Superman Returns – and It’s Like He Never Left

So I’m not even going to waste your time with a glib intro, because everybody on the damn planet knows that Superman has returned. Rumored to be the most expensive movie ever made (around $300 mil), with IMAX 3-D versions and enough product tie-ins to choke God, an openly gay director has teamed up with a supposedly closeted gay actor, plus a female icon for gay boys everywhere, and an unknown (but super hot) corn-fed Iowa boy. The result is a three-hour long epic that brings back your respect for old-time superheroes.
Superman Returns is a sequel that comes 26 years after the last movie. It was deliberately set up to follow the 1980 classic Superman II, and totally pretends that the other Superman movies (you know, one with Richard Pryor and one with “Nuclear Man”) never even happened.
Audiences who don’t remember Superman II (or who never saw it) will spend a few minutes on the verge of confusion at the beginning of the film, until things settle down. But it doesn’t take long to catch up. The movie opens with Superman returning to Metropolis after a 5-year absence to visit his destroyed home world. As Superman goes back to fighting crime and ingratiates himself with humanity once again, the evil Lex Luthor, who escaped prison on a legal technicality, hatches his most egomaniacal plan yet… one that not even Superman can prevent.
That director Bryan Singer and the screenwriters revere the original movie is obvious – there has been much publicity about Marlon Brando’s cameo as Supe’s father. More than that, however, there are numerous small touches that can only be truly appreciated by those that remember the first movies (before most of its audience was even born). For example, the opening credits and theme are a throwback to the original, and the reuniting scene between Superman and Lois is a mirror of their first balcony meeting twenty-eight years ago.
For those people that are tired of the dark melodramatic takes on contemporary superheroes (a lá Batman and the X-Men), they will be refreshed with this movie, which glibly ignores strong language, explicit violence, gratuitous sex, and the laws of physics to produce a strong, enjoyable, simple adventure.
The cast is uniformly strong. Brandon Routh looks so much like a young Christopher Reeve that it’s almost creepy. He fills the red codpiece admirably, being not only the assured superhero (with that torturously sexy little hair curl on the forehead), but also the insecure and always-in-the-way Clark Kent. Kevin Spacey brings an evil zest to Lex Luthor, the man with a head bigger than the city he lives in. He’s a worthy addition to those who portray supervillains, and I’d like to see him in the sequel - already planned for a 2009 release date. Kate Bosworth updates Lois Lane well, playing the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with aggressive charm. One of may favorite actresses of all times, Parker Posey, plays Luthor’s main squeeze, and it is awesome to see her still at the top of her form (and not in a soda commercial). Her sassy, ditzy character Kitty provides a lot of the cheesier moments in the film, which will undoubtedly annoy those people looking for a darker, more serious adventure. But it’s all worth it just to see her clomp down the stairs and slap Kevin Spacey.
I’m not going to bother with any more plot details, because who really cares? There are one or two surprises, and if you haven’t already heard them, I’m not going to be the one to spoil it for you. Really, if someone likes superhero movies, or epic adventures that don’t take themselves too seriously, then they’re good to go. People aren’t going to ask what it’s about before they go see it. It’s Superman, for god’s sake!

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