Monday, July 17, 2006

Superman Returns (Spoiler-Free)

I had to wait to see this one. It was hard to do, but I waited until my girlfriend and I were briefly in the same state. I knew that this was an experience I would have to share with someone. She's not so much a comic nerd like me, but she loved the 1978 Superman.

The new movie owes a lot to the 1978 movie and it's sequel. We both worried at times that it crossed the line between loving homage and slavish aping, but she made a great point about why it was done this way. There's no way, as long as my generation is still around anyway, that one can get out from under the shadow of the 78 version. They leaned so heavily on it in order to introduce some of the more controversial additions. The visual and storytelling echoes serve to instill confidence in the new direction that it does take. (I'm trying to write this as spoiler free as possible... there's a major development in this movie that has no precedent in previous films or comics that, on paper, sounds near sacriligious, but actually goes a long way to complete a thematic arc that runs through Superman I & II)

Just as he did with X-Men, Singer plays fast and loose with the details, yet nails the themes and characters perfectly. I especially like the way that the traditional Clark-Lois-Superman love triangle was put to rest, in a way, and replaced with a stronger one. There's just the right amount of goofy Clark, but it's clear that Lois would never love him and shouldn't. Taking Clark out of the equation and replacing him with Richard White was genius. I was worried for the actor, James Marsden, thinking he'd get the same treatment as he did in the X-Men movies, but he actually gets a strong pressence in this movie. He is made to be a true competitor for Lois's affections; midway through the movie, I realized that he is Superman, in a way, he just doesn't have the powers.

Kevin Spacey brings the right balance of humor and malice to Luthor. I especially liked the physical confrontation he has with Superman late in the movie. For all his protestations of being enlightened and cultured, his acts literally show what a thug he is at heart.

Overall, it was a richly satisfying movie. My girlfriend said it best when we left the theatre: "I wish it were real, that there really was a Superman". It was the exact same thing I thought some 28 years ago.



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