Superman Returns

Don't hate him because he's beautiful, decent, awesomely powerful, modest and just plain good. That's the big blue Boy Scout package — take it or leave it. True believers Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris take it and run, though their devotion is less to seven decades of comics than to SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980), light pop artifacts...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Don't hate him because he's beautiful, decent, awesomely powerful, modest and just plain good. That's the big blue Boy Scout package — take it or leave it. True believers Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris take it and run, though their devotion is less to seven decades of comics than to SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980), light pop artifacts that Singer and company treat with the reverence normally accorded weeping icons. Fortunately, they ignore SUPERMAN III and IV (1983/1987), picking up five years after the Man of Steel's abrupt departure to seek the ruins of his native Krypton. Superman (Brandon Routh, whose resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve borders on the uncanny) returns a changed man: A faint air of melancholy shadows his chiseled features, and he's haunted by the knowledge that he is truly the last of his kind. Crack girl reporter Lois Lane (the bland Kate Bosworth) has changed too: The love of Superman's life is now the fiancée of publishing heir Richard White (James Marsden), the mother of a sickly child (Tristan Lake Leabu) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of an essay denigrating the cult of the superhero. Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), by contrast, is the same self-styled criminal mastermind, ensconced aboard the yacht he wheedled from a dying widow (Noel Neill, the screen's first Lois who appeared in the 1948 movie serial) and hip-deep in another wicked real-estate scam: Using crystals stolen from Superman's fortress of solitude, Luthor is growing a new continent that will swamp much of the Northern Hemisphere and kill millions. Superman again assumes the guise of "mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent" and steps back into his old job at the "Daily Planet," where editor Perry White (Frank Langella) still barks orders at cub reporter Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington, who briefly plays opposite Jack Larson, originator of the role in TV's Adventures of Superman). He resumes righting wrongs and averting disasters large and small, as happy to rescue a little girl's cat from a tree as to ferry a crippled plane to a gentle belly flop on a baseball field or shoulder the globe-shaped "Daily Planet" building topper in mid-air, after it tears loose from its moorings. "You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior," he gently chides Lois, "but every day I hear people crying out for one." Singer's "Superman 2.5" is aimed squarely at fans who've waited patiently to see Superman accorded the same respect as the Dark Knight, whose psychological agonies reached their apex in BATMAN BEGINS (2005). It's stately, elegant, too long, a little dull and fanatical in its fidelity to the earlier films, resurrecting everything from John Williams' theme and the goofy "futuristic" credits treatment to the late Marlon Brando, the holographic ghost of Superman's father. Its solemnity befits a Superman who's Atlas, Prometheus and Jesus Christ all rolled into one, but a god is only as good as his devil and the film's fluffy villainy (another holdover) isn't up to snuff. Spacey plays Luthor less broadly than his predecessor, Gene Hackman, and has one sadistic moment with a kryptonite stiletto. But in the end he's still a deluded huckster, a ham with a cotton-brained moll (Parker Posey) — the world really doesn't need Superman to deal with self-deluded buffoons.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Don't hate him because he's beautiful, decent, awesomely powerful, modest and just plain good. That's the big blue Boy Scout package — take it or leave it. True believers Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris take it and run, though their devotion… (more)

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