Film Review: Superman Returns

by Pat Johnson

When you're purchasing your ticket to see Superman Returns, you may want to check a few expectations at the door. For the record: it is two scoops of good with some great sprinkled in. But Superman Returns does not have as much in common with its superhero movie brethren as you might think.
It lacks the human edge that has allowed us to identify with previous superhero movies. Clark Kent may be clumsy, but he lacks Peter Parker's painful social awkwardness. He's an alien, but he doesn't feel the outcast sting of public hate like the X-Men. Superman is a perfect hero: the Achilles of modern comics, complete with Kryptonite heels and undeniably evil opponents. And since he's perfect, you may not care when he gets sad. But the lack of sympathy you may feel towards Superman is a topping issue. Let's get back to the creamy center.
The film is appropriately titled. This is the story of Superman returning to Metropolis and his former life. Things have changed. He has changed. Actually the only thing that hasn't changed is Lex Luther who's still an engagingly evil bastard. If you have the time, watch Superman I and II before attending. This movie is effectively Superman III 2.0.
It is beautifully filmed. Brian Singer is an artist with the camera. Expect a full dose of pretty. The humor is there, with a healthy smattering of chuckles, chortles and guffaws. The acting is solid, but it's a preference issue as to whether Reeves, Hackman and Kidder did a better job with similar material. There are no aspects of the film that appear unfinished or out of place. It is a well-funded, well-acted and well-made movie.
On the not-so-plus side: the structure of the movie feels like part one of three, concluding little but setting up plenty. Expect to walk out with unanswered questions. (NOTE: all the actors have signed 3-picture deals). The pacing of the film is a little clunky, specifically the beginning and end. This is only an issue because of the films length. When you clock in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, people expect a slow build to a big finish (think Titanic). Instead it meanders and might lose people expecting more action.
But good definitely outweighs not so good. Superman Returns is a strong character piece wrapped in a summer blockbuster. It's funny, touching and exciting without simplifying itself for mass consumption. So put on your Superman underoos, grab a date and enjoy.

9 pairs of red tights (out of 11)