Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Superman Returns (2006)

























Oh the contention, after the classic Donner/Reeve films came the rather dire third and fourth films followed by this, the sort of ignored and forgotten reboot. Since then of course we have had the much hyped 'Man of Steel' which has set up two camps, the camp that loves the new approach and the camp that prefers this 06 approach. Fans have been well and truly polarized betwixt the two.

The plot continues from 'Superman II' (ignoring III and IV) and sees Supes returning to Earth after a five year spell searching for Krypton and survivors. Whilst away Lex Luthor has been released, nabbed some old birds money from her deathbed and gone to the Fortress of Solitude to steal some Kryptonian crystals, busy week. He intends to use these crystals to create a new continental landmass in the Atlantic to control as his own, problem is it will kill lots of Americans at the same time with massive flooding, we can't have that!

So its not too long before we see Supes in action saving various people (including Lois) upon his return, its back to business. Straight away I gotta say the effects in this film are still quite marvellous to this day, you could be forgiven for thinking it was made just recently. CGI is of course abundant and it works in places whilst in others its a bit more obvious, naturally. But I am surprised at the quality and how it holds up against the new 'MoS' film, seeing Supes fly around is still a thrill, looks just as good with all the sonic booms and reentry effects from space/orbit.

There are plenty of lovely money shots throughout, maybe too many actually, at times it seems like this film is simply all about making Supes look slick n sexy in airspace. But I simply can't deny that this film looks sumptuous in almost every scene, some of those skylines, atmospheric weather events, the Kryptonite landmass, the way Supes cape flaps and reacts, slow motion hovering in space and in the air...its all beautiful, a real visual treat.

I guess the main issue that many have with this film is simply the fact its basically a love letter to the original two films. Now yes of course the film was meant to be a homage to those films...the plot carries on from them, it includes Marlon Brando and uses the classic John Williams score even! so no mistakes there. But at the same time the film feels way too much like a copy of those original films, as if they are just trying to copy that late 70's feel by doing virtually the exact same stuff. Most of the action set pieces are wonderfully done but feel too familiar, too safe and a little dated really.

At no point in the film do you really feel anyone is in danger because Supes manages to rescue EVERYONE just in time, he's too good! While the recreation of that classic aura is fantastic and Singer did a fantastic job directing it, it doesn't help the plot because it just doesn't feel risky enough, plus nothing really happens in the main plot either. Lex creates a landmass, Supes digs it out and shoves it into space and that's it, did we really need such a long film for that? Again the idea also rings too many bells with the originals, outcome is too similar.

I did love the shot of Supes holding a car aloft above his head, a recreation of the classic Action Comics comic book issue 1 cover, nice touch.





This leads to Routh as Supes. Again straight away you can see why he got the gig, he looks like a young Chris Reeve (accept for the straight hair which doesn't work with the 'S-curl'). Thing is he clearly imitates Reeve, he tries to be Chris Reeve, he tries to be Chris Reeve's Clark Kent, he even tries to speak in the same manner. There are some sequences in this film that are almost shot for shot remakes of certain scenes in the originals, admittedly I liked this but at the same time I just felt there needed to be some more creative thinking here.

Also must comment that this particular Supes outfit wasn't quite right for me. The colours seemed slightly off, a little too dark and his 'S' badge looked a tad too small also...or is that just me? Should have been a bit wider across the chest no? Plus the cape seemed to look too thick and heavy?

Everyone else felt kinda drab really, nothing special really. Spacey as Lex was a surprise for me, he really nailed the character and I found myself liking the guy. I never liked Hackman in the role, he looked the part but I just didn't like his sniveling, arrogant, flippant comedic tone, just annoyed me. Spacey felt more straight laced and outrightly evil, more cynical, less smarmy and he can throw a punch if needed, he felt more gutsy.

Definitely an effects film and definitely made to show Supes can look good in CGI, and it does just that perfectly. Its just a shame the film is too much of a homage, there's too much romance/dialog with Lois and the fact Supes has a son isn't really explored enough if you ask me (didn't like the fact Supes kinda ignores it at the end despite Lois knowing. I realise he can't let news like that out but I thought he would at least stay with Lois at the end to sort it out). I also think Supes is shown caring for humans too much, yep that's what I said. In the new 'MoS' film he isn't shown doing this at all really but here there is just too much of it, there needed to be more powerful tension, we needed to think something bad really could actually happen and Supes might not get there to save the day.

But it is refreshing not to see masses of destruction porn everywhere. Metropolis could have had some major CGI wreckage sequences but its nice that they only hinted at it, although it could of been a time/money constraint. I liked how the cracking seabed eruptions caused problems and tremors but didn't 'end the world' as we are so used to seeing these days.

Yet despite everything I have mentioned I found myself loving this film way more than the new 'MoS' entry. This film is a soft dated approach through thick rose tinted specs but it works so damn well, they really got everything spot on, in fact its possibly the best homage to a franchise I may have seen. From those glorious opening credits to the slightly corny reused finale sequence of Supes flying in space and breaking the fourth wall by looking right at us as he flies by, all accompanied by that classic legendary Williams score. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle, but I think the older generations will appreciate this homage more, people who recall seeing the originals for the first time upon release or not long after. Certainly brought a lump to my throat with memories of watching them as a kid back in the day with my dad.

End of the day this feels like a remake of the original but with up to date effects, what the Donner classic would of looked like with modern technology. Now this isn't a problem for me as such but I can see why many didn't run with it. But for what they intended you get exactly that, maybe not what everybody expected, maybe not the right way to go, but its definitely a heart warming flick, a great feel good flick and a classic Superman adventure.

9/10