Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SUPERMAN: The Retrospective-Part VII: SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

Superman Returns
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Kal Penn
Rated: PG-13

I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.

So, with the success of Batman Begins, Superman is brought back.  But do they start fresh?  Nah.  Bryan Singer takes the Halloween: H20 route and cut the timeline off where they see fit and pretend they're the real part 3.  The good news is, he did a better job than the ones he chose to ignore.  That sounds like praise, but its no compliment.

Superman Returns tells us that after Superman II, astronomers find what they think is Krypton.  So, Superman up and leaves to investigate.  Flash forward 5 years, he returns, Lex Luthor has gotten out of jail (tsk tsk, Superman didn't show up to take the stand, and even though Lex Luthor was on conspiring with galactic criminals it wasn't enough) and Lois Lane now has a child and a fiancee.  I think part of the problem with this film is that its not the Superman film people wanted.  But aside from that, its not very good either.
This "3rd" part to the original series is very dour, mopey and gloomy.  It refuses to have any sort of fun.  Superman spends the whole film pining over Lois Lane, whom he left and never said bye or that he would ever come back.  She's moved on.  Sorry bud.  But nope, the movie wants us to hope to see them together.  James Marsden's Richard White is supposed to be some sort of obstacle, but he comes across as the most likeable character in the entire film.  He's actually somewhat fun and without any fault to be soon.  He's not Superman, no.  But he's quite good to Lois and appears to be a great father figure to her son as well.  Even in the scene where he's curious about Superman and Lois's relationship in the past, the film wants us to think he's a jealous prick but its actually understandable and he drops it once his question is answered.  Meanwhile, Superman comes off as a creepy stalker when he shares screen time with Lois.  The final scene in the film just comes off as super creepshow.  Stay away Lois, you're doing fine.
And how about Lois?  Not only is Kate Bosworth a bad casting decision, she's absolutely terrible in this film.  I don't believe she could convincingly walk through a door let alone be a hard-nosed reporter.  She's also far too young.  None of her dialogue is an ounce believable and it makes it hard for such a "down to Earth" film to carry any weight with her on screen.  Splitting hairs with her is Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor.  Scott Mendelson (click on his Forbes links, damnit!) once said it would have been better served when Superman needed Spacey and not Spacey needing Superman.  When Spacey crafts his own Luthor and is completely sinister, he's absolutely top notch.  The problem being, after about 1/3 of the film he starts channeling Hackman and trying to add a more comic approach and it just falls flat.  The "WRONG!" scene being the epitome of the bad Spacey.  Rounding out the bad, Sam Huntington kinda stinks as Jimmy.
Is anyone good?  Routh is absolutely great even though his character on paper is poor.  He's so good and bringing the Christopher Reeve iteration to life that I think people aren't seeing the talent.  There's not a whole lot of a gap between one to the next and I think that's a good testament to him.  Frank Langella is quite good as Perry White as well.  Thought, I think that role might be one that is instantly successful.  As said, James Marsden is good.  This may have been the first film I actually really liked him in.  I'm a Parker Posey fan, so nothing bad to say there.  Kal Penn didn't say a word, so no strikes against him.

If taken as a trilogy, the Lex Luthor villainy is one of a looney real estate agent.  His plot here, once again is to have land to sell.  LAME.  This is what we've waited since 1987 to see Lex Luthor do?  Hate on Superman IV all you want, but at least Lex Luthor did something else.  For a lot of this film, its a riff and call back to the original.  Which is cute and fine and all, but it wears off after a while.  And there's stuff played for "inside baseball" yucks allllll over the damn thing.  I don't even want to go into how far technology has advanced from 1980-1985(2006) in this or does Lois Lane think Superman raped her or doctors operating on Superman...its just not worth the time.  The slate needed to really be wiped clean.
The opening credits of this movie are badass though.  LOVE them!  I get excited every time I've sat down to watch the movie, only to have the boredom set in not too long after.  And the film isn't a good one to look at either.  There is so much bad CG in this movie its almost a cartoon.  The first film said "You will believe a man can fly" and this one has taken things the furthest from.  You can SO EASILY pick out the CG Superman in the entire movie.  And even the scenes in normal places like the Daily Planet don't even look real.  This movie looks almost identical in aesthetic to Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow its uncanny.  Part of the fun and excitement of Superman and Superman II was pushing the limits of effects and believing what you were seeing on screen was real.  Superman Returns is the opposite of that.  And CG at the time this was made was not that bad.

So, I guess I just thoroughly trashed Superman Returns after being kind to Superman III and Superman IV.  I realized after watching Returns that I like it less and less with each subsequent view.  Its a rather boring movie.  Its a mopey, whiny film that asks for a reaction that you're not feeling.  Superman doesn't even do anything cool with his powers.  He deflects bullets in a scene and the rest of the time he's just flying and lifting things.  Whoop dee doo.  Its a long movie, too.  Its challenging to get through if its not your first time.  Sadly, its still one of the best movies in the series.  And I give Singer credit, he did a heck of job directing it.  But, he should have set his focus to X-Men 3.  It would have been much better served there.

One last thing...that coordinates joke...good grief...

Next Time:  Back to SUPERMAN II...for the Donner Cut!

Oh, this one did have some fantastic trailers, I give it that

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