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Movie Review:

Author: Bill Ramey
Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 12:00 AM
U.S. Release Date: June 26, 2006
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writing Credits: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, et al.
Genre: Superhero/Comic Book Adaptation/Adventure
MPAA Rating: PG-13



Copyright © 2006 William E. Ramey. All rights reserved.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is one of the greatest superhero films of all time. It’s #2 on my own personal list of favorites of that genre and has long been an encumbrance on any attempt to make a new SUPERMAN film since the early 90s.

And rightfully so.

The reason why Batman had to “Begin” and Superman simply needed to “Return” is simple. The Batman NEVER had a decent origin film, nor was the definitive Bat-flick ever produced. On the other hand, that was the case when it came to The Man of Steel -- just go back and read the opening sentence of this review.

So last summer (2005), The Batman “began” in excellent fashion. And this summer, thanks to Mr. Bryan Singer, Superman has returned in all his glory -- as he should have!

No giant spiders and polar bears. No black rubber-suited, gadget-using Kal Els. No -- And you’ve got to love him because he named his son “Kal El" -- Nick Cage-Clark Kents. No “dies and returns ala Doomsday” plots. Furthermore, none of that “He’s an outsider because he’s an alien” nonsense either.

So what is SUPERMAN RETURNS? It’s a GREAT Superman movie, and that’s what matters.

So the BIG question: How does it stack up to SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE? Pretty good, to be honest. Does it top it? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. But SUPERMAN RETURNS isn’t trying to do that actually. I feel that Brian Singer and company aren’t trying to out-Superman SUPERMAN. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel either, thank goodness. While SUPERMAN RETURNS pays homage to the original, it also wants to stand on its own merits. And because of that, it succeeds.

I’m not going to bore you all with the plot details as I know you all know what the deal is here. Superman, has returned to earth after a 5 year absence. The world has gotten used to him being gone; as has Lois Lane, who has had a child during Kal El’s absence.

While the people appear to be excited and happy about Superman being back, Lois seems upset and a tad angry about his return. Hmmm, I wonder why?

I’ll cut to the chase here and give you all the good and bad.

Brandon Routh, bravo! He’s beyond good. Not only does he channel Chris Reeve at times, but he also makes the role his own. It's more a case of him being “Superman.“ Brandon’s Clark Kent is “swell” too. Still nerdy, but he’s not as much of a dork as portrayed by Chris Reeve.

Kevin Spacey, who is one of my favorite actors, is a fantastic Lex. This Lex Luthor is much more sinister than Gene Hackman’s in SUPERMAN. He’s an angry and bitter man hell-bent on revenge. For the first time in live-action, I worked up a good hate for the character as I found myself genuinely despising him. I couldn’t wait for Superman to get his hands on the SOB.

Kate Bosworth as Lois. OK, she’s young, but she comes off older on screen than her actual age. However, it’s still hard at times to believe she’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the Mom of a five year old. With that said, her performance combined with her chemistry with Routh’s Superman overshadow the negatives.

The plot is alright. The best part of it is Superman having to handle something he didn‘t expect -- Lois having moved on with her life. She’s engaged and she’s a mom. You want to hate this Richard (James Marsden) she’s hooked up with, but he’s too good of a guy. It would have been easy to make him an ass and easily dismissed, but that’s not the case. As a result, the audience, as well as The Man of Steel, is conflicted.

Like in the original, Lex has cooked up another land scheme, which was a bit uninspired. Couldn’t he have been up to something else? Anyway, the one cool thing about this land plot is the actual land itself. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say Lex gets hold of “alien technology” and uses it to carry out his plan.

The action is superb, especially the Spaceshuttle/777 incident. It is one of the best action sequences I’ve seen in a superhero film. What a way to reintroduce the world -- and the audience -- to Superman. And Superman’s comments to the passengers at the end is classic!

The flying? Awesome! You WILL believe a man can fly. Props go out to all the men behind the special effects.

The bad? Well there really isn’t any. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any missteps. The aforementioned Lex land scheme has a “been there, done that” feel to it. There’s not enough explanation of how and why Superman left. We know he went looking for Krypton, and that’s that. And the film ends a bit unresolved.

While SUPERMAN RETURNS is a sequel (and it IS a sequel) to the Chris Reeve films, it also pays tribute to all things Superman. There are nods to the George Reeves TV show and, of course, to the comics. Wait until you see the shot straight out of ACTION COMICS #1. It honors them all, yet does its own thing too.

As a Superman and comic book movie fan, I’m more than pleased with SUPERMAN RETURNS. Kudos to Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, and Dan Harris for not trying to “re-imagine” the character and simply bringing us, well, Superman. It is obvious a lot of love and care went into this project.

Along with last summer’s BATMAN BEGINS, the two oldest and most revered superheroes are back on firm cinematic ground. And a lesson has been learned when it comes to making these films. You stay true to the source material, hire talented filmmakers, and let them do their thing.

So what are you waiting for? Go to the theater immediately because Superman has RETURNED!


Upon Further Review...

OK, I’ve seen this film 4 times, 3 times since Monday night. I’ve got to admit that has gotten better each time I see it. I highly recommend giving it a go at least twice. There is a lot of stuff you may not get the upon the initial viewing. In fact, a lot of the complaints and criticisms I’ve heard about the film are explained a bit subtlety -- stuff I missed upon my first viewing….

Standing ovations at every showing I've been too. That's got to be a good thing...

My wife and both sons loved it...

I can’t say enough about Brandon Routh, bless him! This is now HIS role and he’ll forever be known as Superman. He’s so damn good it’s almost beyond description and my appreciation for his performance has grown by -- leaps and bounds (hehehe) -- upon each viewing…

“The Kid” storyline HAS not cornered the filmmakers into a corner. What poppycock! Neither has Superman’s relationship with Lois. If she can move on, so can The Man of Steel…

The flying sequences were so damn good, all I got to say is how do you top it? Props to had for all the F/X crew…

Sam Huntington was damn good as Jim Olsen…

Brandon’s Clark needs more screentime…

Yes, yes, YES, I understand all you post-CRISIS/Byrne fans of The Man of Steel. And yes, SUPERMAN RETURNS, overall, is not a depiction of that interpretation. BUT, y’all got to admit, this film kicked some ass. You Superman fans should be damn proud…

If there is one thing I could say to the filmmakers about the inevitable sequel, don’t include Lex. Let’s go with someone different the next time around. I’d avoid the whole rogue Kryptonian coming to Earth angle as well. Which means, no General Zod. Come on, be creative! That’s what y’all get paid the big bucks to do

"Jett" is the founder and editor-in-chief of ON-FILM.NET and BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM.

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