Cert: 12A Runtime: 154 mins Director: Bryan Singer Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Frank Langella, James Marsden and Kevin Spacey
I love that he can see through anything. I’d have fun with that
When I wrote my 1978 Superman review, I thought to myself why not look at the darkest hour of Superman? Normally my blast from the pasts are very positive. We don’t have to go that far in time only to 2006 and Superman Returns. So what happens in this chapter? After eliminating General Zod, Superman (Brandon Routh) leaves Earth to try to find his former home world of Krypton after astronomers have supposedly found it. When he finds nothing but remnants, he returns home to Earth – to find out that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is engaged to a relative of his boss, and that Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is at it again – after swindling an elderly, terminally ill woman. The psychopathic Luthor, whose plans to destroy California failed because of Superman’s heroics, vows vengeance against the Man of Steel and contrives a new sinister plot – using the crystals of Krypton to build a continent that will wipe out most of North America! Embedded in the continent’s structure is Kryptonite – the lethal substance that is Superman’s only weakness. Upon learning of Luthor’s sinister scheme, Superman must again race against time to stop the psychopathic Luthor before millions – possibly billions – are killed.Brandon Routh is eerily like the late Christopher Reeve. While we might expect Superman to look like, well, Superman (the “look” is well established), Routh looks so much like Reeve, sounds so much like him, and even acts a good deal like him that it’s uncanny. The fact that he fills out a spandex suit very nicely doesn’t hurt, either. Routh, while probably not the world’s greatest actor (at least not yet — you’ll recall Reeve himself grew well beyond his Superman role as time went on), is just fine in his portrayal of the relatively one-dimensional Superman.
Kevin Spacey seems to be having a good time as Lex Luthor, and imbues the character with a hint of real insanity that we’ve not seen so clearly before; Parker Posey holds her own with the formidable Spacey — which is saying something. Other supporting cast members are fine, and an extra tip of the hat must go to the late Marlon Brando who appears briefly as Superman’s father Jor-El thanks to archive footage of his earlier appearances.The one truly problematic performance is that of Kate Bosworth. It’s not that she’s a bad actress — she isn’t. Instead, she’s quite plainly woefully miscast. She looks even younger than she is (what, did she start working at the Daily Planet when she was, like, 14?), she doesn’t have the forcefulness to play a top notch reporter let alone a Pulitzer Prize winner, and her chemistry with Routh is all but non-existent. It’s not Bosworth’s fault that she’s the weak link here, but she’s never-the-less the weak link.The direction is okay for the most part, and I can excuse moments of camp. This is, after all, a comic book! What’s not to be excused are the poor edits, the dismally simplistic story, and a very ordinary script. The special effects are largely quite good — particularly those involving a plummeting jumbo jet — but they can’t make up for the other shortcomings, and there are many.Superman Returns is okay, I suppose, but it’s considerably less than “super,” and certainly less than we had the right to expect.