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Superman Returns

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

After reading this review, there might be some who think I have gone against my policy of writing reviews for things I don't like, but such is not the case. I enjoyed Superman Returns a lot. It has been a very long time since I have seen either Superman: The Movie or Superman II, and I think it likely I will never again want to watch the third or fourth films in the series. There are both good and bad things I could say about the first two, and the same can be said about this newest incarnation of the Man of Steel. That does not mean I don't recommend them as very entertaining movies. It's just that I felt it necessary to have a balance with Ogre's very positive review.

I have no complaints (actually a lot of praise) for the acting, from Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor (no one should have expected different from this great actor) to newcomer Brandon Routh, whose performance many fans were expecting to be the weakest part of the film. Instead he provides us with a well-balanced portrayal which if nothing else will stand as a touching tribute to the late, great Christopher Reeve. Kate Bosworth does an adequate job as well, taking Lois in a more serious direction than Margot Kidder would have ever given us.

My main complaint about this one is that it didn't break any new ground (with one exception) but rather was almost a step backwards in terms of storytelling. From the opening credits, accompanied by John William's traditional theme, it seems as if Bryan Singer was telling us we were back in the good Superman era. The production values are superior of course, but that is to be expected with the technological advances in CGI of late, as well as the reported budget nearing $300 million.

But the plot and pacing is so similar to Richard Donner's film in many instances that I was a bit disappointed. There was one point when I actually expected Ned Beatty to step out of the shadows and echo Lex Luthor's statement about what is truly valuable - "Land!"

Any superhero film demands a suspension of disbelief, so it was disheartening that there were a few occasions when that was not possible for me. I have never been a comics reader, so I'm not sure if any of these plot elements were ever presented in any of the books.


What follows will contain some spoilers, sorry.


Okay, we all know kryptonite is harmful to Superman. Lex Luthor stabs Supes with a shard of the green crystal and our hero falls into the sea. He is rescued by Lois and Richard, and she removes a piece from his side and he returns to Luthor's newly created land(crystal?)mass and propels it into space. He then totally succumbs to the weakening effects of the kryptonite and falls back to Earth, near death. He is taken to a hospital, and I am sure at that point it is shown that another small shard of kryptonite is removed from his side. Was this a piece of the original with which Luthor stabbed him, which broke off and was not removed by Lois? If so, how did he have the strength to fly off into space with Luthor's new creation?

Here's another. It seems Jason is actually Superman's son rather than Richard's. Why then, with the exception of just one scene, is he portrayed as a very weak child, suffering from asthma and other ailments? Is this something he inherited from Lois? If so, I don't recall any of that being mentioned in the earlier films, but as I said it has been a while since I have seen them. His inclusion in the film is what I meant earlier as the exception to new elements to the story.

I'm sure I am not the first or only person to think that Superman is a religious allegory, with the Man of Steel standing in as the God/Christ figure. They certainly made it very obvious toward the end at the hospital and when he left it and returned to Lois' home.


End of Spoilers


To sum up, if you have fond memories of 1978's Superman: The Movie, then you should be pleased with this one as well. It is an excellent "popcorn movie" without being totally mindless, just don't go into it expecting too much. The world needs Superman, or at least the idea of him, so I applaud Bryan Singer and all others responsible for returning Superman to us in a grand story that can entertain millions of new and old fans, and if it causes others to seek out the two films that started this franchise, then so much the better.


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Bryan Singer

Michael Dougherty
Dan Harris

June 28, 2006

Brandon Routh
Kate Bosworth
Kevin Spacey
Frank Langella
James Marsden
Sam Huntington
Parker Posey

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray