Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden and Parker Posey
Runtime: 157 minutes
CARA Rating: PG-13 for some intense action violence
In what is widely regarded as the worst of the four original Superman movies, Superman III finds Clark Kent fighting an evil doppleganger of himself after being exposed to Kryptonite by Richard Prior. I know, the concept is hilarious, but stick with me here. While it may sound ridiculous and I hated it as a child, Superman can’t be bad, that was the first time Superman, a classic archetypal Christ figure, was shown to be capable of evil.
It is this concept of a god’s humanity and heart that is shown front and center in the latest Superman movie, Superman Returns. Bryan Singer, who handled the first two X-Men movies with outstanding precision, shows a true humanity…with all its mistakes and miscues – not seen in past incarnations of the Man of Steel. In doing so he makes this Superman entertaining and yet, flawed.
I was impressed by Brandon Routh’s performance as Superman. Stepping into a role as big as this for your first big budget feature film is daunting enough. Then the magnifying glass comes down when you’re taking over the role from such a highly admired figure like Christopher Reeve. Routh handles the pressure amazingly well and provides fine skill as both Clark Kent and Superman. Routh’s Kent was very reminiscent of Reeve. Perhaps not as bumbling or nerdy, but there was a definite delineation of character there. Kevin Spacey was equally good as Lex Luthor. I don’t know why, but Spacey seems to do his best work as a bad guy.
The plot of the story is the weakest part of the movie. But that may be the point. Singer’s smart enough to know that we are going to be comparing this movie, his Superman to Reeve’s. It’s impossible not to because he does it too. The main action of Singer’s Superman Returns is an examination of what happens when a character that we’ve known so well for years, returns to a world who has felt abandoned, grown cold, and moved on. Can a figure that represented truth, justice, and the American Way find his place in a world that has become one of deceitfulness, anger, and spite for the American Way? Superman Returns shows that his return will not be an easy one. But it’s worth fighting for.
Final Verdict: At first viewing I felt a conflict regarding Superman Returns. The magic, the innocence of the first Superman movies was gone. Instead, we had this different, more complicated Superman. Yet it also felt more grown up. There was more to Superman and Singer and his writing crew have done an outstanding job of showing this new Superman while remaining reverent to the source material, which is an extremely difficult challenge especially given the scope of the picture, which means it may take more than one viewing to get and appreciate all that Singer is throwing at the audience. Yet, much like Superman himself, Singer takes what was, deals with what is, and makes it his own…giving us a complex god in uncertain times. And with that glimmer of hope Superman and Singer show us that is all we need.