Superman Returns

 
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by:Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Kal Penn
Released: June 29, 2006
Grade: B

Fans of Superman have been waiting a long time.  The last film in the series was released in 1987 and there’s been speculation ever since of a follow up.  Several directors showed an interest in the project and many suggestions were offered as to who should wear the famous blue suit.  In the end, director Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) and unknown actor Brandon Routh were chosen to bring Superman to 21st Century audiences.

This new film is set five years after the conclusion of the last.  Superman hasn’t been seen in this time and his homecoming has excited everyone.  Where has he been hiding?  Why has he returned?  Does he have a love interest?  Editor of the Daily Planet newspaper, Perry White (Langella), wants his team of reporters to find the answers.

There are two people who aren’t too enthusiastic about Superman’s return.  The first is Lois Lane (Bosworth).   Lois and Superman were once very close but his sudden disappearance left Lois heartbroken.  It took many years but she finally moved on and found a new love.  His name is Richard (Marsden) and they have a young son.  The fresh news of Superman has stirred feelings in Lois that she thought had been buried.

Villain Lex Luther (Spacey) isn’t too happy to hear about Superman either.  Having just been released from prison, Luther has a new plan to take over the world and doesn’t want his arch-nemesis spoiling it.  He believes he can combat Superman’s physical power with his own mental prowess.  Luther knows Superman’s weakness is kryptonite and he intends to exploit it.

There’s a lot to like about Superman Returns.  I was pleasantly surprised by the great performance turned in by Brandon Routh in the leading role.  He portrays Superman as a funny super-hero who likes the spotlight.  At the same time though, you get the sense that there are parts of his life that he wish he could.  Being a super-hero ain’t easy!  The other cast member who excels is Kevin Spacey.  Both his physical appearance and his dry sense of humour reminded me of Dr Evil in the Austin Powers series (one of my all-time favourite villains).

Conversely, there’s a lot not to like about the film.  At 154 minutes, it’s way too long.  The lengthy introduction was not necessary and the romantic finale feels like it’s never going to end.  These scenes are trying to make the film into more of a drama than an action flick (which I think is a good idea having seen Batman Begins last year) but it’s overdone.  My other gripe would be with the story in general.  Lex Luther’s scheme for world domination, which is pretty silly, isn’t made clear until well into the film.

In the last two months, we’ve been barraged with blockbusters in our cinemas.  There’s been Mission: Impossible 3, The Da Vinci Code, X-Men: The Last Stand and Poseidon.  I’m starting to feel jaded by their relentless marketing campaigns.  This week, Superman Returns has been thrust into the spotlight and audiences will flock to see it.  It’s worth a look but if you think it’s going to live up to 19 years worth of hype, think twice.