After catching Superman Returns this weekend, the first movie that popped into my head to compare it to was Batman Begins. Now, I know that’s easy, just holding aloft the two new DC live-action efforts and saying they’re both good flicks. But there are plenty of similarities.
For starters, both movies are the necessary rejuvenations of a once-lively, now-moribund franchise, and each takes a fair amount of creative license to do so. Batman Begins made greater changes, of course, completely disregarding both the first two (good) Batman movies and the last two (utterly crappy) ones. Superman Returns, meanwhile, only retconned out of existence the last two (utterly crappy) movies in its franchise history.
But Bryan Singer and crew did more than just pantomime the much-loved first two Superman films. They came up with new twists – namely the Superchild – and added to the foundations that had been set up before.
Both Batman Begins and Superman Returns also delved deeply into the characters, the men behind the costume. Batman Begins did so by showing us how a child can grow into a monster of his own creation. Superman Returns did so by revealing just how difficult life can be for someone who, while universally adored, is forever an alien at arm’s length with the world.
Even the faults of each film are the same. And yes, that goes beyond miscasted female leads. Both start off terrifically, meander slightly, then sort of tremble to a halt with a shaky last third. I thought the shuttle/plane sequence in Superman Returns had everything – just a perfect show of force for Superman in a beautiful blend of CGI and live-action and a reminder of the emotional power the character has over the people he protects.
Yes, there were a few herky jerky moments. The movie would’ve benefited mightily from a good 20 minutes left on the editing room floor (my suggestion, the sequence where Lex steals the Kryptonite and Kitty nearly crashes). And since the big surprise came earlier, the end lacked a certain amount of punch.
Still, this was a Superman movie, and a good one at that. It had a great Lex Luthor who was the silly villain that Gene Hackman portrayed and the megalomaniac seeking to put the world under his fist, no matter how steep the price, that the comic books have featured. For those who say his “real estate” plan was out of character, just check out the “Up, up and away!” storyline that just wrapped up in the comics.
Most importantly, just like Batman Begins, this sets the stage for more Superman movies, and I couldn’t be more excited.