REVIEW: Superman Returns [PG-13]
Release Date: June 28, 2006
Director: Brian Singer
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden
Superman Returns is essentially the sequel to 1980’s Superman 2, and while there have been some liberties taken to ease the 26 year transition, for the most part continuity is maintained. Likewise, newcomer Brandon Routhe’s physical resemblance to the late Christopher Reeves adds to the continuity of the newly revived franchise. This respect paid to the former Man of Steel and the franchise that he helped jump-start in the late 70’s is displayed from the opening credits both with the introductory commentary by Marlon Brando’s Jor-El along with the familiar theme music heard in the film’s score.
After a 5 year hiatus from Earth while searching for the remnants of Krypton, Superman (Routh) returns home to find that nothing is the same as he left it. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth – Beyond The Sea), once Superman’s inamorata, now the jilted lover, has moved on since his leaving, engaged to pilot and newspaper editor Richard White (James Marsden – X-Men), and mother to a sickly child (Tristan Leabu) who becomes more important to the story as it progresses. Lois, rightfully peeved after falling for the hero only to have him take an extended leave of absence without a proper farewell, has recently won a Pulitzer Prize for an article which she wrote entitled “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman.” Unfortunately, her character takes a hit due to her ignorance or Superman’s alter-ego, Clark Kent, and his affection for her. This unrequited affection is displayed throughout the film, causing the desirable reporter to seem quite inconsiderate as a result.
This topic remains relevant throughout the first half of the film, discussed in-depth by the two main parties involved atop the rooftop of the Daily Planet, prior to a late-night rendevous. Superman’s defense to the question at hand is that he hears people constantly asking for a hero, a savior of sorts. Perhaps a metaphor for religion in itself, Jor-El, who sends his son to Earth to help humanity realize its potential for goodness, saving those in need for a greater good. While a touchy subject, especially in today’s society, it is a metaphor that works rather well.
One of the most telling scenes in the movie has Superman eavesdropping on Lois while she reassures her fiancé by claiming she “never loved Superman.” Following this revelation, The Man of Steel makes an attempt to get as far a way from the scene as possible, flying into the heavens only to hear the cries of those who need him, sort of God-like in that sense. In an attempt to take his mind off of his heartache, Superman literally goes all over the world saving the day for practically everyone who needs him.
Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey – Beyond The Sea), Superman’s long-time arch-nemesis who was recently released from prison after a 5 year stay, inherits a lump sum of money and plans to use it to finally get his share of land, even if it means the destruction of a certain well-populated pre-existing continent. This is the essential threat in the film, and Spacey plays Luthor perfectly, as the villain who is as full of greed as he is revenge. The man who once nearly killed Superman remains his greatest adversary to date as he infiltrates Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, stealing the crystals that are held within Superman’s lair. Spacey’s Luthor is far more evil than Gene Hackman’s of the Superman movies past.
On a lighter note, the humor in the Clark Kent/Superman conundrum is that while the world maintains a consistent view on Superman and all that goes on with him, Clark Kent is virtually invisible to everyone around him. Even in his workplace, Clark is constantly looked over by his colleagues, excusing his physical likeness to Superman for nothing but mere coincidence, and is even used as comic relief for Lois and Richard at one point. Interestingly, Lois’ son quickly notices the resemblance of Clark to his hero and begins to hyperventilate at this revelation.
For a movie that’s set to take place five years after a movie that was released twenty-six years ago, there has been so much that has taken place in the world since, with wars, terrorism, and natural disasters as well as normalcy’s such as children growing to adulthood, with hopes of raising children of their own in a likeness similar, but better to their own. The existing question of whether or not the world needs Superman rests on many key factors, the most-telling of which would be whether or not there is a desire to hope, to feel, and to love again. Often times, with the negativity and hopelessness displayed by current events, whether exemplified by war and famine or by everyday criminal activities and cruelty to mankind, it would seem that there is in fact a great need for such an icon. Thankfully, his return could not have come a moment sooner.
– Christopher Griffin