Superman (played by Brandon Routh) in his favourite new pose.
Superman is arguably the most iconic superhero character ever. Initially conceived by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel in the comic book titled Action Comics #1 dating back to 1938 and forever immortalised on the big screen by late and great Christopher Reeve in the Richard Donner directed movie of 1978 the new iteration had big (red) boots to fill but fails on most counts.
For those who didn't already know, Superman Returns is a pseudo sequel to the first two Superman movies (which kind of makes this Superman III). There's an interesting story to the first two Superman movies and I'll talk about it briefly here because it's a great bit of trivia.
If you've read the first paragraph you'd know the first movie was directed by Richard Donner (who's still directing by the way... 16 Blocks being his latest work). The second Superman movie was partially shot by Richard Donner in parralel with the first one (like the Matrix or Lord of the Ring movies). Due to differences with the film's producers Richard Donner left Superman II unfinished and the job fell to another Richard, Richard Lester. Superman: The Movie was a great movie and Superman II was almost as good.
There were two other Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve that really sucked. In fact it's best to pretend that they never made Superman III and IV. Incidentally, Richard Lester the crappy replacement director from Superman II had complete reign of Superman III and if you watched that movie you'd be forgiven for wanting to punch the daylights out of him.
Back to the point.
In Superman Returns, our titular characted returns to Earth after spending five years in space revisiting the remnants of his doomed homeland Krypton. A lot has changed in five years. The love of his life Lois Lane has two new men in her life. Number one: a boyfriend who lives together with her and number two: a son! Meanwhile Superman's old nemesis Lex Luthor manages to get out of jail and starts to cause more trouble for the good citizens of the world.
Superman Returns is directed by Brian Singer, the director who was also responsible for the first two X-Men movies. Like the X-Men movies Superman Returns is a technically solid and entertaining effort but they are also unmemorable movies and I doubt they will ever be looked upon as classics.
The movie is chock full of references to the original Donner movies and in some instances the comic books. The cover from Action Comics #1 makes an appearance in the movie and a lot of dialogue is paraphrased from the original movies. Heck even the glowing letters from starting credits and the final shot of Superman flying off into space is the same. And yes, John William's iconic score is intact as well.
Now because Brian Singer made such an effort to tie in this movie with the first two Superman movies I can't help but to compare them. Needless to say the first movies were made in the late 1970s and the early 1980s so special effects wise Superman Returns wins flat out. Watching the action sequences in Superman Returns makes you realise just how limited the technology was back in those days. Computer technology enables film makers to create images with a level of intensity and dynamism that was never achievable with old school blue screen. But that's about the only place where Superman Returns manages to one up the Donner movies.
Brandon Routh is a good Superman. He's a hunk of a man and he manages a decent portrayal of Superman but that's it. He's a good Superman but a lousy Clark Kent. While nowhere near as wooden as Keanu "woah" Reeves his portrayal of Clark Kent is terribly uninteresting. Christopher Reeve's Clark Clent was an affable albeit clumsy person and he was absolutely delightful to watch on screen. Brandon Routh's delivers the most invisible performance of Clark Kent yet.
Even worse is Kate Bosworth's portrayal of Lois Lane. I think they absolutely miscast this role. Kate Bosworth looks way too young to be Lois Lane. Brandon Routh is actually more or less old enough to play Superman (27 years old) but he too looks a little too young. Kate Bosworth looks so young in the movie that it was probably illegal for her to have sex when she conceived her son; who's about 5 years old in the movie. Like the original Donner movies Brian Singer opted to focus the story on Superman and Lois Lane's love. Unfortunately for him Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth have absolutely no chemistry... not a single spark.
Kevin Spacey faxes over his performance in Superman Returns. For an actor with such acclaim I would have thought he could do much better. His Lex Luthor is a menacing S.O.B. He's an absolutely evil mofo who cheats old ladies out of their money and constantly hatches evil plans that usually have something to do with real estate. As played by Gene Hackman in the Donner movies, Lex Luthor is menacing, evil and oddly likeable. Kevin Spacey manages menacing and evil but not likeable.
But that's not all the biggest problem must be the... haha... it's a big spoiler. Click here
if you want to read it. I suggest you only do so after watching the movie yourself.
The biggest problem is what Brian Singer did to the story. Superman has a f*cking son! Yes Lois' son was actually fathered by Superman. This means we're going to see some Superboy sh*t in the sequels and that makes me sad. I really don't think anyone can pull off a Superboy angle in the movie without making it unbearable to watch.
Well that's it for today's review. I have a few more things I wanted to write but am not going to bother about it. Watch it yourself and judge if I'm right. For best results watch the Donner movies before or after watching Superman Returns. Can you seriously tell me that Singer's version is better? I say bring back Donner to direct the next Superman. That would be the bomb!