Hey guys... Matt here. So I'm just about to leave my house to catch Captain America: The First Avenger which I'm just giddy about seeing today considering my love for the character, and remembering the days in the early 90's when I would watch the Matt Salinger version literally nonstop - just getting caught up in the colourful costumes and the vibrancy of it all - when I see this article is ready to be published from WhatCulture! writer Tom Ryan. Now Tom is a great guy but man, he couldn't have picked a more contentious article to pitch to me. I mean after all, Obsessed With Film was born one hot summer night in July 2006 when I came back from a screening of Superman Returns completely disheartened by what Bryan Singer had done with one of my childhood favourite characters. If it wasn't for my anger over Superman Returns there would be no Obsessed With Film and then no WhatCulture!, so Tom was extremely brave to write this article up. But you know what? I'm reading some of his points and I can't help but find myself agreeing with him. Not on every point but definitely more than one or two and it's scary! This is an intelligently written and passionate piece and it's more than worthy of your time......
Over the course of the five years since its release in the summer of 2006, Superman Returns
has unfortunately gained a bad rep, and its now fashionable for people to call it the worst thing since sliced bread. But, for the sake of history we have to remember that the movie was actually rather liked among critics and whatever your own personal opinion of the movie is today, one thing we can easily dismiss is that it certainly wasnt the financial failure or flop people try and make it out to be. Superman Returns did ok at the box office - $200 million domestic and $391 million worldwide return from a $270 million budget, which may not be the numbers you would expect from a film with the name Superman in its title but it made its money back and roughly earned the same as Batman Begins. More than anything, its the fact that it never got a sequel which is the reason that many people now condemn it. Its a shame that audiences now perceive success based not on any merit other than how many sequels a film can generate. Personally, my only two problems with Superman Returns are that Kate Bosworth
was horribly miscast as Lois Lane and the way in which the film itself was edited. It easily could have been condensed down to a much shorter length, and I dont understand why the film opened on Lex's story and not Clark. But they are my only, minor gripes. In defence of Superman Returns I have complied a list as to why I personally hold it in such regard. Its not my intention to change peoples opinion on the movie, to each his own of course, but I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why I personally hold this as one of my favourite films of the last ten years.
01. It Wasnt A Reboot
It would have been easy for Warner Brothers to restart the franchise after a near two decade absence of the character from our screens and regurgitate out an origin story to the audience (indeed, they are doing that very thing right now!!). Luckily they made the wise decision to keep the series going rather than starting from scratch. Nobody was really asking to see Supes origin story all over again and I don't think anyone is gagging to see it now. We all know his back story, and besides Smallville
was still on the air at the time (an origin story which lasted 10 years!). Instead they continued the movie series that began in 1978 with a sequel of sorts and had an ingenious way of re-telling or re-reminding the origin just in case anyone out there was living under a rock since the characters inception back in 1939... At the dawn of reboots for Batman and the James Bond franchises, wasn't it refreshing to see a film that didn't forget history?
02. The Origin Recap
Bryan Singer avoided making the film an origin story, but thats not to say they didnt briefly recap it for audiences. Instead of extensive flashbacks sprinkled throughout the movie, or even the Superman 2
idea of recapping previous events in the opening credits, Singer kept it short but sweet with a simple title card that summed it all up in 3 sentences. Kind of like a Star Wars text scroll we all loved back in the day. A brilliant and effective way to get people up to speed without wasting anytime or interrupting the plot.
03. It Respected What Came Before
Since its release in 1978 nothing has come close to rivalling Richard Donners Superman: The Movie
. Rather than ignore it, Singer wisely used it to guide his movie. Following on from the Christopher Reeve
movies, Superman and Lois had a complicated romantic past, PA Kent had long since passed away, Lex Luthor was thirsty for revenge for Superman's blocking of his devilish schemes and remembered where the Fortress was from his visit there in Superman 2. Not only did it continue the story but also the tone and the look of the universe. The design for the Fortress of Solitude and kryptonian crystals for example remained the same. The idea of Clark Kent being a bumbling oaf, as opposed to Dean Cain
s more confident Kent, stayed intact. Marlon Brando
even reappeared onscreen posthumously as Jor-El, which was a really nice touch. The film was more faithful to Superman's previous four films than George Lucas' Star Wars prequels were to his own franchise!
04. Brandon Routh
The one thing the majority who has seen the movie can seem to agree on is that Brandon Routh
was perfect as Superman. Its a daunting role and one that not many actors would be able to pull off with dignity, confidence, that magic touch. Routh not only looked the part but also played it with such credibility that both fans and critics alike agree that he was a fantastic successor to the late, great Christopher Reeve. He never looked silly in the suit and capably pulled off Clark Kent/Superman disguise. He even held own against Spacey which Id imagine would not be an easy task for such a novice actor. Its a shame he wont get the chance to reprise the role.
05. It Had Genuine Drama
Sure, the Man of Steel had to stop Lex Luthor after he had created New Krypton from alien crystals but the heart of the story was really all about Superman trying to find his place in a world that has moved on without him. Its a very clever idea and a very interesting conflict for Supes. Not only had the world moved, but more importantly, so had Lois Lane. She was now engaged to Richard White (James Marsden
) and raising a son. Lois Lanes fiancé wasnt a jerk for the sake of making you root for Clark, he was a honest, humble and likeable guy. This made it more difficult for Superman to try and win Lois back and is a very mature and adult story for a summer blockbuster movie. It was genuine drama for the characters, and Lexs plot was there to counteract it slightly with some superhero hijinks.
06. The Theme Music
Although there have been many screen incarnations of Superman with their own theme tune, none can beat John Williams
' famous score from Richard Donners original series. Its iconic, catchy, uplifting and screams Superman. It was recently used in the Smallville finale to great effect and should really be used from here on out as the definitive Superman theme. Zack Snyder would be wise not to dismiss it so easily. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9vrfEoc8_g
07. Kevin Spacey
While he surely was a little OTT in parts, Kevin Spacey
is up there with Gene Hackman
and Michael Rosenbaum
as one of the best Lex Luthors on screen. He is calculating, obnoxious, at times creepy and pure sinister. The only Lex Luthor on screen to cold heartedly stab Superman in the back with Kryptonite and kick him off a cliff. It would have been great to see where he would take the character had there been a sequel. As it stands he was a mighty fine choice for Lex and whoever replaces him in the newly rebooted film series has big shoes to fill.
08. The Plane Sequence
While superhero movies usually feature cartoon-ish violence and the hero vs. villain climactic beat em ups, it was refreshing to see a comic book movie in which the hero doesnt through a punch. Although thats not to say there wasnt any action. Singer cleverly reintroduced the character of Superman in a breathtaking rescue sequence in which Supes frantically tries to save a plane from plummeting into a baseball field. Out of all the superhero movies in the last decade this is without a doubt one of the most original action sequence from any of them and serves as a reminder that with Superman you can have far more imaginative and exciting action sequences than you would with most other heroes. And it was a welcome break from the boring fisticuffs youd normally find in a comic book movie.
09. The Resolution Between Superman and Lois
After two and half hours of Superman pining after Lois the movie ends without our hero getting the girl. A brave move for the studio, and for Singer. While some fans may not have been fond of this idea, I think it stayed true to what came before it. Lois was content without Superman in her life. She had moved on, raised their child and found a partner in Richard White who loved her and who would always be there for her. Sure, she was conflicted when Superman returned but as he pointed out during their romantic night flight, everyday he can hear people crying out for a hero, it wouldnt be right for her to keep him for herself. Although Superman wanted nothing more than to win Lois back he eventually came to peace with the fact that the best he can do for the both of them would be to let her go but always remain in her life as a friend and a protector, always looking out for her and Jason. It was a fresh and adult take on the Lois and Supes romance and one that was completely suitable and satisfying for the movie. Hats off to Bryan Singer and the writers for making such a bold move.
10. It Served As Closure To The Donner/Reeve Series
Many people now see the film as a major failure given that the franchise is now being rebooted. I dont like to look at it that way. I like to view this film as a fitting end to the previous movie series. Regardless of your personal opinion of Superman Returns, its a heck of a better send off for Supes than Superman IV: A Quest for Peace
. Sure it was intended to lead into future installments, but looking at it now, where could they have gone? Richard White would probably have to die in order for the Superman/Lois romance to continue in sequels. Jason, would probably become a mini sidekick for Supes which would be silly, failing that hed have to turn evil or even die, which would be in bad taste. Its a tricky thing to think about. Sure they could just keep the characters static and throw in new villians for each movie but who wants that? As it stands Superman Returns neatly wraps things up for the Donner/Reeve era. Lois has settled down. Lex Luthor is still out there, plotting Supermans demise and as always the big blue boy scout is out there, up in the sky, doing what he does best because as hes always around! With this point in mind, I invite you to go back and rewatch the movie, only this time view it as an ending rather than a new beginning for the franchise. Hopefully be more appreciative of it. Remember that if you watch it again, and the final shot, (which was an homage to the Chris Reeve closing shots), will serve more as a humble ending as Superman looks into the camera, and with a smile and a nod, he says goodbye.