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Superman Returns - Bryan Singer Ushers in Brandon Routh as the New and Improved Superman
By Jason Manheim, Editor in Chief - June 28, 2006

Superman Returns - Bryan Singer Ushers in Brandon Routh as the New and Improved Superman
Brandon Routh, as Superman
 
Kate Bosworth & Brandon Routh
Kate Bosworth & Brandon Routh
 
Kevin Spacey, as Lex Luthor
Kevin Spacey, as Lex Luthor
 
James Marsden, Brandon Routh & Kate Bosworth
James Marsden, Brandon Routh & Kate Bosworth
 
Brandon Routh
Brandon Routh
Just so you have an idea of whether I liked this new version of Superman … "Wow!" Nervous about experiencing a whole new cast and perspective on this "beyond" iconic superhero, I found myself initially unsure of my thoughts on Superman Returns. Subconsciously, I was searching for Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, and Gene Hackman, but found myself in unfamiliar territory. However, as the film's exciting plot enveloped me, it all came into focus and "wow, Superman Returns is amazing."

Director Bryan Singer (X2: X-Men United, X-Men, The Usual Suspects) has reintroduced the world to Superman with new dimensions of character, strengths and weaknesses. The Man of Steel, sharply played by newcomer Brandon Routh, presents this superhero with new levels of emotion that underlie the film. Superman's blatant depths of love, caring and yearning for Lois Lane, played by Kate Bosworth (Beyond the Sea, Blue Crush) are brought to life as never before depicted in a Superman movie.

Superman Returns seems to pick up where Superman II left off, at the end of which Lex Luthor had been placed in jail and Superman and Lois Lane had just experienced a new level of affection for each other. Now, in Superman Returns, after returning from a 5 year hiatus from Earth to visit his Planet Krypton, the remains of which were recently discovered by astronomers, Superman finds himself in new territory. The world has learned to live without the protective ever presence of Superman during his absence. More importantly to Brandon Routh's character, Lois Lane has learned to live without Superman, as she is now engaged and has a 5 year old son. She has even won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman" … clearly, however, her paradoxical expression to mask her deep loss resulting from Superman's mysterious departure. Lex Luthor, masterfully portrayed by Kevin Spacey (Beyond the Sea, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects), has just been released from jail and immediately has masterminded a plot to create his own massive real estate empire, yet again.

This Superman film is a true romance story, driven by the intense, yet obstructed love between Superman and Lois Lane. This romantic plot is presented with more layers and depth than the average superhero movie, including perhaps that of Peter Parker and Mary Jane in Spiderman. In Superman Returns, their affection for each other has become simultaneously more complex, yet more closely tied. Kate Bosworth portrays a similar Lois Lane as Margot Kidder, always finding herself in trouble. However, Bosworth does so in a much softer manner, which plays well into this more passionate love story.

This romantic intensity is impressively backed up by spectacular special effects that bring Superman Returns clearly a few notches above that of its predecessors. For action movie and special effects junkies, director Bryan Singer has not let us down. At the beginning of Superman Returns, Brandon Routh's character immediately finds himself immersed in Lex Luthor's devious plot and multiple resulting dangers from which to save everyone. As a new space shuttle is in a mid air test launch gone awry, Superman finds himself saving the shuttle and the press filled passenger plane carrying it. Ending in a stunningly elegant performance guiding the plane to safety, Superman's feat serves as a mass announcement of his arrival back home to his adopted planet.

Lex Luthor, of course, not happy to learn of Superman's arrival, is already in the midst of his own scheme. After discovering Superman's alien crystals, Kevin Spacey's character develops a plot to combine their technological secrets with the properties of Kryptonite and create a new continent fully loaded with debilitating effects on Superman and the realization of Lex Luthor's long lived dream of tremendous real estate ownership. It was difficult to conjure who could replace Gene Hackman as Superman's nemesis, but Kevin Spacey does so quite well and with his own flare.

Casting for Superman Returns was flawless. Although initially hesitant to replace my loyalty for my beloved actors in the original Superman (well, for me, "original" means the Christopher Reeve version), I found myself thoroughly immersed in this new assemblage, discovering a newfound set of loyalties. Often, remakes of successful movies, especially those of franchises as embedded in entertainment annals as Superman, parallel too much with their original counterparts. Superman Returns did, in fact, take this route of paralleling the Superman of old, but did so eloquently, successfully and in just the right amount. Fans of the original Superman will gladly find iterations throughout the film beguiling the resurrection of wonderful flashbacks from previous installments of Superman movies: e.g., the memorable "Goodnight Ms. Lane"; and, saving Lois from a potential mid air catastrophe at the beginning of the film - "Statistically speaking, flying is still the safest way to travel."

At about two and a half hours long, Superman Returns provides the right amount of development and surprises consistently throughout its course. I found myself wanting more and thinking a few times during the film, "oh, please don't end yet!" As a long time Superman fan, I am thoroughly pleased with this re-birth of the Superman franchise. Now, the only problem is, how much time do I have to wait to see the sequel! I'm excited for it, as I picked up on a number of things in Superman Returns that could easily lend themselves to an exciting sequel. See if you pick up on them.

Superman Returns
Rated PG-13 for some intense action violence. Runtime 154 min. Theatrical release 6/28/2006.

PR.com Rating: A

Superman Returns - Bryan Singer Ushers in Brandon Routh as the New and Improved Superman


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