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2006, Dir. Brian Singer
154 min. Rated PG-13.
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James "Don't call me Cyclops" Marsden, and (SPOILER!) Keyser Soze.

Review by Keith Nichols

First let me take a moment to address what I believe to be the most damning criticism of this movie. A criticism that I've heard people mutter as they haughtily shook their heads. I'm here to tell you though that it is, indeed, possible for a cape to seemingly billow in space. -Now, everybody knows that there's almost nothing but vacuum up in space. Not only would flags not be expected to wave, but no one can hear you scream either. However... if you've flown up high enough that it's night on the ground below you but you have a line-of-sight angle to daylight beside you, it's possible to be floating in a completely airy sky that only SEEMS like you're in space. It's also possible to be even higher at the fringes of the sky/space border where there is still alittle atmosphere to ruffle your cape anyway. Also, let us not forget Newton's First law: "objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless an outside force acts upon them". If, while in space, you twist a little to your left, angular momentum is going to twist your (attached) cape along with you. Finally, let us not forget that not-insignificant phenomenon: "solar wind".

Don't tug on Superman's cape.


I wonder if this crystal can tell him why he hasn't made a good movie in eight years.

Anyway, there were actors and stories and music in the movie too. Let's talk about them. Actually, they were all very cleverly orchestrated with a tip of the hat to the 1978 version. Far from being the "ripoff" it could've been and far from being the "bastardization" of the Superman myth I myself feared, it walked the careful line between "homage" and "update". It was, in fact, the Superman that Superman 1978 SHOULD have been. Allow me to explain...

Despite what you think you remember from your childhood and despite what your preconditioned adult mind thinks it sees when you rescreen the Christopher Reeve version, it had (has) Serious flaws. All of which can be boiled down to one, definitive word. That word is "cheese". Yes, cheese. From the sickly cheddar "aw shucks" overacting of Reeves as Clark Kent to the unbearably camembert shenanigans of Ned Beatty as Otis, the 1978 version set Superman back almost as far as the 1960s Batman TV series set Batman back. It took a Hero and turned him into some naive fool in multicolored underroos. That's not Superman though. Superman's not some 'toon. He's the steely-eyed defender of real truth, real justice, and the ideal American Way.

And THAT's who we got in this 2006 version. Sure, this Superman had simple, country origins that formed his character, but he's no bumpkin. He's got relationship problems, but he doesn't fumble around like a 40 year old virgin. We've got superphenomenal mass death and destruction to avert, but it does NOT involve the completely impossible "Fly Counterclockwise Along the Equator Until the Earth Spins Backwards and Time Reverses" maneuver. What we have instead is a plausibly real man performing a plausibly superhuman job without gooey cheese dripping all over everything. All kryptonite jokes aside, there Were some deliberately less-than-hyperrealistic elements scattered throughout the movie. These elements weren't vaudevillian distractions though. They kept the 2006 movie grounded in its 1978 roots and Superman's 1938 genesis.

Initially I wasn't the least bit interested in reviving Superman for the movies though. I'm a fan of the comics and I watch Smallville, but 1978 (and Hollywood in general) didn't give me much about which to be optimistic. They could only, I thought, screw it up. I figured they'd overcamp it or write Superman into yet another alterni-verse too far away from the static mythos that is Superman-in-my-head. Instead, like I said, they actually made the Superman I would've originally liked to have seen. And they did it with this workably clever "Superman RETURNS" device that allows them to combine the best of both worlds: a previous Superman that most remember fondly... combined with a more-realistic, contemporary Superman we can look forward to. [Pardon the ending preposition.]

Brandon Routh surprised me by making me forget my initial doubts at his casting when it wasn't 'til the end of the movie that I even Thought about Brendan Routh. He wasn't the square peg I expected. He was Superman. Kate Bosworth doesn't have the same screen presence as Margot Kidder did, but she kept it real too. She was a believably ordinary human in occasionally extraordinary circumstances. Kevin Spacey... when you've played "Keyser Soze" and the sick bastard from Se7en, you KNOW real villainy. No, he didn't do As good a job here in Superman Returns as he did with those roles. He played it well enough though that I wanna see him in the next one.

Yes, there'll obviously be a next one. Superman didn't return for just one event in the movie and the movie didn't return for just some one-off at the studio. The Franchise is back. And, despite the inevitable (but entirely permissible) imperfections, it's back better than ever.


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