Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Returns

"Returns" has been the title for a thousand remakes. However, it does not always hold much meaning.
Batman Returns was really just another Batman movie. It had nothing to do with Batman returning, since he never actually left. Superman, however, has been gone from the big screen for nearly two decades, and there hasn't been a Superman film that was actually good in even longer. Besides the fact that Superman III wasn't very good, and IV was terrible, much of the reason that we haven't seen a Superman film in so long is that the world has seemingly moved on from Superman. After all, if we are to believe Hollywood, chivalry is dead. There are no true heroes anymore. Look at Wolverine, Daredevil, The Punisher, etc. They're not heroes, they're anti-heroes: those who break the rules and don't care much for any kind of morals. Even the characters that come close to being truly heroic, such as Spider-Man, are ultimately flawed. After all, who wants to watch a movie about a boy scout who can seemingly do anything?
This film's story neatly mirrors reality by making a story in which Superman has been gone for years, and the world has seemingly moved on without him. Or have they?
Before I went to see this film, I rented the original 1978 Superman: The Movie. I was quite pleased and somewhat overjoyed with parts of it, but other times I thought "Oh, so this is why people hate Superman". However, Superman Returns is a semi-sequel to Superman I & II, so it's a nice idea to sit and watch them just for background information. As I said before, I didn't like parts of the original film, and I found myself hoping to death that this new movie wouldn't follow so closely in its footsteps. My hope came through.
As previously stated, Returns is about Superman's return to Earth after an absence of several years. Clark Kent returns to Metropolis only to discover that Lois Lane, the woman he loved, is now engaged, and has a son (yes, she had a son before she was married. Watch Superman II for a hint at the whole story). Even worse, Lois is angry at Superman for leaving, and won a Pulitzer Prize (like the Oscars for books) for her article titled Why the World Doesnt Need Superman.
Now, this isn't a simple "just kill off the fiancee whos really a jerk" scenario. Her fiancee is a really good guy, and by the end of the film I was hoping desperately that he wouldnt be killed, even knowing that his life would seal Clark off from Lois.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind of all time, is hatching an Earth-shattering scheme to both take over the world and annihilate billions of people.
The film starts with a bang. No, really. Not even just an Earth-shattering bang; it's much bigger than that. This briefly stunning visual effects shot is followed by a series of mediocre ones, although considering the multi-planetary scale of the project, it's more than forgivable.
The first twenty-or-so minutes of the movie are very slow. I sat there hoping and praying that I wouldnt end up agreeing with the one-out-of every-ten reviewers who said it was too slow. My prayers were answered, in the most mind-blowing way possible. I wont ruin it for you. Suffice it to say that nothing on this scale has EVER been successfully done before. In one scene, my mouth dropped open in awe as I whispered, "No, freakin' way..."
Brandon Routh is great as Superman. All the Supermen are different--as each version of the character is different--but Routh's version is possibly my favorite. He successfully pulled off both Clark Kent and Superman, and he did so wonderfully.
Kate Bosworth is.... decent... at Lois Lane. I liked her performance a lot, but she didnt quite look the role. She looked like a princess, yet acted like the traditional tough-as-nails Lois Lane. It didn't quite mesh.
Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor... can I just say awesome-times-infinity and get away with it? He is both chilling and hilarious at the same time. I can't give away any good moments, but he has many of them in this film.
The visual effects of the environment arent ground-breaking, but the effects on Superman himself were simply astounding. They were virtually flawless; I sat there in awe. Everything Superman does looks both real and amazing. The original 1978 film's tagline was "you will believe a man can fly." I believed just the opposite after watching that film. Now, however, I think they really should have re-used that tagline for this film. 'Cause man, I SO believe it this time around.
Returns is directed and produced by Bryan Singer, who directed and produced X-men 1 and 2. I was initially wary of the idea, because Singer is noted for his ability to blend fantasy and reality. I didnt want Superman to be made more real. (After all, hes a guy who flies without wings or a jetpack. Without the fantasy, whats left?) After watching Returns, I realized that Singers talent for realism isnt that he alters the original material, its that he can tell a human story, with realistic people. After that, you can make me believe that, well, people can fly.
Superman isn't outdated, and we haven't moved on past him. By the end of Returns, we see that truth literally appear before our eyes. I've been saying that for years, but cynical people are really stubborn. Ill give you a hint: lose your cynicism before you watch this film. Or keep it, and see if you can really say you dislike the movie by the time the end credits roll.
This was an amazing movie. Unlike X-Men 3, which I disliked the more I thought about it, I only like this film even more now than I did last night.

It was worth waiting for.