Superman Returns: A failed but worthy attempt.

This will be the first of my Superman related posts that I will write to illustrate the different incarnations of the popular comic book character in both the big and small screen. These will be done in no particular order, since I’m more inclined to do the more controversial or, shall we say, “maligned” ones first. This will be more my personal take on them and will not necessarily reflect the general public or high brow critics opinion on these movies/ TV shows.

First off, I wanted to comment on this particular movie that came out in the Summer of 2006 and opened to general good reviews and made very good money in the box office, especially overseas. It had been over 20 years since Superman’s last appearance on the silver screen in the much derided and often considered by many fans, worst Superman movie ever. Superman IV : The Quest for Peace ( 1987), had been both a critical and financial failure, due mostly to the way The Cannon Group Inc. handled the financial aspect of the movie. After Superman III (1983), the rights to the character were once again up for grabs and unfortunately, ended up in the hands of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who, even though had some of the best people working on it, and after securing the participation of Christopher Reeve for the titular role, decided to cut the budget for the movie in half, presenting a very poor final product to the public, that would taint the material for the next decade. Several attempts were made to bring the character to life again for the big screen, in the form of an aborted attempt that ,at one point, even had the likes of Tim Burton and Nicholas Cage attached to it. None of those attempts came to fruition, though, and after languishing in Development Hell for many years, Bryan Singer came on board with a pitch for a new Superman movie that, more than a reimagining of the character, would be a direct sequel to Superman II (1980), disregarding the 2 follow-up movies Superman III ( 1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). This, ultimately, would prove to be the movie’s downfall in the public’s perception after repeated viewings, as it awkwardly stood on an undefined middle ground, where it didn’t really know what it was, a prequel or a sequel. Had Singer and the producers wanted to make a direct sequel to the 1980 movie, they should have gone all in, and made it a period piece to match up with the original and not have it set on the modern era of computer graphics and cell phones. This incapacity to give the movie an identity of its own would bring about odd choices in both the Production and Costume design, giving a retro vibe to the whole production that didn’t sit very well with the era setting. But, for me, what really took me out of the picture and still to this day does, was the newly overly designed custome for Superman. The muted colors in the new suit, along with the overly designed boots with Ss everywhere and a brownish looking cape with no S on the back, is, in my opinion, the worst Superman suit ever seen onscreen. The muted and cold color palette of the Cinematography didn’t help matters either, and all those bold and vivid colors that one would expect to get from a Superhero movie, just weren’t there.

To make matters worse, we were presented with a poorly developed script, which didn’t have much meat to it, and the almost all round good cast were resigned to work with what they were given, and mostly making good use of it, given the circumstances. In that respect, Brandon Routh as the main character, ended up getting the raw end of the deal. A young and inexperienced actor, who I think, was cast mainly on the striking resemblance he bore to the late Christopher Reeve, and, who against all the odds wound up giving a very solid performance as both Clark Kent and Superman. I honestly believe that, had he been given the chance to reprise the role, he would have grown more comfortable into it and been a reference for future generations of actors attempting to play the same part. The same cannot be said unfortunately about Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. She was terribly miscast. She was clearly too young to be credible as both a seasoned News reporter and a mom, she was stuck with the most horrible wig ( why she went with that instead of just dyeing her hair its something that buffles me) and was all round a less likable Lois Lane. The rest of the cast did an OK job, Frank Langella as a more subdued Perry White than Jackie Cooper’s and especially Kevin Spacey, who steals the show. His Lex Luther is basically the same as Gene Hackman’s, even repeating some of the lines and the humour, but he also brought a more sadistic and cruel nature to the character.

All in all, the movie is way too long, the characters are underdeveloped, the script is weak, there are some very odd Costume and Production design choices, the Superman suit is horrendous, the Cinematography is too bleak and there’s very little action.

On the plus side, we get some very good action set pieces like the Shuttle rescue, Supes rescue scenes during the earthquake in Metropolis, Lois and Jason’s rescue from Luthor’s sinking ship, the final confrontation on New Krypton…There’s the odd shot with some iffy CGI, which Singer chose to use a lot of during the flying sequences, even after extensive training on wires and even underwater by Routh to achieve the necessary and natural fluidity of someone flying. These scenes are very noticeable and have dated the movie considerably. Other visual effects used in the Shuttle rescue scene, Superman lifting a broken ship from the bottom of the sea or lifting New Krypton into outer space are very well done. All in all, the Visual effects in the movie are a mixed bag.

The use of John Williams’ iconic Superman theme for the opening credits along with the use of Marlon Brando’s likeness for the Fortess of Solitude sequences is another plus. The score by long-time Singer’s collaborator John Ottman is a perfect match to Williams’ epic score and easily one of his best ever.

It’s a pity that they never got a better script to work with, but that being said, it’s got one of the most bizarre ideas for a Superman script ever put to screen concerning Lois’ child and that sadly never got to be further developed in a sequel.

In short, some very iconic imagery; Superman catching the Daily Planet’s globe before it crashes on the street, the Shuttle rescue sequence and the final confrontation on New Krypton would be the stand out set pieces in a movie that doesn’t have many of them. All the rest, like Lex’s visit to The Fortress of Solitude, his obsession about Land, Clark’s chidhood memories of discovering his powers…are all there for fan service purposes only and a clear callback to the 1978 movie. As if we needed reminding.

It was a highly anticipated movie back in the day and it still has, for my money, one of the best Teaser trailers ever made for cinema. No wonder we all got so excited.

A failed but worthy attempt that sadly we never got to see more of.

Thanks for reading

Published by flickgeeky

Love cinema and everything that has to do with it, from the screenwriting to the filmmaking process, acting, to its final presentation on the big screen and finally, to its home media release

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