Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Superman Returns (2006) ****

PG-13, 154 min.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer, Jerry Siegel (characters), Joe Shuster (characters)
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando, Kal Penn, Tristan Lake Leabu

Every time I rewatch “Superman Returns” I find myself feeling the need to defend it. I think it is brilliant. Many critics thought it was very good at the time of its release. Audiences: not so much. This defect with the general public is often attributed to the slow pace of the movie and lack of frequent action scenes. I think someone who is bored by this film is defining more about themselves than they are about the movie.

What I like so much about this movie is it’s ability to recall the first two Superman movies, replicate the important parts of those movies and add to them thematically. Unlike those films, this one lacks all their camp, but still contains humor. Instead of the baser humor of those films, this one employs subtle and intelligent humor. It also takes its entire premise from the launching point of those two iconic films. All of the relationships are continuations of those established previously. The structure of this film is the same as the first, the credits and score are the same, and even Lex Luther’s villainous plot is a variation on the plot thwarted by Superman in the first film.

This film is deeper and more textured than the original, however. The themes of alienation and the savior symbolism are presented in much stronger statements here. In my recent review of the 1978 original, I claimed “they got it right.” And they did. They put together all the elements necessary to pull off a successful and accurate Superman movie. And they did it well, and with style; but there wasn’t a whole lot of depth involved. They took all the iconic elements of Superman and presented them in an entertaining movie.

In “Superman Returns” they dig deeper into the core meanings of the Superman mythology. It’s no accident that Lois Lane is being awarded a Pulitzer Prize for writing an article titled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”. The whole movie is an argument against that. But even more than arguing why the world really does need Superman—if only in our own mythology—it argues why Superman needs to be who he is in our world. With the wide release of “Man of Steel” just hours away, we’ll soon see if this isn’t the best Superman movie yet.

Read my original review of "Superman Returns" here.

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