Friday, July 7, 2006

SUPERMAN RETURNS
Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, James Marsden

Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

Superman is Back

Yes, Superman is back after a 5 year absence/hiatus from saving the world against every imaginable disaster. Superman has always been my favorite superhero. He can fly. He has X Ray vision. He can hear everything. He is faster than a speeding bullet. He is the savior of humankind. He represents peace, justice and goodwill among men. Every bulging inch, the superhero that he is.

In this film peppered with all the Computer Generated Images possible, Superman is back in form. His alter ego, Clark Kent as usual has this 'idiotic' look permanently pasted on his face. He is hardly shown doing his work as a reporter. I don't think he even sat down in front of a computer to file any stories. He is always away saving the planet. His beloved Lois Lane is now a mother to a precocious son, Jason. She is engaged to be married to Richard White, a genuinely likeable dude. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor managed to get out of prison on a lighter sentence. He also schemed his way into inheriting the vast fortune of an old lady. Just perfect for him to come up with a plan to build a new continent, never mind if billions of people will die in the process. With an entourage of menacing thugs to do the dirty work for him and a ditzy girlfriend in tow, Lex Luthor seemed invincible.

Let me now enumerate what I liked about this film.

1) The original film score by John Williams. It was given a more upbeat tune and it totally added a certain oomph to the entire film. The blaring loud 'tan ta ta tan' gave me chills. Factor in the fact that in the cinema where I watched, I could actually feel the treble of the sound system. It was exhilarating.
2) Bryan Singer inserting portions from the original film. He stayed true to the theme for continuity sake with a Marlon Brando voiceover. Showing us scenes of Superman as a boy leaping through the cornfields in Smallville was a neat trick. It gave the film some vital background information about the Man of Steel. It created good character build up to his persona.
3) Of course, action scenes where Superman is seen rescuing, saving humankind from disasters is always a pleasant visual treat. This time he goes global by putting out fires in France, averting some disaster in Greece and he was even seen in Manila, the Philippines. Heh! I didn't see him here. He must have been darting around faster than a bullet.

Some kinks I noticed.
1) The pace was a bit slow especially in the first part of the film. Lex Luthor roaming, gathering enough ammunition to hatch his evil plan was boring. There were times I tried not to fall asleep.
2) The cast. Brandon Routh surely looks the part. He is tall, has a prominent jawline, his hair is sleek. This time he sports a darker shade of red (maroon) in his Superman attire. His cape was darker too and quite flowingly fluid and you can actually hear the 'shish' as he flew in the sky. Yet there were times when I noticed some love handles around Brandon Routh's waistline. He doesn't have perfect abs to cause some ripples in his Superman suit. His acting was somewhat rigid. He lacked the sparkle and twinkle in his eyes as Superman. He wasn't as engaging a personality as Christopher Reeve was when he was Superman. I also didn't feel any chemistry between Superman and Lois Lane. It must have been there somewhere but I didn't sense it at all. Kate Bosworth is a refreshing presence almost luminous in certain scenes. Yet there was something lacking in her portrayal of Lois Lane. As Lois Lane, she lacked the inner desire to yearn for Superman which I guess is natural since he did abandon her and just left without saying goodbye.
Most of all, I am disappointed with Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor. Well sure he was villainous enough. But not in a threateningly menacing manner. I don't know. I expected Lex Luthor to show more angst, more anger towards Superman but sadly in this film he was just a caricature type. I have no doubt that Kevin Spacey is a brilliant actor but his Lex Luthor was rather weak almost wimpish.
3) The plot line. Lex Luthor's plan to build a new continent using the crystals from the planet Krypton wasn't well developed. As I sat there watching all I could think of was "Huh, is that it? Is this what Superman came back for?" But I guess, Bryan Singer didn't want to muddle up the story too much. He chose to focus on Superman returning and trying to rekindle his 'love' for Lois Lane.
4) Introducing a side plot that involves the kid of Lois Lane was such a teaser for a sequel. The kid didn't really say much, he was mostly in some catatonic state. Perhaps he was still too young and not fully aware of his 'super' powers. The mere presence of a child ruined it for me. My vision of Lois Lane has always been of a woman who lovingly aches for someone she cannot have. That eventually she and Superman will just fly around somewhere and be together in their own little universe. But it is the 21st century after all, even Lois Lane can be a single mother raising a child.

In conclusion, this film had very good entertainment value. It was exciting to be entranced for 2 1/2 hours by a superhero who has the cunning ability to make us feel safe. That no matter what happens, we need not fear because Superman will be there for us.

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