Superman Returns: Two Disc Collectors’ Edition: Big Still Plays Big On The small Screen!

Superman Returns Box ArtSuperman is the most mythic of comic book superheroes. He has godlike powers and he uses them for the right reason – to help others. "Superman Returns" is a lovely, meandering film that attempts [and succeeds for the most part] to give us an overview of the character and add emotional depth at the same time.

An opening graphic informs us that Superman [Brandon Routh] has been away for five years as he left Earth to see the ruins of his homeworld, Krypton, for himself. As both an immigrant and an adoptee, this amounts to his search for his roots and, though we don't actually see those scenes in the film [they were shot], the concept gives us a peek into Kal-el's heart – a look that comes back later in the film to resonate in a confrontation with Lois Lane [Kate Bosworth]. When the film gets underway immediately thereafter, we are transported to a world that seems timeless, with its fusion of art deco and modern design.

While Superman has been away, Lex Luthor [Kevin Spacey] has managed a get out of jail free card courtesy of a missed court date by the Man of Steel. He's back and his fascination for real estate has taken a giant leap for the worse. Where Gene Hackman's Luthor merely wanted to create beachfront property in Arizona – killing millions along the way – Spacey's version wants to create a whole new continent at the expense of billions!

Also, in Superman's absence, Lois Lane has had a son, Jason [Tristan Lake Lebeau], and won a Pulitzer Prize for her editorial, "Why We Don't Need Superman." And, oh, yes, she's living with Perry White's [Frank Langella] nephew, Richard White [James Marsden] – and has been for several years.

"Superman Returns" is about more than just Superman's physical absence – as a result of his unseen pilgrimage, he is now more aware than most that the adage "you can't go home again" can be both true and false. The planet of his birth – and all that it could have offered – is gone forever, but his emotional, adoptive home is still there. Even after all the changes that have come in his absence.

What works in the film? Well, Routh brings a very Christopher Reeve-like presence to play [though there is a resemblance, it's only from certain angles – at other times, it's amazing how unlike Reeve he is], with a deft touch in the more humorous moments; Langella's Perry White is the quintessential hard-assed boss with a heart of gold; Eva Marie Saint adds emotional weight to her brief scenes as Martha Kent; and Lebeau is terrific as Jason White. The action sequences are well choreographed with two, in particular, that stand out [the shuttle launch and the continental ones – you'll know them when you see them]. The special effects are extremely good – though they're done in such an offhand manner that they seem more real than artificial [for the most part].

Superman Returns - Lois & Clark

Of course, a superhero film is only as good as its villain, and Lex Luthor [as played by Kevin Spacey] is definitely more menacing and funnier than Gene Hackman's version in the Christopher Reeve films. His ability to take Luthor from seeming good-natured kidding to deathly menace in a nanosecond makes the character as unpredictable as we've ever seen captured on film. It's a masterful performance.

What doesn't work – and nearly overcomes the accumulated good will generated by what does work – is the character of Lois Lane. The script paints a picture of an allegedly more mature Lois – parent to a five-year old boy, and Pulitzer Prize winner for a story call Why We Don't Need Superman. The problem is that – besides Bosworth not looking old enough to have a five-year old son [while Superman seems the same age, Lois appears to be more than a decade younger… yikes!] – Lois is not likely to be cited as mother of the year.

Not only does she take her son, Jason White, with her as she investigates Lex Luthor – she actually takes him into Luthor's lair [which is to say, directly into harm's way!]. Neither the Lois of the comics, nor the Lois of the previous movies and serials, would be so incredibly stupid! Worse, Bosworth seems almost incapable of acting – and has next to no chemistry with Brandon Routh.

Fortunately, even screened on the smaller screen of one's home television, Superman Returns features some nifty plot twists; a diabolical Lex Luthor [Spacey blows Hackman out of the water with one of the most enjoyable portraits of a villain in comics movie history]; and dazzling special effects. Of course, the DVD doesn't replicate the four 3D action set pieces, but they are still more than serviceable in 2D – still, it does lose a bit of the film's big screen impact.

Disc one contains the movie [sadly, without a commentary track – what was Warner's thinking?]. Disc two includes over three hours of features: Making Superman Returns: From Script To Screen; Designing Superman: From Art and Costume Design to Set Construction; The Joy of Lex: Behind The Scenes With Kevin Spacey; Resurrecting Jor-el: How The Filmmakers Recreated Jor-El; Deleted Scenes, and Trailers.

The documentaries capture the enthusiasm of everyone concerned – especially director Bryan Singer, and Brandon Routh – and the Kevin Spacey segment features Spacey's characteristic humor [always a selling point]. The features given a great deal of insight into the process of making Superman Returns but I still miss the commentary track.

Superman Returns – Grade: B

Features – B

Final Grade: B


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