Superman Returns

July 15, 2006

Went and saw Superman Returns this past weekend. I was anticipating and hoping that this would be a good film, something to, at least in part, redeem the debacle from the last comic book movie I saw.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Superman Returns was a wonderful throw-back to the Christopher Reeve Superman films. It had great heart, strong character (and characters for that matter) and was handled wonderfully.

The acting was terrific. As could be expected, Kevin Spacey made an excellent choice to take over the reins of one of the most diabolical villains in comic history. Equally endearing (and perhaps because I’m biased) was Parker Posey. I love Parker Posey. Parker Posey can practically do no wrong and even though her character has a fairly small role to play in the film there are two instances where we get to see her brilliance. One comes when she is ‘rescued’ by the man of steel. The other comes near the end of the film as she struggles with her conscience.

Newcomer Routh channeled Reeve so well I was astounded. And yet, this wasn’t merely a mimicry of acting. He also made Superman and his alter ego his own. He took role from Reeve, paid wonderful homage to the man who many will always remember as Superman and then proceeded to add to the mythos on his own. Kudos goes out to him for taking on such an icon and not being afraid.

Singer’s directing is powerful. It’s evocative and very polished. It gleams with an edge that in some ways mirrors the glamours image of Superman from the John Byrne issues of the comic in the late 80s and early 90s. It also is unnerving at times. In a good way. The final confrontation between Luthor and Superman was such a gut punch that I found myself grimmacing in agony watching it. But it made two wonderful points while doing so, hence, it avoid being gratuitous. First, it showed how utterly depraved and insane Luthor is, not an easy thing to do without delving into cliche. Second, it showed that even in the face of weakness and death, Superman is a moral titan.

This brings me to the last point about the film. With the X3 I walked out of the movie pissed off and remained so for two days (that’s how bad it was in my opinion.) However, with Superman Returns, I exited the theatre with a profound sense of sadness. It was very, very strong. It clung to me for several days and I couldn’t figure out why. I would hum the theme song to myself and the feeling of sadness would wash over me. It was very provocative. Today, after a nice 20 mile bike ride and a shower to wash away the sweat of the ride, I realized ‘why’ it was sad.

The movie gives us Superman. This astounding icon of moral fiber and character that is unlike anything in all comics. By placing myself in the world, and watching what the man of steel goes through, I found it astounding that these people are giving a glimpse of true good character and yet there are still those depraved enough to want to destroy him.

Then I thought about our world.

I envision many people detesting the film, and I envision a lot of it stemming from the ‘old-fashioned’ moral fortitude of its title character. That is what makes me sad. We, as a people (humanity in general, America more specifically), have forgotten and thrown away our moral fortitude. We don’t ‘believe’ in a Superman anymore because everything is corrupt, everything is fallen, everything turns bad at some point.

And that left me with a profound, and lasting, sadness.