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WGUC Reviews

Superman Returns

Superman Returns
Warner Brothers
Rated PG-13
Review by: Larry Thomas

The character of SUPERMAN has been part of our culture since the late 1930's, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created The Man of Steel for Action Comics. Over the years, he's been animated, serialized, and televised, but he wasn't a box office star until the 1978 film version that introduced Christopher Reeve to the screen. The first two in the series, directed by Richard Donner, were terrific adventures. The second two were the equivalent of cinematic Kryptonite and stopped the series dead in its tracks.

As the title of Superman Returns indicates... he's back. The story takes up where the second Donner film ended. Superman has gone back to find what's left of his home planet and is away for five earth years. When he returns, things are different on earth. Things are different in moviemaking, too, after nearly 20 years in the cinematic deep freeze.

The good news? Special effects have improved and budgets have increased to an astronomical level, so Superman Returns looks great. Granted, some of the CGI effects are on the cheesy side, but there are others that are absolutely jaw-dropping. Of the reported $200 million plus spent on this film, you can see every dollar on the screen. The set design and set decoration are sensational. The director this time is Bryan Singer, who started his career with the masterpiece The Usual Suspects, then helmed the first two X-Men movies, and he's a good choice. The new incidental music by John Ottman, who does double duty as one of the film editors, fits seamlessly with the adaptation of John Williams' original themes. Some things just can't be improved upon. Lex Luthor is played by two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey. Unlike Gene Hackman, who created a Luthor who was a bit buffoonish, Spacey plays him low-key while at the same time conveying the impression he is a genuine madman. Kitty, his bimbo du jour, is Parker Posey, who has the best role in the film. She gets the funny lines, and also conveys the most depth of character. Even though she hangs out with the bad guy, you know way down deep she's a good person. And even newcomer Brandon Routh as Superman is fine in his big-screen debut. While he doesn't have the charm of Chris Reeve, he's physically right and a decent actor. Much has been made of his resembling Reeve, but it many shots, he seemed more like Tom Cruise. Either way, he'll no doubt be back for another in the series.

The bad news? Kate Bosworth is a limp, lifeless Lois Lane. It's hard to imagine this person being the hard-charging reporter we've know and loved over the years. Likewise, Frank Langella downplays the Perry White character. The usually feisty and cantankerous editor is shown as darn near apathetic and unemotional.

Despite its flaws, one of which is the mammoth 157 minute running time, Superman Returns is fun, exciting, and well worth your effort to see in IMAX. The huge screen and powerful sound system are a real treat. There are also several scenes in digitally-altered 3D. Since these scenes were not actually shot in that format, the 3D quality isn't the greatest. However, second rate 3D is better than no 3D. Hopefully, this is an indication that more big Hollywood movies will be shot entirely in this format.

Superman Returns is not only a summertime popcorn movie that isn't too scary or violent for the kids, the director has been quoted as saying that it's also a summertime popcorn chick flick. It's a rare instance when a filmmaker shoots for all segments of the audience and actually hits the target.

Superman Returns is now showing in IMAX with 3D scenes at the Showcase Springdale, and is also at the proverbial theatre near you in regular 35mm.


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