Friday, January 15, 2016

Superman Returns Film Review



Return to Form

Superman fans were never really given a great follow up to Superman: The Movie. Superman II had the epic showdowns, but ruined it with lame comedy and weak subplots. Superman III and IV were more or less the same in the fan dissatisfaction department. Superman IV did so bad with fans and critics alike that it caused the franchise to go into a 19 year hiatus. During this time, Christopher Reeve became paralyzed in a tragic accident, forever spoiling plans to bring him back for a fifth film. After many failed attempts to bring the legendary hero back into the cinemas, Bryan Singer finally brought one project to fruition.

Superman Returns completely ignores the continuity developed in the sequels and instead has Superman (Brandon Routh) leave Earth shortly after he learns that scientists have discovered remnants of his home world. Five years pass. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on and married and had a child, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has gotten himself out of prison again, and the world seems to be doing relatively fine in Superman’s absence.

One day a meteor holding the Man of Steel crash lands on the Kent farm, and slowly Kal-El begins to reinsert himself into the world that has moved on without him. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor visits the Fortress of Solitude and acquires several Kryptonian crystals. Upon touching water, the crystals begin to grow into landmasses reminiscent of Krypton. Luthor prepares to use the crystals to create a new continent that will be his to sell.

It’s clear that Bryan Singer is someone who loved the Richard Donner original. From the first seconds, Singer creates a mood and feel that perfectly fits with Donner’s vision. Even utilizing the classic John Williams score, it seems there’s nothing left behind. Brandon Routh also gives a great performance as Clark Kent/ Kal-El. His Kent has all the physical goofiness and fun of Reeve’s while at the same time not being a direct emulation.

His Kal-El also is very much the upstanding, wholesome hero that we’ve come to love, albeit with a hint of lonliness and bitterness that wasn’t present in the original film. Kevin Spacey makes his version of Lex Luthor more interesting and serious than Gene Hackman’s. Where Hackman was flippant, Spacey is cold and methodical. He feels much more like a villain than the ham for the camera that was in the 1978 version.

The film sets up a wonderful aesthetic that mixes the Golden Age of Superman with a modern twist. In short, this movie looks absolutely stunning. The cinematography and special effects are top notch, and help make Metropolis come to life. However, the movie is not without a few flaws. First and foremost is the basic plagiarism of the original film’s plot.

In the original, Luthor decides to detonate a nuclear weapon on the San Andreas fault to level all of California and leave the remaining areas as real estate gold. In Superman Returns, Luthor plans to use the Kryptonian crystals to generate a huge landmass that would swallow most of the eastern seaboard, and thus create some prime real estate.

Notice anything similar? Instead of having Superman battle superpowered villains, which is something fans have been craving since Superman II, the Man of Steel is again forced to stop one of Luthor’s petty, money grubbing schemes.

Still, Superman Returns is a great ride. Fans couldn’t have asked for a much better follow up to the original series. With strong performances, fantastic camerawork, realistic effects, and plenty of fan service, this film is a welcome addition to a franchise that seemed to be at it’s end.

Score: 8

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