Superman Returns

This movie is the reason that X-Men 3 was a disappointment. Brian Singer, the director of the first two X films, leapt at the chance to revive the fortunes of America’s most famous superhero. He expressed his admiration for Superman I & II, made in the 70’s by Richard Donner. I would have preferred that he start from the animated series.

Superman Returns is a sequel to the first two Donner films. Singer, very wisely chose to ignore 3 & 4. The story picks up five years after the end of 2. Superman has been away investigating the remains of Krypton. After finding only rubble he returns to his adopted planet and finds things changed. Lex Luthor is free after only a short stretch in prison. Superman wasn’t there to testify . Luthor married an aging widow with a lot of money. When she died, he got the entire estate.

Lois Lane is engaged to Perry White’s nephew and has a five year old kid. She won a Pulitzer for an editorial called “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” Talk about moving on.

Singer imbues this project with the same tones that he used in X-Men. The cinematography is cool and somewhat muted. The acting is realistic and rarely over the top (With the exception of Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor in a few scenes)

But in other areas, Singer slavishly follows the Donner films. Brian Routh who plays Superman, may be a fine actor–we’ll never know, because here all he gives us is a Christopher Reeve impersonation. You can see a little Gene Hackman in Kevin Spacey”s Lex Luthor although Spacey’s greatness as an actor is well documented and he makes the part his own. Alas Kate Bosworth lacks the spunk Margot Kidder brought to Lois Lane.

The worst thing is that by limiting himself to the universe of the Donner films, Singer is stuck with elements of 30 year old art direction. Namely Kryptonian technology. Those crystals just look cheesy.

Likewise, Luthor’s plot to use the crystals to grow a new continent from the ocean floor is too much like his plot from the first movie. The cartoon Luthor is so much more nuanced and subtle. Why can’t movie guys get it right?

All in all, I wish Singer had made X-Men 3 instead of this.

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