Superman Returns

July 2, 2006

Sitting in the theatre, smelling deeply of popcorn and air conditioning, I ponder the moviegoing experience. It’s been a while since I last sat in a theatre, and I’m nervous. I always am, just before a movie. Whether it’s a G-rated Pixar romp or an R-rated horror flick, I get butterflies in my stomach. I know why, too: anticipation. I love having things to look forward to, and sitting in the dimly lit theatre means that the anticipation is over; I’m going to see a movie.

Amusing, then, that the movie I saw yesterday took so long to come to fruition. The long and sordid tale of what took so long can be read elsewhere. As someone who more enjoys the bug in red and black than the boy scout in blue and red, I’ve largely escaped the agony Supe fans must have felt waiting for this movie to come out. Just the same, I was well aware of the big shoes this flick had to fill. I saw the original films as a kid, and despite the sad state the franchise ended in I have fond memories of the first two movies.

You can imagine my smile, then, when the theme music began and the hokey titles began flashing onscreen. With the titular theme in full swing, I turned to another friend who greatly enjoys film music to see that we were both grinning like idiots.

Aside from a few minor complaints (I could have lived without the ‘son of Superman’ question), I kept smiling for another two hours or so. The film was, of course, visually spectacular. From the swift trip back to Earth to the last sight of that red cape, the movie was nothing short of breathtaking to behold. There were many shots, specifically, that seemed designed to make sure the audience knew it had gotten it’s moneys worth. Posing in the doorway of a just-rescued plane, holding an entire island continent aloft at the edge of the planet’s atmosphere, or gracefully floating with a swept-off-her-feet Lois Lane … Singer cribbed the best visual shorthand from the comic book and past movies and delivered it in one neat package.

Happily, this film is more than a summer FX piece. Routh’s Kal-El is an almost eerie channeling of the best of Reeves, while his Clark Kent is as goofy as Dean Cain ever was. My use of past actors to compare is simply a testament to his skill; This Superman has very much his own presence and way of holding himself. Especially in his flight, I thought, Routh emotes a quiet at the center of Kal-El’s strength. The result of five years in space, I imagine. The rest of the crew at the Daily Planet is just as well cast. Perry is appropriately gruff, Lois has a good hard mad on, and Jimmy’s comic relief manages to be goofy without being annoying. My wife especially enjoyed Lois, who does a tremendous job of standing up to the boy in blue’s sheepish apologies. I was even impressed with James Marsden, who portrayed Lois’s new beau. Even though it was a given from the moment the film started that she would end up expressing feelings for Kal-El, you never got the impresion that Marsden was onscreen as some sort of sacrificial lamb. His character had stuff to do, a clear personality, and even managed some cool hero moments in the same film as the ultimate hero.

Did you know that Kevin Spacey played Lex Luthor? If you did, then you know that there’s nothing really more for me to say about that. I really enjoyed seeing Parker Posey in a movie again. She’s had a long and often confusing career, and it’s always awesome to see someone whose acting you enjoy appear in a pure money film.

Scott Kurtz, of PVP, has done me the favour of providing a wordless review. I’ll add a subtitle to his images: Superman Returns made me feel like a kid again. A real Hero does heroic things, with enough subtlety to keep the part of my brain that isn’t ten quite happy. I highly recommend the movie, as a happy ride and a direct injection of nostalgia. You have to love a movie that flies.

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