Written by: Samuel K. Sloan (SoSF Producer & Managing News Manager)
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
I just was able to see Bryan Singer’s reimaged Superman in “Superman Returns.” Unlike my colleagues Summer and Mike, I was not treated to an early screening of the film, but, like just about everyone else had to stand in the lines in the 100 plus hot Nebraska sun and get my tickets (one each for me and my wife) – oh wait, there were no lines – but it is over 100 today (Sunday), regardless.
Because of our age, we got in for less, and our popcorn, drinks and my love for nacho-covered pretzels and Goobers ended up costing me more than a down payment on a new car – but, I digress.
When we left the house today to see this flick I was a bit sanguine about the whole ordeal. Afterall, I am of an age when I clearly remember George Reeves as my hero Superman, and when Christopher Reeve took up the role in the 1970’s, I thought, “just who is this young upstart to think he can replace the venerable George” who dispatched himself one night with a Kryptonite bullet. But, Chris won over my heart and allegiance and became for me and two generations, THE Superman.
Now I am going again to see a young upstart take on a legendary character of American iconic status and, again, take up the banner after the tragic death of a generational hero, Chris Reeve. Add to that the fact that I have heard my colleagues, except for Summer who totally loved it, go on about how the movie was slow in parts, too long on character development and short on storyline, I have received countless emails from our fans telling me how Kate Bosworth simply does not measure up to Margot Kidder’s performance as Lois Lane, and Jack wringing his hands on our show about how Kevin Spacey, as great as he is, simply does not measure up to Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.
Well kids, now it’s Uncle Sam’s turn. When the lights went low, and that John Williams original musical score from the 1970’s opener started up and flooded my ears, an actual tear welled up in my eye. Singer, got me right then and there. I knew immediately that this film was not intending to replace what came before it, but was to pay respectful homage to it and all those responsible for bringing it to all Superman fans. I was overwhelmed with a feeling that was a combination of excited anticipation, overjoyed relief and quite reflection all in the space of time it took to allow the opening credits and music go by, so that by the time the story began, I was already hooked.
Brandon Routh, looks so much like the young Christopher Reeve and had his mannerisms down to such a fine degree, right down to the voice inflection that it was like watching this young man channel Chris for this role. Singer made a wise decision to not try and remake a new Superman/Clark Kent interpretation, but to build on what had been so painstakingly developed over decades of work. By taking this route the director showed the greatest respect for all those who came before him.
Kate Bosworth who played Lois Lane was absolutely flawless. Was she Margot Kidder? Thank God NO! This is one area where we did not need an actress channeling the other’s performance. Lois, in “Superman Returns” is no longer the totally self-centered, scatter-brain she was before. Superman has been out of her life for many years, she has the responsibility of a child and a real solid, caring relationship with another man who definitely loves her very much. If she had been like her previous incarnation, that aspect of her life would have never worked and it would have seemed very phoney to the audience. Not so however in Kate’s performance. Lois (who of course still loves the Man of Steel in her heart) is now someone who is a responsible, intelligent adult who cares more about people than getting the headline, more about her son than anything or anyone else (well sort of – she did take him onboard Luthor’s yacht – bad move). Other than that faux pax I for one was glad to see this change in her character development.
Now we get to the juicy part. Lex Luthor! Was Kevin Spacey trying to fit into Gene Hackman’s shoes. Definitely not! Did Kevin pull off Lex Luthor…at least the dark, sinister and truly maniacle but highly intelligent and plotting Luthor of the comics? Absolutely! There is nothing funny, comical or desirable about Lex and Kevin played him as the blackened soul that he is. I found his performance profoundly fascinating and Kevin was perfectly suited for the part.
Was the story the best it could have been? Well, except for a very few instances in cinema, is any on-screen story as good as it could have been? Of course not. Was it adequate for the task at hand of reintroducing a beloved character to a whole new generation of young Superman enthusiasts? You bet it was, and it did so without the need to be as campy as the earlier 1970’s and 80’s versions.
Speaking of a new generation, I have to share with you my impression of the audience that attended the showing we were at. There were a lot of people there from all walks of life and age ranges. What got me most was the amount of children and young people who came. One young lad, about 5 or 6 years old, came fully attired in his Superman outfit, cape and all. I thought how, as great as I and my generation thought George Reeves and Christopher Reeve were as Superman, these kids will be raised on Brandon Routh as their superhero. By the end of the film, I knew that the image of my great hero Superman, was in very good hands for this new generation of children and young people.
And one other thing happened that you rarely experience these days in a movie theater…at the close of the film when the end credits started rolling, the audience burst into enthusiastic applause.
On the Uncle Sam scale of 0 to 5* I give “Superman Returns **** 1/2. Go see it, and see it, and see it again.