Friday, June 30, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: Superman Returns

After twenty years Superman has finally made his way back to the big screen, and I was very impressed with the flying effects and the overall look of the film. Now mind you, I only saw it on DTS not on IMAX, I'm hopefully going to be seeing it in 3D this Sunday, so we will hold out for another article on the effectiveness of the CGI. I have to say watching the opening credits with the original John Williams score did give me goose bumps, I mean the last time I saw Superman on the big screen I was nine, so I think I'm entitled. On top of that the last time I saw Supes he was being chased around by a nuclear guy with a spray on tan, girly fingernails and bad hair. This was a shitty movie and although it wasn't Batman and Robin shitty it did leave me with a terrible impression of old blue boy. Now for the last fifteen years or so Superman has been pawned off on one director/actor team after another, until finally settling in the hands of Bryan Singer.

Overall I enjoyed the film, but I didn't love it. As I write this I am trying to figure out why this film, for all of its potential, cannot touch the original Superman film in its greatness. I mean Superman uses a couple of lines from the first movie, which I guess is supposed to invoke some continuity, but while he made coy little references to the first two films he never really addresses them, so it's a little strange. I know that Singer loves the first two movies, especially Richard Donner's, but this movie feels like it is too much in the shadow of the Superman of the past, not the Superman of Tomorrow. I always believe that a good Superman story is very difficult to write because of many things but mostly because he's so damn invulnerable that you can go in only two directions; you tell a story that attacks his emotional state of mind or you create some alien badass with the same power of Superman to duke it out to the end. For instance one of the things I liked most about the first Superman is the warning that his father, Jor-El, gives him at the very beginning of the film. He says that he is forbidden to change the course of Human History; ergo he is not to use his powers to time travel in order to change an event. When Superman's earth father dies of a heart attack he wonders why, with all of his powers, was he unable to do anything to stop it. Fast forward to the end of the movie when Lex Luthor uses rockets to blow up the San Andreas Fault causing a massive earthquake in California. Supes saves the day but is too late to save his true love Lois Lane; she dies in a rock slide. So by the time Superman gets there she is already dead, Blue Boy goes into a rage, and breaks his father's ultimate rule. In one of the cooler scenes in cinema, Superman alters the rotation of the earth, causing it to rewind, thus saving Lois. This was a great plot point it challenges Superman to do bad things with his powers even if it's for a good cause. It shows while he is an alien he can also be selfish. In the new film Superman is poised with an interesting dilemma he has returned from a five year hiatus to find the love of his life Lois Lane with child and engaged to be married. This proves unsettling to the caped wonder, but unfortunately Bryan Singer does not dig into this point as much as he should have. You also have a great mystery about the whereabouts of Superman for the last five years, and then they don't really explore it, that really pissed me off. The only thing they say about it is that Astronomers thought they found Krypton so Superman left to go and check it out, apparently he found nothing and it took him five years to do it. I thought this explanation was a little lame. I mean, he knows and we know that the planet exploded, so what is he really looking for? Also, if you are going to present this as a possibility wouldn't you want him to find something of interest that could link him to his past? This was a totally wasted opportunity.

Anyway I thought that Brandon Routh as Superman was pretty good, he did have a lot of similarities to Christopher Reeve. The use of Marlon Brando's Jor-El from the first film was awesome and added a nice dramatic lift to the film. I thought that Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was a bit of a miscast but she did ok overall. Sam Huntington was annoying as Jimmy Olsen. Some people think Jimmy is supposed to be this dork in a bowtie. Maybe in the fifties that worked, but even the Lois and Clark TV show got rid of the stupid bowtie and gave him a little more development. Frank Langella as Perry White was fine, but I guess his character made me also realize why Superman can be, well...boring--Everyone loves the big guy including the newspapers. I guess that's why I like Spider-Man more; it's tougher to be a hero when even the people you try to save hate you. James Marsden is the other man and I think he does an admirable job as Richard White, nephew to Perry. There isn't enough tension between Supes and Richard but I think that it was nice that he was not the clich├ęd dickhead boyfriend that obviously is not going to compete with Superman; he is actually a good guy. Of course Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was fun, he was evil as always, he kept a sense of humor and he gets to stab Supes with some Kryptonite. Parker Posey as Kitty, Lex's girlfriend, was funny at times but she felt like a tired Ms. Teschmacher from the original film.

So don't take what I said too much to heart. I did enjoy this film overall and I think most viewers will too. Superman is an iconic character that represents the birth of comics as an art form, while telling the story of a powerful immigrant who came from the stars to take on the traits of his adopted home: truth, justice, and the American way. Superman is America, and what better way to celebrate the birth of a nation by watching its greatest champion.
Grade: 3 Buckets

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yo, Movie/Comics man, I'm impressed with your impression of "Superman Returns". You need to get your brother the promo man on the stick and have him sell some ads on this blog for you so you can make money doing what you love...writing!!! Very good critique of the movie. Don't forget to phone home. Love, Your number one fan

Speck said...

Busted by the parents, lol.

I agree with a lot of your review...I wasn't knocked on my butt either.

I went back and watched the original, and I think, for part of the film anyway, it became clear why.

The original superman embraced his saving the day, it was an event, he interacted with the people, made funny quips. In this new version Superman comes back to earth and just starts to save people, in very quick and boring manner. There is nothing fantastic about it.

I believe the 5 years includes the time it took to travel trough space. And the opening of the movie was supposed to have superman seeing the remains of krypton. Supposedly, it may have been cut back into the IMAX version...but Singer does want it on the DVD.

I'm curious about the kid...when Supes and Lois got down and dirty, wasnt it when he was made mortal...so no powers or kryptonian blood to transfer?

I thought Kate Bosworth acted like a great Lois...but doesn't look like a great lois..it was her hair, she needed bangs...he forehead is really high, and it just looked like she was wearing a wig the whole time.

James Marsden...I just don't like him. He is annoying. And he was playing the same character he did in The Notebook.

Singer did an amazing job making this film feel like the original Donner Superman. Not something I would think is easy after almost 30 years. But what singer failed to do in my opinion was make Superman really super.

I do want to see this again digitally projected. Most people I talk to loved the film and can't get enough.
I am glad to hear I was not the only one somewhat let down.

Oh...the Spiderman 3 trailer...AWESOME. Same with the Transformers teaser.