THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!
SUPERMAN RETURNS is a good/bad film. What this means is that there are good things within the film that outweigh the bad.
Because positive reviews should end on an upbeat, this review will cover the negatives first then delve into the brighter side of the movie.
But first, a little history...
Superman (Brandon Routh) has returned to Earth after a five year absence. He traveled to Krypton to see if it was really gone and if he was truly alone as a species. Rest assured, he is. Nothing of Krypton — save himself and a few asteroids — remains. Returning to Earth isn’t easy, either. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth, BEYOND THE SEA) feels jilted because he’d left without saying goodbye. And she has a new beau ...and child! Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu) is this unique young boy and if you’re observant you can figure out a few things rather quickly (for instance, add up the child’s age and pay attention to a few subtle clues). Also, due to Superman’s abrupt disappearance five years ago, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey, PAY IT FORWARD) got a lesser sentence because the Man of Steel wasn’t around to corroborate evidence against him. And now Lex is on the loose, trying once again to wrangle some illegal and deadly real estate dealings against the people of America.
The bad: This story has been done. If you’ve seen the original Superman film (Christopher Reeve, 1978) you know the story all too well: Lex Luthor, Gene Hackman, wants to shove California into the sea so that he can be a land tycoon but first he has to get rid of Superman, yada, yada, yada... I’m sure some of this may have been done intentionally, as a sort of homage to that first film (more on that in a minute, too), but here it just felt very unoriginal.
Casting. I can see why they picked Brandon Routh as Superman. He’s good-looking, has a sort of chiseled quality to him, and he’s got that boyish charm. The boyish charm is the biggest problem. Since he’s now five years older, and perhaps paternally bound, a fatherish figure would seem more appropriate. Mr. Routh looks younger than Chris Reeve did during the first Superman film. That’s a problem. In fact, everyone looks younger, not older. Even Frank Langella’s character looks younger than Jackie Cooper (the original Mr. White).
The Script. It’s corny. Sorry but had to say it. The dialogue is often stilted ("All I hear are people crying out for a savior.") Barrrrrf!
Okay, now that we’ve dissected the innards, let’s get into what’s good.
Director Byran Singer does his best with this tough script and pulls the film up by its sagging bootstraps. The visuals are absolutely stunning. The outerspace shots (from the opening credits) are, to use my son’s expression, "Wicked!" This makes it a must see on the big screen.
The costumes. Loved the fact that Superman’s outfit is a bit darker. The cape isn’t blood red anymore but is purplish. The "S" on his chest is also darker, indicating Superman has faults. He’s a shadowy man now. He has jealousies (towards Lois Lane’s fiancee) and feels out of touch with humanity.
I mentioned a bit of homage going on and Mr. Singer puts some of it to good use. Most notably a kind of tribute to the late, great Chris Reeve, whom many of us movie-goers consider the ultimate Superguy. The smug super-smiles (especially at the end of the flick), some similar dialogue ("Statistically speaking, flying is still the safest way to travel"), and the emotional weight hefted upon Superman by all the women who faun over him are all there and done exceptionally well. Many may feel a closeness with Mr. Singer’s approach for including these items in the film. I know I did.
So there you have it, a mixed bag. Not great but not horrible either. Definitely worth your while, especially for DC comic book fans and those who enjoy a stroll down Super-memory lane.