Superman Returns brings back all the nostalgia from the classic series with the modern joy of the digital box of toys. Superman can do anything now and it can be shown in intimate detail. The new film never loses the sense of magic from the classic Christopher Reeve series but takes great pride in upping the ante of every super feat.
Superman Returns Review
Bravo to Bryan singer for using the ‘70s font and John Williams score in the opening credits. There’s more outer space and planets in the opening, but it feels the same, only Superman finally gets top billing.
The magic is in the little humorous moments, like playing fetch with the dog, catching Clark without his glasses and all the evil dark humor in Lex’s story like scaring the child and the old lady’s dogs. Even the precocious kid rules. He’s not in it enough to be annoying, only to have some good lines and moments of recognition.
The structure is remarkably similar to the original. The world is going on with is problems and Superman is dealing with something personal. Lex Luthor begins his grand scheme but not much is happening except establishing characters with the Clark/Lois banter. Then there’s a big disaster that Superman has to rescue. Follow that up with a montage of little rescues as the plot gets underway.
They use the special effects in really clever ways. Sometimes it’s just lifting increasingly large objects, but there are enough unique Supergags and they incorporate each superpower at some point in the adventure.
The Daily Planet follows Superman's history and his future. Do we need Superman?
Kevin Spacey is the best part of the movie. He’s got the perfect relish of his own evil genius but can get dark in the moments where his scheming becomes more than harmless. Brandon Routh does an impeccable Christopher Reeve that feels like continuity, not a rip-off. Parker Posey is the perfect sassy Luthor babe and Kate Bosworth brings her Blue Crush empowerment to Lois Lane.
Superman Returns is not a perfect epic. There are identifiable moments that just extend the story for the sake of staying in the comic book world. We could have done without the whole epilogue. It only serves to maintain the unresolved character issues and let Superman repeat one of his father’s speeches. It leaves one feeling like nothing has happened by the end, even though there’s been two hours of a major plot. Open endings are fine, but don’t make that the lingering feeling.
I thought the whole flashback early on was unnecessary. Its only purpose was to show that now they can do young Clark leaping and flying more than they could before. And they can put it in 3D for Imax. But it does nothing but drag out the first act. The CGI is really bad too, with a flimsy little guy bouncing around. Fire on the street looks fake too. Maybe it sounds like I’m complaining about one or two problems in an overall technically proficient film, but it takes you out of the movie.
Look, I know I couldn’t make better CGI effects, but somebody can. I’ve seen them. Don’t do it if you can’t do it right, and these were unnecessary add-ons anyway. All the important ones work: the flying, the X-ray vision (stunningly so), and the massive set pieces.
Superman Returns is great at capturing a feeling long lost from modern movies. You can always forgive a few lousy effects shots these days (you kind of have to with the CGI movement) and the epilogue was a writer’s/director’s choice. I’ll certainly watch it over and over again on HD-DVD.