Published Jul 01, 2006Even non-comic obsessed fans have a sense of the long journey from the utter failure of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace to this restart from X-Men director Bryan Singer. After a nearly 20-year process of scripts (Kevin Smith wrote one) and near-deals (Tim Burton directing Nicolas Cage?!), fans can rest easy: Singer and company have done a remarkable, at times stunning job. Jumping ship from the latest X-Men incarnation to work on his dream job, why Superman Returns is such a powerful, iconic and true to character film is because Singer and the writers "get the Superman mythos. Overlooking the Jesus/messiah analogies (and yes, they are blatant), Superman represents, ideally, all thats good in humankind, the pinnacle of what we should aspire to be. In the age of conflicted, "dark protagonists, that may make Superman Returns seem like a throwback to a more innocent time but its a necessary one and the only way to do Superman properly.
Thankfully forgoing another "origin story, Superman Returns is loosely set after the first two films, picking up with Superman returning to Earth after a five-year absence spent investigating the debris of home planet Krypton. And while the world is ready to pick up their love affair with the man of steel, his love, Lois Lane, isnt. And arch-nemesis Lex Luthor has one of those "insane genius plans to remake North America using stolen Kryptonian technology. The film takes for granted a fair amount of knowledge about the Superman/Clark Kent legend, but given its ubiquity, its neither a stretch nor a problem.
Newcomer Brandon Routh fills the suit perfectly and his Clark, while less bumbling than Reeves, is endearing. Although Kevin Spacey as Luthor sometimes errs on the side of camp rather than menace (I blame Gene Hackman), theres no denying the genius of his casting. But the star turn of the film goes to Kate Bosworth, who as conflicted/engaged mother Lois does an admirable job carrying the emotional load of the film.
True, Superman Returns is not flawless filmmaking; it drags at times and is slow out of the gates following opening credits and Marlon Brando voiceovers that serve as homage to the original. And like any comic book adaptation, some of the dialogue clangs. But the effects are simply awe-inspiring, the score goose-bump-raising and that magic of filmmaking, of childlike enthusiasm for a hero, is captured in numerous iconic moments. To paraphrase Lois: "Hes Superman, we were all in love with him. And we still are. (Warner)