Saturday, July 1, 2006

Superman Returns

WARNING: there are spoilers in this review.

I saw Superman Returns this week. It was an interesting movie, one that is meant to inspire awe in the return of earth's greatest hero from a hiatus in the far reaches of space. The rescue of the plane early on was certainly cool, and Superman stretching the limits of his power to save the earth from destruction at the end was a great finale.

There have been several articles leading up to the release of this movie that have compared the Superman character to Jesus Christ. What I think is interesting is not the "similarities", but the differences. Jesus Christ is awesome in majesty and power, but from a theological and evangelistic standpoint the most important character trait of our Lord is humility and suffering. He willingly died on the cross to provide the substitution atonement for our sins. When the Superman chracter "died" in the comics in the early 1990's, he "died" fighting a monster that was as powerful or more powerful than he was. Basically, the Superman character is all about power, a creation of man.

This movie introduces another major difference, not only between Superman and Christ, but between the traditional all-American hero with strong family values and this script's interpretation of the character. This is also the main problem I had with the movie itself. Superman is not the hero he used to be. Instead, he is a deadbeat dad, a stalker, and a wanna-be adulterer. These traits make it difficult to sympathize with the character, and serve to dampen the enjoyment of the movie.

When Superman comes back to earth, he finds that Lois Lane is engaged to another man. Lane has also been living with him for the past five years and has a four-year-old son. (Apparently, it did not take Ms. Lane much time to "move on" after Kal-El disappeared.) As it turns out, Richard White is not child's father: Superman is. So basically, Superman is a deadbeat dad who knocks up Lois lane and then takes off into space for half a decade.

Heartbroken to see that Lois is shacking up with Richard, Superman hangs out in their yard and uses his x-ray vision and super hearing to spy on Lois and her family. This is creepy, and makes Kal-El look more like Superstalker than Superman.

Finally, Superman meets Lois on the top of the Daily Planet building, where he attempts to romance her. She pulls away at the last second from kissing the man of steel. Hello, is anyone home? She is engaged, is living with her fiancÚ, and has a four year old son. There has been no indication so far in the movie that the child is actually Superman's instead of Richard's. Is this the hero we remember from the previous movies?

The acting was good, and some of the action scenes serve as a fun adrenaline rush back to the heyday of the first two Superman movies with Christopher Reeve. The movie was not without its flaws, though, the main one being Superman's lack of character. There were also too many loose ends that should have been tied up. What happens next in Superman's relationship with Lois and their child? What will happen when the child starts showing more signs of super powers? What happens to Lex Luthor, who is trapped on a small island but not captured by Superman?

Final grade: B+, mostly on the strength of the special effects, the action scenes and Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor.