A great superhero flick; here's why...
The film is an obvious retelling of the Christ story, albeit with a comic book "superhero":
- Jor-el gives his only son to protect (save) humankind.
- Superman repeatedly states that he's everywhere and will always be around (i.e. omnipresent).
- Luthor and his henchmen's beating of Supes is reminiscent of Christ's beating before his crucifixion.
- Superman sacrifices himself to save humanity from Luthor's new continent.
- When superman "dies" above the atmosphere of Earth he is shown in a posture similar to Christ on the cross.
I'm of course not saying that Superman is Jesus Christ, but rather that he's clearly a comic book type of Christ and especially in this movie.
Meanwhile Lois Lane is an obvious type of atheism. Although she once believed in and even loved Superman, she's now convinced the world doesn't really need him. She's obviously unhappy and bitter; she lacks the pizzazz she had when she believed.
Of course, all this heavy symbolism is useless if the story itself fails to capture the viewer's attention. This is especially vital when the picture is two and a half hours long. But, for me, it succeeds. While it could be argued that it's too long and should've been tightened up (and I partly agree with this), it could also be said that it has the ballsy conviction to tell its story with little concern for those suffering ADHD.
The film has an epic vibe and even more so than the first in the series (1978). It's more serious, i.e. less campy, especially where Luthor & his cronies are concerned. The film also possesses a reverent quality. Even though the Superman mythos is totally absurd, the film somehow enables the viewer to suspend disbelief. On top of all this there are numerous humorous parts, which are laugh-out-loud funny (watch out for the hilarious "It's a bird," "It's a plane" piece).
Other things worth commenting on:
- Some complain that Kate Bosworth lacks charisma as Lois Lane, but this all fits into the bitter "I no longer believe" subplot. Bosworth is fine in the role.
- Some complain about Superman's 5-year visit to Krypton. What's the problem? Part of my youth was spent in Minneapolis and I've gone back there numerous times to quell my curiosity. Why wouldn't Superman feel the same way? Why was he gone so long and why did he need a crystalized craft? Because he was potentially exposing himself to large amounts of Kryptonite (radioactive pieces of his homeworld) which would severely weaken him, not to mention he gets his powers from the Earth's sun.
- Some complain about Lois' fiancé and her son, who may or may not be the offspring of Supes. Wouldn't it be natural for Lois to move on after about two years waiting? Her "shacking up" before marriage can be attributed to her new "I no longer believe" mentality.
- Love is a strong theme here as is fitting for any retelling of the Christ story. Superman loves Lois and vice versa, even though Lois is initially in denial. Love gives life and saves from death.
- I liked the fact that Lois' fiancé, Richard (Marsden), isn't made out to be a villain. Interestingly, Lois picked a man who, as a pilot, could fly her around like Supes, albeit less spectacularly. I also like the fact that the film shows Lois being faithful to Richard even though she discovers she still loves Superman. The human heart is capable of loving more than one person, but can only be faithful or committed to one, if you know what I mean.
- Frank Langella is his usual charismatic self as Perry White.
- Kevin Spacey is excellent as Luthor and arguably superior to Hackman; this is especially evident as the story progresses. His larger-than-life lunatic scheme is fitting for Supe's main foe.
- There are numerous dramatic parts where the film confidently takes its time to tell its story; there's obviously no rush to get to the next CGI action scene. Those with ADD beware. Needless to say, this is a film for adults even though kids will enjoy many aspects.
- At the time "Superman Returns" was one of the most expensive films ever made at $209 million and made $200 million in North America while almost doubling it worldwide ($391 million). But studio heads were disappointed, claiming it should have made $500 million.
Personally, I was surprised at how good "Superman Returns" is. This is an epic and moving superhero film -- sci-fi/fantasy at it's best. Is it as good or better than the best superhero films? Not only is it at least as good, it's deeper.