Running time — 154 minutes

QUOTE: Superman stands for truth, justice and…not the other thing.

This Superman has returned not as an American hero but as the savior of Earth. He is no longer restricted by “the American Way,” because (a) movies make money in the international markets so Superman must also help people in foreign countries, or, (b) politically, “the American Way” is just not a popular ideal right now.

The comparison to Jesus through visual cues is obvious. Superman’s father sent his only son to save the people of Earth. (So, when is the Holy Ghost turning up?)

Instead of starting off SUPERMAN RETURNS with the Man of Steel (Brandon Routh) crashing back on his mother’s farm (“Hi, Mom. I’m home”), we have to wait awhile. Not exactly the iconic entrance I was anticipating. Too slow getting started. I was worried. Did this mean Routh was being teased out to us because of his lack of acting skills?

No, Routh is great as Superman. The role is his now, though his alter-ego Clark Kent is diminished. Why director Bryan Singer and his screenwriters (Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris)felt we needed to be reminded of Superman’s humble beginnings is a mystery to me. Routh is the star. There was no need for a build-up.

Singer has brought us a masculine Superman. Singer serves the icon well. Superman might not be human, but he sure is sensitive. He has weepy longings. With Superman’s return to Earth, you would think women would be clamoring for his DNA. Scientists would want to study him. Governments would be trying to make deals with him. But no, the world just accepts his flying around saving grandmothers. Men are not envious. Except one man: Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey).

After spending five years near the remains of his home planet of Krypton, Superman returns to Earth. Krypton has indeed been destroyed. Superman is unhappy. He is the last of his kind. He should start procreating. As Clark Kent he gets his job back standing around as a newspaper reporter at the Daily Planet, and is still carrying a heavy torch for Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth, who co-starred with Spacey in the ridiculous BEYOND THE SEA).

Superman’s father Jor-El(Marlon Brando) neglected to tell him how to properly break off with a girl after spending the night with her and then skipping town for five years. Yet, Lois did get something out of their relationship: She’s the woman who got closest to an alien with superpowers and has won a Pulitzer Prize for writing a story,”Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” And maybe she got something else to remember him by.

Lois should not be bitter. She has a big career, a live-in fiancé, Richard White (James Marsden), editor Perry (Frank Langella) White’s nephew, and a five-year old asthmatic son, Jason (Tristan Leabu). Jason believes Richard is his father. Richard believes Jason is his son. Lois has not married Richard because she is still in love with Superman. Has she deceived the worshipful Richard? I felt sorry for duped Richard.

What parents do not know their son? Lois and Richard take Jason to work with them. They are a close family, but they have never noticed that Jason is “different.”

Freed from prison, Luthor is obscenely wealthy. With his disdainful girlfriend, Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey), he once again is in pursuit of Superman’s power. He’s got a point: Why should just one person have Superman’s powers?

With Superman’s genes, we can start a new race of beings with powers. Hey, that’s starting to sound an awful lot like…not the American way.

In the Superman TV series, it was Clark Kent who was Superman’s best friend and confidant. But Movie Superman pines for just one woman, Lois. She is the person Superman talks to and spies on. Lois is insensitive to the fact that Clark has a crush on her. This bothers me.

It doesn’t take Superman long to rescue Lois when the space shuttle she is on is about to crash. A spectacular crash is adverted when Superman tears off the wing of the jet carrying the shuttle and lands the plane on a baseball stadium. What an entrance.

As Superman’s return is the only news worth covering, Luthor has used his ill-gotten money to find Superman’s lair, the Fortress of Solitude. A disembodied Jor-El tells him everything, starting with the power of the crystals. Once again, re-treading an old story about real estate, Luthor is obsessed with land-grabbing and decides to use crystal technology to create a new continent. Luthor doesn’t know how to make Kitty happy. He should have promised to name the continent New Kowalskia.

Will Jason be part of the “Superman Returns” franchise? Perhaps this will depend on Routh’s future contract negotiations. It took ten years, but it was finally money that made Pierce Brosnan leave the James Bond franchise.

Luthor manages to get hold of deadly kryptonite, and quickly orchestrates a meeting with Superman. Any more discussion of the plot would ruin your pleasure. “Superman Returns” does not disappoint in the flying scenes. Singer has kept Superman regal and, with keeping Clark Kent out of the picture, allows us to enjoy Superman’s guileless purity. There is not even a kiss. When Routh becomes Superman, Singer wisely films him as a Michaelangelo marbled statue. The extreme close-ups emphasize the intimacy and drama of “Superman Returns.” I’ll see you this weekend at an IMAX screening.


Credits:
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenwriters: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Story: Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and published by DC Comics
Producers: Jon Peters, Bryan Singer, Gilbert Adler
Executive producers: Chris Lee, Thomas Tull, Scott Mednick, William Fay
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Production designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas
Music: John Ottman
“Superman” theme: John Williams
Costumes: Louise Mingenbach
Editors: Elliot Graham, John Ottman

Cast:
Superman/Clark Kent: Brandon Routh
Lois Lane: Kate Bosworth
Lex Luthor: Kevin Spacey
Richard White: James Marsden
Kitty: Parker Posey
Perry White: Frank Langella
Jimmy Olsen: Sam Huntington
Martha Kent: Eva Marie Saint

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