Superman Returns-Superman Refried
First and foremost one has to get pass the dreadful fact that Hollywood keeps “revisiting” the same tired old characters that we all know. Yet, to spare the rant, the real people to blame is the movie going public. We keep going to see films such as Superman Returns, Batman Begins or Aquaman Swims Again, so the imaginative giants that run the studio systems says, “feed the animals what the animals will eat. If they'll eat the same crap year in and year out, why give them anything new. We don't want them thinking anyway, just buying.”
Superman Returns isn't a bad film, not exactly. Like so many of the big and even “moderately” (har!) budgeted Hollywood films being produced in recent years, we have seen the budget of a given film fail to translate onto the screen. Frequent readers will know that this is one of my central complaints about big budget films, however, with Superman Returns you really get the impression that quite a few pockets were double and triple lined. Saying that the money was not well spent is a dramatic understatement. Budget speculation abounds, but it is safe to say that the budget of Superman Returns was, at a very minimum $200 million dollars. Many estimates are placing the budget more in the $250 million dollar range and this number does not include the simply massive advertising mega-blitz that the studio rained down on the public. Obviously, this is one helluva expensive film and its roughly $350-$400 million take worldwide is far less impressive than it seems when adding all the numbers together.
Superman Returns epitomizes the current Hollywood philosophy of flash and bang over interesting and well done scripts. The script based on a story by director Bryan Singer and others, is not horrible, it is just too much of what audiences have already seen. For God's sake, virtually everyone in the Western World knows the basic core Superman story. Yet, much of the film's very long 150 plus minutes are spent touching on “the basics” of Superman lore and such silliness as Superman/Clark's relationship with Lois Lane. At least this time, this Lois Lane, played by Kate Bosworth, is attractive and far less annoying than previous incarnations. However, a major plot and script flaw, present in all the previous Superman movies is still present in Superman Returns, namely, “why would Clark, let alone Superman find this somewhat mean spirited, self-centered person so interesting?”
I would be asking the same question if the movie was Supergirl Returns (please don't) and her love interest was similar to Lois Lane, although if she WAS Lois Lane that would actually be kind of interesting. Far too much of the story centers upon Superman's longing for the not so likable and whinny Lois Lane. People go to see action films and superhero films in general for, well action, not soap operas and that is what Singer and company do with much of the film.
Beyond the silliness with Lois Lane and the goofy bizarre love triangle and related issues we, of course, have the same old villain, Lex Luther. Enough already, is this the best they can think of, seriously? Luther again? Regardless, Luther is up to no good once more as he tries to create an artificial island using Kryptonian technology. The story lines revolving around this particular element is all that gives us any hope for the undoubted sequels that will be coming out in the next few years. The discovery and implementation of Kryptonian technology could make the sequels interesting, but unfortunately, I fear that Singer and company will focus too much on the soap opera aspects of the story and less on creating a well-done summer blockbuster.
Brandon Routh is a good young actor, but a marginal Superman. Routh is just not believable as Superman as he often seems a bit meek and lacking in confidence. And Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther, I guess sure, but he was pretty much just acting like, well, Kevin Spacey...slightly creepy but not a evil super genius.
Pretty much nothing works exactly the way it should on this one, except as is so often the case with today's blockbusters, the visual effects. Like X-Men: The Last Stand, which Singer left to direct Superman Returns, the visual effects are left shoulder the responsibility of carrying the day. In this regard, I feel like a broken record, as once more a action/science-fiction script falls on its face and is only saved by the hard working visual effects people, the real supermen and women of the entertainment industry.
Superman Returns is really Superman Refried. Even though we already know the story there is so much potential to do something new, to tell a new story, or take the story in a different direction, but it never happens. Turning up the soap opera dial doesn't count. Superman Returns is one of those massively budgeted films that fails to properly utilize its incredible budget. As I often like to do with blockbusters I like to compare budgets for fun. Between five and six Sin City's or two Star Wars movies (with maybe a little left over) would “fit inside” the budget of this one film. Ask yourself this question when watching Superman Returns, “is the final product equal to its funding?”
Story C- (All that keeps the script from being a stinker is the potential of incorporating Kryptonian technology.)
Acting B (Overall the acting is decent enough and good by soap opera standards.)
Visuals B+ (Surprisingly, the visual effects, will quite good most of the time, do tend to fall apart on some shots focusing in on Superman while he is moving at high speeds. This probably has to do with the film being rushed but this, I will admit, is speculation.)
Originality/Innovation C- (Overall Superman Returns lacks originality. Being the first film to have a superhero bounce a bullet off his eye, isn't enough, sorry.)
Enjoyability Grade A (The visual effects keep the film from being a total snore. A tighter script focusing less on the ridiculous soap opera aspects of the story could have helped the film greatly. A 120 minute running time would have made this a much more enjoyable ride. Big and grand does not have to be long.)
Home Theater/HD Factor A- (Superman Returns will delight, yes I said delight, home theater owner who watch the film in HD. But be warned some of the effects shots that were rushed may be very obvious in high-def.)
Overall Grade C+ (Unfortunately, Superman Returns fails to live up to its theoretical or even its own potential, yet the visual effects keep Superman's head above water. Yes, I know geeks, it wouldn't matter because Superman can't drown. Whatever.)