Monday, July 10, 2006

A Movie Review: Superman Returns

Judy and I finally escaped the kids long enough to see two movies at the actual movie theater this weekend. So that means I can tell you what I liked and didn't like about two new releases! I am so excited. I could be sleeping right now, but nope--I am sacrificing sleep for the good of humanity. Anyway, I only have time for one review right now, and here it is (#2 will come shortly--by Friday at the latest, okay?):


I will be spoiling this movie for you if you haven't already seen it, but that's not really such a big deal, because it's not so good. So yeah, spoilers and stuff. Watch out. Here we go: Is this movie less cheesy than the strangely-revered Donner film? Yes, but not much. At least he doesn't reverse time at any point in this one--although, if he did, that would solve every single problem he has. Why doesn't he reverse time? The moron! Is this movie full of better-looking action sequences than Superman II? Yes, better looking because the technology has improved, but not better imagined. Zod and the Phantom Zone villains are cooler than any amount of giant crystal rock formations and/or plane/space shuttle disasters. Okay, I did love the shuttle sequence from the moment Superman arrived until the silly-but-simultaneously-AWESOME landing with applause at the baseball stadium. That was the best part of the movie, though, and the John Williams theme was there and everything, which is like cheating (as I've said to my brother, even Kangaroo Jack has a bit with the Superman theme by John Williams and it makes a part of that horrible movie into something magical--the theme is that good, but you know it is already, right?). But the scenes leading up to the shuttle catastrophe (especially the "press conference" on board the plane) were embarassingly awkward and goofy. Is this movie as great as Superman III in all its Richard Pryor glory? Well, that's a trick question. Superman III is actually my favorite of the original movies. It's terrible, I know. It has the worst villain, and it is as much about the Richard Pryor character as it is about Superman and it's just not a good film, but we owned it on VHS when we were kids and we watched it more than almost any other movie besides Star Wars just because it was one of the few things we owned. So it's a sentmental favorite. I can't imagine Superman Returns ever being anyone's sentimental favorite, but it could happen. Kids might respond well to that ugly little scraggly-haired child who is supposedly Superman's son. How could he have a son? Unless he knocked Lois up that one time they slept together in Superman II, which he made Lois forget about with his magical Kryptonian kiss at the end of that movie. In which case, isn't she thinking now, "Wtf? How could I have Superman's kid? When did we have sex?" which would be pretty alarming, because I think you'd expect to remember something like that. Is this movie better than Superman IV, the one that was unwatchably horrible and I can't even remember at all. No, it's way better than that. Even Lex Luthor's stupid plan in this movie (and it is a stupid plan--especially for a genius) is better than even the best five minutes of number IV.

So how does it compare with, let's say, Batman Begins. I say, about the same. Maybe not quite as good. I didn't love Batman Begins--I hate Katie Holmes because she acts like she's 12 in a role that needs to be stronger--I hate Christain Bale's tough-guy Batman voice and puckered lips--I hate that Ra's al Ghul is on that train at the end just so Batman has someone to punch--why would he ever be on that train???!!? That's what minions are for! But Batman Begins has a good interpretation of Scarecrow and no cackling villains and it has ninjas, so it can't be all bad. I would watch it again. Meanwhile, Superman Returns has good performances by pretty much everyone. I was surprised by how much I didn't mind Kate Bosworth and I actually liked Brandon Routh. Kevin Spacey was misguided--he was playing some variation on Lex Luthor that I didn't really like, but he played that variation well. The supporting cast was not distracting. The special effects during the action sequences were almost totally fantastic. I hated, hated, hated the sequence with the young Clark jumping around the fields--that was bad CGI--terrible!--but the stuff where Superman is flying around and saving stuff was pretty great. I liked James Marsden's character--he didn't have much to do, but I like that he was heroic and likeable and not a dick or a wimp. I didn't expect that angle on the character. I hated that Superman has a son. If Singer and company cast young people like Routh and Bosworth to leave room for lots of potential sequels, why add the burden of a son to the story? Every sequel now has to be about the son in some way. It totally changes the dynamic, and it's a bad choice--it's an interesting choice, but it's no longer Superman--it's something else entirely. Maybe I'll grow to like that choice, but the sequels will have to be way better than this movie to convince me that it was the right direction to go in.

Basically, I like Superman: The Animated Series.
I think that's the only good version of Superman available right now (besides some of the comics--obviously Superman: Man of Tomorrow Archives Volumes One and Two are unbelievably great--they reprint the Weisinger era crazy-genius Superman stories from the late 50's. All-Star Superman is also a must-read. And I'm partial to the John Byrne revamp stories--epecially the Action Comics team-up issues. And there are a few good issues here and there, but overall--Superman: The Animated Series is the best, consistently right Superman as far as I'm concerned. Superman Returns, not so much. Unless you like your Superman to be a creepy stalker guy and you like your Lex Luthor to have sex with old ladies to earn money (he's a sex machine with all the elderly chicks, apparently--is that supposed to be a funny part of the movie? It's not).

Overall, not recommended. But you probably have to see it anyway. It's Superman.


David Golding said...

I can't believe you mixed up the best Batman film (Batman Returns) for the rather pallid recent effort (Batman Begins)!

Ninjas could make any film better - Singer should have added some.

Timothy Callahan said...

What?!?!? I don't have any idea what you're talking about, David... because I flew around the Earth backwards and changed time. Take that, silly late-night typos!