The Movie Buffer

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Superman Returns


Small Spoilers Aren't Kryptonite


Being a big Superman fan, I was really looking forward to seeing this movie and I hoped that Bryan Singer could bring his X-men magic to Superman. This film is a spectacle – plenty of pretty special effects and a decent amount of action. Singer has made a name for himself in the action genre so he tried to flex the heart muscle this time. Does it capture fun and excitement as Superman I and Superman II did? No, not really. Did it really disappoint like Superman III and Superman IV? No, it’s fairly entertaining. According to Singer, this movie is a sequel to the Superman II so you can forget about the events of those two bombs.

Superman/Clark Kent returns from hiatus/soul-searching to find that Metropolis is a much different place. Intrepid reporter Lois Lane has a child, Lex Luthor who was incarcerated in the original movie has been released, Jimmy Olsen is all grown up and everyone seems not to need a hero. But as the viewer soon learns, the world needs a hero more now than ever. With knowledge stolen from Jor-El’s, Superman’s biological father, library in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s arctic hideout, Luthor sets in motion a plan to conquer the world. And there’s only one guy that can stop him.

A Superman story is a no brainer, all he needs to do is wear the suit and fly around and you’ve covered all your bases. But Singer really wants to make this movie more emotionally involved than any other superman film so the love triangle between Superman, Kent and Lois is really played up. This is an interesting angle of the story but is ultimately futile because the viewer learns the outcome very early on.

The main problems with this film come from the pacing and the script. As the movie grinds along, suddenly a sequence of quick cutting scenes appears and shocks the movie back up to speed. At 2 and ½ hours, the movie is just too long for the content.

The script had two distinct parts to it, the first half, the re-introduction of Superman, and the second half, the love story climax/resolution and the villain appears. The first half was everything I wanted this movie to be, Superman stops a bank robbery thanks to his bulletproof skin, he stops a plane from crashing with his super strength and he sees through walls with his updated X-ray vision, which works like an MRI rather than an X-ray. The second half of the movie is where all the problems occur. Singer is well known for his accuracy when it comes to the details and knowledge of the mythology of the characters but in this case he seems unprepared to tackle Superman.

Superman is supposed to have super strength but the only example of it is his lifting ability: he lifts a plane, he lifts a boat, he lifts another plane, he catches a huge globe and he lifts a giant rock. Sure, lifting is important but it’s visually uninteresting after a few times. Have Superman punch something really hard or throw something into the Sun or bend a gun or something that isn’t lifting. Since this is a sequel to the first two Superman films, do they expect us to believe that Superman doesn’t remember what Kryptonite is and what it can do to him? Our hero seems so perplexed that there is a substance that will rob him of his powers.

The Kryptonite effects are also random in this movie, the sight of it takes may take with powers away from him but a chunk of it lodged in his side does not and when he stands on an island made entirely of the stuff he doesn’t realize he’s powerless until he’s told, “you’re standing on Kryptonite”. Bryan, what went wrong?

The acting is fairly good, Brandon Routh as Superman was a great choice. One detail that was out of place was whenever there was an accident Clark would strike an almost heroic pose before he leapt into his suit to save the day as Superman. Though his Clark Kent isn’t as strong, it still has many great Clark Kent moments of nerdy naïveté and country boy charm. Routh also plays the “at home” Clark pretty well, he wrestles with his double life and wishes things could be easier. Kate Bosworth played Lois Lane with some pizzazz. The actor that stood above the crowd in this picture by far was Kevin Spacey. Very much like Gene Hackman did in his role as the ruthless business tyrant, Spacey took the character and made it his own, not quite a cartoon supervillain but a very crafty and cunning villain. The humour in the flick is derived from Jimmy Olsen, played by Sam Huntington, Kitty Kowalski played by Parker Posey, and Lois’ new boyfriend Richard played by Cyclops himself, James Marsden. Some well timed one liners and some dead-pan reactions break up the heavier material of the movie.

On the visual effects and the sound front, the movie is average. The visual effects are impressive at times and dreadful at others. People who don’t particularly like the Superman theme song will not like this movie because it pops up all the time. There actually doesn’t seem to be much music in the movie other than the Superman theme. I like the song but some variety helps a lot. Marlon Brando’s voice makes a brief appearance in the movie, as the disembodied head of Jor-El. This touch really reached back to bring the spirit of the old movies alive.

Overall, this movie gets a 6.5/10 or 3 out of 5 stars. Superman saves the day like he should but his action sequences become a bore after he lifts the second large object. Though he is a big blue boy scout, this movie delves into his morality but doesn’t quite get there.

p.s. For famous newspaper reporters, no one seems to know how to pronounce Pulitzer. Say it with me, it’s “PULL”-itzer, not “PEW”-litzer.


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