Superman Returns Movie Review (Spoilers)By Jeffrey Bridges
Lex Luthor has been released from prison because Superman didn't show up to testify against him. He's since married a sickly but wealthy old woman, who dies and leaves him her entire fortune. He travels to the arctic, to the Fortress of Solitude, and has a conversation with Jor-El. He takes several crystals from the Fortress' control console with him when he leaves.
Superman returns to earth as his ship comes crashing down at the Kent farm. Astronomers had discovered the remains of Krypton, and Superman left to check for any survivors and to see if there was anything remaining of his home world.
After a talk with Martha and one flashback to when he learned to fly, Clark sets off for the Daily Planet and gets right back into the swing of things. He soon discovers that Lois Lane has a child, Jason, and is engaged to Perry White's nephew, Richard. Lex, meanwhile, discovers a large and elaborate train set in the basement of Gertrude's mansion.
Jimmy and Clark go to a bar for drinks, Clark being depressed over the situation with Lois. On a television in the bar they see a news report that features Lois aboard a Boeing 777 which is carrying a new type of shuttle up for a test launch into space. Back in the mansion, Lex drops a tiny shard of one of the crystals into some water. It immediately grows and expands, crushing the train set and destroying most of the entire room. This causes a huge EMP which results in a temporary blackout all over Metropolis.
Back aboard the shuttle, the blackout has caused a malfunction in the couplings holding the shuttle to the plane's hull. The launch can't be aborted and the couplings won't release. The first thruster ignites and sends the jet hurtling through the sky. On board the passengers are being tossed about, and Lois undoes her seatbelt in order to help someone who fell get to safety.
Clark, seeing the disaster on the television, runs outside and down an alley, ripping his shirt open to reveal the Superman shield. Superman quickly catches up to the plane and gets under the shuttle, using his heat vision to destroy the couplings and then lifting the shuttle off of the plane, he sends it on a path out into space. But not before the remaining thrusters had ignited, destroying the tail of the plane.
The plane is hurtling towards the ground out of control, and Superman is able to slow the descent and set it down safely in the middle of Dodger stadium in Los Angeles. He steps into the plane to make sure everyone is all right, and this is where Superman and Lois first meet. He assures people flying is still the safest way to travel, and is met with thunderous applause from the crowd in the stadium upon his exit from the plane.
The Daily Planet is trying to keep up as Superman makes appearances all around the globe, one of which is stopping a robbery. The crooks have highly sophisticated weapons, including a chain gun that they use to decimate the police. After polishing them off and saving police officers from certain doom, Superman spots a car out of control across the city. He arrives in time to save the car (and set it down with the Action Comics #1 pose) and the occupant is one Kitty Koslowski who happens to be working for one Lex Luthor. It was all a diversion, however, as Lex broke into the Metropolis museum and stole a mineral sample that had kryptonite embedded in it. Meeting up afterward, Kitty slaps Lex for actually cutting her brakes when they could have faked it.
Gotham gets a shout-out in the news reports on Superman, and while working late hours Lois goes up to the roof of the Daily Planet for a smoke break. Superman shows up and tells her that she really shouldn't smoke, and after a brief interview scene he takes her for a flight across the city. She tells him she's engaged and moved on, and he says that he knows.
Superman heads to the fortress, where he discovers the missing crystals. Back at the Daily Planet, Perry assigns Lois to the Superman story despite her wishes to cover the blackout. Lois investigates the blackout anyway, and it leads her to Gertrude's mansion. Through her snooping on Lex's yacht, anchored outside the mansion, she and Jason end up kidnapped as Lex sets out to sea. Jason also appears to react poorly to the Kryptonite, which Lex has had fashioned into a hollow cylinder.
At the Daily Planet, Clark and Richard are searching for Lois. Back on the yacht, Jason is playing the piano with one of Lex's thugs as Lois sneaks a fax off to the Daily Planet. Lex places a crystal inside of the Kryptonite cylinder and puts it in a rocket, launching it out to sea. Immediately, dark, foreboding crystals spring up from the ocean floor.
This causes another, much larger EMP that blacks out the city again, and causes only part of Lois's fax to get through. Luckily Jimmy recognizes her handwriting and Superman flies off to save her, changing into his Superman suit as he flies upward through the elevator shaft. Richard, who is a former pilot, follows in his sea plane.
On the yacht the thug catches Lois and her fax and moves towards her, but suddenly the piano flies across the room and crushes him. Lois and Jason both look shocked. The crystals, having caused massive changes to earth's geography, have left Metropolis in a state of chaos. There are earthquakes and fires and Superman is in full damage-control mode. He flies over the streets, using his heat vision to destroy falling debris and save the people below, as he catches people falling from windows and blows out fires raging through the sewer system. The globe atop the Daily Planet falls, but Superman arrives just in time to catch that, too.
Back on the yacht, Lex has locked Lois and Jason in a small room. Lex and his goons leave by helicopter as one of the giant crystals spears the yacht, causing it to split it in half. Lois asks Jason if he can get the door open, and just as he is about to pull on it it flies open, Richard on the other side. Just then the half of the ship dangling from the giant crystal breaks off and plummets down to the ocean, locking all three of them inside the room as the ship sinks. Fully submerged and without air, the ship sinks down into the dark depths. Suddenly it stops falling and rises from the water. Superman has arrived and has pulled the ship up from the ocean to save them. He rips the door open and pulls Richard, Lois and Jason to safety as the ship falls back to the ocean.
Richard, Lois and Jason take off for Metropolis in the sea plane and Superman heads to "New Krypton" to confront Lex. Halfway home, Lois convinces Richard to turn around and go back so that they can see if Superman needs any help.
And help he needs. It turns out placing the crystal inside the Kryptonite cylinder caused the giant crystals to grow with fragments of Kryptonite inside of them due to crystals taking on the properties of surrounding minerals. As a result the entire landmass is deadly to Superman, who suffers a beating at the hands of Lex's goons and then Lex himself, much to Kitty's dismay. Before he leaves, Lex jabs a large, sharp piece of Kryptonite into Superman's back and watches him fall off one of the crystal "islands" into the sea.
Flying around in the air, Richard and Lois are unable to spot Superman, but Jason somehow sees him down in the water. They land the plane and Lois dives in to save him, hauling him up into the plane as Richard takes off back into the air. She pulls the shard from his back and throws it out of the plane, and Superman starts to come back around. He flies up into the sunlight to recharge himself, and then flies down into the ocean, using his heat vision to cut the giant crystal island from the ocean floor.
The crystals on the island start to tremble, causing Lex and his cronies to make a run for it. Most of them are crushed by a falling tower as Lex and Kitty make it to the helicopter. As they're taking off, Kitty purposely kicks the five remaining crystals out of the helicopter, enraging Lex.
Back on the ocean floor, Superman is lifting the entire giant crystal island as shards of Kryptonite glow all around him. He struggles and gets the island out into space, and with his last bit of energy sends it off and away from earth. Weakened beyond measure, he falls back to earth where he smashes into the ground unconscious. He's taken to a hospital to recover, and Lois visits him with Jason. As he lies in a coma she starts to tell him something important that begins with "J..." but she's interrupted and has to leave. Jason has been admiring the Superman outfit and, before he leaves, gives Superman a kiss on the forehead.
On a very tiny, remote tropical island we find Lex and Kitty on the beach next to their helicopter. They're out of gas and stranded.
Superman pays a visit to Jason as he sleeps, telling him that he will never be alone and that he'll always be there for him, echoing the words that Jor-El said to Kal. Lois, outside for a smoke, thinks better of it. Before she goes back inside she spots Superman leaving, where she asks if they'll see him again, to which he replies, "I'm always around."
This is, quite easily, the best Superman movie ever made.
I say that not to disparage other movies, which I certainly love, but nothing has ever reached this level before. Ever.
This is also, quite easily, the best superhero movie ever made.
None has ever been truer to the characters, had a more moving story, or literally let you see the comic books spring to life. You will see things that have never been seen on film before, things that no one else can do.
This is a job for Superman.
I would also rank this in the highest echelon of movies. Not just Superman movies or comic book movies or even action movies. It's one of the best movies ever made.
Let me give you some perspective on this, lest you think I'm some gushing fanboy (which I am now, but I wasn't before seeing the film).
Having followed the repeated, failed attempts to get a Superman movie off the ground in the past decade and being well aware of what could have been, I had reached a point where I wished no Superman movie would be made simply because I feared the resulting travesty that much.
When I heard about this movie finally, REALLY moving into production, I was nervous. Scared. I would have sold my soul for a guarantee that it would be done right. Thankfully, it never came to that.
I followed Bryan Singer's video blogs and every bit of news on the movie that I could find, and while I felt it was headed in the right direction and in good hands, there was no way to be certain. Not until I'd seen it.
I don't love everything having to do with the character. There are plenty of other mass media adaptations that I find lacking, and writers in the comics who have disappointed me.
I went in to this movie with the highest of expectations, and the most severe of my critic's eyes peeled and searching. Surely they couldn't keep everyone in character, give us an intelligent and emotionally engaging story and not have a billion plot holes where things were done simply for the "ooh look big explosion!" factor.
Happily I was wrong. It not only met my every expectation for an excellent movie (or Superman movie), it exceeded them. In spades.
The movie has this core, this... heart, this feeling and emotion that sets it above and beyond most other movies out there. And given that it's about Superman, who may have the biggest heart of us all, nothing could be more fitting.
The effects were astonishing, and never to the degree where it ticked me off how fake something looked. It wasn't overkill on the CGI, which takes you out of the story. The CGI was clearly used as it should be, as an enhancement and not as the end all, be all of an action sequence. It was a wholly new visual experience and something I'll remember for the rest of my life. Seeing it on the big screen for the first time is just an amazing experience.
The music was very good and I'll certainly be picking up the soundtrack. Not only will you hear the main theme, but bits of all the old familiar themes will pop up right where you'd expect them to. "The Fortress of Solitude", "The Planet Krypton," "Leaving Home" and the "Love Theme" all make appearances, helping tie the movie in to its predecessors.
The sets and costumes were nothing short of brilliant, from Lois's dress for the Pulitzer party to Superman's suit, from Jimmy's bowtie to Lex's immaculate wardrobe. The Daily Planet newsroom, the Kent farm, New Krypton and the Fortress... even Metropolis itself is breathtaking.
The biggest worry for me going in (besides the story) was Brandon Routh. I had no problem with his appearance, but I was worried how his performance would be. I had nothing to gauge his acting ability on. Having seen him, it erased all doubt. He's a magnificent Clark and, the second you see him in the suit in action, there's no longer any doubt. He truly is Superman. In some moments it's like he's channeling Christopher Reeve, so much so that it's uncanny. And in other moments, he takes the character to new places and heights only dreamed of.
Kate Bosworth made a spectacular Lois. She was tough yet vulnerable, opinionated yet confused. She played her with a real depth and maturity that I absolutely fell in love with. She also gets to show Lois's strong side, as Lois puts herself in danger to save a woman early on in the film and then risks her life to save Superman later on. Finally a screen Lois who's as tough as she should be, and as compassionate as she needs to be.
Kevin Spacey was brilliant as Lex. He plays him with this edge, this fire... I've never seen Lex on screen be more determined, more obsessed or more out for blood. And yet he's never one-dimensional or flat. He's got motivation and he's got depth, and he's also got a mean streak a mile wide. Lex always puts himself first, and that's never more apparent than it is in this film. His performance is inspiring.
Parker Posey, though used mostly for comic relief, was still able to bring a depth and an arc to her character that I didn't expect. She's clearly an homage to the ghost of Miss Tessmacher past, but I think she's got more heart and brains than old Tess was ever allotted.
Sam Huntington was a godsend as Jimmy Olsen. He was born to play that role. He mixes Jimmy's dorkiness with his humanity and caring, making himself truly worthy of being "Superman's Pal". I couldn't get enough.
Frank Langella played Perry perfectly, my only regret was that his screen time was limited and we never see him for more than a few minutes. But to do so much with what little time he did have impressed me.
Eva Marie Saint, though many of her scenes were cut, still managed to move me as Martha Kent. The scene where Clark returns to the farm alone was as meaningful as it was because of the amazing job she did making you feel what it was like for a mother to not see her son for five years, and to then have him dropped back into her life, unconscious and unmoving.
The cast was brilliant and all had an amazing chemistry together; Perry with Lois and Jimmy, Jimmy with Clark and especially Superman and Lois. They all bounce off each other so well it's kind of surreal.
So, is Jason really Superman's son? Superman thinks so, Lois might think so, and there's evidence to suggest he might be. But let's look at that evidence. Is any of it irrefutable?
Jason flings a piano on the thug going after his mother. Does he? Possibly, yes, or it could have possibly been from the boat rocking on the ocean.
Jason spots Superman down in the ocean when no one else can find him. Telescopic vision? Perhaps. But that's not actually expounded upon, so theoretically he may have just seen something the others didn't because he was looking in a different spot.
Lois says to Superman, as he's in a coma, "I wanted to tell you that J..." and she's interrupted. Clearly they wanted us to think that she was going to tell him that Jason was his son, but she never actually says it.
Jason calls Richard "Daddy". That doesn't mean Richard is his actual father though, so we have more ambiguity. Jason may just call him that as he's been the recent father-figure in his life.
Lois, thinking Jason has powers, later asks him to break open the locked door to get them out of the room they're trapped in on the yacht, but just as he's about to Richard flings the door open from the outside.
Special attention is paid to the words of Superman's father, Jor-El, and Superman's repeating of those words to Jason. It's implicitly clear at the end of the film that Superman believes Jason to be his son, but there's technically no information to confirm 100% either way.
Personally I feel that Jason is Superman's son. Lois seems surprised, but not overwhelmingly so, when the piano crushes the thug. Not as surprised as she'd be if he did that and he was biologically Richard's son.
And clearly, since she later asks him if he can open the door to the room they're trapped in, she fully accepts that he may have superhuman abilities.
It's still never explicitly stated that he's Superman's son, but there's enough information there for me to be comfortable enough to say, and believe, that he is.
The Richard issue is never resolved, though, as Lois begins and ends the movie engaged to him. Superman and Lois aren't together, and that's made even more difficult a situation by Richard being a good, genuinely likable character. He did seem to have a little bit of jealousy over Lois's past (and current) feelings for Superman, though, so it will be interesting to see where they plan to take him in any sequels.
The story was truly fantastic. There are nods to the comics and the original Reeve movies everywhere you turn. The characters are handled with reverence and respect, the story is meaningful and you can really connect with it, the action is intense and amazing, the performances are brilliant and impressive, and I honestly never expected I'd see a movie that was this good anytime soon, much less a Superman movie.
I absolutely could not have asked for more.
I never expected it to be this good. I hoped it would be, sure. But then I also just hoped it wouldn't be a complete train wreck and there'd be at least something to enjoy about it. Well, there is something to enjoy about it.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd count this movie among the best movies ever made. Never.
I have been impressed down to the core.
This movie was indeed a job for Superman, and my Superman is Bryan Singer.