Superman Returns Review
If, like me, you were wondering vaguely what he was returning from, and how they might better the Christopher Reeve films, and vaguely horrified by the pairing of Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey that brought back horrid memories of Beyond The Sea, well, you can relax. Superman Returns more than lives up to the hype.
When the film begins, Superman (Routh) has been mysteriously absent for a few years, and on his return he discovers the world has had to learn to get along without him. Arch-enemy Lex Luthor (Spacey) has been released from prison on a technicality; Lois Lane (Bosworth) has a new man in her life. But the world is still in a mess, so Superman carries on with business as usual, saving the world in a million tiny ways in an attempt to find a place in a society that has learned to survive without him. And naturally Lex Luthor, not content to live on the estate that he has swindled from a dying widow, is plotting to take over the world while rendering Superman powerless once and for all…
Hurrah and huzzah and happy dances of joy! And then a few humble bows in the direction of Bryan Singer who, I have to say, I thought was frankly nuts when I heard that he’d dropped out of directing X-Men: The Last Stand to direct Superman. But having seen both of them, I can totally see why. Singer has once again brought to the comic book all the humanity and romance and tenderness and real character moments that the distinguished first two X-Men films. He’s not afraid of silence, and that’s a rare thing.
Boys, look away now, as this next paragraph concerns only one thing and that is the gorgeousness that is Brandon Routh. Don’t know who he is, don’t know where he came from, but he’s absolutely bloody beautiful. In his first scene we see quite a lot of him, and you can see why Lois has missed him… He’s got the slightly geeky thing just perfect as Clark, self-effacing and a bit bumbling, and then he puts on his tights and his little kiss curl and suddenly he IS Superman. And when he gets angry…
Ahem! Anyway, and now back to our scheduled review.
Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, commented that he wanted to create a genuine sense of danger in his film, and Singer has achieved that here. There are moments when you really think Superman could die, and that’s all to the good. (There was another scene that reminded me of The Incredibles, and Edna Mode’s anti-cape stance – here Superman’s cape actually comes in handy as a life-saving device.) Some of the situations he finds himself in are quite nasty and really push the 12A cert – not gory, but more in terms of the psychological violence.
But where the film really succeeds is in the creation of the characters. You know, its everything we’ve come to expect from a blockbuster – it looks great, the effects are superb – but none of that matters if we don’t care about these people. Here we see the loneliness behind the superpowers, along with the pleasure that the powers bring. Superman is an alien, living alone among us, the last survivor of a dead planet. He is desperate for connection, in particular with Lois, but also for a family and a sense of his place. His relationship with his long-dead father (played from beyond the grave by Brando) is crucial to his sense of identity and when he find that his Antarctic hideaway has been desecrated his sense of despair and betrayal is palpable. It even makes a gentle political point: Superman now stands for ‘truth and justice’ but not the American Way.
Superman Returns soars. Film of the year so far. And not just because of Brandon Routh…
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