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SUPERMAN RETURNS (PG-13) (2006)

Warner Brothers

Official Site

Director: Bryan Singer

Producers: Gilbert Adler, Jon Peters, Bryan Singer

Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Tristan Leabu

Rating:


Superman Returns to the big screen at long last, helmed by the superlative Bryan Singer, the same guy who brought us The Usual Suspects and X-Men 1 & 2, and of course featuring the catchy original theme music by John Williams. This is only fitting because Superman Returns follows closely in the tradition and story of Superman movies 1 & 2. Here Superman (Routh) returns to Earth after a five-year absence, only to find that Lois Lane (Bosworth) is now engaged to Richard White (Marsden), mother to a five-year-old son Jason (Leabu), and the world may have changed into a place where his Boy Scout sensibilities are no longer relevant. Worst of all, Lois is the author of the scathing editorial, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”!

It takes only a few feats of derring-do to prove that is absolute rubbish. Superman possesses not just super powers, but also purely benevolent motivations and the knowledge of good and evil that enables him to pass judgment on humanity. Thus armed, Superman would never be obsolete. There will never be a time when good for goodness sake will be unwelcome and so though Superman may be one-dimensional, he will remain a timeless icon precisely because he unwaveringly stands for truth, justice, and all that.

Superman Returns has a lot of action, but when your protagonist is, well, super, the outcome is never in doubt. However Bryan Singer is such a master behind the camera that the ride alone is more than enough to entertain and the few times characters without superpowers are in jeopardy, he evokes a palpable sense of menace. The real letdown is Lex Luthor (Spacey), more like the bumbling Gene Hackman Lex Luthor of previous Superman movies than the slick, intelligent Luthor of comics and cartoons. He is not even up to the manipulative, twisted persona portrayed in “Smallville”. When first introduced he is scamming some old lady out of her fortune—hardly the activity of someone who is supposed to be an equal and opposite force to Superman. Lex Luthor feels less like the world’s greatest criminal mind and more like just another petty thug deserving of Superman’s near infinite mercy than someone meriting his wrath. Lex’s impotence when compared to the man of steel led to a somewhat anti-climactic final showdown.

At 150+ minutes, the movie is a bit long and drags at times, with several of the Kevin Spacey scenes feeling superfluous. Bryan Singer is so clearly in love with Superman that he never saw a flying scene he didn’t like, but with the addition of the John Williams theme music, it is difficult to question his love even if those scenes do get a little repetitive.

None of the fault of the movie lies with the two leads. Their performances are so enthusiastic and sincere that they practically hold signs saying, “Look at how decent and upstanding Lois and Clark are! Like us, Like us!” and in that they succeed. The characters of Lois Lane and Clark Kent are quite endearing and possess the necessary chemistry to make the traditional hot babe/superdude/alter ego triangle work. The real loser here isn’t Clark Kent, but Richard White, Lois Lane’s fiancé, who would have been quite the catch if Lois’s ex-boyfriend were anyone other than Superman. Brandon Routh adroitly handles the transition from alien demigod to timid, bespectacled Clark Kent, capable of portraying his love for Lois in either incarnation. Let’s hope for super enemies and a shorter running time in the next movie.

—Woodrow Bogucki

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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