30 June 2006 | Derek237
Why the world needs Superman...
The basic premise of Superman Returns is that Superman has returned from an unexplained 5-year absence to find a world that seems to be getting along fine without him, that the woman he loves has moved on and has a family, and that he is- at least in terms of any beings similar to him- completely alone. The amazing thing is, this is the least angst-filled, least melodramatic superhero film in the past 5 years or so. I think the recent trend has been to try to get audiences to empathize with their heroes more by making them more human and actually taking them seriously. Peter Parker battles some very serious demons and is in constant struggle with being Spider-man, the X-Men films are very serious and political and the latest instalment, "The Last Stand," featured some startling and emotionally wrenching revelations, and Batman, well, need I go on?
So, here we have Superman in the first new film in almost 20 years. He has his issues, but unlike all the other Super heroes around, he seems to be very solemn about it all. After all, he is Superman, not Clark Kent; Clark Kent is his mask. Obviously a huge nitpick people will have is that Clark comes back the very, very same day as Superman and not one single idiot in the city of Metropolis seems to notice, right? Well, yes, that bugged me too, at first. But then, the more you think about it, that's just how Clark Kent is designed: completely forgettable (except by Jimmy), always in the background, and always overshadowed by the bigger story, which is Superman. David Carradine has a very great speech about Superman at the end of Kill Bill Volume 2 that justifies everything quite nicely to me, so I suggest seeing that if you haven't already. What this movie does a great job of doing is just showing this classic, iconic super hero doing what he does best: saving the day. There's something so refreshing about finally getting that clear view of Superman for the first time after he saves a planeload of passengers from certain doom, and saying with a smile: "Don't let this turn you off to flying, folks. Statistically it's still the safest mode of transportation."
But that brings us to the actual plot. It goes for simple, safe, repetitive tedious, even? And, honestly, it's the kind of plot that just doesn't justify the runtime. Lex Luthor comes up with a ridiculous plan that even in the world of comic books is pretty hard to swallow. He compares himself to Prometheus, how he is so generous with the "mortals" by sharing his wonderful discovery, though planning on killing billions in the process. Lex obviously forgot the last half of that story, where Prometheus is punished and confined to terrible pain for all of eternity. But maybe that's the point. I mean, we all know from the very beginning Lex won't win, he's doomed to lose, that's just how it's meant to be: Superman wins and Lex loses. Written in the scriptures: is, was, ever shall be, in comic strips, TV shows, feature films, living in an ageless universe, for all eternity.
Bryan Singer is obviously aware of this. Singer also directed X-Men 1&2, and I think his biggest problem as a director is that he lacks a sense of completion in his works. X-Men is not the kind of movie that you watch, and then once it's over, you want to watch it over again. It's the kind of movie that you watch, and then once it's over, you want to see the next one. The X-Men films were each done with the presumption that there would be a next instalment, and that's fine I guess if you like always being on the edge of your seat waiting for the next one, but when his Superman movie does the same thing and drags past the 2-and-a-half hour mark, there's a problem. If nothing else, the movie establishes that Superman is indeed back, and we should expect to see more of him in the future.
Superman Returns is definitely a grand film. It's big, it's loud, it's expensive. I usually don't think to myself, 'hey that looks expensive,' when watching a movie, but I did in this case. It doesn't try for anything new or bold, it doesn't want to, and it's nice to see a super hero movie where the hero is the generic do-gooder, and helps mankind because he really wants to. That's why I think Superman garners more universal appeal than any others. But, honestly, the angsty heroes can be much more interesting. Certainly so with last year's Batman Begins, which I thought was a great, perfect movie, while I though Superman Returns was really good, but probably could have been better.
My rating: 7.5/10