Super Film Review

Some of the blog guys are in disagreement over the new Superman film. Oliver Willis liked it and gave it 4/4 stars. Ezra Klein disagrees. I saw it yesterday and am voting with Oliver on this one. I was thoroughly entertained. It’s especially fun to watch on an IMAX screen; some scenes are in 3D. Way cool.

It can be argued that the film is more of a romantic fantasy and less of a comic-book action-adventure epic than some might like, although there are plenty of action sequences. Some reviewers argued that the colors were too muted — the cape was more dark mauve than red, for example — but I agree with Stephanie Zacharek’s review in Salon (and I don’t agree with Zacharek all that often) —

This is a beautifully made picture, a modern-day fable marked by a strong sense of continuity with the past, and not just the recent past: The art-deco-influenced production design, the lighting, and some of the camera work carry echoes of German Expressionism. The costumes (they’re by Louise Mingenbach) are ’40s movie-star garb filtered through a ’70s sensibility — a way of honoring the sartorial vibe of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in the earlier movies, and also of tracing the Superman story to its just-pre-World War II roots. When Kate Bosworth, as Lois Lane, changes out of her Rosalind Russell tweed suit to attend the dinner at which she’ll be awarded a Pulitzer Prize (her winning essay bears the title, transparently redolent of heartbreak, “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman”), her dress is a full-length ripple of dark silk worthy of Barbara Stanwyck circa “The Lady Eve.” Unlike so many contemporary Hollywood movies, which strut into our theaters as if they believe they’ve sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus (or maybe even just Scott Rudin), “Superman Returns” knows where it comes from.

Maybe the film’s style is a girl and/or gay thing.

Kate Bosworth’s portrayal of Lois Lane was panned in some reviews, but as one of the few people on the planet who didn’t care for Margot Kidder in the earlier films — she mostly got on my nerves — I was OK with Bosworth. Poor Brandon Routh had the perilous job of following the beloved Christopher Reeve, but I think he managed as well as anyone could have. The best part of Reeve’s portrayal of Superman, IMO, was the way he could shift personas from Clark Kent to Superman while barely moving a muscle, and Routh didn’t quite capture that. On the other hand, Routh’s Superman persona was more emotionally vulnerable than Reeve’s, which hinted at a more complex personality under the surface. And Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor is a hoot.

Update: See also Detroit Free Press review, Newsweek review.

4 thoughts on “Super Film Review

  1. gotta agree with ya on this one. i don’t believe i have ever enjoyed a film quite so much. admittedly, i’m a HUGE superman fan, so some bias exists…but artistically, i was stunned. in a good way.

    the negative reviews stung me a bit; seems to me many viewers (& reviewers) didn’t know what to make of such a high calibre, old-fashioned film. in this day of overwhelming special effects and underwhelming storylines, audiences have come to expect non-stop action/special effects/elaborate fight scenes, ala the matrix or star wars episode iii.

    i can only pray that the masses find themselves repeatedly drawn to the experience, spawning a character-driven renaissance of sorts.

  2. coreyed — agree.

    Re the negative reviews — This film has a muted quality that applies to the characters as much as the colors. All the main characters are turned down several degrees from earlier films, by which I mean they are more realistic, less cartoon-y. Frank Langella’s Perry White is a realistic big-city newspaper managing editor, for example. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane is warmer and a lot less, well, slapstick than Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane. Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor may be an exception, because his acts are over-the-top, but Spacey plays him very quietly and coldly instead of manically. Routh’s Superman seems to me to be both more alien and more down-to-earth than previous Supermen, although the performance is subtle, and some reviewers complained that he lacked personality. IMO the muted quality made the film more of a romantic fantasy — in which “real” people get caught up in a fantasy situation — than action adventure, in which the characters mostly exist to carry forward the action. Since I prefer romantic fantasy to action adventure, I was perfectly happy with this. But I suspect the muted qualities just didn’t work for some people.

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