*** (out of 5)
June 28, 2006
Brandon Routh as CLARK KENT/SUPERMAN
Kate Bosworth as LOIS LANE
Kevin Spacey as LEX LUTHOR
James Marsden as RICHARD WHITE
Parker Posey as KITTY KOWALSKI
Frank Langella as PERRY WHITE
Sam Huntington as JIMMY OLSEN
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Bryan Singer
BY KEVIN CARR
I have to be honest. Over the past several weeks, I had been bracing myself for “Superman Returns” to kinda suck. That prediction was not unfounded. After all, it had a snotty little kid in the film, and Kevin Spacey looked like he was going to stink as Lex Luthor.
After finally seeing the film, I have to say that I was only about half right. Oh, Kevin Spacey still sucked hard as Lex Luthor, but at least the kid wasn’t too bad. Overall, he kept quiet through much of the movie, and at least he was pertinent to the plot (even if his storyline was painfully predictable).
There are two ways to look at “Superman Returns.” First, you can look at is as a big summer action film. In this respect, it does its job pretty well. The production design is slick, and the special effects (while overly cartoony, even for a comic book movie) were pretty cool. In fact, the scenes where Superman does his Superman thing are some of the best in the film.
However, coming to this film as a comic book geek and long-time Superman fan, I had some problems with it. I can’t say how Bryan Singer’s changes to the X-Men mythology hindered or harmed the first two installments of that franchise. After all, I never really read the Marvel comics. However, I cringed at how he made a complete mess of the Superman mythology.
The biggest problem with the overall story from a comic book angle is that Singer tried to be all things to all people. On one hand, he wanted to stay true to the comics. On the other hand, he tried to be consistent with the first two films from the 1970s and 1980s. I’ll admit that the mythology from the comic books has been messed around with for years and isn’t even consistent with itself. But I would have liked it if he would have picked an era and stuck with it.
I’m not sure what the allure was to keep consistent with the first two films, which totally warped and changed the history and background of the character in the first place. Even with Singer keeping consistent with the crystalline world of Krypton, going as far to drop in images and voice over by a 70s-era Marlon Brando, he still just picked and chose what he wanted to work in the story.
Please, Mr. Singer… If you’re going to trample on the backstory of my beloved childhood heroes, just crush it completely and start over. Don’t do a half-hearted job.
The overall story behind the film (and by this, I mean the evil plot of Lex Luthor, not the creepy, Superstalker scenes where the Clark Kent pining over Lois Lane) is pretty good. It definitely recaptures the flair of the original films and the dastardly supergenius character of Lex Luthor from the comics.
However, this decent story is hampered by possibly the worst rendition of Luthor to ever hit the screen. Kevin Spacey tries to channel the Joker from “Batman,” bringing a completely unneeded goofiness to the character. If only he would have dipped into his character from “Se7en,” which was more Lex Luthor than any other Luthor I’ve seen. When will Hollywood learn that the real Lex Luthor was never funny or campy?
Other casting problems include Parker Posey as one of Luthor’s henchmen. She continues her losing streak in mainstream films. Please go back to the indies, Parker, where you actually act well. There were some casting choices that were still pretty good. Brandon Routh makes a fine Superman. Frank Langella is good as Perry White (although sadly underplayed). And Sam Huntington makes a picture-perfect Jimmy Olsen.
Then there’s Kate Bosworth. Well, to say it in SAT-speak: Kate Bosworth is to “Superman Returns” as Katie Holmes was to “Batman Begins.” Bosworth, who is only 23 years old, is supposed to be playing a star reporter who had a relationship with Superman five years before. Maybe someone should call the cops and get the Man of Steel arrested for statutory rape. Did he start going after when she worked at the high school rag?