Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
Get the Poster
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, based on a story by Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer
Directed by: Bryan Singer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense action violence
Running Time: 154
Date: 06/21/2006

Superman Returns (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Man of Reels

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Last summer, Christopher Nolan gave us a Batman Begins with a dense, psychological center, encased in a junky job of filmmaking. Now Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, the first two X-Men films) delivers the beautiful new Superman Returns, an impeccably made film, but with little inside.

This new Superman is intended to revive a series that ended with the dud Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). It takes place five years after Superman (Brandon Routh) has disappeared, jetting to the far reaches of the universe for a peek at his demolished home planet Krypton, and finally returning to Metropolis and to his faster-than-a-speeding-bullet duties. (Of course, no one notices that both Clark Kent and Superman have returned on the same day.)

Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now a mother, though she has neglected to marry her beau, the pretty-boy nephew (James Marsden) of the notorious Daily Planet editor, Perry White (a muted Frank Langella).

Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has also returned, having snatched a handful of those magic crystals from the original 1978 film, with a plan to own the largest chunk of land on the planet. Spacey gives the movie its main juice, one-upping Gene Hackman with his venomous, narcissistic performance.

Singer lets fly with a series of spectacular set pieces, handled with a strange kind of grace. He has an eye for composition and the patience to marry it to his ball-bearing smooth action. In a kickoff sequence, Superman rescues a plane inconveniently attached to a runaway space shuttle, rocketing through the upper atmosphere, then plummeting back to earth, its wings afire. Singer lets us feel wind, gravity, heat and impact and gives us a front row seat with a 360-degree view.

The problem lies in the humorless, mall-culture casting. Though this story is supposed to take place years into the Superman legend, we're dealing with rank youngsters. The handsome, chiseled Brandon Routh vaguely resembles a plastic action figure; it's hard to believe that Marlon Brando (seen and heard here in outtakes from the original films) could sire such a lump. By contrast, Christopher Reeve brought soul and a nervous, nerdy humor to his role in the original four films.

Bosworth is just as cute, but looks like she should be reporting for her high school rag, not collecting Pulitzer Prizes for a Major Metropolitan Newspaper. (Margot Kidder had the necessary sex appeal and gumption.) Oddly, this cute couple generates so few sparks that even butter holds firm.

The one thing that actually "returns" here is John Williams' score, adapted by John Ottman, blasting over the opening titles with a thundering triumph. Once again, we believe a man can fly.

DVD Details: The two-disc DVD set neglects a commentary track and focuses mainly on making-of featurettes and deleted scenes.

Movies Unlimtied