Superman Returns: Film Review

My five-year-old son is a superhero fanatic. He watches the cartoons and movies. He plays with the action figures and even picture reads the child version books. And who is his favorite superhero? Why Superman, of course. Is there a better one out there? Okay, I suppose that is a matter of opinion. You see I too love the supes and the Man of Steel is my ultimate fav.

So over the weekend, my son and I decided to re-watch the latest Superman film, Superman Returns. Watching it again reminded me of a review I wrote back when the movie released. I thought today I'd post it to the blog.

[Written July 2006]

Let me stipulate first that I am a die hard Superman fan and that I have greatly anticipated this movie. In stating that, let me continue by saying that I liked the film…well, no I loved it. That is not to say that I thought it was flawless and loved every part of it, but taken as a whole I thought it was very good.

When it comes to these superhero movies and big summer blockbusters, movie goers and reviewers are looking for different things. Maybe you want an epic film, lots of action and special effects, or maybe you are looking for a personal journey for our oldest and most beloved hero. I think that if you are mainly looking for the latter then you won’t be disappointed in this film.

As the movie started and the all too familiar blue lettering flowed across the screen with Williams’ Superman theme music pumping through the speakers, my heart beat picked up with all the anticipation that I had been feeling. It was euphoric!

What I really enjoyed was that this wasn’t your typical action summer flick. It had depth and heart. The film was very artistic. Gorgeous cinematography. Some of the shots of the Man of Steel were absolutely beautiful. I loved the architecture of the buildings especially the Daily Planet – inside and out it had that Art Déco decor. Lovely. Having only seen the movie once, I couldn’t take it all in; but I look forward to seeing it again and enjoying all the sets and scenery.

And there was action. It is a Bryan Singer film, after all, who did the 1st two X-men features. Look for the plane crashing sequence, and you will see our favorite supe defying physics in stopping a plummeting plane from smashing into the ground. Very well done, full of action, and terrific special effects. And the flying - I loved it. He moves through the air in a way that you’ve never seen him, flawless.

What about the characters? I love character study and I need memorable characters! I thought Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen was so-so. He didn’t stick out to me as anything special. And Frank Langella as Perry White was actually disappointing. I know he's a great actor, and so I expected more from him. His performance really was forgettable. Jackie Cooper was a great Perry, and Lane Smith from the Lois and Clark TV show is my favorite Perry of all time. James Marsden who you will recognize as Cyclops from X-men plays Richard White and Lois’ fiancé. His performance was right on. He is a nice guy, and you actually feel for him because Lois still loves Superman (well duh). So much for the supporting characters.

And what about the central players?

Kevin Spacey plays Lex Luthor, and it was foretold that he was playing the character much darker and sinister than Gene Hackman’s rendition. And yes he does play it in a more ominous light, but I had just anticipated more. Getting used to the dark character that Lex is becoming in the TV show Smallville, I just expected even more of that in the movie version. I have to applaud Michael Rosenbaum in playing a Lex Luthor who in time will become equal to the title of the greatest criminal mastermind in the world. Again the writers give Lex a weak plot in this movie. This character is worthy of so much more.

(Rosenbaum as Luthor)

Lois Lane. I love the Lois Lane character. I mean she is as important to the Superman mythos as that of Clark Kent. Her characteristics and foibles are famous. And I must admit that Teri Hatcher’s Lois is my favorite because she played the role with all the familiar Lois eccentricies, but she added to that a sensitivity that I think is key to knowing Lois. And in Superman Returns, Kate Bosworth (whose other big films include: “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton” and “Blue Crush") played this iconic character. I was very unsettled about the choice of Kate as Lois. And after watching the film, I find that she didn’t totally kill Lois. Her performance was fine. But it just wasn’t quite Lois. I hope in future Superman films that she can step up her Lois performance. It needs work, but it was ok.

So that leaves the Man of Steel himself. I love the Clark Kent character more than the Superman figure. And this movie was meant to focus on the man more than the super. Of course, in the films, they make Clark Kent in Metropolis as his disguise; and Superman is who he really is. I’ve never liked this because how can Lois really know him when he is a bumbling fool as Clark and all she can see when he is Superman is the hero? But putting that aside, I thought Brandon Routh was great. I was the most pleased with his performance more than anyone else in the film. He has been criticized as not being as good as Christopher Reeve and not doing the things that Chris did, and then he has also been criticized as just copying the past Man of Steel. But I don’t agree. Actors that don’t play characters larger than life are criticized. These same people don’t take the time to observe the subtle way that these actors portray their characters. If you take the time, you just might see greatness.

This film let the viewer see a side of Superman that we haven’t seen before. We see him as a man, and a man who is alone. There were beautiful views of Superman up above the world listening and watching and knowing that the world needs him, but that he is all alone. And the sadness he feels in having lost Lois was very touching. The most poignant moment in the movie comes at the end. I won’t go into detail for those of you who have not watched the movie yet. But first of all Brandon’s acting was terrific and touching in that scene. It was a paramount turn of events for the Superman character as well. I know it brought a tear to my eye.

Sure there were things unanswered at the end of the film…what happened to…what about…? But I know that Singer is planning two more films, and I am supposing that there is a three film story line which I hope includes Lois Lane finding out the truth about Clark…eventually. Because as all good Superman fans know – Lois and Clark do get together in the end. I look forward to seeing to fruition this new Superman franchise of movies. It is definitely a must see at the theater. I give it an A-.


Since I wrote this review, things have change in the world of Superman films. TPTB intend to make another film or series of films but it won't be with Singer as director. It will be as if this film never took place. I'm curious what direction they'll take it. HOWEVER, I hear they intend to keep Routh on as Clark Kent. Good choice. I look forward to it.

No comments: