Wednesday, July 12, 2006

You Don't Tug on Superman's Cape...

Superman Returns movie review

Superman Returns. Okay, this is the movie that DC comics fans have been waiting for since.. Well, at least since Batman Begins in 2005. Of course, anticipation for this long-delayed project has been in effect since the mid-90’s initiative to bring the man of steel back to the big-screen. It’s taken just under 10 years at this point—so is it worth the wait?
Director Bryan Singer and his writing team use the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films as a loose template, and Returns opens on the premise that Superman has left the Earth for five years. Having explored what was left of his birth planet, Krypton, Superman is despondent that he truly is the last of his race. Comforted by his adoptive Kansas mother Martha, Superman returns to Metropolis and his life as Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. The old gang is still there—boss editor Perry White, photographer Jimmy Olsen, and Clark’s longtime secret crush Lois Lane, who has won a Pulitzer Prize in Superman’s absence. The essay that earned her the award was ‘Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman’. Ouch.
But that’s not all—Lois is now the mother of a five-year old boy, and is engaged to assistant editor Richard White—nephew of Perry—they’ve been living together for some time now. Richard even flies—he owns a seaplane docked at their coastal home.
Superman’s public return, in rescuing a crashing jumbo jet, is met with enthusiastic cheers and
excitement from the citizens of Metropolis—and the world, as Superman wastes no time in averting a number disasters around the globe. One of two people unenthused is Lois, who still has unresolved feelings toward her ex super-beau. The other unamused party is arch-criminal Lex Luthor, just recently released from prison on appeal, and even more recently named the sole heir to a dying billionaire widow’s estate. The now-moneyed Lex wastes no time in dismissing her entire family and setting out with his cronies for a boat trip to the arctic.
Why the arctic? Apparently, the North Pole is the location for Superman’s ‘fortress of solitude’, a retreat of sorts where the entire history of Krypton—and what’s left of their technology—is archived in a series of crystal shards. Shards, which, when in contact with water, expand exponentially to create a sizable landmass. Lex’s plan is to use the crystals to create his own private island—no, continent—and lease the land to the highest bidders. That this plan will likely flood most of North America makes no difference to the bald-pated schemer.
While investigating the cause of a city blackout, Lois—with son in tow—stumbles upon Lex’s docked yacht, where they are discovered and captured. This sets in motion the climactic confrontation in the mid-Atlantic between Superman and Lex, and a rescue-at-sea of Lois and her family.
The filmmakers take full advantage of today’s cutting-edge special effects, taking the spectacle to places that would have been nearly impossible for the previous generation of films. Still, for what was allegedly a $200 million budget, the film was light on action at times. Superman’s fight with Lex and his henchmen may be too intense for younger viewers, but otherwise there’s nothing objectionable. The film’s romantic principals—Brandon Routh as Clark/Superman, and Kate Bosworth as Lois—look a little young (Routh 26, Bosworth 23) to have had several years of history between them as adults, but the chemistry between them is palpable.
The movie’s biggest twist involves Lois’ young son Jason—clever viewers may suspect early on, but a later scene confirms it, and it’s an obvious setup for a sequel.