Superman Returns Review

Superman Returns Review

Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Genre: Drama
Rated: M
Running Time: 154


Superman's been away for a while and the good people of Metropolis are feeling a bit abandoned, not least Lois Lane who didn't get so much as a goodbye. Can he slip back into his old life as Clark Kent/Superman? More importantly, does Lois still care? Oh, yes, and Lex Luthor has been released from jail because the Man of Steel wasn't around to testify at the parole hearing (apparently no one else noticed his numerous crimes) and is up to his old tricks with lady friend Kitty Kowalski in tow.

My verdict:

There's no doubt it's nice to see the Caped One back. Yes, there have been TV shows but when the moment comes for Superman to take Lois Lane flying over the city only the big screen will do. It's in this kind of spectacle that this new instalment excels. The action scenes are well handled and at times even rather beautiful, like the ones dealing with Lex's attempts to create a new continent out of crystals from Krypton (a strangely oblique attempt at world domination). Brendan Routh is likeable as Superman, confident without being arrogant. But although 'Superman Returns' continues roughly where the last Superman movie left off in 1987, Routh is several years younger than Reeve was at that time. He's twenty-seven, Reeve was thirty-five when he hung up the cape. Superman may be ageless but it seems an odd choice given the darker storyline this time around (not to mention the fact that the younger Superman has been pretty well covered of late in 'Smallville').

Naturally Lois Lane has to be younger also, and here the difference is even more apparent. Kate Bosworth, twenty-three to Margot Kidder's thirty-nine in 'Superman IV', plays Lois as a rather petulant and flighty Nancy Drew type. She's never quite convincing as a big time journalist and this sets the action in a world that is less believable than it should be. (Clark Kent, for that matter, barely seems to pick up a pen). Given that this film seems to be shooting for some depth - Superman as returning exile, the tragic hero who's lost the woman he loves - this is unfortunate. Making Lois a lightweight makes Superman weaker by association, and surely represents the triumph of marketing considerations over storytelling. Still, much of this film is enjoyable and there's a pleasing sense of mythology to 'Superman Returns', enhanced by touches like the reuse of footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El. It may be all a lot of heavy-handed religious symbolism but it works. What is Superman but a re-imaging of some of our most potent symbols as a culture?

What isn't easy to forgive is the dearth of decent dialogue. Perry White (Frank Langella) is just an anonymous gruff boss while Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) makes the odd half-hearted crack but is largely ignored and even Clark Kent is far from chatty. Poor Eva Marie Saint makes a special appearance as Martha Kent only to find that the filmmakers really have no use for the character. Strangest of all is the continual presence of Park Posey in an entertaining performance as the clueless Kitty. Singer keeps cutting to a reaction shot of her as though she's to communicate something vital to the audience. We can tell from the twinkle in her eye that she's itching to say something but, time and time again, there's just no line. Hey, if you people are too stingy to pay for another draft of the script, let the actors make some stuff up why don't you?

Rating : ***

Briony Kidd

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