Friday, June 30, 2006

"Superman Returns"

This "Superman" may have its flaws, but for me they're just quibbles, because for the first time this summer I just had tons of fun watching a movie again. It's been far too long a wait, but the payoff was huge.

Bryan Singer's take on Superman is in many ways a valentine, both to "Superman: The Movie" director Richard Donner and to us fans. You'll smile through the old-school credits as you hear John Williams' familiar theme re-emerge (for me, the best movie music except for maybe "Star Wars.") You'll even see Marlon Brando again. But from there what you'll see is Singer's vision alone, and it's often a joy to behold.

I've seen it said by one blogger that this "Superman" was a "chick flick." Fair enough, but so what? At the core of "Superman" has always been the story of Lois and Clark, and it's never been told better.

Without giving too much away, when Superman (Brandon Routh) returns after a five-year absence exploring the remains of his home planet of Krypton, he finds Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) with a long-term fiance (James Marsden) and a 5-year-old kid (Tristan Lake Leabu). Who the father is you won't learn from me, but this storyline gives Singer a solid framework for Superman to deal with his own issues of identity.

And its in these quieter scenes that we slowly forget the great Christopher Reeve (though we never really will) and start to believe that Routh can be Superman. He takes over the role with a cocky charm and never lets it go. As for Kate Bosworth's Lois, I think she's taken an unfair beating in the blogosphere. She's not Margot Kidder, but no one can be. Luckily for us, though, she's not Katie Holmes either, and for me she made a very believable investigative reporter.

Marsden was also great as the third side of this bizarre love triangle. The only role I thought was wasted, at least on the side of the good guys, was Frank Langella's performance as Daily Planet editor Perry White. Langella is one of my favorite actors, but Singer gave him next to nothing to work with here.

How's the action? At times, stupendous. Singer spends a lot of time on his dramatic story arc, but when he lets loose his biggest tricks, it's pure fun. The crash of the 777/space shuttle is a one-of-a-kind set piece that will literally take your breath away for about 10 minutes, and watching Superman foil some heavily armed bank robbers is very funny.

So, if all that's good, what's bad? Well, Lex Luthor simply didn't do it for me in this one, though it's not Kevin Spacey's fault. He delivered what Singer asked for, a man so bitter after being sent to prison that he's ready to take out the world. And he does it with flair to spare.

My beef with Lex's plan was this: What could he possibly gain from it? His plot is to make a new continent using Superman’s crystal technology, and in doing so, destroy most of North America. Fair enough, but why? I understand that Luthor is evil, and this is clearly an evil act, but there seems to be no benefit for him in its execution. After wiping out North America, all he will have is a huge, uninhabitable land mass. Useless at best, pointless at worst.

But those are small complaints to me. Singer has created his own solid version of Superman, with heavy doses of Donner thrown in for good measure. Now he can work on giving us a better villain in the next movie, which can't come soon enough for me.

One final note about Singer's Man of Steel before I go: The Superman saga has always had religious aspects to it, and Singer doesn't shy away from this one bit. As Lois wrestles with the issue of whether the world needs Superman, it will make you think, something I didn't do once in X-3 (except for thinking "Where is the nearest exit?").

Does the world need a savior? That question's too big for me to answer, but I know one thing: I need Superman, now more than ever. Welcome back, old friend.

23 comments:

Chelle Y. said...

We're going to see this movie tonight. I cannot wait!

Linda said...

This is one of the few movies I'd like to see again, as soon as possible. Can't wait to see it in 3D, I thought the visuals were stunning!!

themarina said...

Excellent, excellent review. I can't wait to plunk my bum into the theatre. Sunday can't come quickly enough now.

1031 said...

Great review. I can't seem to be so concise. I tend to want to say so much I get kind of rambly.

But, yes, this is a spectacular film. Bryan Singer has showed once again that he can do no wrong. (Except for, you know, Lex Luthor's evil scheme. WTF?)

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks to all for the kind words ... Marina and Chelle, let me know what you think once you've seen it

Mommy said...

Thanks for reading my review and for commenting! You're absolutely right, and I'm planning a blog later today about the Religious aspects of the film. I think your review was awesome! :)

Kovier said...

The movie was pretty good. Especially the guy who played Superman.

I don't think I could take the movie too seriously though because there was a guy behind me who didn't mind making an ass of himself and constantly yelling "GO SUPES!" and "THATS MY BOY!!" and other stuff like that.

Reel Fanatic said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Kovier, what movie theaters need most nowadays are ushers!

Ray said...

Excellent review. Nice to see I'm not the only one who had trouble with the Lex subplot. Thanks for visiting my site.

Belmondo said...

He owned the real estate and was going to sell it. He said that when he talked about Prometheus - he wanted to give fire to the world, but they would have to pay.

Luthor had the human plan - no supervillains needed. Superman has always been about humanity. This movie was genius because it avoided the stupid showdown endings of all recent superhero films.

Reel Fanatic said...

I understand that, Belmondo, but who would want to buy it? You are right about the no-showdown ending .. it was refreshing

DGH said...

I just loved it in IMAX and in 3-D...now that is what Cenima should be...everything else I can get in my home!...great movie...and great viewing!

Passion of the Weiss said...

Great review on the strength of this it, I've now decided to see it. To be honest, the 2 hrs and 40 minutes had scared me a bit. But you have succesfully convinced me.

Reel Fanatic said...

I hope you like it Weiss ... If not, let me know

geoffrobinson said...

Very good review.

3D is definitely the way to go.

It seems very good mythologies strike deeper chords while not being too highbrow. And in our day and age, comics usually fit that bill.

David N. Scott said...

I just sort of assumed that the big ugly island-thing would start sprouting crustal cities and computers after a while. Lex did say he was rebuilding Krypton..

BurgandySkies said...

Luthor was the best part of the movie for me.

And there should be more love for Jimmy Olsen - That guy cracked me up.

Jennifer said...

Awesome movie. It seems like it's been a long time since the last Superman movie.

I like your points. I thought Lex was too nice in a way. I mean he wasn't nice, but his meanness was portrayed in a nice way? Did that make sense. He had this commical way about him.

I love the Lois-Clark-Superman aspect. I've always loved it. And KB actually impressed me. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I did like her.

My one complaint was she'd mellowed a bit, but that's ok. I liked her :D

Andy Z. said...

I will respectfully disagree. This movie could have been so much more given the team assembled to produce it. My review is here.

http://adventuresofandy.blogspot.com/2006/07/superman-returns-and-i-really-want-to.html

az!

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Andy .. I'll check it out

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