SUPERMAN RETURNS


Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris
Released June 2006

For reasons which I’ll never fully understand, Singer and Co. decided to make this film a direct sequel to 1980’s SUPERMAN II, ignoring the events of SUPERMAN III and SUPERMAN IV. Despite almost 26 years passing in real life, this movie takes place 5 years after the end of Superman II, although it is set in the present day. For the record, I don’t really have a problem with that premise, it’s typical of comic-books, where time never really passes (I’ve got comics where Superman’s met President JFK, President Ronald Reagan, and President Bill Clinton, & Superman is the same age in all of them) so I can accept it in a movie. But there are other problems that arise from this film, as the writers didn’t clearly think about lining up the exact details with how Superman II ended. Apparently, almost immediately after defeating (but NOT killing) Zod, Ursa, and Non, Superman was informed of some kind of signal from deep space which implied that there might be other Kryptonian survivors out there, and so he left in a spaceship to go find them. You’d think that after all the trouble those three criminals caused on Earth, Superman might be hesitant about finding others, what if they’re evil too? And the film ended with Superman telling the President that he wouldn’t let us down again, and then a few days later he’s leaving the planet? Whatever.

5 years later he lands back at his mother’s (Eva Marie Saint) farm, informing her that he didn’t find anything. He goes back to Metropolis as Clark Kent to get his old job back, and reunites with Perry (Frank Langella), Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington), and Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth). He also meets Richard White (James Marsden), Perry’s nephew and Lois’ Baby Daddy. Apparently, almost immediately after Superman wiped Lois’ memory of his secret identity and their sleeping together, Lois went out and had sex with Richard, so when she got pregnant she and everyone else assumed it must be Richard’s. They had a son they named Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu) and they all live together, although Lois and Richard have not married.

Meanwhile we learn that Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) had been freed because Superman never showed up to testify against him in court (which makes no sense, Lex was already in prison because of his crimes in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, and then broke out in the beginning of Superman II, so even if he wasn’t convicted of any new crimes from the sequel, he was definitely guilty of a prison-break, which would therefor add to his original sentence), and hooked up with some wealthy older woman (Noel Neill), who dies at the beginning of the film and leaves Lex all of her money. Parker Posey plays Kitty Kowalski, Lex’s assistant, whom he enlists along with 4 random henchmen (one of whom is only barely notable because he’s played by Kal Penn) in his new scheme. They make their way back to the Fortress of Solitude where Lex activates the hologram of Jor-El (Marlon Brando) to learn all of Krypton’s secrets, and then steals some crystals. Which he intends to use to create a new continent in the Atlantic ocean which he would control. In other words, it’s another real estate scheme.

Lex experiments on one crystal which causes a blackout in Metropolis that leads to plane Lois is one almost crashes, so Clark has to switch to Superman and fly up to save it. That sequence is awesome. Unfortunately, that’s like half-hour into the film, and it’s the best action scene in it. And the coincidence of Superman and Clark Kent leaving and returning at the same time never occurs to anyone who knows both of them. Then we get the creep-tastic scene of Superman floating outside of Lois and Richard’s house, using his x-ray vision and super-hearing to observe their private conversation inside their own home. Way to go, superstalker. We got a few more scenes of Superman in action around the world, saving people, including facing down a guy who somehow mounted a huge Gatling gun on top of a building and was just randomly shooting at people below. Superman slowly walks up to him, giving the man time to turn around and aim the gun at him and shoot hundreds of rounds which bounce off of Superman’s chest (I sure hope none of those ricochets hit anyone else), and there’s the admittedly cool sequence of one bullet bouncing directly off Superman’s eyeball.

There’s another scene of Superman meeting Lois atop the Daily Planet and he picks up and flies with her. I can’t tell if he’s actually hitting on her. If he is, that’s not cool. Dude, she’s living with another man and they have a kid together. Back off. Plus, Superman already knows because of what he went through in Superman II that he can’t be with Lois, because that would mean giving up his powers, which would be irresponsible. See, if you’re going to make this a sequel to an older movie, then you can’t just ignore the parts of the movie that you’d don’t like.

Lois, with Jason, meets Lex on his boat. He tells her his evil plan, but Spacey comes off way more campy than Gene Hackman ever did, in my opinion. He never really seems particularly threatening to me, which is very disappointing to me. Spacey’s performance in films like Swimming With Sharks convince me that he could have been a truly evil Lex Luthor, if given better material. Anyway, he somehow guesses that Jason might really be Superman’s son, which is confirmed later in the film, when Jason suddenly crushes a henchman to death with a piano. That’s right, we get to see a 5-year old boy kill a man. Yes, I know, he was doing it in defense of his mother, but, still, he’s 5. Why the heck was the scene written like that? They couldn’t think of any other way to show the boy displaying super-powers? He couldn’t have flow over, or ran at superspeed, and picked up the henchman with one hand and tossed him aside, knocking him out?

When Superman finally appears on Lex Luthor’s new Kryptonite landmass, I wonder why didn’t Supeman feel anything? Lex sees a bead of sweat dripping down Superman’s head and realizes that Superman has lost his powers, you’d think Superman would have noticed that himself. Lex and his thugs beat up Superman and toss him into the ocean. Richard, who came to Lois and Jason’s rescue in a helicopter helps them find Superman in the sea. Lois jumps into the ocean to grab him. I guess it was a nice switch to see Lois rescuing Superman for a change, but there’s no way skinny little Lois should be strong enough to carry Superman like that.

Superman stops Lex, lifts the giant landmass up into space, then collapses. In the hospital, Lois whispers something to him, presumably about Jason, and then Superman wakes up and flies to sneak into Jason’s room at night, whispering some speech about fathers and sons. Then he talks to Lois, she clearly almost says “I love you,” and he flies off into the night. And I’m left baffled about what the heck is this supposed to mean? Superman seemed to be pretty happy to discover that Jason is his son. Now what? Is he going to tell him? Help raise him? And what the heck is going through Lois’ mind? Her mind was wiped at the end of Superman II, she doesn’t remember sleeping with Superman, so does she think she got pregnant by him through immaculate conception? Because I never saw a moment where she regained her memory of before, and if she remembers everything now, does that include the fact that Clark Kent is Superman?

But worst of all, what about Richard? This guy clearly loves Lois and Jason. He risked his life to save both of them. He’s spent the past 5 years raising Jason, whom he believes to be his son. So what’s going to happen to him now? Does he just get pushed aside so Superman can be with Lois and Jason now, or are they just going to keep lying to him, letting him think he’s the father? Either way that’s messed up, and it exemplifies how poorly thought out that this film was.

The only things I can praise this film for is Brandon Routh’s performance. He does an excellent job, clearly channeling Christopher Reeve for inspiration, without seeming like a parody. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the cast. Langella and Huntington were fine as Perry and Jimmy, but weren’t given much to stand out. I’ve already mentioned Spacey, I’ll also say Posey’s character was never evolved past a cliche. And Bosworth was horribly miscast as Lois, mainly because she looked way too young for the part. The only thing I liked about this film are the special effects. When Superman is flying in this film it looks very real. I’m probably being overly generous in not giving this film an F, but I can’t give this the same grade as the truly atrocious Superman IV. So the highest I’ll give it is:

And for those keeping score, yeah, that’s right, I’m giving this a lower grade than Superman III, with Richard Pryor. I would much rather rewatch that film than this one.

SUPERMAN RETURNS

  3 comments for “SUPERMAN RETURNS

  1. April 19, 2014 at 1:03 AM

    Ah, a difference of opinion. I know a lot of people who didn’t like this film and given all the plot holes you pointed out I can understand why. I however, kinda favored this film. Can’t really explain why. I liked the scene when lex stabs superman with the kryptonite rock. It was chilling to watch the man of steel get mortally wounded like that. Still good review.

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