Saturday, July 22, 2006

Superman Returns (2006)

I find it interesting in hindsight that X Men 3 should have Brett Ratner doing a credible Bryan Singer imitation, since Singer abandoned the franchise he successfully kick-started just so he could do a Richard Donner imitation; in doing so, he confirms my suspicions of him as a bland hack who managed to defy the Peter Principle. The wind-up is decent, what with Kevin Spacey finally getting back to enjoying himself while acting and Parker Posey not only not annoying the crap out of me but actually stealing a few scenes. (Her halfway-concerned, halfway-distracted delivery of the line "Aren't there supposed to be two of those?" combined with a perfect cut makes for the year's best punchline.) The cracks in Bryan Singer's slavish continuation, though, start to show in the film's first action setpiece; as Superman rescued a free-falling airplane, the only thing I could think about was how Lois Lane should be dead after slamming hither and yon around the cabin. (And that, kids, is why you should always keep your safety belt fastened even after the captain has turned off the Fasten Seat Belt light!) Later on, the film's dewy-eyed angst and general lack of humor prove to be major liabilities; Singer's reverence for the established Superman mythos is such that it removes any sense of vitality. The wax dummy that plays Superman doesn't help matters either; neither does Kate Bosworth, who is all wrong as the tough, ambitious, Pulitzer-Prize-winning version of Lane we get here. (Seriously, Hollywood: Stop trying to foist Bosworth on us. When America said it didn't want Gretchen Mol, you made her disappear. Why then hasn't the box-office apathy towards this particular blond kewpie doll made her shrivel up and blow away like a turd in the desert?) Spacey as Lex Luthor is the only thing that keeps this film from collapsing into a black hole of self-importance; his sly, sociopathic take on Lex (essentially John Doe gone corporate) is the film's sole sop to the idea that superhero stories -- you know, movies about guys in brightly-colored costumes who possess strange magical powers -- are meant to be fun.

Grade: C


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