Dear Man of Steel, Glad you’re back.
Since his debut in 1938, Superman has saved everyone, been everywhere and had virtually every power comic book writers could dream up. So when Bryan Singer was called upon to bring the Man of Steel back to the silver screen, he faced a dilemma: What do you give the audience that’s seen everything?
His answer: Take success, and make it better, faster and stronger.
With “X-Men,” Singer redefined the comic-book movie genre. Like the “X-Men” comics themselves, this was a different kind of superhero movie ― black leather replaced brightly colored spandex, serious issues of social tolerance replaced simple thrills, and an ensemble of good actors generated real dramatic chemistry.
But with “Superman Returns,” Singer does the opposite of what he did to “X-Men.” Far from a reimagining, this new incarnation is very similar to the classic 1978 adaptation starring Christopher Reeve. As Singer promised, the film is roughly in continuity with the original. In fact, if not for a few differences in the characters, it might even be called a remake.
The first and most obvious similarity: Superman himself. Reeve almost lives again in Brandon Routh, with his cleft chin, parted hair and all-American charm. The antagonists, too, are just as you remember them ― Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is once again out to kill millions through real estate speculation, and for some reason he has once again collected an ensemble of mentally deficient hangers-on.
Spacey is easily the best Luthor ever, reveling in his character’s sarcastic psychopathy, and Parker Posey is a ditzy riot as Kitty Kowalski, the new Miss Teschmacher.
The human good guys, though convincing, are less memorable. In the new film, Superman comes home to Earth after a five-year journey to the ruins of Krypton, to find that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has almost married a Daily Planet editor (James Marsden) and has a son (Tristan Lake Leabu). (She’s also won a Pulitzer for an embittered editorial titled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.”) The family conflict is fortunately secondary to foiling Luthor’s nefarious plot. Still, as a mother, Lois is not quite the self-confident firebrand of times past.
But this is above all an action film, and Superman’s feats inspire the same simple excitement as in the original. Even though it’s been done many times before, the film’s first major set piece, Superman saving a falling aircraft, is just as thrilling as ever, and I found myself giddily cheering on the man in the blue pajamas.
Singer also lets the Man of Steel keep most of his powers ― speed, strength, flight, heat vision, cold breath, they’re all here. And thank goodness, as Singer uses them all to great effect (watch for an extreme close-up in which a bullet deflects off Superman’s cornea).
So look up at the screen! It’s not a bird. It’s not snakes on a plane. It’s ... yeah, you know who.
Action / English
by Ben Applegate