Superman Returns  

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Superman ReturnsImage via Wikipedia

Superman Returns

2006, in theaters

You should know

It’s been ages since I’ve seen the first Superman movie, and I don’t remember if I’ve ever seen Superman II. I enjoyed the 1990s cartoon, and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was one of my favorite shows for a while there. But I never could get into Smallville, and with limited access to cable I never had a chance to enjoy either of the Justice League cartoons, although Chris and Dan enjoy them.

Also – and here is where I lose Geek Street Cred – I never did follow comic books.

Chris was in town, so he and I were supposed to go see the movie with Dan in 3D on IMAX. Obviously, it was sold out before we could get tickets, so we ended up seeing it in a normal theater. It was Dan’s fourth time seeing it, and the movie had been out for less than 48 hours. He, if you'll recall, is the comic fan, and has read Superman comics for the past 6 months or so, frequents message boards and wikipedia entries, and watched Lois and Clark and the animated series.


The opening sequence was surreal. The familiar Superman theme played, and the credits used cheesy 70s graphics. However, these were laid over CGI planets and star systems that could only have been put together in the 21st century.

Then, you had to sit through the first few scenes, which could have taken up half the time they did. Finally, Superman truly returns, and the pace picks up nicely.

Brandon Routh did a fine job as Superman, blending the two most obvious influences (Christopher Reeve and Tom Welling). I thought James Marsden’s Richard was both better acted and more likable than his Cyclops – but then, neither Chris nor Dan (even after four viewings) realized that it was him until I pointed it out, so take that as you will. Kate Bosworth was decent yet unremarkable, but that was OK. The movie wasn’t about her so much as it was about Superman/Clark dealing with his feelings for her and the events in her life. And Triston Lake Leabu was cute and precocious and hopefully won’t show up in the sequel until he’s a suitably angsty teenager. But more on that in the spoilers section.

On that note, just in case some of you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’m going to put a nice bit of space before I talk about the plot so that you can avoid spoilers.

Are they gone? Good.

I was not satisfied with the ending. It was designed to look like all the loose ends had been tied up, but they obviously weren’t. What happens to Lex now? Heck, what happens to the tides now? Superman may be satisfied knowing he’s not the Last Son of Krypton anymore, but how will Clark handle seeing his kid every day? I mean, isn’t Superman/Clark supposed to be a responsible, upstanding guy? Wouldn’t that mean, for instance, paying child support, informing his mother that she’s a grandmom, and warning the kid and his family that some superhuman powers might show up?

And the kid was so cute and precocious that if he shows up in a sequel as-is, he’ll be very annoying. Fast forward ten years, though, and you can focus the movie on the inevitable “You’re not my father!” battles between Jason and Richard, and between Jason and Superman. Because I can’t suspend disbelief to the point where I buy Jason and Richard being just fine with Jason’s new medical history.

Meanwhile, Chris had a hard time believing that Superman could have pushed the Kryptonite continent for so long, when just standing on it crippled him (which brings me back to how both existing and orbiting didn’t cause the rock to create 12/26/04-level tsunamis worldwide…), but he was more annoyed at the kids in the theater with us, who badmouthed the movie. Dan particularly enjoyed the scene where Superman lifted a boat out of the water, finding it to be a case where the whole far outweighs the sum of the already impressive parts. He takes issue with Jason's very existence, however.


Go see it.
It’s a spectacle that everyone’s talking about, and for some people that’s enough. For others, that’s a reason to avoid it. The effects are fun, and a lot of stuff blows up, and again: for some people that’s enough; for others, that’s a reason to avoid it. There’s character studies and interpersonal dynamics, and Superman’s rival is a likable guy while Superman himself is occasionally a dick. And… well, you get the idea by now. But the sum total of these factors made the movie fun for me, and in the summer, fun is a good enough reason to make a recommendation.

The rest of the Internet

The IMDb entry.
Decent reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.
The Superman Homepage is a thorough fan site.
The Wikipedia entry.
Jeff MacArthur at eyeCandy enjoyed the movie.
jelewis at Fringe was less impressed.
Jeff at Minutiae and Matt at [sic] both reviewed the movie as well.

Edited in 01/13/10: So, with four years of hindsight, how do you think the film held up?  Let me know in the comments...

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