superman returnsWarner Bros.

“You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.”

Set five years after the second movie, it seems that Kal-El has been gone, having traveled to the far reaches of space searching for remains of his home world of Krypton. Now he has returned, only to find that, while he was away, the world has managed to go on without him. This point really hits home when he finds out that Lois Lane is engaged to Perry White’s nephew, has a five-year-old kid, and has won a Pulitzer Prize for her article on “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman”. Add to that the reappearance of Lex Luthor, who was let out of jail on a technicality and is now rich again, and still looking to score that massive piece of property. Supes has got some ‘splanin’ to do…

WARNING: Spoilers and Geeky Whining Ensue From This Point

It’s been nearly twenty years since the last Superman movie…nearly twenty-five if you happen to not count the last two of the four, like Bryan Singer did. Between then and now, those of us who were patient were treated to many television shows and animated cartoons, not to mention the comic books that gave birth to the man of steel, some good, some not so good. And during that time, many rumors and speculations intermingled with actual facts surrounding the actual realization of another movie teased and taunted us. After all that time, finally we have another Superman movie to spend all of our hard-earned moolah on. Was it worth it?

In the long run, you’re darn tootin’ it was.

Let me tell you, from the opening scene to the classic John Williams score, tingles shot down my spine, and once again I was transformed into a six-year-old boy. Brandon Routh managed to simultaneously channel the spirit of Christopher Reeve and make the part his own, handling the duel role of Clark Kent and Superman deftly. It was eerie the way he embodied the character. I once again believed that a man could fly, and this time you couldn’t see the blue screen effects, which made it all the better. The voice of Marlon Brando as Kal-El’s father sent chills down my spine, as did all the other little (and not-so-little) homages to the original flick. Kevin Spacy played Lex Luthor with a gleefully twisted maniacal way that would make Gene Hackman proud. Kate Bosworth, I admit, was no Margot Kidder, but she did pull off the character nicely. I think she was going for more of the Erica Durance version from Smallville than Kidder’s Lois. The effects were off the chain (and shoot me for saying that)…Superman flying at supersonic speeds, hovering far above planet Earth, using his super hearing, x-ray and telescopic vision, heat vision, and super-breath? I get chills, man. The caper is watching the bullets bouncing off of him, while he’s walking nonchalantly toward the gunman. This is perhaps a near-perfect Superman movie.

So why’d I give this one only four stars out of five? Let me explain…

First off, after the second showing, I started to get the feeling that I’ve seen this all before. If you pay close attention (and ignore the disrespecting teenagers sitting behind you and to the right, making stupid little statements like “Wait, didn’t Lex have superpowers too?” I mean, co’mon…), you’ll notice that many plot points in Superman Returns are virtual retreads of the same plot points in the first movie. The saving of the airplane that Lois happens to be in. The little “Statistically speaking…” speech. Lex’s plan to capitalize on owning land by killing billions. Even a couple of speeches from Lex seemed to be lifted from Hackman’s lines from the first movie. The flying around with Lois Lane…thankfully they didn’t include that annoying “Can You Read My Mind” piece from the first one. Kudos to that. Really, outside of the not-so-subtle hints at the possibility that Supes may have had an illegitimate child with Lois, there’s really not much in the way of moving the characters forward, let alone giving something to really let Supes go to town and utilize the full extent of his powers, like the slugfest from Superman II. All I’m saying is, instead of rehashing, the insertion of another one of Superman’s rouges- Brainiac and Metallo come to mind- would have really brought something fresh to the table.

In the end though, Superman Returns did its job at reestablishing Superman as one, if not the, greatest comic book characters on the big screen. Even at the hefty two-hours-and-forty-five-minute running time, I was captivated from beginning to end. I just hope the inevitable sequel will pump things up a notch…