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Superman Returns (6/10)

by Tony Medley

I didn’t go to the media screening because I wanted to see it in IMAX 3-D. Good idea. When the opening titles were playing I thought I was really going to like this. Then the film started and I realized that there was only one actor in the entire film, Parker Posey, who plays Kitty Kowlaski, the girl friend of Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey). Which brings up Kevin Spacey, now that you mention it. He is in the role that has been a death knell. The only time I’ve seen Gene Hackman when I didn’t like him was when he played Lex. I don’t know if it’s the actors’ fault or just that Lex is a poorly drawn character. I read all the Superman comics when I was growing up, and never heard of Lex Luthor until the movies came out. Maybe he was invented after I outgrew comic books. Whatever, I’ve never seen one I liked. And Spacey fits right in.

Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is worse. I said to my friend about 30 minutes into the movie that I didn’t like Lois, and the remaining two hours of the film confirmed this suspicion. To put this in perspective, however, I was less than enthused by her performances in “Blue Crush” (2002) and as Sandra Dee in “Beyond the Sea” (2004), also with Spacey. Her character is a true idiot. She has apparently slept with Superman in her past but is so lacking in perception (and remember, she’s a newspaper reporter who is paid to be perceptive about people) that she can see no correlation between Clark Kent and Superman (Brandon Routh, almost a carbon copy of Christopher Reeves, and a good choice for the role), even though the only differences are that Clark wears horn rimmed glasses and doesn’t have an “S” on his chest.

So is it Bosworth and Spacey or the script (Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and director Bryan Singer) or directing? Well, here are a couple of lines from the script. Clark’s mother, Martha (Eva Marie Saint, in her second consecutive role in a bad movie) says to Superman, “The Universe is a big place.” Then, later in the movie, Lois embraces Superman and says, “I forgot how warm you are.” Any movie with lines like these deserves to be avoided.

But the story has to bear its burden, too. Why? Because there is no story. Halfway through I asked my friend if she understood what was going on and she said no. After the film, our other friends who accompanied us volunteered that the film had no story without me even asking.

But worse than all this is the low moral tone of this film. Not only did they change Superman’s charge, “to make the world safe for truth, justice, and the American way.” In this film it’s changed to “truth, justice, and all that other stuff.” As offensive as this political correctness is, it gets even more deplorable. Superman is a fantasy for children. But in this film Lois Lane has had an illegitimate son, who it turns out was fathered by the heretofore saintly Superman. As if that’s not bad enough, Lois has moved in with someone else in Superman’s absence and the three of them are living as a family without benefit of wedlock. This is pictured as the norm. This is not a film I would want any impressionable child of mine to see.

The only reason I can see for seeing this film is to watch the 3-D and you can only get that at an IMAX theater. The 3-D is interesting, but there are only 20 minutes of it. Glasses are passed out when you enter the theater. When the 3-D comes on the screen, there are graphics of glasses, which tells you to put them on. If you don’t put them on you’ll see double images. If you do put them on you will see 3-D. When the 3-D is over, you see a picture of glasses with a line through them, telling you to take them off. The 3-D is fun, but it is clearly a gimmick. Much of it is of Superman flying, but, frankly, it looked to me as if the Superman flying in the 3-D portions was graphic generated and not a real human.

Like most mediocre movies today, this one is far too long. Give me a pair of scissors and I could easily trim an hour off its running time and greatly improve its enjoyability. Without the IMAX 3-D, there’s not one reason on earth I can use to justify recommending this film. Alas, there are only 266 IMAX theaters operating in 38 countries throughout the world.

July 2, 2006