Superman Returns ★★★★

2018 Superhero Rewatch: In which I return to superhero movies I've seen before to see how time has treated them.

When Superman Returns was released in 2006, I counted myself among its biggest supporters. I felt myself transported back to my childhood, and I loved every frame. Now, 12 years down the line, I see the wrinkles. I still think the film was treated very unfairly (although I think it's being favorably reappraised these days), but I get the criticism of it. Bryan Singer chose to continue the previous series rather than start over. He ignored the third and fourth Christopher Reeve films (for which nobody can blame him) and picked up with a story of Superman having left Earth for five years following Superman II... in other words, he's continuing Richard Donner's Superman. The result is a film that's a marvelous tribute to those two movies, but fails to stand on its own.

This permeates every aspect of the film: John Ottman based his score on John Williams's original, the design of the Fortress of Solitude and the use of crystals, constant callbacks in the lines, the archival use of Marlon Brando as Jor-El... even the opening title sequence is a flashier version of the 1978 sequence. This goes for the performances as well. Brandon Routh is an excellent choice, but he isn't exactly playing Superman, he's playing "Christopher Reeve's Superman." Kevin Spacey is playing "Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor." And while they're ll doing exceptionally well at what they're trying to do, it probably feels a little limiting as an actor.

Ironically, the only major cast member who isn't just aping their predecessor is also the weakest in the film. Kate Bosworth doesn't feel like Margot Kidder, which is okay, but she also doesn't feel like Lois Lane, and that's not okay. One thing that any Lois needs is a ferocity and a determination that makes her one of the greatest reporters in the world. Bosworth's Lois is a character that's just given up and settled.

I really do like this movie. There's great stuff. The plane rescue (the beautifully John Byrne-esque plane rescue) remains one of my favorite scenes in any superhero film. I love watching it, and I wish Routh had gotten more respect back then. I'm not saying it's not good. I'm just saying that if you don't like it... well, I get it.