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Superman Returns /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey

Directed by: Brian Singer

Produced by: Chris Lee, Thomas Tull, Scott Mednick II

Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

Distributor: Warner Bros. Distribution


Brandon Routh as Superman in Warner Bros. Pictures' Superman Returns
Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and Brandon Routh as Superman in Warner Bros. Superman Returns
Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Parker Posey as Kitty Kowalski in Warner Bros. Pictures' Superman Returns

     Watching Brian Singer’s Superman Returns unfold, memories of Ang Lee’s Marvel Comic adaptation, The Hulk, came flooding back to me. This new follow-up to the legendary Christopher Reeves vehicles of the 1970’s and ‘80’s is very similar to the 2003 effort to bring Bruce Banner’s Inner-Angry-Green-Machine to the silver-screen. Both films represent rarities among their kind; they not only function as entertaining pieces of cinematic escapism, but also as genuine, flowing comments on the human condition. Unlike many of its two-dimensional comic counterparts, Superman Returns, despite chronicling the extraordinary life of the Man of Steel himself, is first and foremost about real humans living real lives. The viewer is able to identify with its characters through their pursuits of happiness, love, and even vengeance. Director Brian Singer’s drab X-Men and X2 never quite won me over, but here he has ditched the flashy bag of tricks that he carried during the making of those films in favor of making this spellbinding, poignant near-masterpiece.

     When one looks back on the original Superman films—particularly the first two, which were by far the most successful of the four that were made—the films’ protagonist’s glamorous ability to save the day rushes to the forefront of one’s mind. Starring the late Christopher Reeves, they were effortlessly fun and eventful. Singer’s Superman Returns, albeit equally as joyous, is far darker than any of its predecessors. The film continues from where Superman II left off and pretends the dreadful third and forth installments in the series never existed. The Man of Steel (newcomer Brandon Routh) has spent many years away from Earth looking for survivors of his destroyed home planet, Krypton. Unsuccessful in his searches, he returns to find his previous love interest, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), in the company a new boyfriend and a son. Meanwhile, his famous arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has crafted a plan to raise a new continent on Earth. Lex hopes that the new continent will create enough of a rise in the world’s oceans that it will sink the majority of the existing inhabited land and he will, in turn, be able to sell prime seafront real-estate within his new empire.

     Despite Kevin Spacey’s brilliant performance as Lex Luthor, Singer rightfully only chooses to use the famous antagonist as a device to create a traditional plot for Superman Returns. The movie is really about Superman’s relationship with Lois, in a story-thread which is beautifully acted and developed. Bosworth depicts Lois with an amazing sense of vulnerability, allowing the captivating Routh to interact with her in a way that accentuates his protagonist’s heroism. In addition, the nostalgia and emotion that the two’s rekindling love for provokes is not all that the story-thread has to offer; many surprises regarding the couple’s history are revealed as a part of it. These both add dimension to Superman Returns’ story and open it up for the possibility of a series of sequels.

     It’s typical of me to denounce comic-book adaptations as belonging to a hopeless genre due to the abundance of stinkers of their kind that have been released in recent-years. However, each time a wondrous exception comes along and blows its abysmal counterparts out of the water, I am reminded why comics are read in the first place. When audiences are able to understand characters with super-human powers—even if the powers are not used to better society—they are able to become even more immersed in the stories that they inhabit than they would have had they been entirely realistic in the first place. I would go so far as to say that Superman Returns is not just an exhilarating movie, but a powerful one. Adventurous, romantic, and enthralling, it represents what a great summer-movie should be.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.15.2006)

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