He’s back!

‘Superman’ movie point/counterpoint


Credit: Steve Schirra

Andrew Gaug: ‘Returns’ improves upon original by abandoning campy dialogue and improving character development

It’s time to don the red cape again. Before the X-Men and Spider-Man films, the original Superman and the 1989 version of Batman were the only movies that proved comic books could translate well to film. Gone were the campy villains and cheesy one-liners in favor of complex human superheroes with feeling and depth that followed more closely to the source material than previous attempts.


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Now in the wake of last year’s successful rebirth of the Batman franchise comes Superman Returns.

The movie doesn’t chance ruining the classic original film by retelling the way Clark Kent became the Man of Steel, but instead takes place after Superman II, scrapping the abominable third and fourth installments.

As ambitious as it may sound, it’s surprising how well the movie works as both a stand-alone film and a sequel-of-sorts.

It is directed by Bryan Singer, director of the first X-Men films, and it shows. He doesn’t aim just to portray a superhero doing fantastic things and fighting bad guys, but also depicts the human element of the Man of Steel. Superman can fly around the world in seconds, take thousands of bullets to the chest and not think twice – but can’t deal with heartbreak.

Much like the first installments of X-Men and Spider-Man, Superman Returns reminds us why Superman is so loved in the first place, but also that he is not without flaws.

Superman returns to a world of turmoil and war, one far different from the world he left five years ago. He finds the love of his life, fellow reporter Lois Lane, is now married and has a child. Along with this comes the news that his long-time nemesis Lex Luthor has been released from jail after only serving a few years of his double-life sentence. As always, havoc ensues.

The first half of the film sets up what has happened since Superman went away, but lingers for a little too long. A scene where a young Clark Kent jumps around in a field feels out of place with the rest of the film, especially since it’s the only scene that goes into his past. Kevin Spacey’s first few moments on-screen make it seem like he’s going to overdo his evil Lex Luthor character – thankfully, like the rest of the film, he really kicks in when the action gets going.

Newcomer Brandon Routh does an admirable job of filling Superman’s shoes. Much like his predecessor Christopher Reeve, he doesn’t seem like an actor trying to play a normal guy, but an actual normal guy playing the role. Also like Reeve, his transition from awkward Clark Kent to Superman is seamless. As Kent he’s soft-spoken and clumsy, and as Superman he exudes confidence and charisma. Kate Bosworth brings a new spin to Lois Lane as well. Instead of being sarcastic and carefree, she’s grown to be more motherly and somewhat bitter. Her performance is understated and played just right to the maturity that one would expect compared to the first two films.

Depending on whether the audience has seen the first two films, they may not enjoy the ending as much. Much like the original Superman, it builds to a climax, but doesn’t necessarily solve it. As a whole – Superman Returns ranks up there with Batman Begins and X-Men. A marvelous film that isn’t without a few missteps, but certainly one of the best movies of the summer so far.

Ben Breier: All hype and no action makes ‘Superman’ one of the summer’s biggest dissappointments

No charm. No charisma. No action. Just gas.

When director Bryan Singer bailed on the third X-Men to work on Superman Returns, audiences were frightened for the quality of the upcoming X-Men movie, while anxiously anticipating the long-awaited release of Superman.


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And even though Singer did a great job with the X-Men series, his work is considerably less effective in Superman Returns.

In the years that Superman has spent away from Earth, everything has gone to hell. Crime boss Lex Luthor has managed to parole himself out of prison -ÿmostly because Superman missed his court date while he was flying in space in an attempt to find pieces of his destroyed home planet of Krypton.

After locating and stealing crystals from the Fortress of Solitude, Luthor combines them with kryptonite -ÿradioactive chunks of planet Krypton which have fallen to Earth via asteroids -ÿand detonates them off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean attempting to create an eighth continent, which will cause surrounding landmasses to collapse and make Luthor rich beyond his wildest dreams.

The best part about Luthor’s plan is that kryptonite is lethal to Superman -ÿand if Luthor’s continent grows to encompass the planet, Superman’s fate will be sealed.

Let’s start with the positive -ÿthe film has absolutely breathtaking visuals. The updated Fortress of Solitude is astoundingly crystalline and tranquil. The voice of Superman’s father booms throughout the chamber when Luthor and his gang invade the palace to seize the crystals.

In a fitting contrast, Luthor’s island looks like an inverted version of the Fortress of Solitude -ÿdark, serrated chunks of kryptonite-enhanced land cut out of the ocean. As Superman flies up to approach it, you can sense his dread as the sky darkens and the continent looms closer.

The action scenes are also well choreographed – especially the jet sequence, where Superman is forced to save a jumbo jet after a space-shuttle launch goes horribly wrong.

However, the action sequences are few and far between. Throw in a boat incident, the aforementioned jet sequence and random acts of chivalry, and Superman is relatively devoid of action.

Instead, we spend a lot of time with Luthor and his posse of terror. Kevin Spacey plays his role better than anyone else in the movie -ÿhis evil is completely believable, and the way he makes quasi-girlfriend Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) tremble in fear even though she is on his side is priceless.

Spacey’s perfect fit does not make up for the movie’s shortcomings. Brandon Routh pulls off an average Superman, but makes a really awkward Clark Kent. He’s far too bulky for the role and doesn’t grasp the social awkwardness that a Clark Kent needs to have. If Topher Grace wasn’t too busy with the upcoming Spider-Man movie, he would’ve made a perfect Kent.

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is even worse. Are we really expected to believe this young, self-absorbed airhead is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter? Please. Lois Lane was cast about 10 years too young for this movie, and some of the dialogue between Lane and Superman is incredibly benign. When Superman flies her above the skyline of Metropolis, the best she can muster is a stuttered “You’re so … warm.”

After all the hype and all the anticipation, we are ultimately left with a broken shell. Returns has good intentions along with spastic bouts of promise. If people want proof that Bryan Singer is not completely infallible as a director, look no further than Superman Returns.

Contact managing editor Ben Breier at [email protected] and features correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].