A Superb Superhero Movie
It makes perfect sense that I, a seventeen year old girl who had never seen any of the previous Superman movies, would fall head over heels for the man in tights. I have changed so much since seeing the film that I now arrive at the part that may cause pain to those of you actually reading this review, a part which contains the disappearance of the Harry Potter desktop and screensaver on my computer for that of the Man of Steel and his amazing curl in the front.
Superman Returns begins where Richard Lester’s Superman II left off, with Superman returning from his trip to Krypton in search of the remains of his home planet. After an absence of five years, he returns only to find the Earth he left in a completely different state. In a scene at the beginning of the movie, Clark Kent changes the channels on the television set only to find news depicting scenes of terror. Surely the world is in need of a savior; it just does not know it yet.
Any Harry Potter fan would both notice and enjoy the parallelism between Superman’s role in saving Earth and Harry Potter’s role in saving the wizarding world. While Kal-El was sent to Earth by his father to help its civilians become better people by freeing them from chaos, Harry Potter must defeat the Dark Lord so that terror in the Muggle and wizarding worlds stops because of a prophecy made that says “either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…” 1
It seems fitting that at the helm of a movie of such magnitude is Bryan Singer, who is no stranger to superhero movies after directing the first two X-Men movies. Bryan Singer’s vision of an internally struggling superhero and a storyline that continues from Richard Donner’s and Richard Lester’s films allows previous fans of Superman to relate to and enjoy the growth of the character, which makes a perfect fit.
Brandon Routh, who plays Superman and Clark Kent, is eye candy, but also gives the franchise hope with his acting and eerie resemblance to Christopher Reeve. Clean shaven, tall, and fit, he is the embodiment of what Superman promotes: “truth, justice” but no longer just the “American way.” 2 Director Bryan Singer, as well as screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, focused on bringing Superman to contemporary society because of the caped crusader’s gap between films (nearly twenty years). 3
It seems that both J.K. Rowling and the geniuses behind Superman agree that the world around us should be an important factor in a piece of work that not only includes good, but evil. The environment surrounding the main character provides a more believable world, and thus, hero, because the audience can better relate to him. The best thing about Harry Potter is that his experiences resemble those that we encounter in our lives: making mistakes, growing up, and so forth. Clark Kent, Superman’s alternate ego, is not perfect as well, but the embodiment of the everyday person who even has trouble getting the girl.
Therefore, Superman’s place in the world is challenged by none other than his love interest Lois Lane, played by Kate Bosworth, who has moved on with a fiancé and five year old son. “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman” won Lois Lane a Pulitzer, but was it really a cover-up for her disappointment in the Man of Steel’s departure without a goodbye? Just as our hero Harry Potter tries to form some sense of identity and decide what is best for those around him, Superman must balance the cries of help from around the world and his alter ego Clark Kent’s insecurities.
While Kate Bosworth is not necessarily on my good list for being Orlando Bloom’s girlfriend, her independent yet unsure Lois Lane impressed me, especially after seeing Win a Date With Tad Hamilton. Not only does Lois Lane have to pull duties as a reporter, but as a mommy, which Kate Bosworth convincingly does throughout the film.
Of course the movie has the Academy Award for Special Effects in the bag, but Superman Returns represents so much more than a blue screen and computer-animated plane crashes.
While Kal-El may be from another planet, he experiences human emotions, mainly love, in the form of the independent Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. Since the previous Superman movies did not focus on relationships as much as Superman Returns does, 4 the movie comes as a breath of fresh air because of it.
One of the best things about Harry Potter is his life-like personality as well. Harry Potter is like any true teenager: unsure of himself and his place in society, tactless with girls, and at times extremely moody. J.K. Rowling’s ability to convey Harry Potter’s emotions so accurately finds competition in Superman Returns due in large part to Bryan Singer’s directorial role which has Superman questioning whether the world or Lois Lane still needs him.
From Clark Kent’s awkwardness while greeting Lois Lane for the first time in five years to a rather beautifully written and directed scene where Superman takes Lois Lane flying, the elements that made Spiderman 2 the best superhero movie of all-time work wonders for the last son of Krypton.
The movie alternatively describes the schemes of Lex Luthor, played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey, as well as Brandon Routh’s portrayals of Superman and Clark Kent. Lex Luthor, who weaseled his way out of a jail sentence of five years because of Superman’s absence, receives the fortune of an elderly woman he both charmed and tricked for benefits in her will, much like Tom Riddle wins over Hepzibah Smith and eventually kills her. 5 With a bald head and sinister stare, Lex Luthor and his chums use special crystals from the Fortress of Solitude deep down within the Earth to create large land masses that will not only alter the shape of the globe, but kill billions of people in the process. 6
Although the beginning seems much like the Harry Potter movies, which try to fit in all the background information to get to the meat of the story rather slowly, Superman Returns more than makes up for it with its great balance of effects and plot, a mix that can be found in all of the Harry Potter books which combines romance, adventure, and mystery.
However, after seeing the movie twice (with at least two more on the way), I cannot help but feel ripped off each time the credits begin to roll. SPOILER From the long and tense CGI-filled airplane sequence where Superman saves an airplane containing a bunch of reporters including Lois Lane from crashing to the climax which contains the near-death of Superman due to Lex Luthor and Kryptonite, I hoped that there would be some sense of closure by the end of the movie, unlike the route Spiderman took.
Of course, it was silly of me to think this way when going into the theater I very well knew that Brandon Routh had signed up for at least two sequels (although Bryan Singer announced a sequel at the earliest in 2009), 7 which made it even more of a struggle when Superman learns the identity of Lois Lane’s son’s father, as well as says his infamous lines of “I’m always around” and “Goodnight Lois” which had me internally telling myself not to throw popcorn at the screen and dislike the movie because of its ending.
I know that quite a few fans, including myself, must have been extremely put-off at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Harry Potter breaks up with his girlfriend Ginny Weasley in an attempt to keep her out of harm’s way. Not only is there no sense of closure in both Superman and Harry Potter‘s lives, but there also remains the need to know what will happen next in the lives of these fictional characters we have come to know.
Who knows what Superman will have in store for the future? Since 1938, Superman has endured, and Bryan Singer says it is because “…by virtue of his [Superman’s] idealism and noble point of view, he makes us feel safe. He does it with an eloquence we like to see.” 8
One only hopes that with its sequels, Superman will continue in the style of this superb movie, and finally return to the hearts of the people once more.
1. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003. P. 841.
2. “Brandon Routh is Superman!” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006: 21.
3. “Writers of Steel.” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006: 35.
4. “Superman Returns.” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006: 15.
5. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, 2005. pp. 433-439.
6. “Designing Superman’s World.” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006: 39
7. “Comic-Con 2006 Wrap-Up.” [Weblog Spidey Meet Mutant Ninja Turtles] 26 July 2006. Moviefone. 26 Jul 2006 http://movies.aol.com/movie-photo/comic-con-2006-spider-man-3.
8. “Directing Superman’s Return.” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006: 32.
“Superman Returns.” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006.
“Writer’s of Steel.” Life Story: Movie Magic. 2006.