movie film review | chris tookey

Superman Returns

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  Superman Returns Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
6.69 /10
Superman/Clark Kent: Brandon Routh, Lex Luthor: Kevin Spacey
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Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Based on the story by Singer, Dougherty and Harris, , based on characters originated by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Released: 2006
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 140

What do people want from a Summer blockbuster? The folks behind Superman Returns have come up with a conventional answer: spectacular effects, a dash of romantic comedy and a superhero. But they have overlooked the factors which deserve to make Pirates of the Caribbean 2 a far bigger success at the box office.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Superman Returns has only one terrific action sequence Ė when Superman saves an aeroplane from crashing Ė and this takes place early on. From then on, weíre left waiting for a climax that never materializes. Even in the version that I saw Ė which features five sequences in IMAX 3D Ė Superman Returns is less than thrilling.

There is some humour, especially in the exchanges between the villainous Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey, camping it up) and his dim sidekick Kitty (Parker Posey, clearly unsure whether her character is truly stupid or secretly savvy); but you will search in vain for any wit in the newspaper office where Clark Kent, alias Superman (Brandon Routh, pictured), spars with his inamorata Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and editor Perry White (Frank Langella).

That part of the movie has definitely been dumbed down. Weíre even asked to believe that Lois, supposedly a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, would ask her editor ďHow many fs are there in catastrophe?Ē Director Bryan Singer intends this to be a homage to her lack of spelling ability in the first, 1978 Superman picture (and elicit a knowledgeable ho ho ho from the buffs), but in the present day it beggars belief than a prestigious journalist would flaunt her ignorance so shamelessly.

The romance between Clark and Lois is compromised by the plot, which has her seemingly unaware that she has borne Clark a son (er, why?), and happily engaged to her editorís pleasant but planklike nephew (James Marsden). The script is amazingly witless, with all parties tongue-tied, so itís hard to see what Clark and Lois have in common, except their past. A bit of Beatrice and Benedick-style banter would not have come amiss.

The casting is another weakness. Brandon Routh is content to be a carbon copy of Christopher Reeve, while Bosworth and Marsden are so callow, bland and underpowered that they seem to have walked out of a daytime soap. The seemingly talentless child who plays Supermanís son stares at everyone like the creepy kid from The Omen, and the scriptwriters canít think of anything much for Superboy to do, except teleport a grand piano. Imagine the fun that Robert Rodriguez (of Spykids) would have had.

Bryan Singer is a respected director, thanks to his first hit The Usual Suspects and his successful launch of the X-Men franchise. But a sense of humour has never been his; and he takes the Superman legend way too reverentially, even drawing pretentious parallels between the man of steel and Jesus Christ.

This Superman is steeped with nostalgia, which may be enough for that sad minority of middle-aged nerds that take comic-books desperately seriously and wear superhero T-shirts over their paunches.

Singer has forgotten that a generation of teenagers has been brought up without much knowledge of Superman Ė the last movie was 19 years ago. To them, he is (if they know him at all) a figure in a TV series, and not a particularly distinguished one either.

Singerís Superman is a solemn, nerdish figure with whom itís hard to feel an affinity. Heís also a square-jawed American righting wrongs in a world where square-jawed Americans are now viewed with tremendous suspicion, especially when they claim omnicompetence. Singer doesnít seem to see this as problem, but it is: a big one.

There are good things in this movie, but I found it pseudo-religious, pedestrian and oppressive. Like Pirates 2 it runs an overlong two and a half hours; but unlike the Johnny Depp picture, it lacks the joy and sense of its own absurdity which make so long a stay in the cinema thoroughly entertaining.

The simplistic plot unfolds at too leisurely a pace, and takes us in directions that are easily predictable. The one attempt at ingenuity - Lex Luthorís fiendish plan to dominate the world by building an attractive new island-continent and flooding the east side of the USA - goes off at half-cock. All he does is create a small rocky island that doesnít look habitable and appears to have no impact whatever on the US coastline.

Itís a rotten plan, and Spacey looks far too intelligent to have looked for a weapon of mass destruction, but only come up with a real estate project. And, at the end, Singer doesnít even deliver a satisfactory come-uppance for him.

Despite some enjoyable sequences, on the whole Superman Returns is gloomy and cheerless: stodgily directed, mechanically scripted, and boringly acted. The impression you come away with is that being Superman isnít much fun, and Lois Lane isnít worth the effort of saving. So why should we want to spend this much time with them?

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