Superman Returns
Does this suit make me look fat?

Theatrical Release Date: 06/28/2006
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Parker Posey, James Marsden

Superman.

Legend …

Hero …

Home wrecker?

Well, it’s finally here. The long anticipated return of the straightest man in blue tights: Superman. Leaving “X-Men 3” to rot in the hands of Brett Ratner, Bryan Singer chose to tackle this project and see if he could bring the Man of Steel back from the celluloid crypt where “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace” had left him for dead.

“Superman Returns” is a surprisingly good film, far exceeding my expectations based on the trailers and Dr. Evil cast as Lex Luthor (remember “Austin Powers 3”?). The basic story is that Superman has gone away and is returning to Earth five years later. The question becomes, what kind of world does Superman return to and who is there to welcome him home? I can’t say much more without spoiling things – what I did tell you is in some text thrown up on screen before the opening credits.

Getting to the casting, Brandon Routh was an amazing find for Superman/Clark Kent. He really slips into these characters as if he was meant to play them. I was worried he might fall prey to the more common trap of being good at only one side to his character but I think he pulled it all off.

Kate Bosworth was a surprisingly good choice for Lois Lane. She didn’t over-sentimentalize her role, which could have been easy to do, and aside from the make-up department forgetting to keep her contacts in for every take, (by now, doesn’t everyone know she has two differently colored eyes?), Bosworth helps to keep “Superman Returns” from becoming all flash and no substance.

Frank Langella was a nice choice for Daily Planet editor-in-chief, Perry White and Sam Huntington played the first Jimmy Olsen I can remember that didn’t quite seem so much like the definition of ‘rube’. Though perhaps my favorite cameo is Kal Penn as one of Luthor’s henchmen. Just the idea that Kumar is helping a madman bent on bringing the world to its knees makes me giddy. Marlon Brando returns from the grave to have some of his archival footage and sound worked into the film much nicer and smoother than I had expected.

And James Marsden has a rather important role as the nephew of Perry White. Though sadly, there is no Cyclops vs. Superman footage at the end of the credits … though that would be like watching the Godzilla vs. Bambi clip all over again.

Now for the villain, the nefarious Lex Luthor. Kevin Spacey brings his wry humor to the party and manages to stay just behind the line to Cheesytown. As a friend of mine pointed out, Luthor’s character has always been written like a comic book while the rest of the cast got a movie script. The same holds true here but Spacey is able to keep the campiness under a modicum of control. To amp up the camp, we have Parker Posey and some little dogs to thank. No stranger to chewing up scenery, Posey helps to lighten up the refreshingly dark movie.

I say refreshingly because that’s one of my biggest problems with the first four Superman films … Actually, let’s leave number four out of this, that was more like a Power Rangers TV special and “Superman III” really is a bit over the top, though you have to love Richard Pryor.

Okay back to my problem with the first two Superman films. They were a bit too bright and sunny for me. Sure, there are problems and Superman must overcome great odds to save the day, but the notion that a Superman film could be dark was out of the question.

“Superman Returns” is about loss and yearning. There’s pain inside all of the characters. It’s not just another superhero saves the day picture. And when things get bad, your heart drops a little bit … maybe more so for the more fanatic Superman lover.

I did appreciate, however, the many homages to the earlier Superman franchise works. Whether it was including actors who had been a part of those works, the opening credits, or using so much of the original music, either whole or thematically, I liked the tip of the hat. It helped stir the nostalgia from the older films and gave the film a more timeless feel than something full of techno music and one really obvious cameo (yeah, I’m talking to you “Tokyo Drift”!)

If you have any inkling of wanting to see this film, by all means, rush out and spend some dough to see it. I’m giving “Superman Returns” a 4 out of 5 which, based on my initial misgivings about this project as a whole, is one hell of a good rating.

I thought it was a film befitting such an iconic persona and while it does drag a bit at the end and there are some elements that might have been handled better (the rest of the review will deal with that), Singer and company bring it all together in the end. The effects are done about as well as CGI allows and the story and acting hold up for the entire film.

Now on to my issues and questions! From here on out, it is SPOILER ALERT time. Read on at your own peril and/or disappointment. I recommend watching the film before checking out the rest of this review …

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So, Superman returns after five years to find Lois engaged to Cyclops, who is the seemingly perfect man, and she’s had a kid! The question throughout is: Is it Supes’ baby? Once you find out that it is, the question then must be asked. How in the hell did Superman procreate with a human? As so eloquently put in “Mallrats”, Superman would blow a load through Lois like a shotgun … so the only way they could have sex would be with a kryptonite condom … which would kill him. I was disappointed this element is never addressed.

Also, while I love that Luthor shanks Superman with a kryptonite shard like a jailhouse bathroom surprise, it seems to me that it should have taken Superman WAY longer to recover from that. After getting the shard removed, he pops up for some solar recharging and swoops right back into the fray. I thought that was a bit too easy.

One thing I will give Singer props for is never completely giving in to the tension between Superman and Lois Lane. She’s with a wonderful guy now, who spends the entire movie getting figuratively screwed (nice guys finish last). So it was nice to see that she has enough respect for Cyclops to keep from getting into Superman’s tights at the drop of a hat.

Again, as a whole, I thought this movie was excellent. I was pleasantly surprised to watch a good comic book movie and it seems that DC is reclaiming the film franchise superiority from Marvel. With “Ghost Rider” on the horizon, DC will only expand on that lead as we all await the next “Batman” and hope that “Fantastic Four 2” is a direct to DVD thing (Get it? Thing?!).

So that’s what I got. I was hoping to flatten the Man of Steel like a penny on railroad tracks but I have to give the film its due. Now the question becomes, will Singer return for another helping, or will Brett Ratner slide in and ruin this franchise too? Stay tuned!