Last year the Batman franchise was revitalized by David Goyer and Christopher
Nolan and this year the team that brought us X2 has done the same with the
Superman franchise. This film has been a long time coming since the first plan
to do the film with Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage so many years ago that I canít
even remember when the idea was first mentioned. The grand tally of writers
numbered more than 10 (with Kevin Smith starting and this team taking over from
MI-3ís JJ Abrams) and there were at least five directors (McG and Michael Bay to
name a few) attached before Singer and Brett Ratner changed places on superhero
The film begins with the return of Superman to Earth after leaving to discover
if there was anything left of Krypton and we see the return flight during the
Richard Donner inspired credits. Newcomer Brandon Routh has been given the life
changing and pigeon holing role of Superman. We see the crash of his ship and as
he recovers at home we get our first chance to use the oversized 3-D glasses in
a nicely done sequence that shows him remembering his first experience flying.
(For those of you that are wondering the 3-D glasses are larger than you would
think they would be and the cues that tell you when to put them on are what you
would expect what they would be) The 3-D sequences in the film are very well
done (but you do get a slight headache when you first experience it) and the
decision as to when to use it is well thought out.
We get our first look at Lex (Kevin Spacey) Luthor at the bedside of Noel Neill
(Lois Lane from the Adventures of Superman TV series) prior to the setting in motion of his plan
to once again corner the real estate market. He and his assistants (which
include Indy queen Parker Posey and Kal Penn from Harold & Kumar) take a trip to
the abandoned Fortress of Solitude where we play along with pretending that Lex
has never been there before. Here is where the Marlon Brando footage is used and
we donít see him walking around as was rumored but repeating dialogue from the
Our first day back in Metropolis follows with the return of Clark Kent to the
art deco Daily Planet where he gets reacquainted with photographer Jimmy (Sam
Huntington) Olsen and editor Perry (Frank Langella) White. Huntington is used
here to catch not only Clark up to what has happened since his Ďvacationí but
the audience as well since a few things have changed with Lois (Kate Bosworth)
Lane since he departed. This sets up the spectacular action sequence with
Superman saving the plane Lois is on and landing in a place that makes his
return known to the rest of the world.
From there we are introduced to Perryís nephew Richard White (X-Menís James
Marsden) and Loisí son (Tristan Lake Leabu). Some will find the soap opera
element of the triangle dull but remember there has always been a triangle
relationship between Clark, Lois and Superman so its not as if the concept
hasnít been used before.
As the film continues we see what Lexís master plan is as the world reacts to
the return of Superman to their lives while also learning how Superman keeps an
ear on things. Things zip along nicely and little by little everything falls
into place before all hell breaks loose and the special effects folks get a nice
work out. There is a rather brutal sequence prior to Superman saving the day
involving green kryptonite that may make some viewers wince but actually is
something that some fans have been asking for to make the character more
accessible to readers. All that leads us up to revelations and a repeat of the
ending sequence fans of the Superman films have come to expect.
There was much debate amongst Comicbookman, JR and myself after the film on it's
high and low points. For myself I had no problem with any of the cast members.
Routh did an especially good job that didnít have him channeling Chris Reeve but
making it his own. Reeve did something in his portrayal that had his voice
change as well as his posture that made it unlikely that you would connect him
with Superman but Routh does it just by behavior (and there is a great sequence
where the obvious is noticed by one of the cast). Kevin Spacey isnít doing the
funny Lex here as Gene Hackman did; his Luthor is closer in nature to the
character he played on Wiseguy. Langella plays Perry as if he just crossed the
street from the CBS studios after he was done with Good Night and Good Luck.
Posey makes good with a variation of the same type character Valerie Perrine
played in the first Superman as does Huntington as Jimmy. Marsden is just okay
but there are flashes of interest in his character while Bosworth isnít trying
to play Margot Kidder which would have been a mistake.
You could say the film is a bit long but Singer cut the film as close to the
bone as he could to get the film ready. A good test to whether a film is too
long is if you look at your watch, if you don't then you have gotten emotionally
invested in the film. I didnít look at my watch so itís as long as it needs to
be. Singerís films always look good and this is a well designed film with a
crisp visual style. John Otman edited the film as well as wrote the score (and
adapted the classic John Williams theme).
As for the low points the Lex real estate plan was done in the first film and it
didnít work then so repeating it is a mistake. One of the main problems with Lex
is that unless he is wearing his purple costume (and that would look horrible on
film) he is best planning things that others are carrying out. Spacey does have
a great line concerning Superman that explains his hatred of him which leads up
to that brutal attack later but he may have worked better using the approach of
the animated version.
The film is heavily inspired by the original Donner film and fans of that should
love this since both share tone and style. This is a film that you should go out
of your way to see.