Superman Returns. And does he ever

Richard White: "Were you in love with him?"
Lois Lane: "He was Superman. Everyone was in love with him."

This is a big, gorgeous, intense movie.

Singer deliberately paid homage to the first two Christopher Reeve movies, right from the opening credits to actually repeating crucial bits of dialogue. This is the Superman III that should have been. And Brandon Routh (rhymes with 'south') just knocked my socks off.

Dan and I spent most of the ride home from the theater talking about what was "off" about Superman Returns (maybe "different" is a better word than "off") and we figured it out. Superman and Superman II had a certain lightness, a touch of camp that allowed us to enjoy it and get into it, but not take it all too seriously. Superman Returns also had some funny scenes, but for the most part, it was dead serious. Even the big blue suit was darker.

In Superman and Superman II, my connection with the wonderful Christopher Reeve was more to his performance as Clark Kent. There was some distance to his performance as Superman, partially due to the state of special effects at the time; he was more like a human being who just happened to fly and do amazing things.

But Brandon Routh spent most of the movie as Superman, not Clark Kent, and I was aware at nearly every moment that he was an alien. Routh's Superman was isolated, alone, different, and oddly vulnerable. The Jesus imagery, the feeling of sacrifice, was everywhere. When Superman did those amazing things (the effects in this movie were out of this world), we were right there with him, up close and personal, and constantly getting the feeling that he could get hurt. Which he did.

Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor was excellent, with some of the flavor of Gene Hackman's portrayal, but with a major difference. My god, he was dark. Very dark, totally evil, and actually pretty scary. There was no Otis or Miss Teschmacher to lighten him up. Parker Posey, as his girlfriend Kitty, reacted to the terrible things that Lex did as we would. In a sense, she was us -- the audience.

Kate Bosworth's Lois Lane was angry about Superman's five year absence, and prettier, less quirky and fragile than Margot Kidder's Lois. When I first heard that Lois Lane was a mother, I thought, oh, no, please, not a cute kid. I hate cute kids. But the little boy who played her son Jason was very good, and the character worked. (And yes, we did learn who Jason's father was. And no, I'm not going to spoil you.)

There were a couple of things I wanted that I didn't get. Especially, a conversation that needed to happen between Lois and Superman, and it didn't, what with saving the world and all. Guess I'll have to wait for the sequel.

Bits and pieces:

-- Routh looked, acted, and sounded like Superman to me. His blue, blue eyes were simply amazing. Odd, because Routh's eyes are really brown.

-- Krypton itself was a character in this movie, and Lex became obsessed with recreating it on Earth. It was dark, cold, dead, and unwelcoming, not as immediate as, say, a missile headed for Hackensack, New Jersey.

-- As mentioned earlier, the Jesus imagery was fairly obvious. But there were also references to Atlas, and Prometheus. In one stunning scene, Superman carried the Daily Planet globe on his back.

-- They used John Williams' original music, and it was perfect. The way they recreated the original credits actually gave me chills.

-- James Marsden (Cyclops from X-Men) played Lois' long-time boyfriend, Richard White. Would you want to play the guy who has to get between Lois Lane and Superman? But he was just fine; I liked him.

-- Bits of Marlon Brando as Jor-El were used, and it worked. Eva Marie Saint, who coincidentally started her movie career with Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, played Martha Kent. And there was a photo of Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent on the mantle at the Kent farm. Lovely. (Pointless digression. On the Waterfront is one of my absolute favorite old movies. Brando's best, as far as I'm concerned.)

-- Jimmy Olson was actually the best Jimmy Olson I've yet seen. Excellent casting.

-- Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita) had a nice supporting role as the host of a press junket for the launch of the new space shuttle.

-- This film was dedicated to Christopher and Dana Reeve.

The audience in the theater applauded at the end of the movie, and I did, too. I loved it.

As good as it was, I'm not ready to give it four stars. (I think I need to see it again to be sure.) But I'm definitely giving Brandon Routh four stars for his performance as Superman. And I really, really, really want a sequel.

Note from much later: I still love this movie and I'm unhappy that it got critically dumped on, and that Brandon Routh didn't get the opportunity to do a sequel. J.D. Balthazar sent me links to a two-part online Youtube review by Steve Likes to Curse. If you still love this movie, check out this review -- it's awesome, and well worth the time.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiHA8s7Y77c
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV6PQSC0gr8
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

ceridwyn2 said...

Hiya Billie!

This film is an absolutely outstanding film, and definitely should have been Superman III. Well done, and I actually had chills at times with the comparisons with Routh's Superman/Clark Kent and Reeve's Superman/Clark Kent. I'd agree with so much of what you pointed out. And the homages such as John Williams original title score, the incorporation of Marlon Brando's Jor-El from the original film works wonderfully.

I'd gone to see it with some friends yesterday afternoon and loved it so much I'm treating another friend of mine who couldn't come yesterday to see it this evening (in another hour). One of the couples that I went with yesteday said there are things she picked up in viewing the second time that were either missed or overlooked the first time that she appreciated the second time round. Can't wait to see it again. :)

Scuttlecliff said...

Here in the UK we have to wait until 15 July before the Man of Steel returns (why, Warners, why!). Anyway I hope it's as good as I've heard. I loved Richard Donner's original. If anyone is interested I've just writen an essay on my blog about the new version of Superman II due later this year: http://scuttlecliff.blogspot.com/2006/07/superman-ii-whatever-happened-to.html

Joanna said...

Thank you Billie for your review. I was excited to see this movie, but had some doubts after hearing comments from friends. But your review has renewed my hope and I will see it as soon as possible. Thanks again!

dezphaire said...

what i liked about the movie: Parker Posey's one-liners. the Superman costume. Peta Wilson (oh that brought me back).

overall, i thought that it could have been better. the pace was incredibly slow, with such a simple plot. it seemed like an art director went wild without his copywriter. the bat still rules.

Eran said...

Hi Billie,
Yeah, it was a wonderful movie.
I think the scene that stole the show was the one in which superman is shot (you know, the one with the eye). It was hilarious, surprising and was done faboulosly, imho.
thanks for the review.