A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Superman Returns

April 14, 2011

Superman Returns

I am extremely conflicted about this movie. It has parts that are like an inspired return to the magic of the first two movies back in the eighties back before the Superman films descended into camp. It manages, briefly, to make Superman cool again. It awakens in me a nostalgia for a simpler time and it pays homage to the first movies wonderfully. It can’t maintain that level though. Once the nostalgia wears off though this movie squanders the good will it has built up for me with the usual ludicrous silliness that plagues the Superman movies and the issues that it tries to address about home and family don’t coalesce well and end up making me feel disappointed and uncomfortable.

It’s pretty interesting to watch this so soon after watching the Tron reboot. Both are full of references to movies from the eighties. Both involve issues of parenthood (in a way.) Both involve absentee fathers. (Okay, yeah, spoilers. Sorry about that. You can stop reading now if you really care.) Flynn, however, reconnects with his son and realizes that the “perfect world” he wants to create has to incorporate the imperfections of biology. Superman is just a creepy stalker who breaks into his son’s room at night. It’s just not the same.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. This movie starts out really well. It starts out with the familiar John Williams score and the swooping credits of the original movies. Kal-el, the alien orphan known to us Earthians as Superman returns to the planet after a lengthy sojourn abroad. He had gone to investigate reports that the shattered remains of his home planet of Krypton had been discovered by astronomers, but it was kind of a dump so he came back. The general thrust of the first half of the movie is that things have changed in the time since Superman left, but it sure is awesome to have him back and kicking all kinds of ass. He stops a plane crash, foils a ridiculously over armed bank robbery, catches a man falling from a German skyscraper…in short he generally does the day-to-day heroing that the world desperately needs done. All the while he is angsting over the fact that Lois Lane, in the years that he was absent, has had a son and has a steady boyfriend.

I’ll be frank: I don’t really want angst in my Superman movie. It’s only been a couple weeks since we watched the three Spiderman movies and that was more than enough superhero angst for a good long while. I really enjoy the bits of this movie that involve Superman being Superman. Brandon Routh is fantastic both as Superman and as his bumbling alter-ego Clark Kent. It’s frightening how much he resembles Christopher Reeve. I also love Sam Huntington as Clark’s pal Jimmy Olson. He delivers a lot of the best laughs in the movie and is just fun to watch. Kevin Spacy’s Lex Luthor is also a high point. He’s just so wise in the ways of a Superman movie – he knows exactly which way the wind is blowing at all times, and he frequently expresses the feelings of the audience.

Sadly this is not a perfect Superman movie. It has several flaws. Some of them, like the ridiculous climactic “action” scene I can kind of forgive. It’s almost traditional for a Superman movie to conclude with him doing something completely impossible. I can’t claim that him throwing a cryptonite-laden mountain into space is any stranger than him turning back time by spinning the planet backwards.

The movie begins to lose its way, though, where Lois Lane’s son is involved. Superman stalks her, floating outside the home she shares with her son and boyfriend Richard (an all around nice guy) and watching the family through the walls using his x-ray vision. Creepy. I understand the entire theme of how things change when we’re away for a while – but I liked it better in Grosse Pointe Blank, where at least it made sense. I suppose it’s an attempt to inject mature adult ideas into a superhero movie, which is what all the cool kids are doing these days, but it just makes the movie feel bogged down and vaguely unfocused. Part of the problem is that nothing is really resolved at the end of the movie. Superman is still stalking Lane and her family, Richard is still dating Lois, even though he has no chance to measure up to her almost worshipful love of the alien stud, and her son is still a wheezing nerd kid who will be ostracized by his classmates because of his long hair. Maybe they were planning to resolve things in the never-produced sequel? I guess we’ll never know.

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April 14, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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