Avitable's review of Superman Returns:
I caught the 10:00 show of Superman Returns last night. I am a diehard fan. As a comic geek and a fan of DC Comics, Superman has always been one of my top four favorites. (They are Superman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Plastic Man, since you asked). I've always enjoyed the iconic characters that DC creates, such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, more than the flawed characters from Marvel. So to say that I was anticipating this movie would be a slight understatement.
The original Superman movie has thrilled me since I was a child. Superman 2 thrilled me as a kid, but as an adult I see a lot of flaws. Terence Stamp's amazing performance notwithstanding, there are plotholes, inconsistencies, and random new powers (finger-pointing telekinesis? Magical Saran Wrap S-shield?) that detract from my complete and utter enjoyment. But it is still magical and has the feel of a thrill ride.
Superman Returns has the unenviable burden of coming out from the shadow of these two monolithic movies. I am confident that if anyone had tried to do a re-telling, or a complete departure from the already-established film mythos (a la Batman Begins), it would have been reviled. Richard Donner's epic film affected so many people's perceptions of this iconic hero and his world that I think any re-imagining would have been met with outcry.
The only choice Bryan Singer had was to pay homage to Donner and to the continuity that existed with Superman I and II. And he did it well. From the opening credits to the final scene, the film is soaked with respect and even idolatry of the original film. The story is, of course, a very similar plot, with Lex Luthor and his not-so-evil female counterpart (Kitty instead of Miss Tessmacher) and an evil land scheme.
Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey did amazing jobs filling the shoes of their predecessors. Kate Bosworth played a kinder, gentler Lois Lane. It did not ape or imitate or pay homage to Margo Kidder's memorable role at all. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know yet.
One thing that I loved about the original Superman films was the Daily Planet newsroom. The noise, the bustle, the activity - it was ongoing in the background. When Margo Kidder strides through the bullpen, yelling at people, asking questions, giving answers, it feels like she's in the middle of a newsroom. You understand why Clark Kent can't get a word in edgewise - he's just too nice to butt in like everyone else there.
On this one element, I think Bryan Singer failed. His newsrooms felt like a lounge. Nobody seemed to be working, and everytime someone spoke, the ambient noise dimmed. When Lois brushes Clark off for work, there's no feeling of urgency and no sense of the hectic nature of a newspaper office. This was my only real disappointment with the film.
Otherwise I loved it. It looked gorgeous, the action scenes were flawless, the score was subtle when it needed to be and strong otherwise, and it left me wanting more, and I wanted Bryan Singer and the entire cast to be there to tell the next story.
Were there things that I would have liked to see explored more? Absolutely:
1. More Superman saving the day around the world
2. More interaction between Clark and his mother
3. More exploration regarding the alien weaponry and technology that Luthor was going to use to hold the world hostage
4. Kal Penn actually speaking
5. More examples of Superman's strength
But even without the elements that felt like they were removed to keep the length reasonable, this movie worked for me on every single level except the little detail about the newsroom. And I am sure the ensuing DVD will provide me with more extras than I can handle.
One important note: This movie is not an action movie. It is a story about love, abandonment, and redemption. If you go in expecting a slugfest, you'll be disappointed. But if you're looking for a great movie that will tug the heartstrings of even the most cynical pessimistic fucker, this is it.