SPOILERS: Do not read this if you haven’t seen the movie yet. If you just want to know if I liked it or not…YES. Go see it!
And now, for the SPOILER-filled review.
If you’ve read my blog or Crystal Says… before (the archives are accessible on my main page), you know I adore Superman. I had a monster crush on Christopher Reeve when I was but a lass, and some of my first works of fiction used the Man of Steel as a hero. Who knows what it is about him: he’s a real goody-goody sometimes, but I think I dig his dependability. When the first Superman came out, years and years ago, I was enthralled and the movie still holds up well for me. (See my December 31, 2005, blog entry for my gushy take on the first Superman.) But would this version hold up? I was a bit nervous, but when I saw it today…YOW, did it ever!!! Even from the first scene, when Lex Luthor is shown in all his rat glory, I was hooked. Kevin Spacey’s Luthor is a villain worth his salt; he’s been shaped by his last five years in jail. He’s not surrounded by Otis-like stooges this time—he’s running with criminals who’ll just as soon smash Lois Lane into a table than look at her. This Luthor is no deluded genius: he proves deadly and smart. He makes Superman sweat.
And, you ask, how was Brandon Routh as Supes? Well, let me qualify my answer by telling you that I’ll always be a Christopher Reeve fan: he had a charm that filtered from the screen to the audience and, while his Clark Kent was bumbling, the character was endearing. I used to absolutely love when Clark would do something dorky in front of Lois, apologize profusely, then let her walk past him only to flash a killer smile that told you who was really under the glasses. But how about Routh? Yes, he’s eerily similar to Reeve in many ways, but his shoulders aren’t as broad and his Superman isn’t as flippant. This isn’t necessarily bad, because Routh is built like a brick you-know-what house and his Supes is a little more serious and darker than Reeve’s. However, I do miss the larger-than-life version of the Man of Steel. I miss the belly laughs of seeing Clark’s face as he sees the newfangled phone booth, for instance. That sort of humor was definitely missing from this movie, but what the film lacked in humor, it made up for in heart. In spades. There are a lot of awesome moments that’ll have you worried or even grieving.
BUT HOW ABOUT ROUTH?
Girls and boys, he totally pulls my trigger.
If you’re prone to heroics, you’ll know exactly what I mean. My gosh, you’ve never seen Superman done like this before. The guy can fly all right, but this time out, instead of being all, “La la la” as he meanders through the skies, he’s a rocket. This is no exaggeration. The action/rescue scenes are rousing, and you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen him manhandle a 777 plane (or “supermanhandle” it. Sorry. The joke was totally there for the taking.). In this movie, you get to see Superman tested in major ways because Luthor knows his foe’s weakness—kryptonite. And he damned well uses it.
Gosh so much to say, and 95% of it’s positive. But you know me. I still had a beef. We’ll get to that in a second because I want to gush some more. Indulge me?
Last year in Crystal Says… I reported on the Comic-Con San Diego presentation from Bryan Singer. He’d brought a clip with him, and it was full of positives. First, I fell for the movie’s cinematic tone: the dark, dreamy burgundies and noir nightscapes of Metropolis. This remains the same in the movie—it’s a gorgeous thing to behold, from many of the special effects to the art direction to Lois Lane’s throwback costuming. Supes’ retro-suit is wonderful, too. Second, I also loved the nostalgia and clear respect Singer was bringing to the production: he used Marlon Brando’s voice to accompany the teaser clips, for example. This quality was evident in the movie, from the rousing opening credits that harken back to the first Superman movies to the Kent farm. And, finally, Singer showed us that one incredible moment where Superman is hovering in space, just above Earth and WHOOOOOSH, he takes off in a burst of furious speed, then explodes forward in a sonic boom. The fans were won over and demanded that the clip be shown again. The love for Singer knew no bounds that day: every fanboy and fangirl knew that the franchise would retain that unbeatable Superman spirit. However, during the question and answer period, it became obvious that there was one big thing bugging the fans: the casting.
I’ve talked about Brandon Routh, the big question mark. His appearance in Singer’s Comic-Con clips did a lot to appease the fans. But there was also much concern about the casting of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. See, the timeline of Superman Returns is this: he has returned to Earth about five years after the ending of Superman II, the movie in which him and Lois did the deed. Of course, he wiped her brain of the memories with a super kiss. This movie finds him returning from a search of the galaxy to find another being like himself. Not everyone is happy to see him. Lois says she has a fiancé and they’ve had a child together. Supes is not stoked at this news, especially since it’s real obvious that Lois is still carrying a torch for him. Now, the problem is this: in those first movies, Lois was played by Margot Kidder, who seemed age-appropriate for a seasoned investigative reporter. Kate Bosworth, who’s done some great work in films such as Beyond the Sea, is in her early-twenties. Not only has the character aged backward from the “other” Lois, but this is five years later and she has a child. It’s funny that I can believe a man can fly, but I couldn’t buy Bosworth as Lois. She’s a very strong actress—don’t get me wrong—but she is way, way too young for this part, and she can’t overcome that. In any other movie, I would believe she’s a crack reporter who's just starting out, but in this one, she’s supposed to be Lois Lane, an iconic character with a lot of expectation and fan baggage. Also, this Lois is missing a lot of spunk—she has the smarts (most of the time), but there’s none of the adorable cynical spark that Kidder brought to the role. This Lois is stoic and rarely even cracks a smile, which I can understand after she had her heart broken by Supes, but this was a major reboot of the character I’d grown up with and admired, and the change was unsettling. I related to Kidder’s Lois because she was a scattered single girl who was so type A that she seemed ready to jump out of her skin half the time; her turn from jaded city reporter to doe-eyed lovergirl never betrayed her core of scrappy, slightly goofy determination. This Lois has the determination, and that’s about it.
So why didn’t Supes’ age bug me as much? Actually, it did a little. In fact, at first I was wondering if I’d walked in to a presentation of Superman 90210. But, then again, he’s an alien and I could buy that his aging process might be slower. I cut that one some slack since I was already making allowances for the flying and X-Ray vision and crap.
But the lack of humor and the casting are small reservations because with the drawbacks, there are boons that more than make up for it.