Year of Release: 2006
Year of Release: 2006
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Eva Marie Saint, Frank Langella, Parker Posey, Sam Huntington, Kal Penn, David Fabrizio, Tristan Lake Leabu, Ian Roberts, Peta Wilson, Jack Larson, Jeff Truman
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
Tackling the legend of “Superman” was a difficult task for Warner Bros., but in the end, Bryan Singer’s film is more than worth the wait – it’s a mature and accomplished film, that gives time for the characters to exist, instead of being just a muddle of action sets pieced together.
“Superman Returns” has had a difficult time getting to the screen. From the cancelled Tim Burton version with Nicolas Cage, to the choices of directors (like McG and Brett Ratner to name a few), to casting choices, this has been a long gestating film, that finally sees the light of day, and with incredibly accomplished results.
Bryan Singer, more known for his “Usual Suspects” and “X-Men” films, builds with “Superman Returns” a more than fitting companion to the early Superman films, directed by Richard Donner and Richard Lester – we’ll skip “Superman 3” and “”Superman 4 – The Quest for Peace”, which is the same assumption that Bryan Singer has done.
“Superman Returns” starts by introducing us to the current whereabouts of the title character. The film picks up where the first two had stopped. Superman has been gone for five years, in a quest to discover whatever the remains are of his home planet – Krypton. Upon his return to Earth, he finds out that Lois Lane has moved on with her life, and is now together with Perry White’s nephew, Richard, and has a small boy. He also learns that his nemesis, LexLuthor has been released from jail since Superman failed to show up in court and sustain the accusations that Luthor was charged with. Lex Luthor in the meantime has managed to get a hold of Krypton’s technology and plans to create chaos and destruction.
As can be noticed by this summary, “Superman Returns” updates all the elements that the films from Richard Donner and Richard Lester introduced in 1978 and 1980. However Bryan Singer, not only remains faithful to the spirit of those films, but he surpasses that initiative by creating a film that is visually stunning and that has a maturity and rhythm unlike any other comic book adaptation so far (the only one that compare to it, is what Sam Raimi has done with “Spiderman”). The script allows time for Superman/Clark Kent to try to adjust himself to the life he once had on Earth, and how that has definitely changed. He is still the alien in the midst of a new reality, dominated by fear (terrorism, war), and he still stands for the good values – universally (and no longer just the “American way”). The film also allows for the dynamics between the main characters to come forth – Lois, Clark and Richard form an interesting love triangle, which for a change does not have a buffoon in one of it’s sides. It would be easy to make James Marsden’s Richard an unpleasant character, however the filmmakers went in a totally different direction, and in doing so, managed to explore the dynamics of the relationships between these people. The action sets that Bryan Singer has choreographed in this film are quite stunning – the special effects are present to enrich the story, and not be the focus of the film. From the plane crash, to the sinking of the yacht, all the sets are incredibly well done and they serve a dramatic purpose to the story. And as far as flying is concerned, Superman has never flown so incredibly realistically.
As for the actors, Brandon Routh turns out to be a great casting choice for Superman. From his looks, to his voice and presence, he’s just perfect in the part. The same can be said for Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor. Spacey usually excels playing disturbed characters (“Swimming with Sharks”, “Seven”, “The Usual Suspects”), and in this case, he does a terrific job. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane turns out to be quite different from the spunkiness that Margot Kidder had. She’s far too young to be believable in that role, and her character doesn’t come across as strong as it should. Still she manages to imbue her character with a fragility that makes sense in the story. All the other actors create small but memorable parts, from Eva Marie Saint to Parker Posey’s funny Kitty Kowalski.
All the team that Bryan Singer has gathered – his usual collaborators on his previous films – manage to create with Superman Returns, a great action film, which unlike some of the latest comic book adaptations, doesn’t try to sell a bunch of action-sets as a whole film – the core here are the relationships and the meaning of family in the midst of a new reality.