What is it like to wait for a movie for over 25 years and see it realised with today’s technology?
Superman Returns was made for the generation of kids who grew up in the 1970s and did everything they could to leap off tall tables and fire off heat-rays from their eyes.
It remembers what made Richard Donner’s original legendary, and refrains from the temptation to make light of the source material (the first movie, not the schizophrenic comic books).
It does not eschew character studies, but takes it time to develop and blend them in with action sequences that only Superman can fit into.
It pays fitting homage to Donner’s work. I saw the zooming fonts in the opening credits and started to feel a flutter in my heart.
The plot structure follows Superman I and II loosely. In fact, Superman often faces a repeat of the same forces of nature from 1978, rather than the comic-book device of using super villains like General Zod.
There is also a revisit of the Prometheus myth, used in a literary and literal sense to depict Supe’s struggle with shouldering the world’s burdens on his broad shoulders.
Brandon Routh is buff, but he is no Christopher Reeve, who is still the archetypical Superman.
You see, the difference is that Reeve actually looked shy when he was acting as Clark Kent. That very quality lent Reeve the ability to contrast his Superman alter-ego greatly. Routh looks and acts the same whether is he Kent or Ka-El.
And Reeve really filled out the suit better.
The big downer is Kate Bosworth, who is too young and too inexperienced to play Lois Lane. She’s mildly pretty but if journalists were like her, we’d never get invited to press conferences or even file a story on time.
She doesn’t even look old enough to smoke a fag. Margot Kidder wasn’t pretty but she was right for the role.
Kevin Spacey brings an uncomfortable edge to Lex Luthor. He starts off channelling Gene Hackman, only to bring on the vicious version from the Smallville version. Still, one of his better performances since Keyser Soze.
The best performance may have come from Parker Posey, who plays another of Lex’s many airhead girlfriends. She’s got the best lines in the film, period.
(SPOILER AHEAD. READ ON AT YOUR OWN PERIL)
Ready for the big plot twist? (If Time magazine can do it last week, I can reveal the plot spoiler here too. Just don’t scream at me if your eyes travel downwards okay?)
The biggest problem I had was the existence of Superman’s son.
It’s taboo for Supes to sire children, not because it’s not possible, but because of the plot issues for future movies.
Is this the beginning of the SuperFamily? Who wears the tights in the house now? How many powers will Superboy have?
And logically speaking, it doesn’t make sense for Superboy to have any powers at all.
If I remember correctly from Superman II, the boy was conceived right after Superman decided to give up his powers and become mortal. (This scene was cut from local airings of the movie, but exists on the DVD. Clark and Lois couldn’t wait to get it on).
Super Seed was thus not Super when it was activated, unless the Kryptonian DNA was too strong to reverse.
The kid throws a huge spanner into the works, and it will pose a big problem for the movie franchise from hereon.
Neverthless, thank you, Bryan Singer, for making my day and making me feel like a wide-eyed 3-year-old again.
Like Jor-El says, there is hope after all, and you have revived something I thought was impossible to.
UPDATE: Ebert gave it only 2 stars for very good reasons. But I was thrilled just to hear the John Williams theme again, so perhaps I’m not the best barometer of taste.