Superman Returns

Superman Returns is a bit of an odd film in the comic-book-adaptation canon. From the very start, something about it didn’t seem right. The premise is that Superman has left Earth for five years following the apparent discovery of the remains of Krypton. All very well but the introduction, with the background explained in some writing on a black screen, feels a little low-key. It gets worse when it is immediately followed up by a shot of an exploding sun followed by a set of titles that look so late seventies that you feel like you’re on a nostalgia trip to the original films. Even the music is a strange hotchpotch of themes from the original movies. This sense of Superman nostalgia is incredibly disorienting, pervading the whole film and leaving the feeling of loss as to where the film is meant to be. The logical explanation is that it’s set at the end of Superman II, but it ret-cons the final two Superman films horrendously. Nor does it seem to be taking its continuity from the comics.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing; continuity is a can of worms for fans to worry about, not for the general public who generally just want a good show. The problem is that the character-driven part of the film centres on the changes caused by Superman’s disappearance, which would be all very well if the casual viewer had a point by which to relate to the characters in the first place. Instead, without knowing which context in which to understand the characters and not relating to the story that built up to the situation exhibited in this film, it is difficult to care about Lois and Superman’s relationship. To put it bluntly, having not watched the other films in a while, I had to be told that Superman Returns followed Superman II which meant that I was left bewildered by what was going on rather than sympathetic simply because I was assuming that it was following Superman IV.

Even when you take continuity and characterisation out of the equation, the film doesn’t stand up to its predecessors. The plot moves like a thirties short film serial, moving across loosely connected incidents rapidly without any real depth or interest. The whole thing feels like a patchwork of ideas put together by someone who is writing without any feel for good storytelling.

All this said, the film does have some redeeming features. The special effects are special and effective and Brandon Routh does a great job in the title role. In fact, I would say the acting saved Superman Returns from mind-numbing tedium.

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~ by Scary Rob on 14 July, 2006.

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