Superman Returns (2006)
Review by Baldy
I’m 33 years old. For the guys my age, there are certain films that are sacrosanct. The original Star Wars, Red Dawn, Weird Science. . . and Superman. I still remember going to see it back in 1978 with my elderly Aunt Eve – and I realize now what a weird and huge sacrificial act that must have been on her part. I didn’t notice the cheesy overacting. I thought Margot Kidder was the prettiest woman alive (after Carrie Fisher, of course). I remember acting like I was flying for WEEKS after seeing that movie.
After that came Superman II, and life was still good. Superman came back and kicked the asses of General Zod, Ursa and Non, freeing up more room in the Phantom Zone for evildoers. Superman III came out, though, and I thought to myself, “What’s Richard Pryor doing in a Superman movie?” I still haven’t seen it. Then came Superman IV. I didn’t see it, either, and I could barely get through the comic book adaption. What was going on here? Why were people deliberately messing up such a good thing?
Time went by, and a lot of talk floated around. Was Ben Affleck going to play Superman in a Michael Bay film? No, he’s just playing George Reeves in an indie flick. Was Nic Cage going to play him? I heard that rumor. Meanwhile, it was a world without a Superman. Then, in 2004, Christopher Reeve died. Some people blew it off, but it really bugged me. I hadn’t ever seen him in another film. There was no other Superman project coming through. Honestly, I felt really crappy about the whole thing.
I brought my wife and the boys to the theater. When the John Williams score came blaring out at me, and the opening credits were done exactly as were the ones in the 1978 film, I almost teared up.
Yeah, I take my movies seriously. Shut up.
I won’t go into plot, at least not in detail. In brief, Superman comes back after being gone for several years. Lex Luthor has a new plan to gain power. Lois Lane is engaged and has a child. Superman strives for success. That’s the gist of it.
I want to talk about Brandon Routh for a moment. A lot of people wrote him off as just some actor who could look a lot like Chris Reeve. As the movie moved along, though, I formed a different opinion. While he does a masterful job of making it seem like he is the Reeve Superman, he doesn’t do it by pretending that he’s Reeve. His performance was an excellent act of taking another actor’s character and making it something else, without the awkwardness that we’ve seen in, say, the Batman movies. He seems so much like Reeve at times that it’s uncanny. At other times, he’s a very different person. Somehow, Routh manages to bring it all together into a good and believeable performance. I give kudos to the guy, because those were some big, red boots that he had to fill.
Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was a good choice. Personally, I would have left out the Parker Posey/Miss Tessmacher character, but again I was not consulted. Oh, well. Spacey does bad guys well. He had some making up to do, what with K-Pax and Pay It Forward to put behind him. He always brings something to the parts that he plays, and this was no break from that. Spacey threw away the silliness and lightness of the Hackman/Beatty team, imbuing the character with evil and coldness that were absent in the earlier films. Scientific issues aside, Spacey makes it easy to suspend disbelief with his performance. There is a scene in which he has Superman at his mercy, and it becomes apparent that he has none. It was brutal.
Superman Returns impressed the hell out of me. It probably would not have impressed me half as much, if it hadn’t done such a good job of bringing the iconic up-to-date. It was dark at times, and I wouldn’t bring any little kids to see it. Still, it did the job. It brought everything and everyone into the present and told a great story. It left room for more films. It did justice to those that came before it.