Superman Returns

2006-09-19 17:53


It's been five years since Superman (Brandon Routh) suddenly disappeared from Metropolis (and planet earth) and her citizens have finally accepted that the man of steel is no longer around to protect them. The Daily Planet's star reporter, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has even written an award-winning piece on the subject - "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman". What they don't realise is that their saviour has been on an intergalactic visit to his doomed home planet of Krypton. Luckily his trip has only convinced him that Earth is his true home. He reappears just as suddenly as he left, donning his trusty disguise as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. But returning isn't going to be that easy. Lois, the love of his life, is married to another man (James Marsden), and his nemesis, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), has managed to win his appeal and is roaming free with a newly swindled fortune to finance his mischief. It looks like the world may need Superman after all.


It's probably never been more challenging to make a successful superhero flick than it is right now. Sure, technology lets you do things that were dreams only 5 years ago, but any arena where $100m is an average budget and at least two competing films appear each year is going to be tough. Yet Superman Returns rises well above the background noise of lesser challengers. A true crowd pleaser, it blends spectacular action sequences with knowing humour and emotional depth, bringing the man of steel back into the public imagination in high style.

And yet it is also a strangely empty and distant film. It captures the scope and grandeur of the world's first superhero, but is reluctant to grab hold of its subject and shake some new life into it. At over two and a half hours in length it has the air of a meticulous homage to its subject, more like a historical costume drama than a blockbuster. Of course reverence is prudent when dealing with such a beloved and well-established character, but director Bryan Singer has wrapped his whole film in cotton wool, making it tiptoe where it should soar.

Subtleties aside, Superman Returns is a technological and visual masterpiece. Unlike the vivid gloss of a film like X-Men (Singer's first foray into the superhero arena), Superman is bathed in a gorgeous, muted, golden light. The whole project was shot in the notoriously tricky but visually astounding 70mm format, and the results are well worth the trouble they required. The film has a remarkable visual consistency considering that it was staged across over 80 different sets. The production and costume designs are equally good, with a kind of ruddy, Norman Rockwell-esque majesty to them.

But it's action set pieces that are the real highlight of the film. Like King Kong, the film's special effects are so smooth and utterly convincing that you have no choice but to suspend any disbelief. In fact the effects are so good they actually become invisible - blending seamlessly into the action of the plot. It helps to have a director with the kind of flair for visual drama that Singer possesses. He and his screenwriters have dreamed up feats of epic scale that make Batman, Spiderman and even the X-Men look relatively unimpressive.

As far as performances go, Brandon Routh seems born to play the part. He manages to capture both the wide-eyed innocence of Clark Kent and the steely-eyed purity of Superman. Of course most of his appeal comes from his near perfect "look". It's as though he literally stepped off the pages of the comic book. The screenwriters have cannily kept his lines to a minimum, allowing his actions and appearance to dominate.

Kate Bosworth, however, seems out of place in the Lois Lane role. She comes across as tentative and girlish, rather than spunky and tenacious. They have done their best to make her dowdy, but this only makes her seem more uncomfortable and unnatural.

Kevin Spacey dominates the supporting cast, clearly enjoying his role as the super-villainous Luthor. The marvelously eccentric Parker Posey gives one of her trademark performances as Lex's ditzy girlfriend Kitty - a perfect foil for Spacey's machinations. The smaller roles are lent weight and depth by great actors like Frank Langella and Eva Marie Saint. It's always a pleasure to see actors of this caliber perform, even when the roles aren't worthy of their talents. One truly bizarre inclusion is the normally hilarious Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle fame). He barely has a line in the film and is totally miscast as a villainous henchman.

There's no doubt that Superman Returns is the blockbuster to beat this season, but this is more to do with the quality of its competitors than its own intrinsic greatness. Despite all the care, expertise and millions of dollars poured into the project, it never captures the verve of the Richard Donner's corny but iconic 1978 original. It may loom large over the plastic-and-polystyrene fare that passes for popular film nowadays, but in the end Superman Returns is no less disposable.

- Alistair Fairweather

This blockbuster has it all - grandeur, emotion, humour and some epic action sequences - but it never quite reaches the heights it is striving for.

Graham Piasecki 2006/07/07 8:35 AM
Fantastic! This latest reincarnation of Superman is everything anyone could want from a comic adaptation. It simply blows everthing else out of the water. A must see!
Toy 2006/07/07 8:42 AM
Many happy returns!!! At last! It was everything I hoped it would be and more! Well balanced, quite long but not boring at any stage. So good, you actually forget how ridiculous his suit looks! Batman Begins, Superman I & II
Lenties 2006/07/07 4:46 PM
not GOOD
Jan-Steyn 2006/07/07 6:54 PM
Superman Spectacular This is an absolutely awesome movie!!! Very good balance between action and storyline. Spectacular special effects! All and all a grat movie and a definate must see for all!
Matthew 2006/07/07 7:40 PM
Loserman loserman effected me emotionally because of the bad costumes and acting the Ape
Johngee 2006/07/08 8:02 AM
Superman Returns Excellent, with the unexpected mystery around who is really the father of Lois Lanes six year old son. Initially I thought the appearance of a cute kid was only to widen the appeal to attract pre pubescent kids, but then I realised that it was to excite the imagination of post pubescent kids like me (aged 50!), as to what Lois Lanes, "I spent a night with Superman" experience was really all about. I look forward to the sequel where I hope we get Supermans version "I spent a night with Lois Lane". Kate Bosworth is stunning. Strongly
Wesleigh 2006/07/08 12:42 PM
Awesom This movie was amazing, i would recommend that everyone should go out and watch this movie. Thanx to Monte Casino for making this movie more spectacular with the comfort and service!!! Definitley watch Superman, you won't be dissapointed!!!
jw 2006/07/08 4:53 PM
superman very good yes
Lee 2006/07/08 11:59 PM
Superman Returns Spectacular, but the awesome special effects, and action does not overshadow the human side of the characters, especially that of the Man of Steel. Kate Bosworth is miscast, and newcomer Brandon Routh is perfect as Superman, bearing an uncanny resemblence of Christopher Reeve. Catch it Monte Casino's IL Grande Cinema, where with it's huge screen and superb sound really do this film justice. X Men 3
Mark 2006/07/09 12:20 AM
Wonderfully enjoyable film Does the original film proud! YES
Fiona Tanzer 2006/07/09 12:29 AM
Dr I felt that the film was both spectacular and delicate. The cinematography was wonderful and I liked the seamless mix of modernity with its suggestions of the original superman era. I really appreciated seeing a hero who was both heroic and goodly without appearing corny - and I appreciated Lois's son not being precocious. Lex Luther was also brilliant. I also liked it that no character was overplayed, and all had depth to them. I'd certainly recommend Superman Returns - even for those who don't normally like watching "comic book" movies!!
James 2006/07/10 1:47 PM
superman super Great movie!!!
Brandonm 2006/07/11 10:26 AM
Okay - I guess There were parts that were super and part that were so-so. I wasn't blown away like I thought I'd be, but it did keep the original feel (outdated) to the Christopher Reeve era. I was disappointed that the emblem was no longer flat (how did that happen?) and apart from crystals forming everywhere, I thought the original Superman flew just as well. So I think that Mr Singer was probably a little to cautious in making this movie and should have perhaps been a little more daring in places. However still my favourite movie superhero!!!!
Amanda 2006/07/11 2:48 PM
Superman Returns Wow! It was amazing! It had all the goodies, from mind-blowing action to tender emotion and some really good humor! I didn't know if the 'new guy' could cut it but after the first action scene he had me! When is the next one coming?!?!? :D Superman Returns ofcourse!
Kat 2006/07/11 9:05 PM
I Love Super Heroes Brilliant... For those of us who are to young to have seen the original Superman films or only remember them slightly. Then this film is Winderful. I will definitely be watching the originals (to get perspective) as soon as possible... Our generation just has to love it.
'O' 2006/07/12 10:30 AM
Superman Returns Awesome special effects. The new Superman Brandon Routh suited the part and Kevin Spacey was great as lex luther, enjoyed Parker Posey - great acting.I was dreading seeing the new Superman but was taken by my children and it was most enjoyable.Great directing The only disappointment was Kate Bosworth - she just didn't make me feel that she waas Lios Lane - can't put my finger on it she's lifeless/too bland??? Anway I would recommend it as an enjoyable 2.5 hours
boogieman 2006/07/13 10:46 AM
cmon people... the movie was booooooring! this new superman dude needs more depth - he just lacks acting ability. remember the scene at the end when he has a little chat with his new-found son - he rattled that off with no feeling whatsoever! and the action - sorry - not gripping enough for me... what a disappointment :(
HB Coetsee 2006/07/15 8:34 AM
Superman Returns Most predictable boring movie in a long time. No
Mahen 2006/07/15 8:09 PM
Superman Welcome back superman,with technology at its best this superman is going to be a box office great. Definitley
Charmed 2006/07/17 2:55 PM
Not Impressed What a boring movie... I was disappointed.. expected better. Superman II was more enjoyable yet it was made in the 80's. Dont bother watching it. X Men 3: the last stand
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