Rakesh's movie talk
Superman Returns (2006)

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Directed by Brian Singer
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris (based on characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth.

How do I start? Do I end this review saying if you like Donner’s Superman, you will like Superman Returns. No, that’s what everyone would say.

I was at this place which sells used book, and they have an old little movie theatre in it. Not a good theatre. Old fashioned thin paper ticket and air conditioner that creates its own surround system. I go there only in emergency (like, when browsing books, I get this sudden big screen attack). I was passing it when I saw the unmistakable. The Superman Returns poster and it was playing.

Needless to say half an hour later I was in. The air-con hum aside, when the familiar John Williams theme and the opening familiar logo and fonts, I had goose bumps.

In essense (as already mentioned by the makers) director Brian Singer and scriptwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris were making sequels to the first two Superman movies (1978, directed by Richard Donner, and 1980, Directed by Richard Lester, though there is argument that Donner did 80% of the shoot).

Everyone, both on and off screen talents, just carried forward to good work put in those two films. This is a continuation, not a reboot. So, if you are not familiar with the first two (Superman III and IV, thankfully, was ignored), you can be a bit lost.

Superman has been absent for five years. He was away looking for his home planet, which, everyone knows, just exploded and disappeared. He comes back and voila! Things have changed.

The world was moving on. Even Lois Lane has a child. She just won a Pulitzer prize for writing a wonderful article called, "Why the world does not need Superman". Yes, a woman scorn (watch the two films, you know what I mean) and it won her an award.

Clark again attempts to blend in this new world and on the other side, his old nemesis, Lex Luthor, is back and not only he is planning to destroy Superman, but also is going to be the reason for billions to die. There is a line in the original film that goes like this:

Superman: Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks? By planning the death of innocent people?

Lex Luthor: No, by causing the death of innocent people.

Well, if Luthor then was mostly nasty in his mouth, Luthor here is nasty. Plain and simple.

Singer and his team are certainly in awe and worship the Donner version. You can see it in this film. They even brought back Marlon Brando, who played Jor El, Supes dad in the first film. Some of the lines in the original film is here (father, the son. Son, the father). And the Biblical allusion in Donner’s version is amplified here, but not blasphemously.

The biggest question is of course: Does Brandon Routh measure up? A-ha! Itching for an answer huh? We all know how much Christopher Reeve is revered. The respect and appreciation escalated to an unprecedented height especially after he had that accident and later passed away. We miss him. When we watch the original Superman films, we feel a lump in a throat.

And poor little Routh has to win our heart, after all this. Does he? He does. Brilliantly. Routh is the superman for this generation. Yes, he channels some of Reeve in him, but this is not the same Superman. I am not talking about his physical look. This is a man who had been away for long and when you are back, the world is not the same. You are not the same.

Gone are the mumbles and fumbles. Clark Kent here very introverted. He is forever looking and yearning for Lane. Lane has moved on and even has a fiancée. How in hell do you think he is going to take. Both Clark and Superman have to deal with things very differently now. And Routh surpassed all my expectation. If not stereotyped, this young man has a great future.

The others in the cast did well too. Kate Bosworth plays Lane, the same reporters who still have trouble with spelling, but hell, she is a mother now. And her kid. Well, let’s not talk about it. The boy is very important, watch and ye shall find out.

Of course, a special mention must be made of Kevin Spacey. Like Geen Hackman’s Luthor, Spacey’s is egocentric, arrogant, but more brutal. Scenes without Clark/Superman are not dull thanks to him.

But the best thing in this movie is the special effects. In 1978, Superman’s effect was groundbreaking. Many thought that this was helped by the success of Star Wars (1977). Not true, Superman has been in the work much earlier scripting began four years earlier and shooting began in 1976. The result was amazing for its time.

Needless to say, the flying scenes in Superman Returns are brilliant. You have to see it to know what I mean.

I’ve always said that my favourite comic-book movies are Superman and Batman Returns. Recently I added Batman Begins. Now, Superman Returns.

Funny how I kept on going back to these two characters. One, an alien who yearns to be human. The other, a human who feels and/or wants to be alienated.

I am going to watch it again on a proper theatre. I may have more later.

My other Superman movies reviews:

Superman (1978)

Superman II (1980)

Superman III (1983)

Superman IV (1987)