Thursday, April 26, 2012

Superman Returns Review - Shoulda Stayed Lost, Buddy

I forget things sometimes. I write a whole page describing this site, and yet never mention that I try to cover, once each Season, one of my favorite films. Superman Returns is not one of those films.

Did that trailer look awesome? The film sure wasn't.

A lot of people revile this picture, but I have a genuine flaw to admit: I had no idea that this picture was a re-envisioneerening of everything after Superman II. I thought it would be a complete reboot, or maybe served as Superman VI or whatever; I hadn't seen a trailer, even... You can't be superior with your opinions when you had no idea what was going on until the halfway mark.

Except in this case, in which I'm completely right. The saddest thing, as a guy who likes action films, is that X3 should've been a masterpiece. My excitement factor was high, which tends to be reductivist: X2 was vastly better than its predecessor, so X3 might've given me a heart attack. Instead, Bryan Singer was deleted from the X-Men franchise after he jumped on the chance to create Superman Returns.

This movie, in short, took a Xanax, then went out drinking. Flat, muddled, muted... Somehow, it has none of the fun characters and neat exchanges that Superman did. The 1st and 2nd Superman movies were no masterpieces, but they had some nice moments...

How dull and listless? Well, the above scene was supposed to be showy and impressive, yet it felt like "zzzzzzz" to me; using it in the trailer as well was too much, maybe...

Of all the things to complain about here, Brandon Routh isn't one of them. It's unfair to write this, but I wish he didn't look so much like Reeves so often. I wasn't a Reeves fan, especially, but his life was tragic and it's odd to see him replaced to the point where my mind can barely tell who it's seeing.

This leads into another problem, because SR calls back to the prior movies way too much. Superman flies with Lois, warns her not to smoke, Lex Luthor has yet another real estate scheme. Superman quotes his dad from the first movie. I thought the point of a semi-reboot is just riding off what's been established, not reusing it.

Lois, unfortunately, is a wash. It might sound unfair, but you can actually see Kate Bosworth's acting here. How bad is it? I can't find the clip to link to, but there's a scene at work: Clark bumps into Lois, knocks her bag over, and she snaps at him. When she does so, holding a cig, you can actually see Bosworth trying to act. It's just no good, and a movie can't fare well if the female lead doesn't hold up her end...

Spacey doesn't feel on form, either, and I can't say why. I've liked him in many roles, but it doesn't quite work. Maybe it's the script, maybe it's that he seems too much like Hackman here. Or maybe - just maybe - they shouldn't've gone with the same villain & plot again. I think Luthor was responsible for Superman IV or something, when real-life Gene Hackman needed a home payment, I guess.

The general callback problems continue - Luthor has a gorgeous assistant; messes with Superman's home; Kryptonite is less rare than gold; and amazing problems occur, not because they're likely, but to show Supes saving people. This has all already been done, and too often.

The best comparison, then, may be 2003's Hulk by Ang Lee. Both movies fail to provide lots of great action for what should've been popcorn films. Since both pix chose to stick to characters, then, the characters should've been more endearing, relatable, and interesting. And since both films failed to provide that, or dialogue that would make it all compelling, they suffer from being thoroughly un-entertaining.

All of the psychological elements are like people who wake up at the night and stub a toe on the way to the bathroom. Superman's alienation is bigger than ever - it now includes Lois as well as humanity in general and his own dead ancestors. Lex is more unstable, angrier than ever before. Lois Lane feels abandoned and confused. It's just that, other than the character names, there is nothing to make you feel.

It's beyond shocking to get a whole movie like this from parts that are so good: Routh's is a great fit for the role; Spacey is a great actor, worthy of replacing Hackman; Singer is a great writer/director; the budget was $209 Million Dollars, for god's sake! How do these ingredients, stirred and simmered end up... so bland.

If this pic had a smaller budget and fewer reasons to have high expectations, I might be gentle about this. Given all the money and talent involved, I have to call Superman Returns an awful film. Avoid at all costs.

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