Created by many members of the team responsible for the X-Men series, Superman Returns is a strong new chapter in the story of the man of steel.
After an unsuccessful five-year stint in space looking for the remains of his home planet Krypton, Superman returns to earth to discover life has gone one without him. Martha Kent is still on the farm in Iowa, Lex Luthor is once again cooking up criminal schemes, and Lois Lane has a fiancé, a son, and a Pulitzer Prize for writing an article entitled, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.”
Quickly, though, he discovers that the world does need him. Luthor is plotting to create a new landmass made of Kryptonite-laced crystals stolen from the Fortress of Solitude, which will displace the entire United States and cause the death of billions of people. This seems like a job for Superman.
Director Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) creates an attractively stylized Metropolis that, while modern, offers an aesthetic homage to the 1930s Metropolis of the original comics. And Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris’s smart script is packed with well-crafted jokes that also give a nod to the movie's roots (e.g., working the well-worn phrase “It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman,” into an argument about one of Jimmy Olsen’s photos).
While relative newcomer Brandon Routh looks every bit the Superman/Clark Kent figure, his acting is a bit wooden. As Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth (Beyond the Sea, Blue Crush) simply comes off a little too young to be believable as an award-winning journalist, let alone mother to a school-aged boy. Kevin Spacey--a controversial choice according to comic aficionados—creates a Napoleonic, petulant Lex Luthor with a weird penchant for wigs, and Parker Posey is terrific as his gangster moll-like girlfriend, Kitty Kowalski. But it is Sam Huntington (Detroit Rock City, Not Another Teen Movie), who turns in one of the movie’s most natural performances as Jimmy Olsen.
Superman Returns deftly works on two levels, including references to the Superman myth for hard-core fans, while still managing to appeal to kids and those less studied in the ways of comic book heroes. The movie also walks the line between fantasy and believability; the task of accepting a modern-day world in which a man wearing blue tights with his underpants on the outside and a red cape makes sense is an arduous one. However, the dazzling special effects—complete with calamitous plane crashes and natural disasters, as well as the bullets bouncing off Superman’s divinely human figure—are just too fun to deny.
What’s On the Disc
Superman Returns packs a simple but powerful punch, with one disc of the two-disc set entirely devoted to extras.
The extras include: a handful of deleted scenes, mostly dealing with the back story and set up (understandably left out, since the movie has a running time of nearly 2.5 hours), a short featurette entitled “Resurrecting Jor-El,” which shows how archive footage of the late Marlon Brando (from the original Superman) was revamped for use in this movie, and the piece de resistance, an extensive, nearly three-hour behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the movie, entitled “Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns.”