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SUPERMAN RETURNS

SYNOPSIS:
It has been five years since Superman (Brandon Routh) disappeared from the city of Metropolis without a word, returning to his old home planet, now in ruins. And now he returns. But Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), the love of Superman's life, is now engaged to the editor's (Frank Langella) nephew, Richard (James Marsden) and has a five year old son, Jason (Tristan Leabu). Uber-criminal Lex Luther (Kevin Spacey) has an audacious and evil plan, having discovered how to harness the power of the crystals linked to the power of Superman's alien home, and having acquired enough kryptonite to kill Superman.

Review by Louise Keller:
Retaining the spirit of the comic strip, Superman Returns delivers a larger-than-life hero a sardonic villain, splashy special effects and an emotional heart that reinforces the Man of Steel's vulnerability. Having waited nearly twenty years for another screen version of DC Comics' most famous super hero, expectations are understandably high, with media speculation soaring from the divine to the meticulous. Is Superman the new messiah? Has director Bryan Singer coloured Superman gay? Is Brandon Routh convincing as the new Superman? Is his cod piece super size?

The weight of the project lies in the varying sized hands of three men - Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey and Brandon Routh. They may be born in different decades, but they work together like instruments playing in harmony. Singer delivers the spectacle and the tone. Spacey, with a shaved head and a glint in his eye, brings gravitas and wry humour as maniacal Lex Luther. And Routh does the impossible, filling out the ripples in Superman's skin tight blue suit, recreating him with freshness. He also brings a little melancholy in his note of heroic acceptance of his destiny. His resemblance to Reeve is at first eerie, yet Routh is never in Reeve's shadow. He carries the film as gracefully as he leaps through the air.

One of Singer's challenges was to create a work that satisfies not only a new young audience, but the audience that has grown up with the super hero. My main criticism is the film's length, which at 154 minutes is far too long. But his decision to incorporate some elements from the previous films works strongly in its favour, such as John Williams' unforgettable music theme and archive footage of Marlon Brando as Superman's father. Parker Posey is a lively scene stealer as Lex Luther's outspoken floozy with the cute pooch, but Kate Bosworth lacks the worldliness required of Lois Lane. Her hair may be dark for the role, but Bosworth's Lois is a bit of a dizzy blonde, who forgets to pick up her son, and seems an unlikely Pulitzer Prize candidate as we are asked to believe.

The film is visually impressive, mixing action with touches of humour and heart without sentimentality. According to Daily Planet Editor Perry White (Frank Langella), there are three things that sell newspapers - tragedy, sex and Superman. This movie simply needs one of those things - Superman.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Expensive, effect-ive and energetic, Superman Returns nevertheless clings to the laurels of Richard Donner's 1978 original Superman movie, with its rustic backstory of a young Superman among the cornfields of Kansas, its penchant for retro architecture and the cloning of Christopher Reeves' Clark Kent/Superman in Brendon Routh. But it's just not the same; Routh seems too overawed by the icon and his predecessor to generate any personality under either the guise of Superman or the bumbling Clark Kent. Kate Bosworth is less feisty and less credible as a prize winning reporter in the tough city of Metropolis, and there is none of the romantic chemistry between her and Routh that the storyline demands.

Where Bryan Singer is much more at home is with the old vets in character roles, like Kevin Spacey, fruitily determined to rule the world as Lex Luthor, whose wardrobe shows just how much attention he was paid in production; his hapless and edgy bimbo (Parker Posey); Eva Marie Saint as Superman's ageing adoptive Earth mother, in a beautifully realised performance; and of course, the urbane Frank Langella, who provides enough complexity to make his character more than a clichéd caricature of the harried newspaper editor. Singer is less impressive wrangling the genre itself, and at 154 minutes we feel he hopes to make up in length what the film lacks in punch.

Enormous effort has gone into making the film suitable for an effects-hungry youth market, but I am not convinced that Superman is these days at his best flying faster than a bullet or saving jetliners or carrying half a continent into space. Those, when Superman first flew, were simpler times in comic land; America was the world's Superman and the movies were its playground.

Perhaps it's unintentional irony from the filmmakers, then, that after his return, Lois Lane finds it hard to even begin to write an article titled "Why the world needs Superman"...

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

BRANDON ROUTH INTERVIEW

SUPERMAN RETURNS (M)
(Aust/US, 2006)

CAST: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Tristan Leabu

PRODUCER: Gilbert Adler, Jon Peters, Bryan Singer

DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer

SCRIPT: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Newton Thomas Sigel

EDITOR: Elliot Graham, John Ottman

MUSIC: John Ottman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Guy Dyas

RUNNING TIME: 154 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 29, 2006







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