Ok, I saw the highly anticipated "Superman Returns" today. I think I set myself up for a disappointment as my expectations were high.
I love the first "Superman" movie and even as I got older, the wonders presented in that film never eroded, became cheesy, etc. It was classic storytelling of one of America's most enduring characters, an icon, a myth. Christopher Reeve brought Superman to life more than any other before him (and after him I believe.) Like any film, it has it's faults but it has endured because it's strength lied in our belief that, in a generic sense, a man could fly but it was more than that really. It was our desire, our need to see someone so true, so virtuous, so heroic be there for us when we needed him. When man, woman or child looked at Reeve, with his charming smile, sparkle in his eye, he fit that mold perfectly. Think of it the same way most humans consider aliens and UFOs look, it's an almost uniform presentation in our collective mind's eye. So it is with our universal ideal of a superhero, it is Superman and Reeve was that image we'd describe to a sketch artist. It's damn hard to follow that and I think Brandon Routh will find that out.
Now, you're probably thinking I hated "Superman Returns" by now. Well, I don't. It's a good film. The special effects are top notch, the direction is even handed and most of all, it's incredibly respectful of the original films. The opening credits mirror those of the original right down to the "whoosh" sound effects when the names fly across the screen. Lines of dialogue from the original are re-used. Hell even Marlon Brando is back from the dead (though not as spectacularly as I had hoped. You barely see him, or more accurately, his head.) The movie is dedicated to Christopher and Dana Reeve.
"Superman Returns" is essentially a kinda-sorta sequel to the first two films and therein lies the problem. Bryan Singer handcuffed himself. He's tied this film so closely to those films that he limited himself to what he could do. It's one thing to pay tribute to your favorites, it's another to try and fill it's shoes. Singer should have done what Christopher Nolan did with "Batman," start from scratch. Nolan stayed close to what made the character so great, Singer tried following the same formula of the "Superman" film franchise.
It seemed that every other actor in "Superman Returns" got to play their character their own way but Brandon Routh played Superman/Clark Kent just as Reeve would have done. That was a mistake. Sure, Routh did a great imitation but I don't want to see a Reeve impersonation. I wanted Superman from a fresh perspective. You cannot top Reeve, you cannot replace him and mimicking his performance will only remind those that he is no longer with us. Routh seems like he has decent acting chops and I wish we could have seen his own unique take on the character.
A lot was said of this "new" Lex Luthor, played by Kevin Spacey and how much "darker" his take on the role is as opposed to Gene Hackman's in the original films. Frankly, I was hard pressed to take note of any major changes. Many of Luthor's scenes were humerous, his lackeys were walking jokes (though I concede Parker Posey was somewhat entertaining.) I never got the sense that Luthor was this true villain. Even when he was talking about billions of lives being lost, I felt nothing from him. Was Spacey *as* comical as Hackman? No, he wasn't but since most of his material seemed to be on the joking side of things, that's not such a good thing.
They keep using Luthor as this rich guy who wants as much real estate as he can get. Whether it was using a nuclear weapon to knock California off the continent or using the crystals from the Fortress of Solitude to create an entirely new landmass, he just wants some property. This is the best they can come up with for him? A land grab? Who is he