STARRING Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Parker Posey and Kevin Spacey
DIRECTED Bryan Singer
Everybody has their cinematic Superhero. My dad loves Spider-Man, my friend Joel knows more about the X-Men than anyone else on the planet and my wife adores Indiana Jones. I love Superman. Always have.
When I was a kid, I remember begging my dad to see the 1978 film and having to settle for the George Hamilton Dracula spoof Love at First Bite. I was so obnoxious during the first 20 minutes of that movie that my dad got up, exchanged the tickets and we saw Superman instead.
Seeing Superman back then reminded me of a time when wide-eyed was really the only way you could see the world. It was one of my favourite film memories. Im quite happy to report that Superman Returns didnt disappoint this fan. It is a terrific film that made me feel like a kid again.
The plot is pleasantly simple Superman (Brandon Routh) returns to Earth after a five year sabbatical only to discover that the world has kept on spinning without him. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) now has a son and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has been released from prison and has a plan to rule the world using crystals from Supermans Fortress of Solitude. While Luthors off figuring out how to use alien technology to take over the planet, Superman is back, trying to do some damage control by saving the world (one disaster at a time) and by saving face with Lois Lane oddly enough, the latter is much more challenging for the Man Of Steel.
Superman Returns gets everything right. It uses Superman and Superman II (widely considered the only celluloid versions of Superman) as its template. The events that occurred in the first two films are used as references and plot points for this one. Bryan Singer (X-Men & X2) is a great director who digs a little deeper to show us humanity in every character by making the emotional conflicts just as powerful as the physical ones. Superman Returns is filled with action and breathtaking special effects, but its the human moments in this movie that resonate louder than any Dolby explosion. Sure Superman can battle a Gatling gun and win with ease, its dealing with jealousy and abandonment issues that are killing him.
Routh is perfectly cast as Superman and Clark Kent. He has the same stature and pleasant features that the late great Christopher Reeves had and he is a smart enough actor to honour Reevess mannerisms. Bosworths Lois Lane is fine and her scenes with Routh have spark and a wonderful familiarity. Spacey as Lex Luthor is inspired. He offers up a kaleidoscopic character in Luthor, flipping from a humorous sarcastic sociopath to an outright psychotic in one of the films more memorable (and violent) scenes. Parker Posey is wonderful as the gold-digging, not so bright Luthor sidekick Kitty Kowalski.
What makes Superman Returns one of the years best films is its attention to subtle detail from the look of fear and trepidation on a security guards face as he attempts to foil a robbery, to the almost offhand mention of Batmans hometown of Gotham City in a newscast. Its these little things that add credibility and real humanity to the entire superhero mythology. Theres no cheesy self-aggrandizing or self referential in-jokes here, and this film is free of cynicism and bereft of cool detachment. It doesnt pander or apologize it just exists as Singerss reverential, wholly human vision.
Superman Returns is a lot like Batman Begins and Spider-Man 2 in that its subversive and demands more from an audience than attendance. It invites the audience into its world and asks us to partake. Isnt that why we go to the movies to begin with? This is an epic adventure that is the perfect jumping off point for a whole new saga of films to be loved by a whole new generation of fans.