I finally caught Superman Returns. My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by going to a special "dinner and a movie" set up they have at a local theater. For a not-insignificant price, one is treated to a gourmet buffet meal at the theater followed by a showing of a film in a special theater decked out with recliner-like chairs and complimented with all the free popcorn and drinks one would like.
So having been well-fed and seated in my comfortable chair with popcorn at the ready, although a little concerned at how my bladder would hold up through a two hour and forty five minute movie after just downing a humongous amount of Pepsi and having my freshly refilled cup sitting next to me, I awaited the beginning of the show.
First, however, we were treated to the trailer for next summer's Spider-Man 3. Allow me to say again that it looks mind-numbingly awesome! The film is set to explore the dark side of power. The brief shot of the Sandman looked great. The movie is clearly following the black costume saga from the comic books which, as any true fan knows, means Venom cannot be far behind. I dare say that if the trailer lives up to its promise, Spider-Man 3 has the potential to surpass Spider-Man 2 as, in my humble estimation, the greatest superhero movie ever made -- and Spider-Man 2 is a pretty high bar to live up to.
But, oh yeah, this is a post about Superman. I thought the movie was very good. I would probably rank it 6th or 7th on my list of the best superhero movies, thus bumping the Hulk off. I thought the plot was solid and engaging. The idea to have the movie follow Superman 2 in continuity was bold and generally works. Kevin Spacey retains certain aspects of Gene Hackman's version of Lex Luthor while suitably making him more menacing. Brandon Routh similarly captures the essence of Christopher Reeve's portrayal, both sounding and looking like his version of Clark Kent. At the same time, I think Routh's Superman has a little more gravity (pardon the pun) to him.
Oddly what I found to be the most disappointing part of the film were the action sequences. The special effects are outstanding and the plane sequence is one of the more exciting action scenes in any movie, but as a whole some of the action had a "ho-hum" quality about it.
Of course, a feature that will be of interest to many is the christology of the film. Superman has always had a bit of the "Christ-figure" tint to him, what with being an only son sent to earth as a savior for humanity. This film not only does not shy away from this angle but plays it to the hilt, complete with death and resurrection imagery. There is no indication to my knowledge that Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman, designed him with such implications. In fact, he is on record as stating that the initial inspiration for the character came from Hercules and Samson. But we seem to like our superheroes messianic, whether its the overt Messiah complex of Neo Anderson (The Matrix Trilogy) or Spider-Man's cross-like sacrifice on a hurtling train in Spider-Man 2.
Although I think Bryan Singer did a better job with X-Men 2 as a whole, I found Superman Returns to be an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable movie. It accomplished what any good comic book film should -- making me want to see the next installment.