It has been a while since I reviewed the other big budget Superman films. With a new one on the verge of release, it is time to bite the bullet and watch 2006’s Superman Returns. I am a huge fan of comic books. Even though I am a Marvel Zombie rather than a DC…whatever nickname they have, I am just now getting over the notion that I should support any and all comic book characters who reach the silver screen. That was a common opinion among fans who wanted to see better super hero films hitting the big screen, but in hindsight, it backfired. Only over the last ecade or so have comic book based films come into their own because the creative powers beind them are comic book fan themselves. Respect for the source material, folk. The rise of the comic book films has had its turbulence, however, and Superman Returns is a prime example.
It probably is not fair to bring up the Development Hell period the Superman film endured, but the film’s tumultuous journey may shed some light on the lackluster feel of Superman Returns. Abandoned scripts were written by self-professed comic book fanatic Kevin Smith and Lost creator J. J. Abrams. The former’s script was canne by the powers that be for being too deep for the popcoen munching summer blockbuster they needed to seel action figures and fast food premiums. The latter famously leaked to Harry Knowles, who promptly lead a fan charge to have it canne because there were no elements of the Superman mythos within. Superman Returns finally got rolling with Brian Singer. The end result makes one wonder if superman ought to have been kept off the big screen a lot while longer.
I will give singer some props for two points. One, he is ambitious in scope. There is a lot of Superman as christ imagery throughout the film. The comparison even begins back with the leaked trailer in which Marlon Brando’s booming voice explains why Jor El sent his only begotten son to Earth to be man’s salvation. The allegory is often over the top and gaudy, but it tickles my rebellion against the Bob Jones University influenced education I suffered as a tyke. Back then, anything in popular entertainment was satanic, but especially when secular offerings featured religious undertones. Blasphemy, as they say. The second point is Superman Returns pretends the latter two film in the series do not exist. What a coincidence. So do I.
The film begins with Superman, after promising to never abandon Earth after defeating Zod, having abandoned Earth to search for the remains of Krupton. He apparently said goodbye to no one, because they have spent the last five years miffed at him. Lois lane in particular. She wrote an Pulitzer Prize winning article entitled Why We Don’t Need Superman and had a son. She regrets the former when Superman shows back up for a dramatic rescue. He spends much of the rest of the film rekindling his relationship and battling another wild real estate scheme from Lex Luthor.
When I say much of the rest of the film, I am referring to nearly two and a half hours of tedium. You would think with an action oriented director like Singer at the helm and modern special effects, there would be wall to wall action spectacle. You would be wrong. Very little happens. What few action sequences there are ten to be an excuse to turn the volume up in case you have fallen asleep between them. Not even Kevin spacey hamming it up--the poor guy looks like he knows he is carrying the film solely on his shouldrrs--cannot brighten things up. Superman Returns is simply no fun.
The problem is the usual suspects. The script is lackluster. It is completely devoid of any memorable moments. The plot is lame. Why is Luthor going back to a variation of his real estate scheme from the first film? Homage, or lack of imaginatoon on behalf of the screenwriter? I am going with the latter, even though I believe e was aiming for the former. I am unimpressed with the cast, as well. Spacey is one of my favorite actors, so it is painful to watch him slog through a film he should have never been in. Kate Bosworth is not my idea of Lois lane. Most importantly, Brandon Routh is completely bland as Superman. I swear he is only playing the role because bears a striking resemblance to Christopher Reeve. Tobey Macguire put more personality into Spiderman when covered head to toe in costume than Routh can with superman. ‘Tis a very bad sign.
Superman Returns is for the die hard Superman fans only. There are still some of you out there, right? Even the comic book fanatics who used to support any and all comic book based films should avoid it. There are too many other good choices out there to waste time on such a poor effort like this film. The new Superman film about to be released has only been made to keep the rights in place. Otherwise, Superman Returns rightly would have killed off the feanchise.
Rating: ** (out of 5)