Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Throwback Review: Superman Returns

This year marks the 75th birthday of Superman!  Go here to listen to our Superman Part II episode!

It's funny looking back at this review today.  Especially after having seen what happened with the recent Superman movie Man of Steel.  I appreciate this movie more now today than I did when it came out in 2006.  This appears pretty much the way it did when I first posted it.  I made only a small addition.

Superman Returns is one giant love letter to 1978's Superman: The Movie. When you strip it down to it's bare bones, the plot is exactly the same as Superman: The Movie. That's right! Lex Luther is wanting to kill a LOT of people to get what he wants...Land! It also contains a lot of little references and homages to it. None of that bothered me. What did you ask? Ok...I'll get that out of the way first.


I could have done without these few things...

1. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. I don't know whom she was playing in this movie. It wasn't Lois Lane! Parker Posey had a supporting role as Kitty, Luther's right hand chick. Yep...she plays the Ms. Tesmacher of this film...except she did not wear a hot red dress! For shame! When Posey was on screen, I thought, "she should be playing Lois Lane." I think Posey is a talented actress. I think she could have pulled it off. Nothing against Kate Bosworth. I just don't think she was right for the part...but what do I know?

2. That kid being Superman's kid. Why! Why did they do that! Let me set this up...Superman returns to Earth from a journey into outer space. Astronomers thought they found where his home world was located. (pop quiz: what's the name of Superman's home planet?) He just had to go see it. This little vacation takes him five years. When he returns, he discovers Lois has moved on. She has a new boyfriend, Ricky White. She even has a kid! Wow! How to handle this? This upsets the man o' steel. I thought, "Here is a chance at some deep drama! What a dilemma this poses for Superman!" Well...not really! It was too good to be true. All through the movie the kid is portrayed as a sickly little guy. So the audience may start to think, “well Superman could not have such a sickly little kid! So maybe it’s not Superman’s kid.” It was not to be. There comes that moment near the end of the movie where the kid reveals that he has some super-powers. Yippy! To me that just takes out all the tension between Superman and Lois. The kid is Superman’s kid so Lois can now leave Ricky White and that’s that. All she’ll do is break Ricky’s heart. So what! I think it would have been much more interesting to have the kid actually be Ricky White’s kid.

3. Perry White’s line, “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?” What’s that about?! When I saw that in the trailer, I didn’t think much of it. I figured the classic line, “ I stand for truth, justice, and the American way,” would be in there somewhere. Nope. Ok. Maybe that was an oversight by the screenwriters. Nope. Turns out, they deliberately left that line out! They said something to the effect that Superman is a hero for the world. Whatever guys! So here ya have this movie, Superman Returns, which is a love letter to Superman: The Movie, and it sort of thumbs its nose at the original! Or maybe it just indirectly flips it the bird. It just bothered me that they deliberately left that line out.  (I realized much later that the very same line is included in the introduction to the television show of the 1950's The Adventures of Superman.  Keeping that line in there would have been a nod to Superman: The Movie and to Adventures of Superman.  It should have been in there.)

4. It’s too long. Like the recent King Kong re-make, the film ultimately suffers from being too long. Nuff said on that I think.

Brandon Routh did a fine job as Superman. He looks the part. I think he did a good job with it. He really had some big shoes to fill here. I hope to see him take on the roll again and really come into his own.

Frank Langella was good as Perry White.

Sam Huntington was ok as Jimmy Olsen.

Cyclops did a good job with what he was given.

Kevin Spacey was excellent as Lex Luther. The only real problem with Luther is it’s time for some other villains to be in a Superman movie.

I read a review of Superman Returns where the reviewer was a little creeped out by Superman spying on Lois at her residence. Well…it has already been established that Superman cannot read minds. He, like any guy with a crush on some chick, wanted to know if she still thought of him. He gets his answer and flies away upset to hear that she doesn’t think much of him anymore. Lois is understandably mad at him for leaving the Earth without saying goodbye to her. She even went so far as to write an article about how the world doesn’t need Superman. She won a Pulitzer for that one. Ya right! What does that say about who decides whom wins a Pulitzer and who doesn’t? Maybe that says more about the screenwriters.

Finally the moment comes in the movie where Lois and Superman meet again. He meets her on the roof of the Daily Planet. He asks her why she wrote the Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman article. Her answer is, “The world doesn’t need a savior and neither do I.” Superman then takes her flying and tells her to look down at the Earth, “Everyday I hear people crying out for one.” She forgot that Sups has super hearing. I think she just wrote that article because she was mad at Superman. It was just her way of venting.

Much of the movie is beautiful to look at. There is one scene where Superman is floating in space. Why’s he doing that you ask? Because he can! Anyway…he’s just floating there listening to sounds on Earth. Suddenly, he hears a crime happening and Superman springs into action. This shot was modeled after an Alex Ross painting. Don’t know who that is? Look him up. His work is quite impressive. The shot is quite good. There is also a shot modeled after a ‘30’s Superman cover. You know, the one where he is smashing a car. I enjoyed these little touches.

There are also plenty of scenes where Superman is flying around rescuing people in danger. Most notably toward the end. Lex’s land scheme causes Metropolis to flood. Why’s that you ask? Ok…I’ll tell ya. Lex has stolen Superman’s crystals from the Fortress of Solitude. He figures out he can create more land with them. Only, he’d have to kill billions of people to do it. Doesn’t bother him one bit. The twist I found interesting was, Lex encased the crystal in Kryptonite. That way when the land mass forms, it also is made up of Kryptonite and you know what that means! So while Metropolis is flooding, Superman flies around saving various people in danger and tries to lessen the flood damage. Sound familiar? It should. That is what he was doing in the end of Superman: The Movie…except it was an earthquake…not a flood. Superman eventually gets out on the new land mass and confronts Luther. Since the land mass has a ton of Kryptonite in it, Superman is weakened and is no match for Luther’s thugs. They beat the snot out of him. Luther stabs Superman in the side with a stick of Kryptonite and breaks part of it off in him. Sups is then thrown off the landmass to die. Of course he doesn’t die Lois and Ricky aid him. Superman regains his strength and flies out to bask in the sunlight to recharge himself. Superman then dives into the ocean, picks up the landmass, and throws it into space saving the day. Yes Luther and Kitty got off of the landmass. I say all that to say this…I’ve heard some criticism of Superman being able to pick up a giant hunk of Kryptonite and hurl it into space. I think the only way he was able to do that was that he recharged himself in the sun then immediately threw the big rock of Kryptonite into space. Being around all that Kryptonite did send him into some kind of coma. The rest of the movie is the faux death of Superman. This drug on too long.

Ok…that brings us to the ending. Superman goes and sees Lois one more time. But first he sneaks into the kid’s room and repeats some of Marlon Brando’s lines. I really could of done without that. Superman says bye to Lois and flies away. Cue end credits. Ooops…almost forgot. They did put in the flying above the Earth and smiling at the camera bit at the very end. I thought that was cool.

There were cameos by the Jack Larson and Noel Neill, the Jimmy Olson and Lois Lane from the 50's TV show. You know the one with George Reeves as Superman. I didn't see any cameos from Margot Kidder or Marc McClure, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson from the 80's movies. Don't know why they didn't.

The original theme music composed by John Williams was also used. Good thing. It was very cool to be sitting in the theatre and hear the Superman theme blare over the speakers. I must say that choked me up a bit. For a moment, I was a kid again. You hear the theme beginning. The Superman logo flies across the screen. Here comes the title and there is the music in all its glory! The opening credits were done just like the ones from the 1978 movie. I thought that was a nice touch.

Bryan Singer did a pretty decent job here. Although, I know he can do a better job. Superman Returns ends up being a mediocre movie that should have been awesome. Singer’s Superman did turn out to be a better movie than X-Men III, which was released a month earlier. As you nerds know, Singer made X-Men I and II. I think X-Men II was better than X-Men I. Hopefully Singer will make another Superman movie and it will kick ass. To bad Superman Returns did not do for Superman what Batman Begins did for Batman. What’s that you ask? Watch the movies and see for yourself!

I would be committing a grave foul if I did not recommend a re-watching of at least Superman: The Movie and Superman II. Both films still hold up today. Christopher Reeve did a phenomenal job portraying Superman. Richard Donner, the director of Superman: The Movie, and the Salkinds, the film's producers also deserve kudos for having the vision and foresight to try something no one really tried before. If it wasn’t for Superman: The Movie, there probably would not be the great superhero movies that are being made today. Word on the street is that The Richard Donner cut of Superman II is going to be released on DVD the same day as Superman Returns. That is very cool. Get a hold of that cut and check it out. Don't know what that is you say? Check out the Superman Hompage to find details on why there is a Richard Donner cut of Superman II...or watch the documentaries on the Special Edition Superman: The Movie DVD. Also, the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edtion DVDs come out the same day as Superman Returns. What day? November 28th.

I remember watching the Christopher Reeve Superman movies growing up. All four of them were great when I was a kid. Now, only two of them are great. As I enter my 30’s, I can’t help but look back on my childhood. It’s easy to forget the sense of wonder you once had as a child. Logic can supersede wonder and awe and suspension of disbelief. Sometimes movies can remind us of those things. It’s a piece of me I try not to forget about and lose. It can be easy to do that these days, “Gotta get to work. Gotta pay these bills.” I can get pretty sentimental sometimes. So I recomend Superman Returns for those reasons. It reminded me of being a kid again. Don’t forget what it was like for you as a child. Don’t forget all those wonderful things…kool-aid, playdoe, silly putty; mud pies…whatever it was…don’t lose it. Don’t forget it. And me…I will always believe that a man can fly.

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