Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Too heavy to fly

By Edward Copeland
Superman Returns starts well enough. The familiar John Williams music from the first two Christopher Reeve-led classics and similar credit styles make you think you might be in for a bit of retro-style adventure fun with Bryan Singer's film, which is supposed to take place about five years after the end of Superman II and conveniently forget that Superman III or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace ever happened.

Unfortunately, once the credits are over, Superman Returns fails to stay airborne for any length of time, and there's plenty of length to go around since it runs nearly 2½ hours.

Aside from the film's flabbiness, the main problem with Superman Returns stems from a less-than-compelling story, which is surprising because all the elements are there. Brandon Routh does a fine job as Clark Kent/the Man of Steel and Kevin Spacey is a passable Lex Luthor (though I'll always love Gene Hackman), but I think the real weak link here is Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.

Spunk doesn't seem to come naturally to her and in many ways her performance as Lois is as bland as Clark should appear to be. Maybe she's slightly too old to play Lois to Routh's Superman, but watching Parker Posey have fun as Lex's moll, you start to think what a great Lois she would have been.

The plot, as best as I could make out, concerns Superman's return from a self-imposed five year exile and Luthor's scheme to create a new continent from crystals he finds at Superman's Fortress of Solitude. During Superman's absence, Lois has had a child (think back to Superman II and the picture will dawn on you fairly quickly) and now is engaged to Perry White's nephew (James Marsden, who Singer must view as his own Bill Pullman, doomed to be every female lead's second choice).

I realize that it's silly to ask questions such as the ones I'm about to since Metropolis exists in its own parallel universe, but if we are to accept the premise that the events in Superman Returns take place five years after those in Superman II, shouldn't this be a period piece? How is it that everyone seems to be working on 21st-century technology such as the latest in cell phones, faxes and laptop computers instead of Reagan-era devices?

Furthermore, granted I haven't seen Superman II in a while, but I remember Hackman dragging Valerie Perrine to the Fortress of Solitude and discovering the crystals and seeing a message from Superman's mom (Susannah York). So why does Spacey's Luthor seem completely surprised when he discovers the same things here and sees a message from Jor-El (Marlon Brando in a beyond-the-grave cameo)?

In the end though, what bogs Superman Returns down is its plodding pace, its excessive length and its lackluster Lois.

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Just a counter opinion: It's Posey's character that doesn't know the Fortress of Solitude from an overgrown icicle. Luthor hops right up on the console, pulls out a crystal and starts using it. I saw nothing on his face that made me think he was surprised.
A friend of mine just pointed out something else that doesn't make sense. Since in Superman II, Superman wiped out Lois' memory of their night together, shouldn't she have been fairly surprised that she ended up pregnant? Granted, the kids' abilities might have been a giveaway, but you'd think her lack of memory about the night might make her suspect Superman slipped her a roofie.
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