Superman Returns and Slightly Overstays His Welcome
"Superman Returns" is director Bryan Singer's impressive update into the life of the Man of Steel, who has been missing from Metropolis for five years when the story begins and has been missing from the big screen since 1987. Astonishing visual effects make the summer's most anticipated blockbuster fly faster than the speed of light for the majority of its duration, but the last few scenes seem unnecessarily drawn out and the final showdown with Lex Luthor is not all it could have been.
Still, the film met all other expectations I had of it; I was pleased to see Singer display as many of Superman's seemingly endless powers as possible and I particularly liked how much of the movie was spent floating around in space.
Each of the main characters were perfectly cast, with newcomer Brandon Routh donning the blue tights in his first major starring role, veteran Kevin Spacey as the notorious Lex Luthor, and Kate Bosworth as a radically changed Lois Lane. Spacey and Singer worked together on 1995's "The Usual Suspects" and Singer is himself quickly becoming a usual in the superhero genre, directing the second installment of the X-Men series as well, 2002's "X2."
Superman's departure was really just a leave of absence: he took a soul-searching mission back to his home planet, Krypton, after finding out that scientists had located where it was. When all he found were the remains of the once infinitely advanced society that had once flourished there, he headed back to Earth, where the world had apparently learned to live without him, as evident in the Pulitzer Prize winning article written by a pissed off Lois Lane after he left without ever saying "goodbye" to her, appropriately titled "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." Lois is now in a serious relationship with a man named Richard, effectively portrayed by James Marsden and who, despite what she might have to say about it, may or may not be the father of Lois's growing boy Jason, played by Tristan Lake Leabu. But who on earth could have fathered Lois Lane's child if it's not the justifiably jealous Richard?
Superman's actual return to action is a spectacular rush to stop a burning plane from crashing to the ground, while it plummets through the air wingless and carrying the crisis-prone Lois inside. He makes the save just in time, finally stopping it only moments before turning an MLB game in progress into a horrible tragedy. After a moment of realization of what has just occurred, the crowd of course goes wild in the most enjoyable moment of the film, which is a cheap but wonderful way of utilizing the film's Fourth of July weekend release, by combining two of the most nostalgic American symbols we have: Superman and baseball.
After that, Superman goes on a crime-stopping, life saving rampage, showing up everywhere and just being his so sorely missed super self. When he's not busy deflecting the bullets of artillery armed mad men, Superman and his dorky alter ego, Clark Kent, focus the majority of their attention on adjusting to the new Lois, whose entire world is crashing down all around her since her former beau came back. The relationship between Lois and Superman has never been this complex before, and it was well acted by each member involved. Lois's son Jason doesn't have much to say, but his mere existence adds an entirely new dimension to the situation, however I was often distracted by how bad this kid needed a haircut. Couldn't Superman just drop him off at Great Clips the next time he has an out of control vehicle to chase?
Despite her heartbreak, or maybe because of it, Lois remained the top reporter during Superman's absence, tackling the biggest stories of The Daily Planet at the order of Perry White, with the annoying but often helpful assistance of Jimmy Olsen. Frank Langella makes for an
appropriate White but Sam Huntington makes Olsen pretty forgettable. More annoying is Parker Posey as Lex Luthor's desperate companion, Kitty Kowalski, who was the most seen of Luthor's disappointing crew of henchmen.
Luthor himself was diabolic as always, scamming a filthy rich dieing old woman to leave to him her inheritance in one of the film's opening scenes, and hatching an interesting scheme to somehow use kryptonite and other alien materials to build his own continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Doing so would cause massive planet-wide earthquakes and other mass destruction, eventually killing billions of people and leaving Luthor as the greedy owner of the only inhabitable land on Earth. The only real encounter between Luthor and his do-good nemesis is short and completely one sided, for the "battle" takes place on a massive chunk of deadly kryptonite, somehow unfortunately unbeknownst to Superman.
Altogether, it seems at least some of its 154 minutes were unnecessary, but Superman Returns is nevertheless truly an experience, at least visually, and it's obvious an incredible amount of work was put into it. I really can't believe a Superman movie hadn't been made in 19 years, but I found the majority of this update satisfying and am, more importantly, comforted in the belief now that the futures of each of the three most enjoyable superheroes out there, the others of course being Spiderman and Batman, are all in the hands of people that know what they're doing.