Superman experiences a moment of clarity in a story DC would rather forget. The new movie, however, is worth a look.

Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris

Cast
Brandon Routh…Superman/Clark Kent
Kate Bosworth…Lois Lane
Kevin Spacey…Lex Luthor
James Marsden…Richard White

Parker Posey…Kitty
Frank Langella …Perry White
Sam Huntington…Jimmy Olsen
Eva Marie Saint…Martha Kent
Noel Neill…Gertrude Vanderworth

Premise:

Superman left the world five years ago to explore the Kryptonian system. He returns to learn that people have moved on and Lex Luthor has concocted an over-the-top evil plot.

High Points:

The scenes back in Smallville did what good filmmaking should: they conveyed their meaning—in this case, Superman’s backstory– in a few vivid images and a little effectively-delivered dialogue.

I really liked the way that other, ordinary characters also were given the opportunity to be heroes in this film.

Low Points

I have some trouble with the timeline. I don’t mean the fact that this is a sequel to films made in the 1970s, but it’s clearly set in 2006. That sort of temporal distortion goes with comic books. Superman spends years in the Arctic, establishes himself as Superman and Clark Kent, and then leaves the planet for five years. Lex Luthor spends five years in jail, Lois Lane raises her child. The actors playing Superman and Lois, however, are younger than their Smallville counterparts, and they look their age. They’re good actors, but problematically young.

Then there’s the matter of Superman’s dual identity. We must, by convention, accept that no one recognizes Clark Kent when he removes his glasses. However, add to the mix the fact that Clark Kent disappears for five years when Superman disappears for five years, and then again when Superman gets injured, and we’re dealing with a Plastic Man-level stretch to credibility—even for a comic-book movie.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 It’s very hard do to an original version of Superman, at least without offending fans. He’s been around too long and been featured in too many different media. This one doesn’t especially try. It draws heavily from the 1970s films, often directly quoting from and referencing them in ways that usually work. More impressive are the number of allusions to Superman’s complex history. The best of these are non-obtrusive; missing them doesn’t mar the film.

Effects: 6/6. This film features strong special effects and stunning visual imagery.

Story: 4/6. Singer and company have pace the film well, and the narrative carries viewers through the lengthy running time.

I did find myself wondering why Superman left his fortress unguarded, and why a genius supervillain would set his captive next to a fax machine, and a few other matters.

Acting: 4/6. Kevin Spacey finds a middle ground between the comic-book villain and Gene Hackman’s wisecracking dandy. I wish Luthor had been more complex, but Spacey has undeniable presence. Routh and Bosworth handle Superman/Clark and Lois well. I suspect fans of Smallville will still prefer tv’s current take on the characters, and readers of the comic may be wishing they’d given us something closer to the current incarnations.

I wasn’t overly impressed with Frank Langella’s version of Perry White. It’s not badly-acted; I just didn’t really take to the interpretation.

Production: 6/6.

Emotional Response: 5/6. This is an enjoyable film, and very much a tribute to the ’78 Superman

Overall: 4/6.

In total, Superman Returns receives 30/42