Most everyone on the planet knows who Superman is. Created in 1932, Superman has become an American cultural icon. Unfortunately, Superman’s popularity in recent years has receded. With his god-like abilities and unfaltering morals, it seems that Superman cannot compete with flawed super-heroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. It is in the opinion of this writer, however, that Superman’s flawlessness is exactly what makes him interesting. Beyond that, there has only been one film that truly capture’s Superman’s curse. That film is Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.
This leads to the next point. With any film, story is king. The story of Superman Returns, while subtle, is the film’s strongest point. While most people will praise a film for having a smart and complex plot (i.e. The Dark Knight), few people will praise a film for abandoning plot for a character study. However, this is something Superman Returns does, and does ...view middle of the document...
However, this is a different Lois Lane. This Lois Lane is bitter and full of resentment. The world may have lost a hero during Superman’s visit to Krypton, but Lois lost a lover. The third key element of the story is Lex Luthor’s plot to create more land on earth using alien technology which “grows” land instantaneously. What makes this land different is that it is also laced with Kryptonite. So, why are all these plot points so important? It’s simple; all three points make Superman more and more alone. He comes back from Krypton, crushed that his true home doesn’t exist, to find that the only person he truly cared for wrote an article on why the world doesn’t need him and his arch enemy is trying to transform earth into a planet where he cannot even exist. These are all powerful elements because they further isolate Superman from humanity and emphasis how alone he really is. All of these plot points make the ending a powerful experience. Superman finds out that Lois Lane’s son is also his son. In a poetic moment, Superman sits at his son’s bedside and repeats the words his father told him. Then, he flies away into the night sky a father; connected with humanity and no longer alone.
There are definitely some criticisms of the film. Many slam the pacing and length. “The movie takes its sweet time (154 minutes), and Singer dawdles when speed is of the essence, especially in the last section. Be patient” (Travers). Superman Returns isn’t a short film. Others bash actor Brandon Ruth as Superman, claiming that he was only chosen because of his physical likeness to the late Christopher Reeve (McCarthy). Some also bash Kevin Spacy and Parker Posey who’s campiness doesn’t really fit the rest of the film.
While these criticisms are justifiable, there has never been another film to delve into the psychological turmoil of a super hero so deeply. “Mr. Singer's film succeeds in so many ways, small and large -- most significantly in establishing a sense of epic scale” (Morgenstern). Superman Returns isn’t about flashy effects and over-the-top action sequences. Superman Returns is about what it means to be Superman or, more precisely, Superman Returns is about what it means to be truly alone. For a summer blockbuster, that is a noble cause.