The Man of Steel returns to Earth (and the big screen) more super than ever and no less entertaining.
Superman (Brandon Routh) returns to Earth after being gone for five year (after the first two films and pretending #3 and #4 didn’t happen). Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on and has a kid, but hasn’t yet committed to marrying her new man, Richard (James Marsden). Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) hasn’t forgotten his arch-nemesis and was already hatching a new plan for “beach-front property” before anyone knew the Big Blue Boyscout was back in town. But with Superman’s return, old scores and old flames need to be resolved…
A new Superman movie and a new Superman: two things that have taken years to resolve finally clicked a little while back, and Bryan Singer turned over his precious X-men to a new production crew for the chance to make Superman soar again. Between Warner Bros. needing a need moneymaking franchise and Bryan Singer proving his budget proposal is worth the end result, a lot is riding on the return of Superman.
First up, characters. Lex, Supes, and Lois all cast well enough; Spacey chews through the scenery, newcomer Routh broods as Superman deals with actual emotions instead of just super deeds, and Bosworth chews up Superman with a glance better than any villain. Most of the rest of the cast is underutilized with one notable exception; James Marsden (who defected X-men with Singer) emerges with a surprisingly plump roll that he plays for all it’s worth (and it probably wasn’t to hard a sell since he wouldn’t have to wear face-covering glasses the entire film).
On this particular note, however, comes the only real shortcomings of the production as a whole. Parker Posey’s Kitty Kowalski is barely window dressing; Frank Langella’s Perry White has even less screen time. Sam Huntington fills Jimmy Olsen’s shoes in pure stereotype while Kal Penn’s character could have been played by any extra pulled off the street. This could be seen as one of Singer’s shortcomings, putting above-average players to fill sub par roles even for just background material. Still, even with little to do, neither did anyone distract from anything going on, so, moving on…
Second, effects. With the very latest in digital scanning and optical trickery, Superman flies and uses his powers like never before. The Laws of Physics even make several special guest appearances as it becomes apparent that WHERE you grab hold of a falling object is just as important as actually trying to stop it before it hits the ground. And that shrewd writer/director/producer Bryan Singer doesn’t forget what Superman has already demonstrated he can do; Singer’s eye for that level of detail is just one of the reason the fan boys love him.
And last comes the plot, all two-and-a-half hours of it. To Singer’s credit, Superman finally leaves “the safety box”; things change for Superman and his relationships toward other people. It’s a mature change of relationship and a bit telling for the day and age we live in, and the results will impact all the future films you can bet are being outlined for years to come. For the purists out there whispering, “But you can’t just pretend two movies didn’t happen!” I reply, “Sure ya can, because timing is everything about the way this story is meant to work, and it’s a pretty good tale.”
There will be complaints about the running time, but likely none coming from fans of Superman. From the opening credits to the painstakingly reproduced, ??classic Christopher Reeves as Superman?? shots reworked for Brandon Routh, Warner Bros. and Bryan Singer want Superman to feel like an old friend come home and catching up on the best and worst of times; in this, it accomplishes that goal and believably sets the stage for more to come. I’m looking forward to seeing it again and owning it on DVD, but the harder part will be waiting to see where Bryan Singer take the Man of Steel next.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)