19 January 2007 | dfranzen70
Not Super, not Stupid, just a hair above average
Superman's back and there's gonna be trouble, hey na, hey na, Superman's back! Well, hey, if Batman can begin again, Supes can come back to Earth, so to speak, right? Only this time it's not the late Christopher Reeve or even George Reeves, it's relative newcomer Brandon Routh as the Man o' Steel. Seems he's been gone lo these past five years in deep space, checking the general vicinity of where Krypton once existed. (Astronomers reported they'd found traces of the planet, so off Superman went to check out his home; oddly, neither he nor the astronomers mentioned that he was leaving.) But now he's back, and so is, coincidentally, Clark Kent. After reunited with his Earth mom Martha (Eva Marie Saint), Clark returns to work at the Daily Planet, greeted enthusiastically by Jimmy Olson ( ) and less enthusiastically by Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), who's really moved on. Seems Lois has fallen in love, gotten married, and given birth, all five years ago. Huh, how about that. Her hubby is now an assistant editor at the Planet and is conveniently the nephew of Perry White, played by the magnificent Frank Langella.
Meanwhile, Superman isn't the only one making a comeback after five years; seems Lex Luthor, put away in prison for what was supposed to be many life sentences, is out on appeal, or something. Anyway, he's up to no good, and it involves killing billions of people and forcing the survivors to bow to him and lavish him with money and gifts and so on. Kevin Spacey plays Lex this time around, and he's a great choice - megalomaniacal without being hammy, which is a fine line. Makes one even forget the great Gene Hackman. (Of course, we all know the pitfalls of having a villain who has a stronger personality than the hero, don't we, Tim Burton?) So Supes is back, and Perry wants Lois to cover his return, but Lois wants to cover this weird blackout that affected pretty much everyone (notably, a Space Shuttle launch that winds up being saved by Superman, as you've no doubt seen in the trailers). Could the two issues be related? "You're reporters - find out!" Perry growls at his young charges.
There have been scads of comic-book-related movies over the past decade or so, with varying degrees of success, and from what I've read of this one it was a bit of a disappointment, both critically and financially (it made $200 million in the US, but it cost $270 million to make). Having said that, though, I liked it. Plenty of great action, as you'd expect from a director like Bryan Singer (who left the X-Men series just to do this). For a change, the big action scenes don't feel particularly staged, as they can in superhero movies - you know, "Looks like it's time for Our Hero to.... uh..... lift a train with his bare hands!" and so forth. There were a few "ooooh" scenes that had me gripping the sides of my recliner, especially the plane-about-to-crash scene.
Routh was pretty good as the Man of Steel: taciturn and resolved but conflicted and isolated. Watching him, I got the impression that there was more going on in his head than there ever was in Reeves' mind; hey, I'm sure Christopher Reeves was a heck of a nice guy, but he wasn't a terribly good actor. His acting style was more cartoony than realistic, and nowadays that's not a good style, even for a comic book movie. But Routh looked the part and, even more importantly, sounded the part as well. (Look for a line from him that echoes his first meeting with Lois Lane in 1978's Superman: The Movie.) Spacey, of course, was a lot of fun as Luthor. Mean, evil, intelligent, with a touch of humor and glee - what more could you ask for in a supervillain? Of course, even Spacey can fall victim to a somewhat tepid script; I loved it when Luthor basically tells Lois Lane his evil plans. This information comes in useful for Lois later on. But regardless, at least Spacey didn't have Luthor laugh maniacally or gesture wildly. You know, hallmarks of cinematic madmen for decades.
Bosworth was miscast as Lois Lane, though. She didn't look the part (check out her huge forehead - how come the set stylist didn't have a lock or two fall over her brow?), and she came off as whiny, petulant, conceited, and..... well, just plain annoying. Other actresses who could have done a better job are Keri Russell, Claire Danes, and Scarlett Johansson, all of whom were considered for the role. It's just a flat performance by an actress who looked at times to be a bit overwhelmed by the role.
So, overall - not a disappointment. Not that awesome thriller that Spider-Man was, not as fantastic as the X-Men movies, not as mysterious as Batman, but still loads better than Daredevil, Elektra, and Fantastic Four. Some sincerely harrowing scenes and a solid performance by Routh lift this one enough to compensate for the weak female lead.