Superman Returns

Superman Returns

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I Am... I Am... I Am Superman, & I Can Do Anything!

Jul 2, 2006 (Updated Nov 30, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Bang For The Buck

Pros:Singer's Direction, Script, Look, Cinematography, Special Effects, Score, & Cast.

Cons:It's a Little Long.

The Bottom Line: Superman Returns says it all as Bryan Singer creates a Fantastic Film with a Great Cast in Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, and Kevin Spacey. (4.5 out of 5)


For every fan of comic books and superheroes, everyone has their favorite. Whether it's the dark knight of Batman, who preys fears for his villains. There's also Spider-Man who does good to save people while dealing with his own issues as a young man. Finally, there's Superman. Superman is a superhero from the planet Krypton who comes to Earth as a good man with morals who stands for truth, justice, and the American way. The popularity of the Superman comics spawned several TV shows and cartoons along with movies starting with 1978's Superman that starred the late Christopher Reeve in the title role.

Superman was a huge success as it made Reeve a star while plans for a sequel were already underway when it was in production helmed by the film's director Richard Donner. Unfortunately, Donner's creative issues with producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind led to Donner's termination despite shooting more 75% of the actual film. Comedy director Richard Lester was hired to finish Superman II which also scored great box office numbers in 1980. In 1983, Superman III arrived once again directed by Lester and produced by the Salkinds were the film ended up being disaster thanks to its ridiculous story and subplot involving comedian Richard Pryor. Four years later, Christopher Reeve tried to revive the franchise for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace with another director in the helm but the film was a huge disappointment as the franchise laid dead on its tracks for good.

Though Superman was gone from the film world, his legend wouldn't die as attempts to create a new Superman movie had been difficult. With many actors ranging from Nicolas Cage to Josh Hartnett to play the role with directors ranging from Kevin Smith to newcomers like McG. The project had trouble getting off the ground until Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Men movies decided to take a shot at it. Straying far away from what Hollywood wanted, Singer chooses to go for what Richard Donner wanted in the first place as did fans of the comic book as he brought his team from the X-Men movies to resurrect a superhero. For the title role, Singer did what Donner did in choosing an unknown as he chose an unknown actor in Brandon Routh to play the role of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman for 2006's highly anticipated Superman Returns.

With a story Singer wrote with his screenwriting team of Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, Superman Returns tells the tale of a world without Superman. Years after the events of Superman II, Superman returns home to Smallville after trying to find the remnants of his old planet of Krypton to understand more of his roots. In his disappearance, Clark Kent learns that the world has changed and his flame Lois Lane has moved on with a child and a fiancee. Meanwhile, his nemesis Lex Luthor is plotting a scheme to not only cause chaos for the world but to battle Superman once again. Starring Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, with Eva Marie Saint, and an archival cameo from late, great Marlon Brando as Jor-El.

It's a quiet night in Smallville as Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint) is finishing up dinner as a huge meteorite falls on her backyard. She gets close to the meteorite to find her adopted son Clark Kent is laid unconscious after getting out of the meteorite. Around the same time, an aging widow decides to give out her entire fortune to Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) claiming that he's gone good after being in prison for five years. With his new assistant named Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey), Luthor plans another plot to take over the world. Back in Smallville, Clark reveals to his mother that the five-year absence was him trying to find the remains of his birth planet Krypton only to realize that it's gone for good. Realizing that the world is still in a bit of chaos, Clark decides it's time to return to Metropolis.

Upon arriving back looking for a new place to stay, Clark returns to the Daily Planet as his old chief Perry White (Frank Langella) gives him back his old job. Excited to see Clark return is his old friend and photographer Jimmy Olson (Sam Huntington) who reveals to Clark that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is reporting at the launch of a new space shuttle. Clark learns that Lois has moved on with a new fiancee` in Perry's nephew Richard (James Marsden) and has a son named Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). Bothering Clark even more is that Lois has written a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial entitled Why The World Doesn't Need Superman. Luthor with his new group of thugs including Stanford (Kal Penn) and Brutus (David Fabrizio), goes North to the Fortress of Solitude where he learns of the kind of powers for the crystals that Superman has left behind. He takes them and samples a bit to see what kind of is used to create new land.

During the experiment, an electromagnetic pulse sends a huge black out where the plane Lois is on for the shuttle launch has a black out. Chaos ensues during the launch as it is up to Superman to make his return as he saves the day. Lois isn't entirely happy about Superman's return although she is amazed to see Clark come back where he's been introduced to Richard and Jason. The return of Superman gets Perry White into a creative frenzy as he wants a new front-page story on Superman and wants Lois to do it. Lois doesn't want to since she wants to do the blackout that caused her plane to nearly crash which now goes to Clark. Superman finally talks to Lois about his absence as her claims in her article were entirely wrong as Superman goes back to do what he does.

Aware of his return, Luthor realizes that he needs Kryptonite to combat the Man of Steel which he decides to use the fragments of another meteorite to create the object. A museum robbery had happened as Clark, Lois, Richard, and Jimmy agree that Luthor could be involved since also makes a great story. Perry isn't interested as Lois succeeds with her own reluctant editorial about Superman's return where she gets a location of where it started. While picking up her son, Lois finds Luthor and learns of his new plot. With Lois and Jason held hostage in Luthor's new yacht and planning a dangerous plot to eliminate all the land with his own brand of Krypton land, it's up to the Man of Steel to save the world.

A film about Superman could've been done in many ways but since Bryan Singer is an avid fan of the Man of Steel. He chose to go into the same approach that Richard Donner did with the first movie and take it to new heights. What he and screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris have done instead is create a 154-minute epic of the Man of Steel's return. Not only does the film serve as a nostalgia film of sorts in tribute to the first Superman movie Donner made from its opening credits and the theme music written by John Williams. He brings Superman back to the modern world and makes him stand for truth and justice, the American Way part is omitted. Overall, this film is what the title says and it reminds the audience old and new of why the world loves Superman.

Singer's extraordinary direction is filled with moments of Superman/Clark Kent in dealing with their own sense of alienation. Especially the repercussions of his absence which leads to Luthor's release in prison and Lois' anger of his departure. Singer and his writers create a sense of why the world needs him, even for the smallest of things as Superman just wants to make people feel better, even for a small moment. Singer brings the myth back while paying tribute to those involved in the past as the film is dedicated to Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana. Singer is aware that you can't forget about the first two films and Singer doesn't since everything that fans remember of the third and fourth movies are now non-existent. This is the real third film of Superman and it has all of the moments that make everyone love the guy.

Singer's direction filled with some great long takes, tension, and perspective cutting is also served well to the film's script. Dougherty and Harris who wrote the second X-Men movie definitely took their knowledge of comic books and give the audience a Superman that everyone can relate to. Whenever Superman feels alone or unneeded or hurt, the audience feels for him and even the regular characters of Lois, Lex, Perry, Jimmy, and Martha Kent have their own depth and personality. The script is filled with brilliance in not just sticking the superhero genre formula but re-tooling to new levels where the characters take new risks as do the plot. The film not only does have its moment of action but also some lighthearted humor and drama. This makes Singer more involved with every character that this is a film done with a lot of heart. Just like Superman is, a guy with a lot of heart.

Helping Singer in his visual presentation is longtime cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel who presents a wonderfully colorful look to the film with the use of artificial sunlight and a look that is true to Superman. Sigel's photography is filled with flashy compositions and uses of darker colors for the night scenes as it gives Superman a new look that is true to its spirit. Production designer Guy Duyas does great work in the design for the modern look of the Daily Planet as well as sharper look for the Fortress of Solitude as well as Metropolis which is played by parts of New York and Australia. Costume designer Louise Mingenbach does great work in giving Superman's costume a sleeker yet powerful look as well as the clothes for Lois Lane and Kitty Kowalski owes to the 1940s world of Superman as does the clothes of Lex Luthor.

Visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson and his team do a wonderful recreation of all of the elements and world of Superman with every action sequence and flying sequences for Superman. The special effects are top-notch as it proves that a man could fly. The sound design work of Craig Berkey and Erik Aadahl is also great in giving the film its suspense and momentum in some of the film's intense action sequences. Editors Elliot Graham and longtime Singer collaborator John Ottman does some wonderful editing in the film's sequences in pushing the back-and-forth plotlines of Superman's return and Lex's planning strategy. The edits aren't too fast and aren't too slow either as they're done with tight precision and moments that has rhythm and a feel that doesn't feel like a 154-minute film. Ottman also does amazing work on the film's score by building around the theme music of John Williams while adding his own flair to not just the film's intense, action moments but its dramatic textures as well with lyrical, melancholic notes that makes the audience feel for Superman.

The film's great cast that includes such notable small performances from Stephen Bender as the young Clark Kent in a flashback sequence, Kal Penn and David Fabrizio as two of Luthor's thugs, and two noted cameos from two actors from the 1950s Superman series. First is the original Lois Lane in Noel Neill as the widowed heiress Gertrude Vanderworth in a wonderful cameo and the original Jimmy Olson in Jack Larson playing a bartender. The archival appearance of Marlon Brando is a joy to watch, even his voice has that haunting yet nostalgic quality that makes you feel that even though he's gone, his legend will never die. Brando's co-star in On The Waterfront in Eva Marie Saint gives a memorable, warm performance as Martha Kent whose maternal presence is filled with the kind of care of a mother as she reminds Clark that he still has a home.

Parker Posey is great as Luthor's sidekick Kitty Kowalski with her all of her brash humor and hilarious one-liners while having some great chemistry with Kevin Spacey. Sam Huntington is also funny as the young, good-hearted Jimmy Olson as Huntington brings a bit more maturity and companionship as he has great scenes with Brandon Routh and one with the Jack Larson. Frank Langella is great as Perry White by adding a bit of humor and wisdom to the role while bringing the same kind of intensity and ambition that Jackie Cooper had in the original films. James Marsden is also good as the all-around nice guy Richard White who plays the straight man who has good intentions and a lot of heart as he's a guy that you can't really hate since he's just a good nice guy that Clark/Superman can understand. Young actor Tristan Lake Leabu is really good as Lois' son Jason who brings an innocence to the film as he has great scenes with all of the actors, notably Routh and does a great piece on the piano that brings humor to the film.

Kevin Spacey delivers one of his best performances as the villainous Lex Luthor. While retaining a bit of the humor that Gene Hackman had made famous to the role, Spacey also brings a lot of intelligence and manic ambition to the character while looking very menacing in his presence. Spacey also gets to go over-the-top as he brings a lot of fun to the role of Lex Luthor in the same way Hackman did in the first two films. Kate Bosworth really gives her best performance of her career as Lois Lane. Now she may not have the same kind of presence or humor that Margot Kidder had in the previous film versions. Bosworth made the right choices in taking beatings and bumps to some of the action scenes while doing things that Lane wouldn't have done in other Superman stories. Bosworth still manages to keep Lane as an ambitious reporter while revealing more of her emotions when dealing with Superman while trying to remain grounded in her own family. It's a great performance from Bosworth while not overshadowing the work that Kidder did.

Finally, we have newcomer Brandon Routh in what is truly a real breakthrough performance as Clark Kent and Superman. Routh brings the same kind of Midwestern, good-humored personality of Clark Kent to sheer perfection while not being as insecure as the late Christopher Reeve did in the earlier films. When Routh is Superman, he is just as believable as the Man of Steel in those tights and red cape in just being a good-natured man who stands for everything he believes in. Routh really captures the duality of Kent and Superman in every way while making the performance a tribute to the contributions of Christopher Reeve.

For anyone wanting a nostalgic trip or just to see what Superman is, Superman Returns fulfills all of those expectations. Thanks to Bryan Singer's amazing direction, a great script, and a fantastic cast led by Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, and Kevin Spacey with a great supporting cast. This film is really a great tribute to the first two movies and a reminder that the world really needs Superman. While some might complain about the 154-minute running time, others might feel it leaves everyone wanting for more. I chose the latter as this film goes up there with not just the first two Superman movies but also Batman, Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2, and X-Men 2 in what is to expect from comic book films. For a film that brings a lot of hope and excitement in a world that's often dreary and chaotic, Superman Returns is the perfect escape vehicle.


Recommend this product? Yes


Movie Mood: Feel-good Movie
Viewing Method: Studio Screening/Premiere
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing

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