July 12th, 2006

Superman Returns

"Superman Returns" is the long-awaited new film featuring the classic comic book character, and is a kind-of sequel to "Superman" (1978--gad was it that long ago?) through "Superman III" (1983) which starred the late Christopher Reeve as Superman and Margot Kidder as Lois Lane. The film commences with Superman's return to Earth after spending five years in space visiting the ruins of Krypton. (Interestingly, he crashes back into the Kent's farm field in a spacecraft made of his father's crystal technology. In the comics, Superman has always been able to travel interstellar distances under his own power, using a combination of his flight and super-speed.) In the five years he has been gone, the world has learned to rub along without a Superman, Lois Lane has won a Pulitzer Prize for an essay, "Why We Don't Need Superman," and become involved with, and had a child by Perry White's nephew, Richard White (James Marsden), and Lex Luthor is out of prison and scheming. (ARG! Movie companies have scads of lawyers, couldn't they have one vet scripts for legal details? Jimmy Olsen says, "The court of appeals called him (Superman) as a witness and he never showed" explaining why Luthor's free. Courts of Appeal don't CALL witnesses--they work off the record created at trial. How difficult could it have been to have the Olsen say: "The court of appeal granted him a new trial, and Superman wasn't there to testify this time."??)

Brandon Routh manages to read uncannily like Christopher Reeve (the glasses and hairstyle help a lot), and Kevin Spacey also manages to look a lot like Lex Luthor as played by Gene Hackman, which helps the illusion of continuity. Characterizations are somewhat different, however. Superman in this film is a bit more conscious of his alien-ness, and both Superman and his Clark identity are somewhat withdrawn--as might be expected of someone who had just spent five years alone in space. Luthor is a cheerfully megalomaniacal sociopath--almost "Joker"-like in some ways (Lois: "But millions will die!" Luthor: "Billions! Once again the press underestimates me!") but also ruthless. When he does have Superman at his mercy, his attempt a murder is swift, direct, and brutal. No "Batman" style deathtrap here. One may wonder why a man supposedly as brilliant as Luthor surrounds himself which such dull followers: his gang are thugs ordinaire, and his mistress (played by Parker Posey) is a shrill shallow floozy right out of Damon Runyon.

Kate Bosworth is a believable and generally competent Lois Lane--she rescues Superman handily in one scene--and mostly avoids the annoying "heroine" tendency to waltz carelessly into peril, although she foolishly unbuckles her seatbelt during an aerial crisis and later takes her young son with her into potential hazard that becomes very real.

The film is generally quite well done and very enjoyable, with a few surprises, behind the cut:
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