I went to see Superman Returns late last night with Megan and a couple other people. As you’re probably aware, I was really looking forward to it, and for that reason, I didn’t think the movie would meet or exceed my expectations. And it didn’t. That said, it wasn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. Now, when reading the following review, you need to keep a few things in mind:
- I do not profess to be a Superman nut. I have never read a Superman comic book. I really wasn’t interested in Superman until I got hooked on Smallville.
- I’m a huge Smallville fan! I have seen every episode, and read almost everything about the show that I could find. It seems that half of the Superman faithful like the show, and the other half don’t.
- This review will contain spoilers, so if you’re planning to see the movie, skip this post until after you’ve spent your arm and your leg at the theatre.
And now, on with the review! In point form, so I can break it down…
Comparison to Smallville
- I really quite enjoyed the “superbreath”. Word is, Clark will gain this ability in Season 6 of Smallville, and I quite like the way it was done in Superman Returns.
- The full color x-ray vision in the movie is better than in Smallville, but the way Smallville does his superhearing is much better I think.
- I was really looking forward to Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, as I think he’s a superb actor. I really think Michael Rosenbaum does a better Lex though. The problem is that in the movie, there’s nothing to work with. On Smallville, Michael can be good Lex and bad Lex, which probably results in a better character.
- I swear I could hear Annette O’Toole in the Martha Kent in this movie, played by Eva Marie Saint.
Things I Liked
- I absolutely loved the shout out to citizen journalism, even if the kid’s camera phone pictures were far too high quality to be real. Good job Perry White for realizing that the newspaper reporter is a dying breed.
- The suit and the updated Superman logo are excellent!
- Brandon Routh did a great job as Clark Kent/Superman. I was expecting him to suck, but he was actually really easy to like in the role. I don’t know what Roger Ebert was smoking when he said he didn’t like Routh.
- The glasses are an amazing disguise! No seriously, the difference between Clark and Superman in the movie is subtle, but very well done.
- Jimmy Olsen! What a great character. I wonder if Smallville will introduce him…
- The beating up of Superman by Lex and his thugs was very well done.
- Absolutely gorgeous CGI. I think the ability to do so much with graphics is the main reason this film was made.
Things I Disliked
- Kitty Kowalski. Meet the Jar Jar Binks of this movie. Seriously, what the hell was the point of this character?
- The superboy tease. After he pushed the piano, I kept wanting to see him use his abilities again. The camera would even pause on him, as if to set it up, but time after time, he was just a normal kid. Very disappointed it wasn’t explored further.
- The movie was too long. I only noticed it a few times during the movie, but afterward, I felt as though they could easily have cut some of the scenes.
- The complete lack of chemistry, between any of the actors.
- Didn’t Lois find out Clark’s true identity? Why weren’t there any references to that in this movie?
- I felt like the movie wanted to be modern day, but was trapped in the past. Until we see Lois’ car, all of the vehicles look old. The buildings look old. The fashion looks old. Maybe that was the intent, but it looked dumb with cameraphones and LCD tv’s all over the place.
- Kal Penn is in this movie. You know, the guy from Van Wilder and Harold & Kumar? Yeah, exactly. I couldn’t take him seriously. Fortunately, he didn’t have any lines.
- Almost as bad was that every time I saw James Marsden, I kept thinking “Cyclops!” – they should have had someone else play Richard White.
The Worst Parts
- Actually, this one is the best part – near the beginning of the film, there’s a very intense sequence where Superman saves Lois Lane and a bunch of other reporters after a horribly failed Shuttle launch from the top of a Boeing jet. The sequence is so exhilirating and exciting, that everything else in the movie simply cannot match it. That’s why it’s listed here under the worst parts.
- Lex building islands? How lame is that?! This plot device might have been better if it had been given more time to develop, or if Lex had actually acquired some of the “advanced alien technology” he talked about, instead of just some ugly rock in the middle of the ocean. It was totally anticlimactic.
- The movie is called “Superman Returns”, not “Lois Lane Returns”. Far too much time was spent on Lois. This movie should have been all about Superman.
As far as comic book movies go, this one is not at the top of the list. Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman Begins are far better movies, and maybe this film should have followed the same recipe. I think it would have been better if we’d seen Clark Kent become Superman in exactly the same way we saw Peter Parker become Spiderman, or Bruce Wayne become Batman, or Logan become Wolverine. When I mentioned this to Megan, she said, “so you wanted them to make a Smallville movie?” The answer is no. Smallville deals with Clark growing up, gaining his abilities, etc. The movie I have in mind would take place right after Smallville ends (or is supposed to end). Show us Clark deciding to become Superman! Show the transition, just like the other great comic book movies did.
It seems to me that Superman could have used a brand new introduction to the younger generation, and the need to connect to the old movies and credit Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando and those other actors held this movie back. Just imagine, a Superman movie created like Batman Begins was, ignoring the previous films. That would have been so great!
If you like Superman, you’ll probably love the movie. If you just like comic book movies, you might be disappointed when comparing it to the likes of Spiderman.