Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Superman Returns

I saw Superman Returns on the Fourth (was it really just yesterday?). My reactions are mixed. By now, you probably know that the film does not so much reimagine Superman as revive the 70's movie version, acting almost as a replacement Superman 3. From the opening titles to the production design to Brandon Routh's performance to Lex Luthor's band of thugs, the film refers back to the first two 70's films constantly, but updates things on a grander scale and with awesome updated effect (the bit where Superman is shot in the eye absolutely rocks).

But when it was over, I wasn't satisfied, like at all. My complaints:

Taking off from the 70's films gives you a built-in history, but at times, it almost feels like a really big-budget fan film. You know, where you've got actors playing all the right parts and going through all the right motions, but the faces and voices are just wrong. There's a certain spark missing. Case in point: the final shot of the film mimics the final shot of the Christopher Reeve films, but Routh doesn't nail the mugging-the-camera smile with the same panache that Reeve did.

Lex Luthor again? Seriously. I know that Superman's villain bench is not as deep as, say, Batman's or Spiderman's, but the Superman animated series showed that you could do interesting variations on the comic's villains. But out of five Superman films, Lex has been a baddie in four. I thought Spacey was great in the role; he was brilliant and sociopathic, with a perfect balance of envy and hatred. But dang it, let's give somebody else a shot, mmm-kay?

The climax disappointed me. Superman only seems to win because Singer decided to retcon kryptonite. In earlier versions, kryptonite weakens Superman whenever he is in close proximity to it. In Singer's version, it only seems to affect him if he's touching it. It makes for a disappointing climax, because instead of rooting for Superman, I'm trying to figure out why he isn't dead.

I had others, but these are the biggies. I liked it, and I'll probably buy it, but this one didn't thrill me the way Batman Begins or the original Reeve Superman did.

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