Superman Returns (2006) Bryan Singer

Production Budget: anywhere between $209 million with tax incentives and $350 MILLION! (yes there is a disparity that large)
Worldwide Gross: $391 million
Subsequent Earnings:  $82 million

Now this is debatable (very debatable) seeing as how both the budget and the profit can be bloated either way even as far as 150 million.  I could have done this review for a while.  I finally opted to do this because the box office disappointment is cited as the reason for the stall of the current Superman movie.

To anyone that saw An Evening With Kevin Smith knows that Superman Returns had a long and sordid production history.  Estimates of even $63 million (of the total said budget) was spent even before Singer was signed onto the project.  The failures of Superman III, Superman IV, and Supergirl left a 20 year void where WB was extremely tentative to start the project.  The most famous examples were of Kevin Smith being hired on to write a script and needing a giant spider in the third act.  There were several other proposed scripts.  One was to feature Reeve trapped in the bottle city of Kandor.  The resurgence in the idea of a Superman movie was in the Death of Superman comic book.  Superman Reborn was basically a movie version of it with the odd ending of Superman infusing Lois with his life force, being reborn (literally), and defeating Doomsday.  Superman Lives was the Smith/Tim Burton production.  Burton and actor Nic Cage were signed on for Pay or Play contract for the total of $25 million.  This meant they got paid no matter what happened.  The budget was proposed to upwards of $190 million and WB got cold feet.  Burton left with his $5 million contract and went to work on Sleepy Hollow.

The project then took on even more directors and other turns.  It went from an origin story with McG and JJ Abrams, to a Batman vs. Superman story, to an origin story again with Wolfgang Peterson, Brett Ratner, Martin Campbell, Michael Bay, Oliver Stone, Robert Rodriguez, and later re-hiring McG.  The biggest push finally came when Bryan Singer left the popular X-Men series to helm the Superman reboot.  The movie was a sequel/homage/reboot of Superman II.  The movie got great critical praise with some calling it the best superhero film.  Reception from the general public was more mixed: some loved it, some hated it.  Kevin Smith called it one of the most boring movies and even the Nostalgia Critic couldn’t help but slam the movie.  And now the Superman sequel is back in movie purgatory.  Bryan Singer is thought to be out with his busy movie schedule although WB is still stringing people along saying they are not ruling anything out.  With the success of the Dark Knight, WB is flirting with the idea of making Superman “darker” which is almost the antithesis of everything Superman but whatever.  The stalling is so bad that Siegel’s family is suing Warner for the rights to Superman.  The ruling being if WB doesn’t make a movie by 2011, they are going to have to pay for lost revenue to Siegel.

So after ALLLLLL that, is it any good?

It’s no secret that I’m a Superman fanboy.  Superman is my favorite superhero.  So I will admit my view is biased.  I loved this movie, but I realize it has many flaws.

I do love the fact they try to continue the Superman story from II instead of yet another origin story.  An homage is a good way to go.  Part of my enjoyment is the fact there is sentimentality from the original movies.  The problem is Singer goes way overboard on the homage to Donner.  There are so many winks, nudges, and references that it almost seems like Singer let Donner in the chair while he sucked Donner off.  I think the part that puts it over the limit for me is that not only do we have Spacey channeling Gene Hackman in this movie but also the same land grab scheme.  Come on guys, you can do better than that.  Lex Luthor has the potential to be just as memorable a bad guy as the Joker, and its a shame that he is literally a joke to everyone.  If there is one part of the Superman franchise that needs to be “dark” its Luthor.  I do love the depth they give Clark/Superman.  Singer does touch upon the alienation that Clark feels and now doubly so that he has a son that will not know about him.  Superman is the center of this movie where in other movies sometimes the villains steal the show.  The look of this movie is also amazing.  The special effects and the Superman flying effects are just wonderful.  There are several visual shots and set pieces that show a great visual flair from Singer.  It is a beautiful movie.

I don’t get the Nostalgia Critic gripe that the cast is too old.  Well duh, they are rebooting the franchise!  They are supposed to be the long term cast for the next few movies.  The entire cast does a good job and I do want to see Routh return for the next movie.  Again, I wish Spacey was allowed to do his own thing instead of a Hackman retread but I think that’s more a problem of direction than acting.

I really like the action in this movie.  I find the plane rescue to be a wonderful scene with great CGI.  The final act is also really great when essentially Metropolis turns to sh*t and Superman has to handle all the disasters.  That being said, it is a two and a half hour movie.  It did need more action beats.  The middle of the movie grinds to a slow pace and they really need something to keep people’s interest.

Another gripe I hear is the beginning is rather weak in regards to explaining why Superman left.  To a point I agree but there is an excuse for that.  There was a 10 minute sequence that was shot for IMAX (which I think cost $10 million) that was Superman’s return to Krypton that was cut.  I’m also a little pissed that in my Ultimate super duper 14 disc Superman collection A: not only did I not get Supergirl but B: there are NO special features on the Superman Returns disc including said 10 minute sequence.    That was one special feature that fans deserved.

But that all goes to probably the biggest issue which is the length.  This is a long movie.  However, The Dark Knight has proved that a long comic book movie can be incredible.  I think the problems were that there wasn’t enough action and it didn’t venture out enough to do its own thing.  That being said, Singer should not be taken off the project.  He got all the nostalgia out of his system and he has promised to add more action and make the sequel the Superman equivalent to Wrath of Khan.  What we don’t need is yet another origin remake with god forbid McG or a Michael Bay and we REALLY don’t need to wait several more years for a goddamn Superman sequel.

Like I said, I think this is overall a great movie.  There are flaws, but I think there are a lot more positives than negatives.  I would still recommend this movie now to anyone; especially now on DVD where it is not that big of an investment.  I don’t get the hate.  I can get not getting into it, but I really don’t understand the bile ridden backlash.  This is a fun sentimental movie and I will not apologize for liking it.

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