Superman Returns (2006)
Why the world needs Superman...
The basic premise of Superman Returns is that Superman has returned
from an unexplained 5-year absence to find a world that seems to be
getting along fine without him, that the woman he loves has moved on
and has a family, and that he is- at least in terms of any beings
similar to him- completely alone. The amazing thing is, this is the
least angst-filled, least melodramatic superhero film in the past 5
years or so. I think the recent trend has been to try to get audiences
to empathize with their heroes more by making them more human and
actually taking them seriously. Peter Parker battles some very serious
demons and is in constant struggle with being Spider-man, the X-Men
films are very serious and political and the latest instalment, "The
Last Stand," featured some startling and emotionally wrenching
revelations, and Batman, well, need I go on?
So, here we have Superman in the first new film in almost 20 years. He
has his issues, but unlike all the other Super heroes around, he seems
to be very solemn about it all. After all, he is Superman, not Clark
Kent; Clark Kent is his mask. Obviously a huge nitpick people will have
is that Clark comes back the very, very same day as Superman and not
one single idiot in the city of Metropolis seems to notice, right?
Well, yes, that bugged me too, at first. But then, the more you think
about it, that's just how Clark Kent is designed: completely
forgettable (except by Jimmy), always in the background, and always
overshadowed by the bigger story, which is Superman. David Carradine
has a very great speech about Superman at the end of Kill Bill Volume 2
that justifies everything quite nicely to me, so I suggest seeing that
if you haven't already. What this movie does a great job of doing is
just showing this classic, iconic super hero doing what he does best:
saving the day. There's something so refreshing about finally getting
that clear view of Superman for the first time after he saves a
planeload of passengers from certain doom, and saying with a smile:
"Don't let this turn you off to flying, folks. Statistically it's still
the safest mode of transportation."
But that brings us to the actual plot. It goes for simple, safe,
repetitive tedious, even? And, honestly, it's the kind of plot that
just doesn't justify the runtime. Lex Luthor comes up with a ridiculous
plan that even in the world of comic books is pretty hard to swallow.
He compares himself to Prometheus, how he is so generous with the
"mortals" by sharing his wonderful discovery, though planning on
killing billions in the process. Lex obviously forgot the last half of
that story, where Prometheus is punished and confined to terrible pain
for all of eternity. But maybe that's the point. I mean, we all know
from the very beginning Lex won't win, he's doomed to lose, that's just
how it's meant to be: Superman wins and Lex loses. Written in the
scriptures: is, was, ever shall be, in comic strips, TV shows, feature
films, living in an ageless universe, for all eternity.
Bryan Singer is obviously aware of this. Singer also directed X-Men
1&2, and I think his biggest problem as a director is that he lacks a
sense of completion in his works. X-Men is not the kind of movie that
you watch, and then once it's over, you want to watch it over again.
It's the kind of movie that you watch, and then once it's over, you
want to see the next one. The X-Men films were each done with the
presumption that there would be a next instalment, and that's fine I
guess if you like always being on the edge of your seat waiting for the
next one, but when his Superman movie does the same thing and drags
past the 2-and-a-half hour mark, there's a problem. If nothing else,
the movie establishes that Superman is indeed back, and we should
expect to see more of him in the future.
Superman Returns is definitely a grand film. It's big, it's loud, it's
expensive. I usually don't think to myself, 'hey that looks expensive,'
when watching a movie, but I did in this case. It doesn't try for
anything new or bold, it doesn't want to, and it's nice to see a super
hero movie where the hero is the generic do-gooder, and helps mankind
because he really wants to. That's why I think Superman garners more
universal appeal than any others. But, honestly, the angsty heroes can
be much more interesting. Certainly so with last year's Batman Begins,
which I thought was a great, perfect movie, while I though Superman
Returns was really good, but probably could have been better.
My rating: 7.5/10
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