Written by Laurence Washington, www.blackflix.com
Whenever a film critic reports that they had a physical reaction to a film they’ve seen, nine out of 10 times they’re exaggerating. However, I can report without any exaggeration that I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye during the end of "Superman Returns."
The new Superman (Brandon Routh) had just saved the day, and then he did the signature "Superman flyby" just before the credits began to roll: "Dedicated to Christopher and Dana Reeve."
Being a fan of the original Richard Donner classic, "Superman: The Movie" (‘79), that gesture was a defining moment for this Superman fan. A passing of the baton. "Superman Returns" is a homage to the late Christopher Reeve and to the original Donnor classic. It’s great. Yeah, there are a lot of cool special effects, but the filmmakers didn’t forget to add humanity to the story as Donner did in 1979.
Former X-Man director Brian Singer takes a page out of the Godzilla universe handbook which states, "Pretend the pervious film never happened."
So in the case of "Superman Returns," let’s pretend that that gad awful "Superman III" and "IV" never happened. In fact, let’s pretend that half of "Superman II" never happened. Now let’s further pretend that "Superman Returns" is actually a sequel to "Superman: The Movie" as Singer manages to catch the tone, style and wit of the Donner classic.
However, "Superman Returns" has a stylistic courage of its own. It's more than a nod and a wink to Richard Donner. The film’s premise finds Superman (Routh), after catching Lex Luther (Kevin Spacey), mysteriously disappearing for five years to visit the remains of Krypton. During the Man of Steel’s absence, Luther is released from prison because Superman, while he might be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, doesn’t know how to do a simple thing like show up for a court date and testify against Luther.
As a result, Luther is set free to romance a wealthy window, and use her empire’s resources to develop a scientific weapon to change the world and kill Superman. As in the original films, Luther still has an affinity for land, and he plans to use newly discovered Krypton technology to grow a new continent in the middle of the North Atlantic.
However, Luther’s release is only one of many surprises Superman encounters when he returns to Earth. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now a single mom. She has moved on with her life and has even won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."
Although "Superman Returns" has a totally new cast, Brian Singer did an excellent job of finding actors who don’t try to make you forget about the original cast members. He found the right mix of players who pay homage to the originals and establish the roles for themselves as the movie progresses. In your heart of hearts you’ll probably miss Christopher Reeve. And like Reeve, Brandon Routh is a virtual unknown in his first outing as The Man of Steel, but by the end of the movie, you’ll be glad that Routh still makes "you believe a man can fly."