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Superman Returns by Bryan Singer (Dir.)
Review by Drew Bittner
Warner Bros. Pictures Theatrical  ISBN/ITEM#: B00005JOQS
Date: June 28, 2006 / Show Official Info /

Cast: Superman/Clark Kent - Brandon Routh * Lois Lane - Kate Bosworth * Lex Luthor - Kevin Spacey * Richard White - James Marsden * Perry White - Frank Langella * Kitty Kowalski - Parker Posey

Landing with a crash on his parents' farm, Superman's foster mother Martha (Eva Marie Saint) helps him from the wreckage. He spends a day or two enjoying life on the farm, reminiscing about the early emergence of his powers (in an exhilarating scene of young Clark bolting through cornfields and taking super-leaps through the Kansas sky). But he cannot put off the inevitable and must head back to Metropolis. He has unfinished business in the big city.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has connived his way out of jail and into the heart of an elderly, wealthy woman (played by TV's former Lois Lane, Noell Neill). He takes her fortune and invests it in his latest scheme: stealing Superman's crystal technology to launch a "takeover" of sorts.

When Clark Kent returns to Metropolis, he finds that life has indeed gone on without him. Jimmy Olsen greets him warmly and Perry waves hello, but Lois is nowhere to be found. Instead, Clark finds that she has a son and is engaged to be married to Perry White's nephew, Richard. While getting caught up at a local bar (tended by Jack Larsen, TV's Jimmy Olsen), Clark catches the TV news of a spaceplane flight gone wrong... and goes into action once more as Superman.

Superman saves the day (and Lois' life, coincidentally), then heads off for a high-speed round of good-deed-doing, partly to take his mind off his problems with Lois. He hovers outside her home and watches her with his X-ray vision, disheartened at realizing what he's let slip away.

Fans of the Richard Donner film are bound to like the direction of the story, as it styles itself a sequel (and serves that function far better than the lackluster Superman III. Many should be amused by the resurrection of a major plot point from the first movie as well. Lex Luthor is still after prime waterfront property, but this time he's going to grow it from the sea using stolen super-tech. Naturally he'll put Lois (as well much of North and South America, Europe, Africa and incidentally Lois' son) in harm's way for fun, and of course he's planning on killing off Superman...and he wouldn't be much of a villain if he didn't have a shot at pulling it off.

Suffice it to say that, emotionally and physically, things are not good for the Man of Steel. To say more would possibly spoil the ending, but there are lots of surprises for moviegoers in this latest installment of Superman's adventures.

Okay, so... what's good? Brandon Routh is terrific as Superman and Clark Kent. More than a poor man's Christopher Reeve, he finds many ways to make the part his own and really sells audiences on being the guy in the red cape as well as the guy behind the glasses. Without that, the movie wouldn't stand a chance.

It helps that he has magnificent special effects supporting his acting burden. The plane-catching scene is a masterpiece of special effects wizardry, being perhaps the most exciting segment ever filmed for a Superman movie. The are many others on a par with this, but that one part of the movie stands out as a groundbreaker.

Frank Langella and James Marsden do great work as well. Langella brings the gruff city editor of the Daily Planet to life, while Marsden *finally* gets a chance to show his acting chops. He gets to be a heroic, non-powered human being, putting himself into danger even as he realizes his wife-to-be is still in love with the Last Son of Krypton. It's a subtle but convincing performance, one that should not be overlooked.

The struggles of two people in love-- one of whom has a secret that is rather easy to figure out-- give the movie its heart. Luckily, that's the dominant plotline, because the secondary one is just not as good by a long shot.

Kevin Spacey largely channels Gene Hackman's performance as Lex from the first two Superman movies. He isn't helped by a scheme that makes no sense and a femme fatale (Posey) whose role-- and characterization-- is a knockoff of Miss Tessmacher (Valerie Perrine) from the earlier films. That's not to denigrate Posey's performance, but the writers gave her and Spacey very little to work with and it shows, painfully.

On the other hand, Kate Bosworth does have some substantial material to build on but doesn't quite get there. Her Lois would definitely make one wonder why Superman carries a torch for her.

On balance, fans of superhero movies and action spectaculars will find a lot that is pleasing about Superman Returns, but they may find themselves wonder if it answers the question of "what's next?" for the Man of Steel.

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