Superman Returns

Superman ReturnsSuperman Returns: 154 Minutes, Rating: M
Director: Brian Singer, Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey

Superman’s return to the big screen is an audacious, extremely entertaining one. It is an example of the best that a Hollywood Blockbuster can offer. Like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns is an engaging piece of cinema that emphasises character and narrative, and delivers exactly what audiences require from an action film.

The plot of this Superman film continues the story after the events of the 1978 Superman film. Superman (Brandon Routh) has returned to earth after an absence of five years, during which time he searched for the remains of his home planet, Krypton. In his absence, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has been freed from prison following Superman’s failure to testify at his trial, and Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has seemingly moved on from the man in blue tights. She now has a partner and child and is preparing to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her article “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman”. Of course, Superman has returned just in time and will be needed again as Luthor once again plans for world domination.

Central to the plot of Superman Returns is the conflict between Superman’s feelings for Lois and his duty to protect the people of earth. This is the familiar story that formed a large part of the first two Superman films, particularly Superman 2, where Superman gave up his powers, and his duty to earth, in order to be with Lois. However, in Superman Returns the further complication of Lois’s family means that stakes are veen higher. This is a simple but brilliant addition to the narrative. This time, Superman not only faces being labelled a coward. Will Superman, the champion of earth, become a home wrecker?

Kevin Spacey has a wonderfully evil time playing the megalomaniac Lex Luthor, while Kate Bosworth does a fine job of acting beyond her 23 years and making the audience believe she is the uncompromising journalist Lois Lane. Most notable though is the casting of Brandon Routh as Superman. An unknown before being cast, his performance as Superman (and Clark Kent) recalls Christopher Reeve in his pomp; so much so that audiences will find it difficult to separate the two. Many of Routh’s mannerisms and expressions are similar to Reeve’s, though this doesn’t detract from the performance as derivative. One wonders how closely he studied the old movies before acting the part. The result is that the audience really does believe that Superman has returned. Routh is perfect in the role in 2006, just as Reeve was the embodiment of Superman in 1978.

Made on a budget estimated at over US$260 million, Superman Returns is packed with special effects. The computer-generated effects are seamless to the action and are incorporated into the narrative effectively, unlike many other blockbusters that are heavy on effects at the expense of story.

For many people though, the most exciting effects will be the opening credits, which are a loving tribute to the 1978 original, using the same titles and music as that film. In fact, Bryan Singer has incorporated many elements of the original Superman films, to the great benefit of Superman Returns. Some lines of dialogue are re-used (It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s…), Marlon Brando returns as Superman’s father Jor-El in the form of archival footage and John Ottman’s music builds on the original score by John Williams, keeping all of the familiar musical themes remain intact.

Bryan Singer has made a film that is epic in scope, has an interesting and moving narrative and great performances and, above all else, is tremendously entertaining. Superman Returns is a fantastic cinema experience.



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