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Superman returns. What else do you need to know, America?,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)First of all, if you want to do any prep work for watching "Superman Returns," all you really need to see from the Christopher Reeve series is the 1978 "Superman" film. All that matters from the second one is that Lex Luthor has been to Superman's Fortress of Solitude, and the third and fourth films are thankfully flushed from our cinematic memories of the Man of Steel. However, you have another option in that director Bryan Singer, who came up with the story for the film along with screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, also came up with stories for four "Returns Prequel" comic books, entitled "Krypton to Earth," "Ma Kent," Lex Luthor," and "Lois Lane." They work in most of the key elements from the "Superman" film that matter here. I have seen several similar comic book prequels, but these are by far the best, reminding us of why Jor-el sent his only son to Earth, and showing us that the world misses Superman but Martha Kent misses her son, how Lex hooked up with Kitty, and why Lois Lane wrote her editorial "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."
Still, even if you have not seen that "Superman" recently you will probably recognize a lot of the elements from that film that have made their way in this summer's big blockbuster. In fact there are so many that there are points where you wonder if "Superman Returns" is more of a remake than it is a sequel. Lois still cannot spell and still tries to sneak a cigarette, while Superman still saves her, still takes her flying, and is even telling the same jokes as before. They are still using John Williams' theme music, but that would be a good thing to keep from the first movie. Fortunately, there are some significant new things to go with the borrowed and the blue (suit).
What happened was that when astronomers discovered a planet that could be Krypton, Superman decided he had to travel there to see what happened to his home world. Five years have passed and before Superman returns it is Clark Kent (Brandon Routh) who comes back to the Daily Planet to find things are different. Mainly, that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has two new men in her life, Richard White (James Marsden), the nephew of Perry White (Frank Langella) and an associate editor at the Daily Planet, and their son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), who is, interestingly enough, about five years old. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), is out of prison, thanks in part to the absence of Superman, and with help from Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey), gets his hands on some items from Krypton that will make him rich and help him kill Superman.
The bottom line is that "Superman Returns" is better than we expected, which is impressive given how high our expectations where for this film. I was rather surprised how easily I was willing to accept that Routh was Superman, but he has the attitude down pat. He tones down both parts from what we saw with Christopher Reeve, but that makes sense given what he spent the last five years doing, even if he does not look like he is five years older. Bosworth is a much more solid Lois Lane and they really should have ditched the spelling and smoking bits. Spacey picks up where he left off the last time he played a bald character (i.e., "Seven"), and makes Lex lethal this time around (plus props for having his credit last so the name of the guy who plays Superman comes first). But for me the standout character in the movie is Marsden's Richard White, because this guy is good enough for Lois and a hero in his own right in this movie. This was rather surprising, but a key reason why the movie works. The character they needed to ditch or rewrite was Posey's Kitty, who is a rehashed Miss Teschmacher, which is not what these movie needed (any more than bringing back Otis). There is enough comedy that works in this film without needing anybody other than Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) as the comic relief.
There are several treats for fans of Superman in all of his myriad incarnations. Noel Neill, who was Lois Lane on television's "The Adventures of Superman" and Young Lois Lane's mother (on the train) in the 1978 movie, plays Gertrude Vanderworth, Lex Luther's benefactress, while Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olson on the series, is Bo the Bartender. The end credits mention the memories of Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve, but the best homage to his memory (and there are a lot in this film) is when Singer repeats the bit where Superman is flying in space and right before he flies out of the frame he looks into the camera and smiles at us. That was the quintessential shot of Reeve as Superman. Just like Jor-el, Marlon Brandon proves that death is not a deterrent and I have to add that while there are some pretty emotional scenes at the end of this one, I flashed on what could have been a fantastic scene between Lois and Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint) in the last act that would have blown everybody completely away. But, hey, boys and girls, that is why they make sequels and as long as they ink Singer and this cast and stick to the archetypal vision of Superman, Warner Bros. could have a franchise that will rival Spider-Man (bet they air the trailer for "Spider-Man III" everywhere they show "Superman Returns").