Superman Returns 2006
I started watching this movie with a preconceived notion in my head. I originally watched this movie when it came out in an IMAX theater and I enjoyed it, even though I wasn’t too impressed with the few 3D scenes. I later bought it on DVD, but it wasn’t an immediate buy, I bought it because it was on a super-discounted sale and I don’t think I ever watched it after I bought it, maybe once, and I think I watched some of the special features. But instead I became influenced by the opinion of the internet which dubbed this a mediocre and boring sequel with a lot of dumb ideas. So when I started watching this movie again, I was expecting a certain level of mediocrity. I was wrong. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t blown away by this movie, but I was interested and invested in it through most of the almost two and a half hours of it. I say most because it did go on a bit too long. I also noticed the starting of a dichotomy in the way I watched this movie since writing these review blogs. In some parts of the movie I caught myself watching with an extra critical eye, and yet other places I still got carried away in the movie. Jena in the meantime had to practically be dragged downstairs to watch it, wouldn’t stop talking, and really just wanted to go back upstairs and play. The only time she was mostly quiet during that 45 minutes or so was during the shuttle sequence.
One of the biggest things going for this movie is the fact that Bryan Singer knows his Superman. There are tons of references to all sorts of previous incarnations of Superman, some are nice and smooth like the fact that Lois doesn’t know how to spell, while others are a bit of “look at that, Superman is posing just like he did in Action Comics #1”. You could almost play a drinking game – take a drink anytime an older Superman is referenced. It helps a lot that I just watched the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies not too long ago, as the director himself has said that this movie is kind of a spiritual sequel to Richard Donner’s Superman II. There also seems to be a lot of the Christ metaphor that Richard Donner has said to have used in the original Superman movies, especially the scene where Superman is falling to Earth from space in the shape of a crucifix and more or less is resurrected shortly afterwards.
I almost disagree with the thought that this is a spiritual sequel to Superman II though, because in my mind it feels like it tries to cover a lot of the same ground as the first Superman movie. Superman’s been gone for 5 years so the world is more or less at a point where it’s like there’s never been a Superman. When he returns it’s just like when he first arrived, the only difference is that people are asking “where has he been?” instead of “where did he come from?”. Not only that, but Lex’s entire scheme is more or less the same as it was before, only bigger. Instead of buying up cheap land in the desert and knocking the rest of California into the sea, he’s creating new land and forcing most of the USA into the sea. There’s also no real fight scene, the biggest action setpieces are Superman saving people from disasters, not supervillains. He even reintroduces himself to Lois with a flight around town and an exclusive interview. But instead of falling for a single Lois, he’s trying to break up Lois’s steady relationship even though she’s practically dating a surrogate Superman/Clark Kent hybrid. He flies, he’s a reporter, and he’s there when she needs him. Not only that, but in her time of most dire need, Richard chooses her while Superman chooses Metropolis.
The relationship was almost the biggest part of this movie and when you look at it from that perspective, I thought it did a good job of portraying such a complicated relationship. Lois loved Superman, they got together in the second movie but her memory was erased of it. In fact I just realized that she supposedly had no memory of their night together as per Superman II, that leads the question of how quickly did Superman leave after that night, and how quickly did she get into a new relationship? Anyway she loved Superman but he left her without saying goodbye and she rightly moved on.
Aside from the relationships, there was some action in this movie. There were a couple disasters like the shuttle sequence near the beginning of the movie and the Metropolis destruction from the crystal’s EMP. Both of these scenes were well done with big budget special effects and kept me hooked. But the climax of the movie, where Superman gets beaten up on the Kryptonite crystal island, stabbed with Kryptonite and yet all it takes is a little sun and he’s got enough power to lift the entire Kryptonite island into space when in the first movie he couldn’t even get out of a pool with a little Kryptonite necklace around his neck.
And finally there’s the biggest all around complaint I’ve seen about this movie – Superman’s son. From the beginning it’s really clear to the audience that it’s Superman’s son even though all the characters are doing their best to deny it, claiming it’s Richard’s son. He’s also presented as an extremely fragile and sickly boy with various allergies, asthma, and whatever else he has. And yet after exposure to Kryptonite – my theory anyway – he begins to show signs of being Superman’s son, like violently crushing a man to death with a piano. Thatta boy! As well as hints of superhuman sight finding Superman in the ocean. I’m not mad that the kid is Superman’s son, but there’s just so much stuff that could have been handled differently. Like the fact that Superman’s been gone 5 years which would make him 4 years old, yet he looks and acts much older. He had no knowledge of the boy so he had to have taken off very soon after Superman II, and Lois had to have quickly hooked up with Richard for everyone to think it’s Richard’s kid. But in the grand scheme of things, most of those problems could have just been explained better without changing the movie.
Finally, how did I think this compares with the original Superman? I thought Christopher Reeve played a much better Clark Kent. Brandon Routh does an ok job, but I thought it was ridiculous when the jokes were made comparing the two and all the other characters laughed it off, when for me Routh’s Clark had a little too much confidence to be all that separate from Superman. I also thought the original flight with Superman and Lois had more wonder to it than this one, other than the whole “can you read my mind” voiceover. But the action scenes in this one were much better, the improvement in special effects really does a lot in this respect. And Kevin Spacey‘s Lex Luthor is a lot more cold and calculating, yet he still retains a bit of the old humor even if it’s a lot darker this time around, which I do like. And continuing my trend in finding interest in the side characters, I really enjoyed Kitty in this movie. I thought Parker Posey had a lot of fun with the role. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Superman Returns, next week I’ll be taking a look at the old and new Captain America movies for the first time. Until next time this is Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.