Went with Tolemite, Grizzle and Stiner yesterday afternoon to see SUPERMAN RETURNS. Spoilers for this stinker follow...
Boy, Bryan Singer sure hates Superman, doesn’t he? He makes the World’s Greatest Superhero a sniveling milquetoast who takes a beatdown from a 50-year-old baldie and his pool-hall minions and a selfish narcissist who split at a moment‘s notice to…I dunno, find himself…without even telling his widowed mom where he was going. Singer also turns Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane into an airhead who somehow won a Pulitzer, despite thinking the word “catastrophe” has an “f” in it, and a skank who had sexual relationships with two men simultaneously, became pregnant by one, and allowed the other to believe the baby was his.
I actually kinda liked SUPERMAN RETURNS for much of the first half. The opening titles are fun, and Brandon Routh’s performance, while not one iota more than an unabashed Christopher Reeve impression, is in the right spirit. I loved the airplane rescue (once I decided to ignore the idiotic science involved), and Superman’s reassurance of the passengers that air travel is still the safest way to go was pure Reeve. Frank Langella is a good Perry White, and Sam Huntington is a perfectly rendered Jimmy Olsen. I also dug the nice bit parts given to THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV vets Noel Neill and Jack Larson (who wears a bow tie!). Kevin Spacey did a better job as Lex Luthor than I had expected going in, although I’ll go on a limb and say that John Shea on the LOIS & CLARK series is still my all-time favorite film Luthor.
This movie is easily a half-hour too long (how many endings does it have? About five?), and the script is pure garbage. The whole story springs from the premise that Superman left Earth for five years to go visit a planet that no longer exists. For some reason, he was in such a big hurry, even though Krypton had been destroyed for 10,000 years (or whatever), that he gave no notice or reason for his exit, not even to Lois or his poor lonely mama, nor did he bother to put a lock on his Fortress of Solitude, practically daring Luthor to come steal the secrets of the universe. He apparently built a spaceship; to paraphrase Captain Kirk, what does Superman need with a spaceship? And what did he do for five years? What did he find? What did he learn? We are never really told, even though I bet there’s a great movie in it.
Presumably, Clark Kent left Metropolis unexpectedly on the same day Superman did, and we know that both returned to Metropolis on the same day. Gee, what a coincidence. I have no problem accepting the secret identity thing, which goes far beyond the use of spectacles (Clark also wears his hair differently and slouches to appear inches shorter and, of course, his “meek” personality), but, really, this point is too much to swallow.
Luthor’s plan is idiotic. He could have at least created his ugly, rocky, Kryptonite-beached new land mass near the equator where it would be warm. The plot makes no sense, and while Luthor might be a megalomaniac, he ain’t crazy and he sure ain’t dumb.
I think the movie is too violent in its beatings of Lois and Superman. I think the movie destroys the Superman character in its beating of Superman. Even without his powers, he ain’t a pushover. He’s big and strong and would at least fight back (he knows Klurkor...duh). You’re telling me Superman would lay there and take a beating--by guys who aren’t exactly ninjas--without throwing even one punch, no matter how Kryptonite-weakened he was? B.S. Superman doesn’t give up. This scene, in tandem with Langella throwing away “the American way,” shows me that Singer and his writers must loathe the Superman character, although they sure do like SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. I’m surprised Routh didn’t wink at the camera at the end, although that’s a tuff move to pull off. The audience really has to like Superman, and I’m not sure Routh earned it the way Reeve did.
Dedicating the film to Christopher and Dana Reeve was a classy move. As was the credit to Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, which may be contractual, but Marvel films occasionally hose creators (I know X-MEN 3 didn’t acknowledge any up front).
I wish I had Kal Penn and Jimmy Karen’s agents. They contributed as much to SUPERMAN RETURNS as I did, but they got better billing. I can’t figure out why Singer left in the shot of Karen driving away from the Kent house if he was going to cut every one of his scenes. With no context, it’s extra confusion about who the character is, where he’s going, how he fits into the Kent family. It’s something else for the audience to be thinking about, and it goes nowhere. This is very sloppy filmmaking. That one shot could have been removed, and the audience would have never missed it.
All four of us were disappointed, and as we were walking up the aisle at the end, Tolemite said, “I actually wish that giant spider was in the movie.” Shit, yeah, me too.