Superman Returns (2006)
Starring Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint
Director of Photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Music by John Ottman
Edited by John Ottman, Elliott Graham
Written by Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Directed by Bryan Singer
Rating: 3 out of 10
Superman Returns is a disaster I didn’t see coming. I read about the movie of course and I know people were disappointed. And after Man of Steel, I thought, well, I should watch this one too because even if it’s not great, it can’t be that bad. And it wasn’t, but only in the most objective perspective I can imagine. I hated Man of Steel, but it wasn’t boring and it had an emotional impact on me. True, that impact was mostly negative because it made me so angry for its content. But Superman Returns made me angry because it was such a waste of a movie, of talent, of ideas. It is one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in a long time, where absolutely nothing happens for the first thirty minutes and where even the action set pieces seem off, like it’s an accident if they actually excite you. The main problem is that it is almost impossible to care about any of the characters. This is also one of the most bland movies I have ever seen, a word I rarely use, but the only word I could think of (beside ‘boring’). None of the characters seem to be interested in anything, no real stakes are ever raised. How a great actor like Kevin Spacey can make a fascinating character like Lex Luthor so uninspired is beyond me. The attempts at recreating a feel for the original Superman movie made me cringe because it just didn’t work. Nothing really worked me. It just made me more angry the longer I had to suffer through all its incredible 154 minutes in which not much happens for 80% of the running time and the main character barely speaks.
Enough with the rant (I could go on and on), here’s at least one aspect I’m willing to work with because it was really odd and made Man of Steel look like an improvement. I’m talking about Lois Lane, one of those really interesting characters from the comics, that seems very hard to make interesting on screen for some reason (well, this goes for Superman too, in a way because in the comics he rarely is almost mute). While Man of Steel at least just wasted the potential it had with Amy Adams, here Kate Bosworth never seems to have a chance. She is such a weak character, never doing much, constantly in peril and having to be saved and, strangest of them all, constantly being hit or thrown somewhere. Seriously, look at all the times violence happens to her in the movie:
It bothered me both because the movie really seemed to hate her but also because it didn’t go so far to actually have her suffer any consequences from the hits she takes. In the first moments of the plane crash, she should be dead already, but like some kind crash test dummy she is thrown around again and again without a scratch. She is beaten up by a thug, almost drowns and has a huge steel door slammed against her head. It’s like an abusive partner who says: “She can take a little slap once in a while, there’s not even a bruise!” Maybe the screenwriters and director hated her character too, but maybe instead of taking out their aggression on her, they should have written her better. But no, the best they could think of was referencing the original movie by making her faint (and letting her then fall down the emergency slide), since that’s what women do because they are fragile and can’t deal with being rescued by handsome and strong men. She is damseled throughout the movie, being rescued by Superman, her little son and her boyfriend.
Maybe all of this annoys me even more because while Man of Steel did never pretend not to be gritty and dark and tough, Superman Returns at all times tries to be sweet and cute and amusing. Parker Posey has this terrible role of playing Kitty who never seems to want to be around Lex Luthor, who actually cries when Superman seems to have died and who has to suffer through one of the worst final moments of a villain duo ever when she asks Lex what they will eat on the island they have just landed on and then there is a close-up of her dog (ha, ha). She, too, plays a horrible female stereotype, the stupid, materialistic bitch who is always annoying. It made me think of the awful Superman 3, in which Pamela Stephenson plays a very similar role of the female villain sidekick who is stupid, but secretly reads Kant. I didn’t like that movie, but that little joke is better than anything Superman Returns doesn't know about women.