This one had so much potential...
Superman Returns. After nearly 20 years of waiting with numerous false starts and with Director Brian Singer at the helm, we are given a movie featuring superman doing...we...not a whole hell of a lot. My first screening of this movie was at a big AMC theater in Chicago opening night midnight show. It was pretty to look at, I couldn't hear a damn thing because the sound was shot, we could hear the ear rattling base tones fine, but dialog, woof, that was a torturous experience to understand even a fraction of what was being said. I left that theater feeling more than a little let down. Sure there was a lot of fan service and iconic imagery, but there was little else to work with here. I was hoping that it was the lousy projection, but I feared it was the story that didn't meet up to my expectations.
Earlier that year, I had preorded tickets to see it on IMAX at Chicago's Navy Pier. What made this screening so special was that not only was it one of the first movies to clock in over 2 hours to screen at IMAX, it also had several scenes post converted into 3D back when that was a gimmick and not the norm as it is today. I was blown away! That 60x80 foot screen brought the movie to LIFE. and best of all I COULD HEAR IT! And then there was the 3D. I totally loved it! While it didn't work all the time, the corn field run looked choppy, but when he saved the plane, WHOA! That was damn impressive stuff. While the giant IMAX screen and the 3D helped the presentation, it didn't completely distract me from the numerous story faults.
Hot off the success of the first two X-Men movies, Brian Singer had a lot of clout to burn and he pretty much used it all to bring comic fans this movie. It seemed like a smart idea at the time; pick things up after the events of Superman II and pretend that Superman III and IV never happened! Cool right? Well... eh... To start things off he needed to recast EVERY character since no one was going be able to reprise roles from 20 years ago. Taking over the super-tights this outing was relative newcomer Brandon Routh, he does an commendable job with the script he has to work with and certainly looks the part of Superman and Clark Kent, but since he was basically hired to impersonate Chris Reeve, he never is really given the opportunity to make the role his own. Kevin Spacey was a great choice for Lex Luthor, but like Routh, he isn't given much more to do than repeat the plot of Superman: The Movie. He never got to show off the menace he showed so amazingly in Se7en. After hiring Skeletor as the new Perry White, we are left with Kate Bosworth as the new Lois Lane. I'll give her credit for trying, I guess, but rather than being the spunky, intrepid upstart, she plays it like she's constantly irritated and therefor is irritating herself.
It's just such a MOPEY movie. It want's the audience to feel nostalgic for the Superman movies of yore, but it is so preoccupied with turning our hero in a love lorn tearjerker, it's really hard to drum up any true excitement. The action sequences are few and far between and when they are on screen, they're not all that much to write home about. He flies fast, he uses his laser beam eyes, saves a plane, and lifts a gigantic non threatening kryptonite continent out of the ocean and hurls it out into space. That all sounds like it should be exciting... but... it's not. Aside from the plane grab there are no really truly thrilling moments. The screenplay just makes use of too many conveniences, not to mention being ankled by having to pay homage to what's come before. Not to mention the Superkid, who actually does more "fighting" than Suuperman! I'll give it credit for having a bit more subtle and clever sense of humor. After Superman III and IV, it's a nice change of pace to see the big guy not make a complete fool of himself.
What's worse for this movie, perhaps more than any of the other movies, is the number of scenes that got left on the cutting room floor. With a little(or a lot) of re-editing it could have been a lot more interesting!
Apparently there are a LOT more scenes, including an entire explanation why Kal Pen is even in the movie at all. But unless Warner Bros wants to do ANOTHER blu-ray set of these movies, we'll probably never get to see this movie in any kind of Director's Cut form... but then again, that's what everyone said about Superman II.
While this movie wasn't a total flop, it earned back its budget, it wasn't the huge success it needed to be to warrant a sequel to this pseudo-sequel. In spite of all their best efforts this fairly decent cast was scattered to the four winds. Routh is still out there popping up in such greats as Scott Pilgrim, Bosworth is still working here and there, Spacey is on Netflix, Langella got to play Nixon, and Brian Singer is back to his roots bringing us next year's X-Men Days of Future Past.
With that, this little Retrospective comes to a close. As I've stated many times, I love Superman, always have, probably always will. I only hope the movies get better over the years as comic book movies have earned a lot more respect. I know, I know, that didn't help The Green Lantern, but fingers crossed it does right by Kal-El. Thanks for reading! I'll be adding to this page from time to time, there are so many movies I have loved for decades that I have a lot of material to chose from! See you then!