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Short Review: Superman Returns – No Spoilers

We live in the age of hype. New movies, new TV shows, new books -- all are pushed, plugged, and promoted by the publicists of our time.

SUPERMAN RETURNS seems to have evaded the hype problem slightly faster than a speeding bullet, probably thanks to the disappointment that the first new Star Wars movie generated back in 1999. It’s true that expectations for this film have been set very high, given the almost thirty years since the first film was released. It also didn’t help that the project had been in a very public development hell for quite some time. Yet somehow those expectations aren’t translating into an over-hyping of the film, just a general excitement for the film. Last night’s preview performance at the AMC Loews Boston Common filled the 650-seat auditorium, and the mood was hopeful and giddy.

So, does SUPERMAN RETURNS work? Does it live up to expectations?

In a word, yes.

About my only criticism is with the cinematography in the beginning scenes of the movie. They seem to have chosen to go with a dark lighting, for whatever reason. But as for the rest, the cast and crew have plumbed deep into the Superman mythos and have brought back a jewel reflective of everything that makes the character appealing.

Brandon Routh channels Christopher Reeve in both of his performances. His Superman is an otherworldly alien who stands apart from humanity, while his Clark is just the right level of nebbish to dismiss any notion that these two could possibly be the same man.

As Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth shows herself to be fiercely independent, more the "girl reporter" of the 1940s and 1970s than the silly Lois of the 1950s, who wanted nothing more than to marry Superman and prove that he was also Clark Kent.

Kevin Spacey is brilliant as Lex Luthor. The man drips evil from every pore, all the while justifying his megalomaniac actions as being beneficial for the greater good.

Sam Huntington, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint – all the supporting cast present their characters as people who have real lives outside of the film, no matter how much screen time they get. James Marsden as Richard White, Perry’s nephew and an editor at the Daily Planet, is particularly vibrant. As five-year-old Jason, Tristan Lake Laebu is adorable without being cloying, and speaks for the five-year-old Superman fan in all of us.

Even the most minor characters get their due. There is one scene where we learn an amazing amount of information about the personality of one of Lex Luthor’s thugs, Brutus...in an emotionally charged scene where the character actually says not a word aloud. He becomes an object of both our sympathy and our fear. Kudos to actor David Fabrizio.

For fans of Superman in all media, there are echoes to delight you, including homages to Action Comics #1, the 1986 reboot of the Man of Steel, and the first two Superman movies. For fans of science fiction, there is a moment where Lex Luthor cites Clarke's Third Law (although, I must note, without crediting the source).

In the end, the movie finds itself based on two themes, which complement each other perfectly. The first theme of the movie is that Superman needs the world just as much as the world needs Superman.

And the second is this:

The potential to be Superman exists within all of us.

(Rating: 9 out of 10.)

Copyright © Michael Burstein

Comments

As you have seen, while you were writng your positive review, I was commenting about Ebert's negative review. Guess I iwll have to go and see for myself and cast the deciding vote. :)
Nice review -- thanks! We're probably going to go see it next week.
I'll be seeing it next week too. :-)
I was eight years old when Superman: The Movie came out. I loved it.

I would say that for the most part, the movie is kid-friendly. It has a PG-13 rating, though, and Charlie might find some of the scenes rather intense. If you want to email me off LJ, I can share a few minor spoilers to help you decide.
That's Marsden. Cyclops, not Spike.
Wow. I saw it and thought, what on earth is Neil Burnside doing in this movie, as such a young guy? and then realized it was James Marsden, not Roy. Hooray for fandom collisions.
I'll be seeing it Thursday afternoon. I can't wait.
Obviously, you can wait, or you'd be seeing it Wednesday morning at a midnight showing. :-)
I've been not too excited about this one. I've felt that the Superman story has been done so much it's almost a cliche. I liked the movies, particularly the first one, (though I have to admit, it was a teeny bit cheesy for my taste.) I loved "Smallville," tolerated "Lois and Clark" and enjoyed the few of the comics that I've read (particularly the later ones.) But nothing that i've seen has indicated that this movie offers anything new and is just jumping on the comic book cash cow. Is this impression wrong? What does this movie give us that nothing else in the last 50 (70? how long has superman been around, anway?) years has?
To answer your question would require introducing some spoilers to this thread. Let's just say that they've re-envisioned Superman's relationship with Lois Lane in a way that has never been done before.
I agree almost completely with your assessment. I'm just back from a late screening here in metro D.C. and I thought it was terrific. It was everything I wanted the movie to be. I was really hyped up before seeing the movie and I was not disappointed. I plan on seeing it again when I'm in NYC this coming weekend.
We'll be seeing it again on Sunday night, after the open house. First movie in years that we're seeing twice in the theater.
Superman Returns was a good movie, just a lousy Superman movie. This Big Blue in Singer's film is just a pale reflection of what Donner created in '79.

My issue is the introduction of one supporting character, and Superman's final reaction to it. Big Blue would never have handled it that way.

Though, I rewatched Superman: The Movie last night, hoping to cleanse my mind of Superman Returns, and I do have to give Singer credit, he did do his homework... He just failed the final.
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