One of the better Superman film
When it comes to Superman films, we've had good ones, bad ones, and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Superman Returns takes a far different approach to everything than how the previous films did. Gone is the cheeky goodness of the first film, the slapstick/comedic approach to the second film, the unbalance of III, and the train wreck of Superman IV. Bryan Singer ditches all that and takes a serious approach to things. The seriousness of the film and lack of action is what I think turn people off from this perfectly good movie.
The films basic plot is that Superman ( Brandon Routh ) has returned from a five year long journey through space to find the remains of Krypton. Upon his return, Clark finds the world has changed and moved on without Superman; Lois settled down and had a child and won the Pulitzer prize for her article entitled "Why The World Doesn't Need Superman". Meanwhile a much colder Lex Luthor ( Kevin Spacey ) is also back in Metropolis after a visit to The Fortress of Solitude where a disembodied Jor-El ( Marlon Brando ) teaches him about the crystals in the Fortress. Lex Luthor wants to get revenge on Superman by killing him and murdering billions so he can create his own continent.
The film's original opening which featured Clark in some strange costume flying back to where Krypton was as astronomers discovered remains of the planet in the space. The scene was intended to really set up the basis of the film and it's title. The scene cost a hefty $10 Million to make and it's only six minutes long. Still though it was a really impressive scene and unfortunately got scrapped at the last moment despite that it appeared in the trailer and there were even toys of it.
I'll admit I like Brandon Routh in the role and he's my second favorite superman after George Reeves. The ironic part about his casting is that he auditioned for the role of Clark Kent when Smallville was casting. Little did he know that several years later he would get a second chance at the role. Many say he's a copy of Christopher Reeve's Superman, I find that hard to believe as the way Routh plays him is different from Reeve's portrayal. As Superman, Routh doesn't have too much to say and is more often seen as Clark Kent. Of course no one ever questions the whereabouts of Clark when Superman is around.
I myself have never cared for Reeve's Superman or Clark Kent. It's hard to tell if the film is trying to say Clark is the true identity or whether Superman is; with most adaptations Clark is usually the secret identity (Which is wrong because he's supposed to be the real one) and Superman is usually shown to be the real one. But from watching several of the deleted scenes, it became clear to me that Singer was establishing that Clark was the real identity as he contemplated giving up being Superman and just living as Clark Kent on the farm.
I can't blame them for keeping the red underwear on the costume because at the time the comics still had it. Whereas now DC has gotten rid of the red underwear and changed Superman's costume for the first time in a while. I for one am very happy they decided to ditch the trunks and change the overall look of the costume because you can't keep you biggest character looking the same for as long as he has.
Kate Bosworth plays Lois Lane in the film. She's definitely better than most of the other actress' who have played the character butt she's seems a little young for the character. She's 23 years old in this movie, when Erica Durance who was Lois on Smallville started playing the role she was around 26 or 27 years old. That's not a huge difference but It seems highly unlikely that Lois was around 18 or possibly younger during the events of Superman II which took place over five years earlier. Despite her young age, Kate Bosworth fares rather well in the role and is my second favorite Lois after Eric Durance.
Other characters in the film include Lois' fiance Richard White ( James Marsden ) who you may recognize as Cyclops in the X-Men films. There is also Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen. I'm honestly sick of seeing Jimmy Olsen in the movies as he does nothing in all of them. Kevin Spacey does rather well as Lex Luthor. His performance isn't very memorable but it was nice to see his character portrayed seriously. Frank Langella as Perry White is also worth mentioning despite his character usual low amount of screen time. There is also that annoying child of Lois' whose name escapes as I dislike throwing a child into the story for no real reason. While it is never stated, one can assume that Jason is the child of Lois and Superman and not Lois and Richard. Though the reason why he has asthma is not explained because I would not think he would since he's half Kryptonian and half Human.
Lex Luthor's plot is very similar to his previous plots, he's after land because by creating an entire new continent and killing billions he can make untold amounts of money. We do hear his famous land speech which we heard in Superman and Kitty says a line that was from the first film as well. The wigs are also a reference to the first film as well. All he has to do is eliminate Superman which he doesn't and you can guess his fate after the end of the film. Several of his henchmen die and his girlfriend who is a carbon copy Eve Teschmacher is of course sympathetic to Superman.
The few action scenes in the film are among some of the most memorable from recent memory especially where Superman is shot in the eye by a bad guy. There is also the great plane scene which is actually inspired by the scene in one of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from the 40's. There is also the scene where he holds up the Daily Planet Globe which is a scene I've always been fond of. For some reason Bryan Singer I think likes having scenes where Superman holds up various things, i.e. a plane, the Daily Planet Globe, and two cars.
This time around, John Ottman is the composer and creates a score almost better than the John William's score. Highlights on the soundtrack include "Memories" and " "Reprise/Fly Away". The Superman films have been known for their music despite that only the first was composed by John Williams. I can say I highly, highly recommend the score to this film as it's very rare these days that a movie has a good score.
Also notable about this film is it's massive budget. Then, the film's budget was $270 Million, in today's money that's nearly $300 Million. It had one of the largest budgets in the history of film because Bryan Singer had sets built instead of opting for mostly CGI.
For me Superman Returns is the best Superman film yet. It has the right amount of drama and action and while it doesn't boast any particularly memorable performances, it does have a good cast and a very good Superman. That said, Bryan Singer's Superman Returns isn't for everyone especially if you don't like Superman or expect the film to have a ton of action. I still like it, more so than Bryan Singer's X-Men films and more so than any of the other Superman films with the exception of the first one. I would have liked a sequel but instead we're getting a reboot directed by Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill of Tudors fame.