My wife is a good woman. She works hard, she takes care of me and the pets, and she shoulders so much responsibility silently. So, a little while ago, I told her that she needed to take some time for herself. “A night out,” I said. “Go get a hotel room, enjoy a day at the spa, and then relax. Treat yourself.”
Surprisingly, she took me up on it, so tonight I’ve been all on my lonesome. I left work, picked up some Chinese food, and came home to a house full of dogs needing to go outside and potty. Not my usual Saturday night.
So, having the night to myself, I wondered what I should do. My default move is to watch a movie, and that was the direction my mind immediately headed. As I opened my DVD cabinet, I looked at my choices, but in the end it really wasn’t a choice at all. I’d been meaning to rewatch the movie for weeks. Now, two and a half hours later, I’m so glad I did, because it is as good now as it was when I first saw it in the theaters.
I’m talking about “Superman Returns”. For me, it is just about the best comic book movie ever made, with only the original Christopher Reeves “Superman” even coming close. It is grand, moving, heartwarming, and invigorating. I love nearly every frame of the film, and I’m not ashamed to say it. A lot of people seem to take pleasure in hating the film, but I don’t. It is clear that Bryan Singer wanted to make a love letter to the character of Superman, and this movie is just that.
Now, a lot of people ask me what it is that makes me love it, and the first thing I point to is Brandon Routh. I think he is amazing as Superman. His Clark Kent hits most of the right notes, from the bumbling way he walks around to the way he pushes up his glasses, but it’s as Superman that he really shines. There is such a… vulnerability to his portrayal, yet also a deep strength. He seems like a man lost, yet wanting desperately to belong. Every look and gesture shows how hard he’s trying to not feel like an alien, an unwanted visitor. But, when he has to turn on the power, he does that too in an amazing way. Just fantastic. I can see Reeves in his performance, and I think that’s wonderful.
Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is good. Yes, she looks too young for the part, but she’s also able to capture her confusion over how she feels. In one minute she’s headstrong and willful, and yet as soon as Superman reaches out for her, it all melts away, leaving her as vulnerable as he is. Their scene together on the roof of the Daily Planet nearly makes me cry, especially as they are soaring over Metropolis.
Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor is spot-on. He gets a lot of negative remarks, but I thought he played the part just as well as Gene Hackman did. Spacey is a little more manic, and Hackman was a bit more smarmy, but in the end both of them were crazy, and that is what matters to me.
As for the more esoteric bits, let me first say how much I love the score. John Ottman did a fantastic job. He took John William’s theme, and then he carried it right to the moon. The soundtrack is just filled with sweeping moments and tender elements, and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the Superman theme sound so romantic. It is one of my favorite soundtracks to listen to when I write.
But, I really think it is the way Superman is shown on the screen, the way he sounds, that drives it all home. Singer made sure that when Superman takes off, it isn’t just him blasting into the sky. He ascends. When he’s flying over the Metropolis skyline, you can hear his cape flapping gently in the wind. It all seems so… peaceful, so powerful, so angelic. There is nothing brutish or excessive in his movements. He is a god made flesh, and – though I know it sounds strange to hear it – I feel comforted by him. I can’t explain it any better than that.
Sam Van Hollgren, former co-host of the Filmspotting podcast, said in his review of “Superman Returns” that it was nearly a religious experience for him, and it was all for the same reasons I listed in the previous paragraph. I couldn’t agree more. I know it’s silly, especially for an agnostic such as myself. Maybe it’s the chorus in the music, and maybe it’s the way the sun spills around him as he’s flying into the sky, and maybe it’s because I know Superman has a good and noble heart, but watching “Superman Returns” is as close as I’ve ever come to feeling something of the divine.
So, Mr. Singer, Mr. Ottman, Mr. Routh, and Ms. Bosworth, thank you. You’ve given me a movie I know I will watch again and again, and I desperately hope that you’ll get the chance to make another one. Maybe this time more people will see what I saw.