STARRING: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey

2006, 140 Minutes, Directed by: Bryan Singer

Description: Following a mysterious absence of several years, the Man of Steel comes back to Earth in the epic action-adventure, Superman Returns, a soaring new chapter in the saga of one of the world’s most beloved superheroes. While an old enemy plots to render him powerless once and for all, Superman faces the heartbreaking realization that the woman he loves, Lois Lane, has moved on with her life. Or has she? Superman’s bittersweet return challenges him to bridge the distance between them while finding a place in a society that has learned to survive without him. In an attempt to protect the world he loves from cataclysmic destruction, Superman embarks on an epic journey of redemption that takes him from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of outer space.

Instead of re-inventing what has gone before like Tim Burton did in the late-1980s with Batman, director Bryan Singer instead prefers to structure Superman Returns like a continuation to the events of the original big screen Superman – the Movie and Superman II movies starring Christopher Reeve of a few decades ago.

Even though none of those films’ original stars reappear in this film except for a ghostly visage and some voice-overs of Marlon Brando (as Superman’s daddy) Superman Returns is for all intents and purposes, and sequel and it helps a lot checking out the original 1978 Superman – the Movie in advance, not only plot wise but to catch various in-jokes and sly homages. (In fact Superman Returns actually often feels like a remake of that movie in many senses.) Making a welcome return are John William’s uber-catchy Superman Main Theme and that retro-futuristic title sequence from the original.

"Lois Lane may have won the Pulitzer prize for journalism, but she is one lousy speller!"

The new cast is adequate, but to a degree lacks the spunk of the original actors. Brandon Reuth is a bit stiff, but passable as the Man of Steel, and while Kate Bosworth is better-looking than Margot Kidder she comes across as more subdued. Kevin Spacey is a less comical Lex Luthor than Gene Hackman’s, and while his performance never delivers on the promise made in the trailers, Spacey is suitably menacing and vindictive.

While it is true that this film is a lot more serious than the previous installments, it doesn’t mean that Superman Returns is humorless though: there are some unexpected jokes (one involves two small dogs) and the movie actually improves on mistakes made in the original by avoiding the more juvenile pratfalls and slapstick that marred some scenes, especially those involving Lex Luthor’s bumbling sidekick, a character thankfully omitted from this flick. Also omitted is that kitschy “Can you read my mind sequence?” which everybody hated from the original film. Instead it is replaced by a more poetic and toned down sequence in which Superman and Lois Lane flies over the Metropolis skyline.

Although it is a bladder-bursting two-and-a-half-hours long, Superman Returns never bores and kept me engrossed throughout. In fact, when it ended I wanted more as it leaves several subplots dangling no doubt to be resolved in the inevitable sequels. The ending hardly left a dry eye in the house, which brings me as to why the film works. Not only is it a geeky love fest which ageing thirtysomethingers who saw the original as kids will appreciate, but it is a movie that takes the time to invest in its characters instead of rushing from breakneck action sequence to the next like most modern blockbusters nowadays tend to do. In this regard Superman Returns is very similar to the superior Spider-man 2 sequel.

Highly recommended.

Things we couldn’t help but notice:

  • Lois Lane may have won the Pulitzer prize for journalism, but she is one lousy speller. In the 1978 movie she thought “rapist” was spelt with two p’s (!); here she misspells the word “extravagant”.
  • In Bryan Singer’s universe megalomaniacal supervillain mastermind types are classical music fans. In X2 Magneto fancies Mozart, and here Lex Luthor seems to have a “Greatest Classical Hits” CD stuck in his player: tunes include the likes of Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons . . .



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