I’m writing this on a half a screen as I watch Supergirl (not the terrible spin-off movie from the Donner Superman series, the pretty good show on Netflix). Gotta love technology.
And as I’m watching Supergirl, I’m like “man, I like this show, I like that it’s light and optimistic – things Superman should be.” Which in turn got me thinking about the last time we had a light and optimistic Superman movie (not a dig at Man of Steel…well, alright, a little bit of a dig)…good ol Superman Returns, a film which has gotten a reputation of a misfire; which it was. But in my opinion, a very enjoyable one.
Let’s look at the bad, cause there is a number of bad things. There are elements to the plot that you could throw kryptonite islands through, including the kryptonite island not affecting Superman sooner (although I give it a bit of pass, cause we got that sweet Super-Sun soak up scene before the island bit). The movie having yet another Lex Luther real estate scam as the ultimate evil Superman must overcome was a bit disappointing, as the character has a considerable rogues gallery of villains you could use beyond Lex Luthor and General Zod (don’t get me wrong, they’re great characters – but let’s move on please). How about Brainiac? Or a good Doomsday? Or Darkseid? (I digress).
The Super-son and lack of Lois freak out also makes no sense, as her memory of her night with Superman was wiped at the end of Superman 2 (pre-Donner Cut). They could have included a scene or SOMETHING where she hints/flat out says she remembers, otherwise she should be freaking the heck out. I know Superman sulking around the movie was off-puting to a lot of people, but it didn’t bug me as much. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was a bit of miscast – not knocking her performance, she did alright, she was just too young for the part in my opinion.
Now onto the good, which there’s a lot of:
Brandon Routh was an excellent Superman – they were going for a continuation of the Reeves-Donner films, and Routh was a fantastic choice to pick up the cape. He had the ‘Kent the cluts’/Supes the confident dynamic down to a T. Kevin Spacey was FANTASTIC as Lex Luthor, having some of the hamminess of Hackman but adding some real menace to his performance – I only wish we got more of that. We also got some great scenes; Superman saving the city (something we need more of in Superman movies) while the krypto-island was being created, the scene where he was in earths atmosphere hearing people cry out for help, the krypto-island beat down/stabbing (with Kevin Spacey’s chilling “Now fly.”), plus quite possibly the double highlight of the film – the scene where Lois’ fiance suggests that Clark is Superman (and they LAUGH after he gives that really goofy smile and wave) AND the airplane rescue sequence (where Superman officially returns, in great fashion). The former scene highlighted perfectly why it’s not just the glasses that hides his identity, but the whole clumsy, stuttering, awkward, odd Clark persona he had created (seriously, love that scene). Also something that must be shouted out was the absolutely fantastic score by John Ottman. Go check that one out. Well worth a listen.
The biggest issue this movie had was not being what it should have been – but what we got I still really liked. Superman Returns was way too much of a love letter to/continuation of the Donner movies. It was a 1970’s Superman movie in 2006; and in that view it was a good one. But what it needed to be was a 2006 Superman movie. The franchise needed to move forward instead of clinging to its past. And in that respect, you have to give Man Of Steel props – cause it moved things forward. However, I do hope future Superman movies do take note and embrace some of the good things Superman Returns added to the franchise.
Give the movie another go sometime, you may end up liking it more.