I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Summer Movie Flashback: Superman Returns

2006
2006

tn_supermanreturnsHuh. SUPERMAN RETURNS. Interesting to watch this again now. Not only are there 7 years of 20/20 x-ray vision to look back on it with, but also a recent do-over that I like better. This was the first Superman movie made for a world that might be indifferent to the character of Superman, so they made that the subtext. Superman (Brandon Routh, DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT) has been gone for years studying space rubble or something, meanwhile the world has gotten used to not having him around to babysit them. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth, THE WARRIOR’S WAY) has moved on to the point of having a kid (Tristan Lake Leabu), a fiancee (James Marsden, AMBUSH IN WACO: IN THE LINE OF DUTY), and a Pulitzer Prize for her essay “Why the World Doesn’t Need a Superman” (early draft title: “That Fucking Asshole Superman Got Me Pregnant in Part 2 and Then Flew Off To Space For Some Reason”).

But of course Bryan Singer and company want the world to be like Lois and secretly actually want Superman back, and eventually kiss him on the mouth while he’s unconscious. But the world only patted him on the head. SUPERMAN RETURNS did make money I believe and I think was generally liked okay (75% critics / 63% civilians according to the math wizards at Rotten Tomatoes [as opposed to MAN OF STEEL’s more divided 56% critics / 76% common man]), but it wasn’t the juggernaut they wanted or an excitement-generator like BATMAN BEGINS was, so they floundered a while before deciding not to do another one.

With BATMAN BEGINS, Christopher Nolan took an approach to the character that nobody was really clamoring for and proved that it worked. SUPERMAN RETURNS took the more obvious (but in retrospect clearly wrong) approach of listening to the fans and worshipping at the feet of what they already like. Singer treated it as a sequel to Richard Donner’s 1 1/2 quarter-century-old Superman movies. He got Routh, who looked like Christopher Reeve, to play the Super-man. He re-used the John Williams theme song and recordings of Marlon Brando any time he needed to squeeze out some emotion. He had Kevin Spacey play Lex Luthor as a funny super villain like Gene Hackman’s version, with another lady-in-old-timey-hat sidekick (Parker Posey in a rare solo appearance away from Triple-H). On the extras disc Singer talks about going to pitch his idea to Richard Donner to try to get the job. He says he thinks you can’t do this movie without getting the blessing of Richard Donner. I wonder if Nolan thought he had to get the blessing of Tim Burton? Or is the blessing not for making a Superman movie, but for biting Donner’s style?

still_supermanreturns_lensflaresBy the way, Singer uses some lens flares in this one, and most of them are probly created by computers and not by the yellow sun that powers Superman. Aren’t we supposed to be against that? Don’t we have to bring it up every time Singer is ever discussed again? From what I understand that’s the rule. That would be really productive and not annoying at all in my opinion and I always really respect people who do that with other filmatists and I figure they have alot of good insights that are worth listening to.

One question that I haven’t really seen addressed about Superman returning: what the fuck was he doing in space all that time? He says that astronomers discovered the remains of his planet so he went to investigate. Did it just take him that long to fly there and back, or did he stop and look around for a while? What was there really to see? Did he run some tests or something? I don’t really understand what he was up to. Also, when Superman flies into space for several years does he occasionally have to stop in the middle of space to sleep? Or did he really stay awake for that long? I mean I guess he kinda lays around the Kent house for a bit when he gets back but in my opinion he should be more tired than that if he’s been flying for years with no rest.

Also what about pissing. Does Superman pee in space, how does that whole thing work.

A problem I have is how young Superman and Lois seem. That wouldn’t matter if it was a new story, but they keep telling us these are the same people from the other movies some years later. Gotta be around 5-7 years since a baby was born and grew into a kid. And it’s hard to accept these babyfaces talking like they’re supposed to be old timers looking back over long relationships and careers.

I like Routh though (fuck you, TED). I mean, admittedly I like Cavill’s version better, but Routh has a good dorky Clark Kent and likably whitebread Superman who flies in, saves the day, asks everybody if they’re okay, and demonstrates good posture. One criticism: when he’s Clark Kent I’m pretty sure he never does any work at all, he just stands around looking awkward while Lois talks about him across the room. I don’t know if he seriously knows how to write or if he just pretends to push buttons on the keyboard. In my opinion Perry White was kinda stupid to rehire him.

Routh’s Superman is skinnier than Cavill’s, but I guess with those Kryptonian genetics he could be a skeleton and still pick up buildings. No reason to be downing creatine.

And The Boz isn’t as miscast as I remembered. Actually I liked her this time. As a mother in a bad spot she’s good, it’s just the veteran reporter part she’s too young to pull off. Maybe later.

I’m not a fan of Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington, JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE). Not the actor’s fault, but he’s just another not-funny comic relief character. Good move ditching that dead weight in MAN OF STEEL. (in part 2 he’ll be played by Matt Damon) In general I think the humor in this movie is pretty lame. One exception is when Posey finds one of her two little dogs alone with a small pile of hair. She asks “Weren’t there two of those?” but nobody else seems to notice. Also I like when a big bald thug with an evil clown tattoo on the back of his head sits down to do the “Heart and Soul” piano duet with Superman’s bastard son.

My big problem with the movie is Lex Luthor. Fuck that guy. As far as comic book villains go he’s not as bad as Colin Farrell’s Guy Who Is Really Good at Flicking Stuff from DAREDEVIL, but it’s still crazy that they were willing to settle on this idiot as the antagonist in a movie they were spending so much money on. In my original review I simplified Luthor’s plan to make a joke, but here is seriously the steps of his scheme, as far as I understand them.

1. Fuck an old lady named Gertrude (Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in 1948) and inherit her boat

still_supermanreturns1

2. Go to Antarctica and sneak into Superman’s secret cave. I’m not sure if they really needed anything they found there or if it just kinda gave them a thrill to be sneaking around in his place, like the kids in THE BLING RING.

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3. Add water (to a crystal)

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4. Cut the brakes on Parker Posey’s car to distract Superman while stealing a rock from the museum. No clue how they knew that Superman would prioritize this over the break-in or anything else happening in the world.

still_supermanreturns7

5. Repeat step 3

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6. Stab Superman with Kryptonite

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Meanwhile Lex and his couple of thugs sit in a crystal cave that they grew. How are they gonna maintain ownership of this new continent if a military force comes in? I don’t know. Do they expect to have actual houses there, or are they seriously gonna live in a cave? I don’t know. Does this look like a very attractive piece of property?

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I’m gonna go with “no.” I mean, you can clean that shit up, but can you even grow gross on it?

What do they plan to do when Superman pulls the Kryptonite out and comes after them again? They haven’t thought that far ahead. Also they didn’t count on Parker Posey not agreeing with killing billions of people to build a cave and ratting them out. They shoulda made sure everybody was on the same page I guess.

That’s why I don’t think this movie holds up, but it’s not a total bust. I mean, I like all the Superman stuff. I still like the airplane rescue scene, the part where a bullet bounces off his eyeball, the part where he floats in space hearing the troubles all around the world. There’s a scene where some of the buildings in Metropolis are falling apart, and he flies around and saves like 3 or 4 people, so I guess that’s what the angry mob wanted from MAN OF STEEL, was to redo the same scene from the movie they didn’t like a few years ago, so they can sleep soundly knowing that a handful of the 11 million people in Metropolis (2000 census) were definitely not crushed offscreen. It’s a cool scene, though.

I also forgot all about the part at the end where he pushes himself to the brink flying the giant crystal pile into space and then passes out and falls all the way to earth. It’s upping the ante of the cool scene in earlier Summer Movie Flashback HULK where he falls from the upper atmosphere after riding a fighter jet. Like Hulk he survives the fall, but this time he’s hospitalized, in a coma. He’s brought down to earth literally and figuratively.

One little sad touch is that Lois, being a bigshot and everything, is allowed into the hospital to visit Superman, even though she’s with a different dude now, and won’t even tell her kid that that’s his dad. But poor Ma Kent (Eva Marie Saint, NORTH BY FUCKING NORTHWEST), who raised him since birth, has to stand outside in the crowd just pretending to be in the same boat as everybody else.

Like in MAN OF STEEL later, these issues of surrogate parenting are important. Not just with the Kents, but this new character of Lois’s fiancee. When Superman finds out the kid is his son (Bizarro Billy Jean) he’s also smart enough to know that the boy’s grown up with this other guy as dad and he has to respect that connection. Just like the Kents are more his parents than holographic Marlon Brando is. And the relationship between Superman and stepdad is pretty good, they’re both kinda jealous of each other but polite. They each save each other and are man enough to say thank you. I remember reading that Singer was adopted, so it makes sense that he added an extra layer of adoptive parent drama.

What Superman should do, he should give Lois some money for child support and then just leave the kid a magic crystal that can project his head saying wise things. That’s more than what he got from his dad.

SUPERMAN RETURNS is okay. It’s Lex Luthor Returns that I got a problem with.

* * *

original review

other movies that came out that summer: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST, LADY IN THE WATER, MIAMI VICE, SNAKES ON A PLANE

highest grossing movie that year: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 at 1:29 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

63 Responses to “Summer Movie Flashback: Superman Returns”

  1. Totally agree. The Lex stuff brings this one down. Such a bummer, too, because Spacey seemed like perfect casting at the time. The airplane scene, though, is probably still my favorite superhero action scene in a movie.

  2. Oh, and I hate the super kid stuff. But who doesn’t?

  3. When I first saw this and heard the John Williams music I kind of freaked out. I mean, I can’t think of any other Hollywood remake where they havent done new music, costumes, designs, cast etc. This is because I imagine the Hollywood remake industry to be a big coke fuelled ego machine where everyone needs to put their unique spin on the classic to prove they’re just as good and fuck what 10,000 nerds say on Aint It Cool.

    I also thought of the disruption this might cause to the Hollywood ecosystem. Poor Hans Zimer missing out on the tentpole gig. Now he has to go slumming and steal the DENNIS THE MENACE 4 gig off Graeme Revell or whoever. Now Graeme Revell’s got no gig so he has to go do an Asylum movie. Now the Asylum guy has to go back to porn. It’s a delicate balance that’s being upset here.

    So with all these fanciful thoughts running through my head I actually thought Brian Singer was kind of brave with his “fuck you we’re using the old tune” stance.

    And then the movie started and Luthor’s scheme was really blah and I ended up giving it a B- just like everyone else.

  4. Sure Luthor was a problem in this sad humorless debacle, but really, Brodie said it best…

    Brodie: “It’s impossible. Lois could never have Superman’s baby. Do you think her fallopian tubes could handle his sperm? I guarantee he blows a load like a shotgun right through her back. What about her womb? Do you think it’s strong enough to carry his child?”

    Quint: “Sure, why not?”

    Brodie: “He’s an alien, for Christ sake. His Kyrptonian biological makeup is enhanced by Earth’s yellow sun. If Lois gets a tan, the kid could kick right through her stomach. Only someone like Wonder Woman has a strong enough uterus to carry his kid. The only way he could bang regular chicks is with a Kryptonite condom, but that would kill him.”

  5. I’d like to defend Lex Luthor. I actually thought Kevin Spacey’s performance did a nice job of balancing out the bizarre Silver Age aspects of the character with genuine menace. Hell, I thought he did a much better job than Gene Hackman. I really like the “WRONG” scene. It showcased just how much of a crazy egomaniac the character is. I think a lot of people get caught up in how absurd Luthor’s plan is. It’s really just a throw back to the original Donner films and, again, to the absurd over-the-top Silver Age Superman funny books. Besides, it seems clear to me that Luthor’s real goal is to get revenge. The crystals are just his means of obtaining what’s really his main objective.

    I’m the only person who thinks this way these days, but I like superhero movies that borrow from the mediums more bizarre elements. I like it when a director is able to balance out superheroics with moments of camp which are a pretty integral part of comic books. Tim Burton did this with his Batman movies and so did Sam Raimi in his Spiderman movies. Singer is just following in this same tradition. But these days people just want ultra serious, more grounded superheroes. I don’t mind it when a superhero movie is in this mode, but I think there’s plenty of room to include the silly aspects of these funny books.

  6. http://collider.com/simon-pegg-star-trek-into-darkness-interview/

    Who made the first joke about lens flares?

    Probably some film student who wanted to demonstrate his or her knowledge of film terminology, thus elevating themselves to an assumed level of critical superiority, which gave them the kind of smug, knowing smile that indicates a festering sour grape, fizzing in the pit of their own ambition. It’s become a sort of communal stick to have a crack at JJ with, mostly by people who didn’t know what the fuck lens flare was, until someone started sneering the term all over their blog. It demonstrates JJ’s supreme talent as a film maker that the main means of knocking him is to magnify a throw away artistic choice, into some sort of hilarious failing. Lens flare is essentially an anomaly caused by light hitting the lens and creating refracted shapes. Because it draws attention to the fact that we are looking at a filmed event, it actually creates a subliminal sense of documentary realism and makes the moment more vital and immediate. In the same way Spielberg spattered his shots with bloody seawater in Saving Private Ryan, JJ suggests that the moment we are in is so real and alive, there just isn’t time to frame out all the light and activity. The irony is by acknowledging the film’s artifice, you are enhancing the reality of the moment. It’s clever and I love it. On set we call it ‘best in show’ and our amazing director of photography, Dan Mindel has a special technique to achieve it. To the detractors, I offer a polite fuck you and suggest you find a new stick to beat us with, if being a huge, boring neggyballs is necessary for your personal happiness.

  7. I just still think it’s amazing that Singer managed to make a $200 million Superman movie that is more character-driven than action-driven. I’m a fan.

  8. I too have a soft spot for this movie.

    Although I think most points are fair I do have to raise two things:

    1. He clearly crashes his ship into the Kent Family farm when he returns at the beginning.

    2. Remember that Jimmy Olsen was a hot girl (Jenny, geddit?) in Man of Steve.

  9. I think that Jenny Olsen thing turned out to be just a rumour. In the movie she’s just Jenny, no Olsen connection, which I think was the smart thing to do.

    Now, if they decided to replace Jimmy with the Olsen twins… That’s an idea I would fully endorse.

  10. Rbatty:

    Do you really think that the filmmakers of the 1950s were going for camp? Was that *really* the intention of the creators of Lex Luthor? Because I don’t buy this revisionist stuff. I’m pretty sure the definition of “cool” changed and we now ironically enjoy that earlier “cool” with a sense of detatched irony. You know, like hipsters.

    That said, if they only ever make ONE MORE superhero movie, it should be bizarro. Oh what I would do for a bizarro movie. From his limited perspective, of course.

  11. Or, to put it more clearly; camp is a post-modern reading of a sincere text. The golden age of camp occurred 20-30 years after the production of the so-called camp classics and existed only in the minds of those looking back on a previous generation.

    Rocky horror was made to be campy. Day of the triffids was not.

  12. I had the same reaction to this as I did MOS, both supposedly “character-driven” movies. Meh. Both half-baked, both kinda boring. Except one was rejected and the other…I just get the impression that people so badly wanted to like it and actually make DCU a reality beyond just more [redacted] movies.

    Please Ben Affleck, save us!

  13. I think it’s telling of Singer’s commitment to revisit the Richard Donner version that not only does he have Kevin Spacey doing a (admittedly very good) Gene Hackman impression as Lex Luthor, but that Lex Luthor’s plan is ANOTHER genocidal real estate scheme that’s foiled because his Jersey girlfriend isn’t down with all the killing.

  14. The truth is, Lex’s scheme doesn’t work conceptually. But thematically, I think it’s a corker, and one of the (many many many) reasons (don’t get me started, oy!) as to why this is a better, less-empty film than Man of Steel.

    Superman’s trip into space (which is seen in a gorgeous deleted scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF44PEypDQs) cements what he already knows. He has no legacy. He has Lois winning prizes for discussing his irrelevance. He has no parents, no homeland. A link to his ancestry would have been incredible, but instead, the few remaining shards of Krypton only cause him pain. And now that he’s returned, he doesn’t even have Lois anymore. Figuring out the kid is his probably saved the dude from Super-Suicide.

    Meanwhile, there’s Lex, forming his own legacy by openly STEALING others: he shacks up with that old lady and strip-mines her entire fortune. He then devises a plan to create more land, and therefore a new empire, by causing the pain and suffering of others, AND borrowing chunks of Superman’s legacy. When he goes to the Fortress of Solitude, you can even hear it in his voice when Jor-El starts to speak: “He thinks I’m his son” he says, or something to that affect. The sibling rivalry angle is right there in the moment where no one feeds the dogs, so one of them EATS the other.

    That’s why the moment when Lex stabs Superman with a Kryptonite shiv is so upsetting: he’s stabbing him with a borrowed part of Superman’s history. He’s taken Superman’s past and used it as a literal weapon, and a crude one at that.

    I just wish the film worked on another level beyond that: there needed to be a physical threat, or at least some way around how Lex is inevitably going to get in his own way. I just wish those behind Man of Steel thought the answer to this would be endless punchouts between invincible characters.

  15. Okay Uncle Imshi, so you’re saying he flew to space and back in his baby rocket? I didn’t catch that, I thought he just came back carrying a bunch of space crap he found. But that makes more sense what you’re saying.

    As for “Jenny Olsen” as I’ve said before that was just an incorrect conspiracy theory from Superman Truthers or something. The character in the movie is just called “Jenny” and isn’t a photographer or a wacky comic relief character. Also if you follow this link you can see that the producer said she is not Jimmy Olsen, and also she is apparently wearing an ID badge that calls her “Jenny Jurwich”.

    http://movies.cosmicbooknews.com/content/deborah-snyder-shoots-down-man-steel-jenny-olsen-rumor

  16. I had the pleasure of seeing this in America when my Mum lived over there. I watched this and X-Men 3 whilst visiting. I much prefered X men 3, despite the whole world telling me it was terrible.

  17. Some nice insight there, Gabe. Yeah, Lex’s issue has always been that he was supposed to be the world’s champion, but instead the world embraces this alien. Lex is very much pro-humanity (although his own twisted interpretation of pro-humanity) and likes to think of himself as the underdog. I like to think of him as Batman’s evil twin. He can be so damn intimidating in the comics. Still waiting for the day when they get the character right on film.

    I don’t think they’ve made the perfect Superman film yet. In my book, the perfect Superman film would be an adaptation of Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come. That book is the one true superhero epic, in my opinion. It’s all about Superman having to make the tough choices and having to live with the consequences. It’s pretty much my dream project. If I owned Hollywood, that’s the superhero movie I would make.

  18. Fair one on the Jenny Olsen thing. Lack of fact checking by Imshi.

  19. I still maintain they should get Brandon Routh to play Bizarro for a Man of Steel sequel.

  20. I’m standing by my 2007 picks that I predict Vern will review. Remember for the 2011 retrospective, he reviewed the first F&TF movie.

    What will he review for 2008? I really believe (as naive it is) that he’ll review IRON MAN.

    So what else? If he wants pain, there is THE LOVE GURU. He already reviewed WANTED and THE HAPPENING and WALL-E, I don’t see a real reason to revisit those. Same with HELLBOY 2 and SPEED RACER. I guess he could do TDK, but again why?

    The other possibilities, in no order:

    X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE – random as hell. You know Vern likes to pull that on us.
    MEET DAVE – Both pain and “random” too.
    MAMMA MIA! – Hit musical, random and he doesn’t review that much Meryl Streep.
    GET SMART – Meh?
    KUNG FU PANDA – I seem to remember Vern taking to issue with folks holding different standards for Pixar (w/ WALL-E) and DWA (with this.) Worth nothing.
    CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN – Yawn.
    INDY IV – He already reviewed this, but we all remember Vern laying the smackdown against the nerd rage over this film.
    YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN – Random as hell.

    As I struggle with Vern reviewing two comic book/superhero movies from the same summer, you know he never reviewed HANCOCK either. Be an interesting companion piece with IRON MAN for better or worse or different versions of the ubermensch fantasy.

    Fuck it, I’m going with HANCOCK.

  21. Tawdry – I’m specifically referring to the Silver Age of comic books, which starts in the mid-50s and goes into the 70s. I agree that applying the word “camp” to anything prior to the 1960s is probably just a modern projection. But by the time the 60s roll around there’s clearly a post-modern sense of awareness in popular culture. I remember renting the old Adam West Batman movie on a lark back in high school, and finding it hilarious. But about halfway through the film I came to realize that this wasn’t an accident. These filmmakers were aware of how absurd and funny their show was. Up until then I had only heard disparaging things about Adam West’s Batman, usually in opposition to the grittier comics coming out in the 90s. But it was only when I saw the 1960s movie that I finally understand that comic book fans had been misinterpreting that series for decades.

  22. I never did get around to seeing this one for some reason (too busy with the internet I guess?) and I regret that, if only so I could just have my own opinion on it versus MAN OF STEEL, maybe one of these days I’ll finally get around to seeing it on blu ray or whatever, but for now the only thing I know about it is the Lex Luthor “WROOOOOONG!” meme (here’s an example http://lexluthor.ytmnd.com/)

    and speaking of 2006 internet memes, God, remember the SNAKES ON A PLANE phenomenon? I mean it was funny, but that whole thing seems so bizarre in hindsight, like a fever dream, especially considering that after all that fucking hype almost no one actually went to see the damn thing (though I did), you’d people would at least be SOMEWHAT curious about the actual movie, no?

    maybe I’m wrong but doesn’t it seem like “internet memes” as we used to know them have gone the way of “where’s the beef”?, sure every once in a while there’s a “viral video” that captures people’s attention for about 5 minutes but memes that are phrases that people repeat over and over (such as “ALL YOUR BASE”)? I can’t think of any obvious examples from the last couple of years

    I’m sure most of you are probably happy about that fact, but it bums me out personally, at least in the past when you said “the internet” you were talking about a specific culture, mindset, attitude and tone, nowadays “the internet” is as general as “television” or “movies”, it no longer means anything specific whatsoever

  23. grimgrinningchris

    September 3rd, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    All of the airport signs in my town STILL have the wrapped snakes stenciled on them. They never replaced them and that makes me smile.

    I much prefer this movie to MOS, warts and all. It just feels more like a Superman movie (and no, not just due to familiarity).

    Still think Posey should have been Lois Lane instead abs still think that Spacey was a far superior Lex Luthor to Hackman. Still think Routh got fucked, being handed the brass ring, taking good care of it and then still getting it snatched away from him. Watch the BTS stuff during his casting process on the DVD. Is this the most likable motherfucker on the planet, or what? Still think the airplane rescue is the best action scene in any Superman movie, but also still think that it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of action elsewhere in the movie.
    Blah blah blah. Bob Loblaw.

  24. I read “the Boz” and immediately thought of Brian Bosworth, which would have made this movie that much better.

  25. This movie might be good on 2nd viewing. Probly not, though. My ladyfriend & I angrily lost interest during this stupid, shitty, somber thing in the theatre, despite (because of???) the fact that we were quite inebriated and should have been in the mood for superhero ridiculousness and Parker Posey awesomeness and seeing a dude shot in the face point blank, etc..

    She [the young ladyfriend by my side, not Parker Posey (despite my efforts at imagistic-imaginative transference)] performed a sex act or 2 upon me during the screening (in the top row, with no neighboring ticketbuyers — we’re not exhibitionist savages), yet I still wish I had been somewhere else.

    Snyder/Nolan/Goyer this summer didn’t exactly nail this character, either, but hey that’s only cuz Supes belongs exclusively in paper/pulp renditions and cuz Snyder is only at his best when he’s working with his own original material.

    Considering the ratio of superhero movies I hate (a lot)
    to
    superhero movies that were good-to-okay-ish but I never want to see a 2nd time (a few)
    to
    superhero movies I actually liked/appreciated/loved (there’s like 5 and a half, maybe),
    I’m so ready to retire this genre now.

  26. I especially agree with you, Vern, on the way that humor fails in this movie. Very few scenes are funny, and if you’re trying to emulate Richard Donner’s films, I kinda think you should be hitting more home runs than this film does.

    I think the only part I truly laughed at was when Routh tells Jimmy (over drinks in a bar) that Superman would be really pissed of that Lex Luthor got away because he wasn’t there for the trial. In general, I appreciate Routh as a dorky Kent in in the same way I like Karl Urban as Bones from the latest STAR TREK movies; not as good, but hey, you get points for trying, buddy.

    What bothered me more than Kevin Spacey was actually Marsden as the New, Nice Guy Husband. I felt the character was so similar to the X-men Cyclops that it distracted me/took me out of the movie/annoyed me/whatever. Scott Summers was never as cool as Wolverine, and this guy certainly isn’t as cool as FUCKING SUPERMAN. Didn’t really like him, didn’t want him to end up with Lois Lane, didn’t care that he flies the plane out to save her, etc. Maybe with a different actor I would have felt better about the character, but again, the similarities to Cyclops kept gnawing at me as I watched.

    Any way you slice it, this is a weird, sad movie.

    MAN OF STEEL is good – maybe not as good as IRON MAN THREE, but it’s close. I would watch both movies again. They’re very different.

    Interested to hear what you think of the Affleck news, by the way.

  27. Crawling out of the woodwork to say: seeing “Lady in the Water” in that list at the end made me wish for a retrospective. That was the review that turned me on to Vern, linked as superlative from some more dead-respectable film site. Life-changing stuff.

    I recall liking Supeman Returns more than any of the people I saw it with, but I was pretty into unearned gravity then. The kind of thing that insists on its weight so hard you either start to feel it or get out of the way. It takes more now, or at least it has to hit some sweet spots to carry me. An alien god in a blue union suit stalking his ex doesn’t really fall into my filmatistic fetish set so it’s more likely to cause eye-rolling nowadays. There’s plenty of portent I don’t buy in MoS (must be DKR proximity osmosis) but it ran fast enough and threw enough action in my face that it didn’t bother me much until I was numb to all the rest.

    What are these sentences what am I doing

  28. @ironcup,

    Your avatar reminds me of the game THE BANNER SAGA: FACTIONS which is available on Steam.

    LADY IN THE WATER has a great score, so listen to it and contemplate the demise of Charmin Ding Dong as I do.

  29. “I’m so ready to retire this genre now.”

    same here, to be honest, after THE AVENGERS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES I’ve feel like had my fill of caped crusaders for a while

  30. With all the interesting interpretations of Lex Luthor over the years, I can’t believe they decided to stick with the campy one-note villain from the Donner movies, and with such a lame evil plot to boot. The whole movie was this uncomfortable mix of Silver Age goofiness and somber drama that didn’t work at all.

    Speaking on behalf of the angry mob, yes, I would have liked to see Superman flying around and saving people during the final battle in MOS. That would have been great.

  31. Paul with new computer on which nothing works except a browser...

    September 4th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    “I had the pleasure of seeing this in America when my Mum lived over there. I watched this and X-Men 3 whilst visiting.”

    Holy shit, man, worst holiday ever. You have my sympathy.

    And I gotta agree with you in terms of ranking those two movies… while I think X3 was a mangled rush-job of a movie that pretty much shat all over the characters I’d grown to like in the previous two movies, “Superman Returns” was far, far worse. To me it’s actually less entertaining than “Superman 4”, which is merely dumb-as-hell, badly made, and ridiculously naive in its view of the world. “Superman Returns” is also naive, dumb, but it’s not as badly made – thanks Bryan Singer for that at least. My main problem with the movie, other than its overweening stupidity, is that every single main character in it apart from the one who gets totally screwed over at the end is so freakin’ unlikeable. I don’t know what the hell Spacey was doing, but he’s just the worst of a massive cast of talented actors who bring absolutely nothing to the film. It even looks terrible – it’s easy to point to the crystal island, which is presumably supposed to look inhospitable anyway, as an example of this (seriously, they had a brief of producing a visual representation of a world grown from mystic space rocks, and they couldn’t come up with anything better than that?) but just look at the Daily Planet office – it looks like a cardboard set.

    “Superman Returns” sits solidly in the middle of my mental “worst movies of the last decade that can actually be classified as movies” list, and it fully deserves that spot. It’s a risible moronic piece of mean-spirited bullshit. Yeah, there are actually very few movies I’ve watched that I would have to say I positively hated. This was one of them. And if anybody thinks I’m exaggerating here, just compare this one to something like “Thor”, which I’ve now watched three times (each time the issues I originally had with it bug me less and less, whereas I like it more and more.) Compare the visuals, the scoring, the characters (most of which in “Thor” are lightly but expertly sketched, each of whom brings something extra to the movie).

    Tomorrow I will be seeing “You’re Next”. I’ll try and give an opinion on it then, assuming I can get this damn machine to work even slightly like I want it to.

  32. Why do you think it’s naive and mean-spirited, Paul?

  33. At first I didn’t understand what you meant with “Fuck you TED”, because TED was one of the most awful movies I’ve seen in years and I didn’t finish it, but last night I caught the last minute of it on TV and damn, that line makes me hate Seth MacFarlane even more.

  34. I actually thought TED was pretty funny, much better than any other Seth McFarlane thing I’ve seen, I just thought the random Brandon Routh attack was dumb. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a serious criticism or if it’s supposed to be funny because it’s so “why the fuck would anybody hate Brandon Routh that much?” befuddling, but either way it’s a total failure.

  35. Many people who hate MacFarlane’s other work seem to enjoy TED, which is why I gave it a shot in the first place, but then I laughed only once (In the scene when they have to remove the turd that the hooker left on the floor and only because Wahlberg’s cringing was so damn hilarious). And when Sam J Jones appeared, pulling ye olde sitcom gag of playing a caricature of himself, I realized that I didn’t care for anything that will happen in the movie and so I just turned it off.

    But to be honest, “What is that supposed to mean?” is something, that I keep asking myself constantly when it comes to the work of MacFarlane and other “edgy” comedians. Most of the time they just rely on saying shocking things, without providing any context. When you ask them, they say they want to “push the envelope” or make fun of political correctness, but without context it’s just “saying it” instead of “commenting on it”. There is a difference between Louis CK explaining on stage why he thinks that it’s okay to say N***** instead of “The N-word” and putting a black character who likes watermelon and fried chicken eating and can’t swim into your Adult Swim cartoon.

    (I’m not saying that MacFarlane is racist, but I would call him “dumb”.)

  36. Knox, I’m not going to speak for Paul, but I sort of found Superman Returns mean-spirited as well. The whole thing claims to be an extension of the light-hearted Donner franchise, but then we have this endless scene where the bad guys curb stomp Superman for what seems to be an eternity, and that scene where the guy is slapping around Lois Lane before he gets killed by a little boy who doesn’t seem to really understand what he’s doing. Now, I’ve seen worse stuff in any number of big summer movies, but those two scenes really stick out in how unpleasant they are compared to the rest of the movie. (which maybe means Singer effectively did his job, i guess). I actually referred to this one as “the dark and gritty” one because of said violence and “angry Lex Luthor” before Man of Steel came out, which makes this one look positively whimsical.

    Oh and then there’s the whole thing of how everyone says Superman comes across as a stalker in this one, and it’s weird to ask us to identify with an (established) superhero who uses his powers for jealous/petty reasons instead of solely helping people, even though we’d all do the same thing probably. I actually really want to see this one again after MOS, I absolutely hated it before but I get the feeling I wouldn’t mind it now.

  37. Thanks for the feedback, neal. Funny, I didn’t pick up any of that. I find Superman Returns quite wholesome, actually. It succeeds in reminding me of the more innocent kind of blockbusters we got back in the 80’s. Stuff like Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and, yes, Donner’s Superman.

    Superman getting stabbed was quite a shocking scene (reminded me of that scene where Robocop gets all shot up), but I guess that was the point. I liked it. Really upped the drama and tension for me.

    As for the “stalker” thing… I just don’t get that. For me Superman has never been anything but benevolent. What a lot of people saw as “stalking”, I see as Superman keeping watch. After all, this guy can see and hear everything, at all times. That scene of him hovering over the earth, listening in on the world’s problems, established him as a guardian in that film.

    I haven’t seen the film in a few years, but I can’t really recall an instance where he gets petty. I’ll watch it again and see if I spot anything.

    P.S. I think some of those shots gave a “stalker” vibe because of the high contrast lighting and some intense close-ups on his eyes. It’s a good example of how a director’s intentions and some of the audience’s perceptions of the final result can clash. In the end, I think that Superman Returns is a film out of touch with our cynical times, attitudes and expectations. I guess that’s why I like it.

  38. I actually really liked this one. I also really liked MOS. I don’t need all of my Superman movies to be the same tone or intent. I thought this was a success in its attempt to homage the Donner movies.

    I liked seeing him race around and save people while still trying to stop something bigger (even if it was only like 4 people). I liked that he seemed like he was playing his version of Christopher Reeve. I loved the airplane rescue as his reintroduction to Earth. I liked him hovering over the world, listening to everyone. It gave us a clear understanding that he felt responsible to guard everyone & how isolating & overwhelming that could be. I liked the crazy amount of effort it took him to fly that kryptonite continent into space & then falling to Earth. Hell, I even liked him having a kid. I thought Routh was great. I thought Spacey was chilling, even if Luthor was kind of a weak choice in the villain & his plan was a lame been there, done that. I did not like The Boz as Lois, but I didn’t actively hate her. Basically, it’s as simple as the fact that hearing the Superman music kick in at the beginning gave me chills & set up my movie experience. I took everything Singer dished out & loved it.

  39. CJ: If you haven’t seen it, you should look up Louis CK on Leno when he talks about how his daughters can’t complain about anything because they’re privileged little white girls. It’s brilliant. Leno, on the other hand, has an awkward moment of looking like a racist tool, but I think that was just being a dumb ass, rather than true bigotry.

  40. Yeah, there are some topics that are very difficult to discuss and especially JOKE about without coming across as a horrible person. Which makes me like Louis CK even more, because he makes it look so easy.

  41. If I recall TED correctly, it wasn’t an attack on Routh but an attack on the movie itself over a still image of Routh.

  42. Did a load of posts go missing from this one? I thought I’d replied to this.

  43. I don’t think Routh was as good a Superman as Reeve, but he came close. I DO think that he was a better Clark Kent though. At least the Clark Kent that he presents to everyone except his mother. Reeve’s Kent went beyond naive and socially awkward to straight up ridiculous at times. Routh kept a nice balance.
    On Wikipedia if you look up “miscast” there’s a giant picture of The Boz as Lois Lane.
    I actually haven’t seem her in much. Just Rules Of Attraction, where she was fine but didn’t have much to do. And Beyond The Sea (which I really really liked her in) and this. Is there something else I e seem her in that I’m forgetting? She just has no sass, no moxie, no chutzpah. And looks far too sweet and young. I see Lois Lane as a more mellow version of JJL’s character in THE HUDSUCKER PROXY. Which again makes me wish for a period Superman movie written by The Coen Bros.

  44. “Which again makes me wish for a period Superman movie written by The Coen Bros.”

    didn’t Drew McWeeny of former AICN fame wish for the same thing? that would certainly be amazing, but it would NEEEEEEEVER happened

    however, I believe I might have said this before, if WB wanted to take a risk and do something actually new with Batman and Superman that we haven’t seen on the big screen before, period settings would be the best option, just imagine a live action Batman set in a art deco 30’s Gotham City ala THE ANIMATED SERIES

  45. Yep, he sure did. He wanted them to do one based on the novel IT’S SUPERMAN which is absolutely fantastic and feels like…a Coen Bros Superman movie. Check it out if you never have!

  46. Griff: How is that risky or new? Wasn’t the ’89 BATMAN pretty much exactly that, stylised art deco 30’s Gotham City and everything? I think I remember reading that the look of the animated series was inspired by a mixture of that film and the old Fleischer Superman cartoons. I haven’t seen the Donner SUPERMAN movies in a while, but didn’t they also took place in some sort of time-warped 1940s-ish version of Metropolis/New York?

    I’d love to see the Coen Bros take on Superman, but then I’d love to see the Coen Bros take on anything.

  47. Naw, there’s nothing stylized about the Donner Superman movies. Just plain ol NYC (with the exception of the little b&w comic book prologue).

    I don’t see Burton’s as a period look. It kinda defies period as its so all over the place and obviously deliberately anachronistic in clashing styles/time period looks etc. definitely ELEMENTS of a 30s/40s aesthetic but mixed with modern, futuristic and expressionistic.

  48. Not saying you’re wrong. Just that there’s definitely room for a more specifically retro/period Batman and it wouldn’t need to look or feel anything like Burton/Furst’s.

  49. Burton’s Batman was certainly set in the present day, as was Donner’s Superman, I’m talking about a Batman and Superman literally set in the 30’s

  50. When I think of BATMAN ’89 I think of the stylised art deco buildings, the classic cars, the guys in suits and fedoras. It’s a mash-up of different art styles, but 30s/40s seems to be the most prominent one. Superman has elements of that too; I’m thinking specifically of Clark Kent in his old-fashioned suit and hat or Parker Posey’s retro look in RETURNS.

    I’d like to see a period superhero movie about those characters too, but I don’t get how it’s a bold or revolutionary choice. It’s only recently that we’ve had Batman/Superman movies that were innovative precisely because they broke so completely from that golden/silver age aesthetic.

  51. There’s just so much to what Luthor does in this that’s utterly needless or gone about in completely the wrong way for someone who’s meant to be a calculating genius. Like, his whole thing with the Krypton Tech was for the pursuit of riches and power…but he starts the movie already a millionaire(if not billionaire), and in a position use it to reinvent himself and gain power. What they should have done was have Superman come back to find Luthor had took that money and became a beloved public figure using the air of being a reformed criminal as a PR move so that when Superman came after him(for using the Krypton stuff to reverse engineer new technology that was being sold to criminals or foreign dictatorships or something, not just to make a stupid lifeless island), he could play the victim to make the public continue doubting Superman, which would have been a good way of honouring the Donner version while incorporating the more modern take, and it would have fit that more sinister side that Spacey demonstrated at times throughout the movie.

  52. Didn’t something similar to that actually happen in the comics? I quit following the comics 20 years ago or more but that sounds like something I heard of happening…and him even making a bid for president? Is that right?

  53. grim – yeah in the early 2000s (if I remember right) Luthor ran for President as an independent and actually won. They really fucking dropped the ball on that idea though, where in typical Luthor form he used it as another platform to try to kill Superman.

    How about instead they had retired Luthor as a supervillain for a few years? I mean what better revenge in Luthor’s eyes than not just knowing it pisses off Superman that there is absolutely nothing he can do about President Luthor, but also that he could be a great President and be hailed as the greatest since FDR? Point is for a few years have Luthor be a tweener, self-serving but more than once willing to work with the Justice League with your oligatory invasion/monster threat of the week. And Luthor out in the open helping to save the day boosts his numbers, and again nothing Supes can do about it.

  54. RRA and Stu – that sounds like an awesome idea actually. SO much better than what we actually got. (And ok, in my opinion having cow-pats thrown at my face for ninety minutes would be marginally better than what I got with “Superman Returns”, but you get the idea.) One of the biggest examples of what you might call comic-to-movie dissonance is when I’m constantly told that Lex Luthor is one of the greatest villains – heck, one of the greatest CHARACTERS – in comic-books.

    Now I haven’t seen “Man of Steel” (I don’t know if he was even in that one) but considering the other five films… it’s just astonishing how badly Lex comes off in pretty much every single one of them. The first film is pretty much perfect until Lex turns up, at which point it loses me; the second one wisely puts the focus fully on Zod and turns Lex into little more than a cameo; the third ditched him completely; and the fourth and fifth… well let’s just say that #4’s reputation as one of the worst movies ever made is not ill-founded, and #5 has been gone into in enough detail already here.

  55. One of my theories for MAN OF STEEL was that when David Goyer was talking in interviews about “hey, we haven’t really talked about if Luthor is in the movie or not yet, have we?”, it was going to turn out that he would be revealed at the end of the movie to be the President. They could still technically do that with the next one though.

    “One of the biggest examples of what you might call comic-to-movie dissonance is when I’m constantly told that Lex Luthor is one of the greatest villains – heck, one of the greatest CHARACTERS – in comic-books.”
    He went from being just recognisable and well-known to actually interesting when Superman comics got rebooted in the 80s and they gave him the trait of wanting to be seen as the greatest man alive, and having a resentment that Superman was upstaging him so easily, which all the versions of him have pretty much ran with since.
    http://youtu.be/MZCNDwKgi7o

  56. Oh and Knox… I agree with most of what Neal’s said, but what really really annoyed me about “Superman Returns” at the end was how it dealt with Lois’ boyfriend, played by James Marsden. It’s a classic case of what I like to call “Queen Latifah syndrome” after “The Bone Collector”. What I mean by that is that her character is the most likeable – hell, probably the ONLY really likeable – person in the movie. With the two leads not really improving on the stereotyped cliches that they’re playing (the obsessive detective and the rookie partner) and the other secondary characters being fairly unmemorable, Latifah’s character was the one I was rooting for… until she got killed off for no apparent reason near the end of the film, and is never mentioned again after that. Gah.

  57. Wait, didn’t the James Marsden character and Lois stay together? I remember that being a big part of why I liked the film, the fact that the most powerful being on earth still couldn’t just get the girl he wants to be with.

  58. Yes, Lois and Marsden are still together at the end, and Superman seems to recognize that he can’t get in the way of the kid’s relationship with the man who raised him, his Pa Kent.

  59. Really? I thought the last time we saw him, he was stranded on a giant crystal rock or something.

    It’s just possible I slipped into merciful unconsciousness before the final scene, I suppose.

  60. So I finally rewatched this and I certainly didn’t hate it as much as I did in the theatre opening day – but it’s still not very good. But at least it’s not good in a fascinating way! As crazy as this sounds, I actually felt this played like Quentin Tarantino’s Superman -not in violent content or memorable dialogue (of which there is none), but in the fact that this is a long, leisurely paced, fairly action-light affair that upends traditions and expectations, and is obsessed with paying homage to older films that nerds (like myself) love, but most of the moviegoing audience probably only has a passing familiarity with. I always get the vibe that Tarantino movies come straight from his mind with no studio interference, and I honestly get that vibe here. Like the Matrix sequels, Superman Returns absolutely does not reek of focus groups or re-shoots or script by committee. It’s simply too nontraditional, too weird for that – it’s to Superhero Movies what Kill Bill is to 70s martial arts films, or what Inglorious Basterds is to WWII men-on-a-mission films. Except it’s not as good.

    As a big summer action movie, it fails spectacularly. Besides the sluggish pacing and crushing length (a full 30 minutes longer than Superman II even though about 50% less stuff happens in this one), there’s very little action and it’s not integrated well. What does it say about a movie that the big action scene most played up in ads, (involving the mini-gun and the gunshot to the eye) is basically part of a montage against characters we don’t know? The story is not only bad, it’s inelegantly told; you see people doing things but don’t quite understand why they’re doing them until another viewing. I had to constantly explain to my ladyfriend why Lex was shaving off crystals to drop into model-train sets or why Parker Posey was suddenly driving an out of control car in medias res. It’s clumsy and uninvolving, hell even the setup with him leaving for 5 years without showing how or why is so poorly told I remember thinking in the theatres there was going to be some twist like he was really somewhere else.

    As a homage, it fails spectacularly as well. Other than the opening credits, the music, and Routh’s fun performance, this is nothing like Donner’s Superman films. It doesn’t look the same. Lois doesn’t act the same. Lex doesn’t act the same (Spacey is simply boring here, he only mega-acts in the “WRONGGG!!!” scene, and then acts asleep for the rest of the time). This is infinitely more half-assed than the Psycho shot-for-shot reboot, which at least stuck to its central conceit until they added stuff like a random shot of a cow in the road during the murder. I will have to say this works as a dry-run for The Force Awakens, another sequel that’s supposed to bring back the vibe and feel of the original series but curiously plays as a reboot of the first one – Except instead of “another Tatooine/Cantina/mentor sacrifice/Death Star?” it’s “another land scheme by Lex except even stupider.” And “another lady who thought nobody was gonna get hurt who is strangely not Miss Teschmacher betrays Lex”.

    So yeah, I’m not going to say I wasn’t bored and I wasn’t staring at the clock waiting for this to end, but I do think it’s fascinating – even though it’s only 10 years old it seems much, much older, like a relic from a studio system that will never happen again. You have to admire the balls of a big summer movie that completely does not give the audience anything it wants in terms of action or humor or romance, and exists as a mopey character study where you still don’t really understand or relate to the characters.

  61. You know one little change that would actually salvage alot of the movie? If they simply cast Supes as OLDER and announced it as a one-and-done swan song and not a franchise-restarter, this movie might actually work. Because looking back on it as Superman Begins Again, it’s a giant failure. Looking at it as Superman Balboa or Superman: Unforgiven, I find myself actually liking alot of this movie.

    Alot of the story beats and themes (Superman’s loneliness, his ruminating on why the world does or doesn’t need him anymore) just don’t work with a babyface Routh, as good as he is. I know making this with Reeve would obviously have been impossible, but imagine the pathos with him back in this role (or Jon Hamm or someone, I dunno). Aging up Lex and Lois would be nice too, but you don’t even need to do that – the 5 year trip could have had some Interstellar-style side effects on Superman where he aged and everyone else didn’t. (this is if you really need that damn kid in this movie). The “one last battle with his greatest enemy” thing would have worked better too – focusing the story on Superman’s internal struggle and whether or not he’s still got it (or whether or not the world NEEDS him to have it ) would have put less emphasis on Lex’s idiotic plan, and it would have put some nice symmetry on it being such a rehash of the first plan. (Let’s be honest, nobody’s favorite Rocky opponent is Mason The Line Dixon – but Rocky Balboa is alot of people’s favorite Rocky because that movie pulls it off).

    Most importantly, an aging Superman would have actually given some heft to the climax. As it is, Routh goes back to the kryptonite island that just almost killed him, and lifts it up with no ill effects until the end of the scene. It’s a weirdly anticlimactic solution that doesn’t follow the rules or logic the movie just laid down 10 minutes ago. If this was an older Superman’s last movie, this same scene would have played as a Han Solo-style suicide mission, where he knows lifting this thing is going to kill him but he can’t not do it – he’s going to save the earth up until his final breath.

    Not saying he has to die or they need to change the ending at all. It would have added some weight to the whole son angle (which as is seems like a weird place to end a movie since we know the kid has to be in the sequel but nobody really wants to see him in a sequel). And I actually wouldn’t mind the non-committal ending this way. The movie as is doesn’t even have the balls to clearly resolve the love triangle; he’s still pining for Lois at the end and any notion of “he’s going to step aside and let her live her life with James Marsden” is all implied. Ending with him proclaiming “I’m always around”, with Clark being stuck in this endless, Sisyphus-like loop with Lois, but still happy to be with her and all the imperfect people on Earth and not being out on an adventure in space, is kind of the perfect series finale.

  62. Crushinator Jones

    March 21st, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    If Hollywood is going to make a Donner-style Silver Age Superman at the end of his career then the story should be based on All-Star Superman. I won’t say that there’s NO WAY that a late-stage Silver Age Superman could be done better than All-Star Superman but…let’s just say it would be very, very tough.

  63. Just give Marvel back the rights.

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