The UnPopular Opinion: Superman Returns
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
Yes, the same guy who hated THE AVENGERS loved SUPERMAN RETURNS. Begin the onslaught of derision and spite! I will never apologize for my opinions, especially when it comes to movies. But, read on and if you disagree with me, you are welcome to point it out in the talkbacks below.
SUPERMAN RETURNS was not just the culmination of a long road to creating a new Superman movie, but the end to a journey of 19 years without fans being able to see one of the greatest comic book heroes on the big screen. Multiple filmmakers from McG to Tim Burton to Kevin Smith and JJ Abrams had tried to write or direct a new Superman movie to no avail. It was not until Bryan Singer finished working on the first two X-MEN movies that it became a reality.
Most of the superhero series that have made their way to the big screen have not had a level of visual consistency as directors left and new filmmakers came on board. Until the Marvel Cinematic Universe at Disney, when a new person came in, the entire vision of the hero switched. Think Joel Schumacher versus Tim Burton or Sam Raimi versus Mark Webb. Back in the Richard Donner days, when Richard Lester took over, he worked with what Donner had already created on SUPERMAN II before veering off into ridiculousness with SUPERMAN III. Don't even get me started on SUPERMAN IV. Bryan Singer decided to keep his Superman as close to the classic Donner version as possible, both as homage and reintroduction.
Man, Superman gets really shitty reception up here in the North Pole.
Superman is an icon and many feel his place in modern society is no longer what it was back in the 1940s. Back then, like Captain America, Superman represented the American Way. As times grew more cynical and dark, heroes like Batman and Punisher became what the fans wanted. No matter how many times they tried to change him, Superman has always represented pure good. Singer's film retains that throwback to the 40s feel that Donner's film had. So, when you watch SUPERMAN RETURNS, it feels like you are seeing Richard Donner's SUPERMAN III, right down to the inclusion of John Williams iconic score. It is a direct continuation that doesn't feel like it had a twenty-six year gap in between. He even was able to bring Marlon Brando back from the dead for one final role! Now that is Hollywood power!
Brandon Routh feels like the reincarnation of Christopher Reeve. You see him on screen and you almost feel like it is the same hero from your childhood. Everything from the mannerisms as Clark Kent to the clothing and glasses feels like it was saved from the first movie. Routh, at first, feels like he is doing an imitation of Reeve, but as you continue into the movie, you know he is respecting the uniform he fills while also giving his own spin on the part. Routh has not exactly had a stellar post-SUPERMAN RETURNS career, but he also has not allowed the part to typecast him. Routh brought a strength to the role that should have launched him to a bigger career than he has had.
What is the opposite of Christopher Reeve? Christopher Walken! Get it?
Many people had issues with Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. Sure, she was a little bit shrill for the part and her voice was grating and annoying. Plus she looked kind of dowdy. Oh, wait, I am thinking of Margot Kidder! What was so bad about Bosworth? She may not have looked like the traditional Lois, but she carried herself as the stronger, more modern version of the part that fits with today's world.
Adding in their son, Jason Kent, is my biggest issue with the movie. I liked the James Marsden character since Superman has not really had any competition for Lois on the big screen, but the kid felt a little forced. I was dreading the moment he would display the same powers as his father, but when it finally happened, I was okay with it. It is a lot like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake being revealed to be Robin. Sure, I could have done without it, but it does not ruin the movie for me.
Go on, tell me again who played a better villain than me. Hackman? WROOOOOOOONG!
Now, let us talk about the absolute best casting in the entire movie: Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. From the moment I saw SEVEN, I knew Kevin Spacey was destined to be Lex. The diabolical eyes, the undercurrent of insanity, and a great yelling voice. Not to mention phenomenal acting chops. Spacey combines the best elements of Luthor from the comic books and from Gene Hackman's performances. He is funny and evil at the same time to the point I want him back whenever the villain is introduced in the Zack Snyder series.
That being said, my only problem with SUPERMAN RETURNS is that the plan Lex concocts is not worthy of the movie. Bryan Singer created this Metropolis with enough realism that I felt we had the best Superman ever visually displayed but we are left with him using that ultimate power to create Kryptonite based real estate? Well, I guess that is very Luthor-esque, I was just waiting for a giant robot to battle Superman to round it out.
While Lex's plot may not be the most solid part of the movie, it is a minor quibble compared to what Singer does accomplish. The re-introduxtion of Superman via the space shuttle rescue is brilliant and showcases how breathtaking Superman looks when flying using modern special effects. Even when Supes battles criminals, namely in the rooftop shootout, we finally see what we all imagined Superman to be like. Bullets don't phase him, or even make him blink! Each utilization of his superpowers looks realistic and amazing on the big screen.
Absolute cinematic perfection.
If I were to pick one Superman movie to watch, I would grab the original 1978 movie. If I were to follow it up, I would go for SUPERMAN RETURNS. As much as I love the battle with General Zod from SUPERMAN II, that movie feels muddled. SUPERMAN RETURNS is a complete movie. It has action, humor, and especially heart. For an alien hero, Superman is one of the most human characters in all of literature and the filmmakers behind SUPERMAN RETURNS truly understood that. I would have been all for a Singer directed sequel, but alas we get MAN OF STEEL instead. I will hold out hope that it will be a fitting continuation of the Superman movies I have come to love, even if it doesn't share the same visual style.Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!