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"Superman Returns"

Directed by Bryan Singer.
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris.  Based on characters from the DC Comics series.
Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden and Kevin Spacey.

Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  6/28/06


Gordon "The Professional" Stokes and I caught a Tuesday night premiere of "Superman Returns" at the fantastic AMC Tysons theaters in McLean.  We had a lengthy talk (during what might be the longest superhero flick ever made) about what was good, bad and utterly ridiculous.

Let me briefly say that the film is solid; the story covers the re-entry of Superman/Clark Kent (played well by Brandon Routh) into Metropolis five years after leaving to find remnants of his home world, Krypton.  We are meant to assume that everything in the Christopher Reeve-as-Superman/Clark Kent trilogy happened, so we are not surprised to see that Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is up to his old antics, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is still in love with the Superguy, Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) is still sucking up to Clark, and The Daily Planet is still the only newspaper in town.  Luthor is back, and after getting billions from an heiress that he (I'm guessing here) married only for the $$$, he goes off on a hunt to find the Fortress of Solitude and grab some crystals to...

I want to tell you more about what this film is about, because for 160 minutes of running time, you deserve to know what you are signing up for.  However, it is so absolutely fucking ridiculous that even someone with an IQ as low as mine was following it and saying "Wait, is that REALLY Luthor's plan to take over the world?"  Luckily, VERY luckily, this only consumes the last 30-40 minutes of the film.  Everything, and I mean everything, up to that point is very well done, funny, visually stunning, well performed and--for someone that loved the first two Reeve flicks--a great ride down memory lane with all that I loved about those earlier films.  Director Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects" and a couple of "X-Men" flicks) lathers you up with goodies from the earlier films, like giving you the credits done just like the originals, the original score by John Williams (goose bumps did appear on my arms the first time it was played during the new film), and giving us a lead actor that absolutely fucking sounds just like Reeve; Routh doesn't do clumsy quite as well, but he still does it, and in the moments when he's playing Kent, some good laughs are had as he plays up his un-smooth-ocity.

Bosworth is fine as Lane; Spacey adds a different touch to the Luthor character, but with bad guy material as bad as this (and evil accomplices who have almost no lines), I would imagine that whoever writes the next two movies in this new trilogy will do a better job of making Luthor look a bit more maniacal.  As it is here, Spacey does his best to look interested in what's happening but save for reacting to his ditzy companion Kitty (Parker Posey), he doesn't even have the presence that Gene Hackman had when he played this character almost 30 years ago.  The supporting cast is minimal outside of the leads; James Marsden, fresh off of getting hosed as Cyclops in the "X-Men" films, looks like he'll be getting hosed in a future sequel, since he's playing the current partner of Lois Lane, who went off and had a family since Superman took a long hiatus.

Despite the horseshit Luthor scheme, though, "Superman Returns" is a very engaging film, especially over the first 90 minutes.  I like the presumptions that Singer & Co. make in rolling out their story; there is no "who is this Superman guy?" sequence, there's never coverage of how Superman came to be...the first time Kent changes over to Superman, we don't even get some big-blowout "whoa" slow-motion number where he rips off his office attire to show off the big S...he just starts to pull off his shirt, then we cut to him flying to space to save Lane from an out-of-control space shuttle high above Metropolis.  We don't get flashbacks to the Supe/Lane between-the-sheets moments from the originals, complete with those hilarious silver sheets that Supe used to sleep in when he hangs out at the Fortress.  Singer just figures you know what's going on, because EVERYONE knows what's going on, because it's Superman.  Good move.  And, we like watching Supe fight some crime, mixed with some clumsy moves in the office, mixed with Supe just flying around town.  Really, the first hour-and-a-half is magic, but in a movie this long, nobody could hold that feeling forever, and the film tails off badly when Supe's got to take down the Luthor idea, complete with ridiculous set pieces and some of THE WORST logic ever applied to a motion picture near the end.  (Gordon and I spent the entire length of the end credits trying to decipher just how dangerous Kryptonite should be to the Superguy.  Needless to say, we could not come to a conclusive answer.)

Oh well.  The musical score is still badass!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09