Superman Returns

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Superman Returns
Review (9/10)
(By Fala )


Before I give you my thoughts on the new movie, I feel moved to tell you a little background of my experiences with Superman:

Around 28 years ago, there was a wide-eyed kindergardener with long, dark hair who fell in love for the first time. No, this wasn't a little crush on a classmate - oh, no! This was full-blown idolatry. My hero had came to rescue me from a harsh childhood. He was MY Man of Steel, and no one else would ever do.

I had a Superman T-shirt, a Superman lunch box, a Superman bookbag, and every other marketed thing with Christopher Reeve's likeness or the Superman logo on it. I had memorized all of the names of the main original cast members by the time I was 6 years old - every single one. I even had saved up my allowance money to buy the original Superman soundtrack, complete with the picture of Superman printed inside, arms stretched forward, flying in the Fortress of Solitude. I'd sit and stare at that picture and listen to that record for hours in my room. I'd grab my stick of spaghetti and direct that orchestra right along with John Williams. This music would compel me to eventually become a Music Education major, in the hope that one day, I would be the one who'd write music for future great movies... like Superman.

I had it bad for him. I still do.

So that is what has prompted me to write my first movie review for Empire Movies - a dire love for the character, for the spirit, for the icon that is Superman.

Such an improbable mission: To persuade a jaded adult like me to warp back to a time when Superman hung the moon before I went to bed each night. But did Superman Returns deliver?

So, here come the real questions:

Did Bryan Singer do a great job directing this movie? My answer is: Absolutely. After watching this one, I'm convinced that he was the best one to do this movie. He was able to pull this whole cast together to collaborate on one tough film. Remember, this project came with a lot of baggage and a lot of instability. Through changing directors, then script changes, along with a barrage of other obstacles - not counting being able to balance some incredible effects scenes while making emotional ties, Singer has kept it all wonderfully under control. He's even been able to excite a seasoned actor (Spacey) into saying that he's all ready to come back on board for the next movie. An actor has to feel pretty comfortable to say that this soon in the game.

But did Singer pull enough emotion from the cast to make the Superman character feel viable again? I feel that, for the most part, he did. The fact that Routh and Bosworth are relatively less experienced than Reeve and Kidder were in the first Superman film is freshly evident at times. But the performances between them in this movie are able to stand alone. They were effective in as much that, by the middle of Returns, I began to feel like Routh was Superman/Kent and that Bosworth was Lois Lane. As a matter of fact, I feel that Bosworth's Lane is played truer than Kidder's was back in 1978. Frank Langella is a great modern-day Perry White. Revitalizing footage of Brando's Jor-El was tastefully done, and was a great decision. And Spacey is a much better-suited and more enjoyable version of Lex Luthor than Hackman. My main complaint is that a few other characters, such as Martha Kent (played by the wonderful Eva Marie Saint) should have had more screentime.

Is Returns written well? Was the story the best it could be? I feel it was pretty well done. This is especially considering the angle that had to be played regarding the time frame of Superman's return within playing off the plotline of Superman II. Although there were other storylines, this one fit the bill. Let's face it. Doing the Doomsday plotline that Kevin Smith had written would be great for a future movie, but not for this one. Superman had to come back into people's lives first. He had to make amends for his disapperance and show that he still loved mankind.

And here's a thought concerning the Superman/Jesus issue. I never would have thought about that for a second if I had not heard it before seeing Returns. Yes, there are a few fleeting references to Biblical events; but if you go to see this movie expecting to see pink elephants, you'll probably see them. Just go to see a great Superman movie, and nothing else. Trust me, the movie is decently written and enjoyable. It's not meant to be a religious statement. Superman is the ultimate altruist, but he is not meant to rival any savior. I believe Singer wanted to tap into that type of emotional pull, but not cement into that connection.

Do the effects accent the story, or do they it haze it up? This movie had some of the best integration of special effects and plotline that I have seen. The airliner scenes were enough to leave everyone in the theater breathless - you could have cut the suspense with a butter knife. And I felt a little swell of pride when Superman finally was shown breaking the sound barrier in flight. It's about time someone showed his capabilities!

Is Routh the "new" Superman? Yes he is. But he is NOT "the" Superman. Christopher Reeve will always, in my heart, be Superman. But I feel that Routh makes a damned-good one. At least the best since Reeve. Singer was right on the money by casting him. If you close your eyes while Routh is talking on film, 90% of the time he sounds identical to Chris Reeve. It's truly eerie. And knowing what I know about Reeve's conception of the Superman character, I know he would have loved the way this movie was written.

But I do not believe that Routh played Reeve's version of Superman in this movie. I believe he created his own version of Superman - and since Reeve was so good at this, people assume that Routh was trying to copy Reeve. I give the guy a lot of credit. If anyone had the hardest shoes to fill, it was Routh. And he filled them very well. Watching this movie with Routh as Superman was like going to a great show with a new friend... after you find out that your best friend couldn't go. It was still fun, and I found some more things to love about him.

Overall I feel this movie is a very promising continuation of the Superman movies. I found that any concerns I might have had with it had faded away by the time the credits rolled and I was left wanting more. And I wasn't the only one liking it. It was nice to hear the kids in the theater gasp at the action scenes and say "I want to see it again!" It was great to see the thirty-somethings (like me) staying to hear the ending score.

And the nicest part was that, just for a few hours, I had become that little adoring six-year-old Superman fan again. Mission accomplished.

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