I managed to catch Superman Returns Tuesday night at a 10:00 showing. Two and a half hours later, I left the theater decidedly underwhelmed.
Colonel Doom summed it up the best after the movie: “Meh.”
There were two main problems I had with the movie. The first is the casting. The second is the story.
Brandon Routh does not look like Superman, although he does look like Christopher Reeve, who also doesn’t look like Superman. Plenty of guys that actually looked like Superman have played the part, and plenty of guys that look like Superman could have played this part, but instead Bryan Singer and company decided to go with the guy that looks like the guy who looked the least like Superman of anyone that’s ever played Superman. Since Brandon Routh is a relative unknown, they can’t even use the excuse that they cast the wrong guy for name recognition (*cough*Schwarzenegger*cough*). One positive is Routh’s acting in the role was good, and I’d rather have someone that doesn’t look like Superman and can act than someone who looks like Superman and can’t act (like, say, Dean Cain). Routh excelled as Clark Kent, although part of the appeal of that character has always been the big burly guy as the bumbling loser. But it all boils down to this for me: there’s plenty of actors that can act and look the part, so there was no reason (other than he looks like a guy that doesn’t look like Superman) to cast Brandon Routh in the part.
Kate Bosworth was just not right for Lois Lane. First of all, the hair. Think about it. That is not Lois Lane hair. Second, she should not be wafer-thin. Kate Bosworth should have been dead after the pounding she took in the plane. It seems to me that the part was written correctly, but Bosworth just didn’t make the role what it should have been. And everyone say it with me: worst. mom. ever!
Don’t get me started on Perry. House would have been so much better.
Of course, the casting wasn’t all bad. Jimmy was good. In fact, Jimmy seemed just about perfect. I actually liked the Richard White character, and I’m glad they didn’t make him unlikable so Lois would leave him to be with Clark or Superman.
Kevin Spacey was good (big surprise), but he wasn’t used enough, and he was way too much like the Joker than Lex Luthor has any right to be. He even had his own Harley Quinn for god’s sake. Parker Posey was great in that role, though, and sometimes stole the spotlight from the other (much) more important characters.
My other disappointment was the story, a standard “Lex does something evil and Superman stops it” plot, which has been done hundreds, if not thousands of times before. It had the standard formula: Lex devises something evil; Lex causes collateral damage that Superman must rescue people from; someone (usually Lois) figures out Lex’s plan but it’s too late; Lex seemingly defeats Superman; Superman returns (get it?) and saves the day. It’s not an original story, but anyone that reads comics knows it can make for a great story (take “Up, Up and Away,” for example, which just ended in the Superman books). This time it didn’t.
The action was good-ish, but not great. I did not feel sorry for Superman at all when he got the crap kicked out of him, which seems like a failure on the part of the filmmakers. And can someone explain to me why Superman can be so depowered by the kryptonite island to get his ass kicked by normal thugs, but then somehow have the kryptonite not affect him enough to prevent him from throwing a several billion ton chunk of rock into outer space?
And the kid was stupid. They should have left him out of the movie. He had one good moment in the newsroom when he realized Clark was Superman and then served no worthwhile purpose. Having not seen the first 2 Superman movies, I had no idea Supes and Lois did the horizontal tango, so Lex’s comment about who the boy’s father was seemed ridiculous. When he displayed his superpowers, my appreciation of the movie dropped a lot. Then I thought “poor Robert Kirkman,” because now when his Invincible movie comes out everyone’s going to think he got the idea from Superman Returns. The movie would have been better, and shorter, without the inclusion of Superboy.
So poor casting choices and bad story choices turned what could have been a good to movie into something that was just so-so. It didn’t stand a chance of rising to Batman Begins or X2 levels, but the quality certainly could have been closer to Spider-Man than The Punisher.
When I stared actually reading Superman comics a year ago, I developed an appreciation for the character I never had before. Superman could be interesting. Clark Kent could be very interesting. Despite the fact that Superman was invulnerable, he could still be hurt. Ruin showed me that. Maxwell Lord showed me that. Batman showed me that.
But outside of comics and the Animated DC Universe, he’s never shown as anything more than a one-dimensional character, despite the fact that he’s two characters (which would seemingly necessitate a two-dimensional character at the very least). That’s why I used to hate Superman.
Superman Returns reminded me of that.