If Richard Donner's 1978 feature film Superman: The Movie
made us believe a man could fly, Bryan Singer's 2006 follow-up, Superman Returns
, lets us remember that a superhero movie can make our spirits soar. Superman (played by newcomer Brandon Routh) comes back to Earth after a futile five-year search for his destroyed home planet of Krypton. As alter ego Clark Kent, he's eager to return to his job at the Daily Planet and to see Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth). Lois, however, has moved on: she now has a fiancé (James Marsden), a son (Tristan Leabu), and a Pulitzer Prize for her article entitled "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." On top of this emotional curveball, his old archrival Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is plotting the biggest land grab in history.
Singer, who made a strong impression among comic-book fans for his work on the X-Men franchise and directed Spacey in The Usual Suspects, brings both a fresh eye and a sense of respect to the world's oldest superhero. He borrows John Williams's great theme music and Marlon Brando's voice as Jor-El, and the story (penned by Singer's X-Men collaborators Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris) is a sort-of-sequel to the first two films in the franchise (choosing to ignore that the third and fourth movies ever happened). The humorous and romantic elements give the movie a heart, Singer's art-deco Metropolis is often breathtaking, and the special effects are elegant and spectacular, particularly an early airplane-disaster set-piece. Of the cast, Routh is excellent as the dual Superman/Clark, Spacey is both droll and vicious as Luthor, and Parker Posey gets the best lines as Luthor's moll Kitty. But at 23, Bosworth seems too young for the five-years-past-grizzled Lois. It's nice to see Noel Neill, Jack Larson (both from the classic Adventures of Superman TV series), and Eva Marie-Saint on the screen as well. Superman Returns is one of those projects that was in development for seemingly forever, but it was worth the wait -- it's the most enjoyable superhero movie since Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles. --David Horiuchi
He's back. A hero for our millennium. And not a moment too soon, because during the five years (much longer in movie-fan years!) Superman sought his home planet, things changed on his adopted planet. Nations moved on without him. Lois Lane now has a son, a fiance and a Pulitzer for "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." And Lex Luthor has a plan that will destroy millions - no, billions - of lives. Filmmaker Bryan Singer (X-Men) gives the world the Superman it needs, honoring the legend everyone loves while taking it in a powerful new direction. Brandon Routh proves a perfect choice to wear the hero's cape, leading a top cast that includes Kate Bosworth as Lois and Kevin Spacey as Lex. And the thrills - from a sky-grapple with a tumbling jumbo jet to a continent-convulsing showdown - redefine Wow. "I'm always around," Superman tells Lois. You'll be glad he is.