Monday, July 10, 2006

Superman Returns

Let me start by saying that I’m more of a Batman fan (I prefer my heroes to have a flaw other than “I am so much better than everyone that I can never fit in and be happy. Pity me, I’m perfect.”), so I’m not going to get stuck on “Superman wouldn’t do that”. I never read the comics, but I am familiar with Superman through the George Reeves TV show (Nick at Nite reruns), Lois & Clark, the Bruce Timm animated Superman series, what I vaguely recall of the original Superman movies (which I haven’t seen since I was a kid), and the occasional episode of Smallville. So I am at least capable of getting some of the in-jokes and cameos. All this said, on with the review. I've spoiler-tagged at least one thing for those who haven't seen it yet.

The basic premise of the movie is that Superman left for five years to investigate the remains of Krypton (you don’t learn much about what happened, but I smell the potential for Brainiac to show up within a movie or two, having followed the son of Krypton back to Earth). When he comes back, Lois has a five-year-old son (Jason), a fiancée (Perry’s nephew, Richard), and a Pulitzer Prize for writing “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”. Oh, and Lex Luthor’s out of prison, plotting as only a megalomaniac can. I loved this premise going in because it basically asks the same question the fans do: how can the iconic and idealistic Superman be relevant in our increasingly cynical society? You take away the camp, put in some humanity, but still maintain the essence of what makes Superman Superman. Raise him up, tear him down, then watch him fly. Some fans may worry about the da Vinci Code treatment of the Superman mythology, but like I said, I’m not going to get stuck on “Superman wouldn’t do that”. Let the man screw up a little.

Overall, I’d say the movie was pretty good. The humor here is more subtle and less camp, which is a good thing (“Weren’t there two?”). And there were only a few emotional moments where I thought “If the music swells any more, we’ll have to amputate.” There are in-jokes and cameos for the long-time fans (keep an eye out for Lois and Jimmy from the original tv series in small cameo appearances). Fellow space-geeks should shut down that part of their brain for the first big action sequence to prevent convulsive episodes (but keep an eye out for Sir Richard Branson), and all those who care about the laws of physics need to repeat this mantra throughout: it’s just a comic book movie, it’s just a comic book movie.

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