I’ve decided to go back and watch a bunch of movies based on comic books. No real reason, just something I thought would be fun. This time it was the 2006 movie Superman Returns.
IMDb Rating: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes critics: 76%
Rotten Tomatoes audience: 61%
My Rating: 5/10
I saw two big problems with this movie: first, it tried too hard to follow the Richard Donner movies. Second, Superman is boring.
I know that the director, Bryan Singer, wanted this to be a sequel to Superman II, but it had been 20 years, and that’s just to long to do the kind of direct sequel this was intended to be. Right from the opening credits I thought it would be a problem. John William’s Superman theme plays from the beginning, and the opening credits have the blue-outlined text that flies through space, just like the old movies. If it had ended there, with that nice tribute to the originals, great it would have been plenty, but it seemed like Singer was pushing for everything to be like the original films, and it fell flat. The Daily Planet had this weird 1950s vibe to it, but then the reporters were using computers and watching cable news networks. It felt really anachronistic. Kevin Spacey did a great job in channeling Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor, but all that did was prevent him from being his own Lex, and Spacey was the bright spot in the movie.
As for Superman himself… Brandon Routh was okay, though I did think he looked a little too young. He’s definitely big enough for the part of Superman, he even geeked up a decent amount for Clark Kent. As an actor, I think he was fine in the role, the real problem was the way the character was written. This Superman was mind-numbingly boring. The God/Jesus symbolism was really heavy handed, and the emphasis on Superman’s invincibility was cool from a visual effect standpoint, but made it really hard to connect with the character. What that meant was that by the time the climactic fight scene takes place, and Superman’s actually in peril, there’s no tension because it’s been so hard to root for the character. I found myself thinking that Richard was the real hero of the movie. He’s just a good guy and a solid husband/father that’s going above and beyond to protect his family, and he’s doing it without superpowers.
I’ve never been a fan of Superman as a character, but I don’t think this movie didn’t do him justice. It’s not a bad movie, but it is very mediocre, even forgettable, and it should have been more.