DVD Review: Superman Returns (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Release Date: November 28, 2006
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Bryan Singer
· Brandon Routh
· Kevin Spacey
· Kate Bosworth
· James Marsden
· Marlon Brando
· Frank Langella
· Eva Marie Saint
· Parker Posey
· IMDb: Superman Returns
· CinemaSpider: Superman Returns
by R.J. Carter
Published: November 18, 2006
I did not see "Superman Returns" when it came into theaters. I had already reviewed Marv Wolfman's novelization of the plot and found myself less than impressed. And though I still have those storyline recriminations now that I've watched the DVD, I have to admit that, overall, it's not a bad flick.
Brandon Routh ("Denial") is the newcomer to the big red cape and blue tights in this Bryan Singer tribute to the first two Richard Donner films and, surprisingly, he comes across rather well. I was put off by most of the still shots I had seen -- too thin, too young, too metrosexual -- but in action Routh does indeed have several, good, Christopher Reeve moments, both as Clark Kent and as Superman (but the spit-curl is still a little too fakey for believability.) He even delivers the classic Reeve airline travel safety line with a straight face.
Lois Lane -- the reporter with spelling problems yet nonetheless wins a Pulitzer -- is portrayed by Kate Bosworth ("Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!"). In the five years that Superman has been absent (an absence which is core to the overall plot of the film), Lois has shacked up with Perry White's nephew, Richard (X-Men's James Marsden, himself no stranger to superhero love triangles.) Oh, and the intrepid reporter has become a mommy, claiming that the five year old Jason is Richard's son (apparently Richard is a whiz at editing but as lousy at counting trimesters as is supposed to be the rest of the audience.) Lois is bitter that Superman took off without even a goodbye, and the Pulitzer prize that she's to accept in the film is for her editorial rant, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman".
As with any good superhero movie, it's the villain who steals the show, and Kevin Spacey ("The Usual Suspects") doesn't disappoint as the follicly-challenged genius, Lex Luthor. His aims haven't changed since "Superman: The Movie": he still wants to make a fortune off of land. Only this time, instead of creating new beachfront property by earthquaking California into the ocean, he's got his hands on kryptonian crystals, which he's going to grow in the ocean into a new continent -- the resulting displacement of water causing the deaths of billions. His initial experiment with just a sliver of these powerful crystals resulted in a power blackout that not only affected the entire eastern seaboard, but also a jetliner piggybacking a space shuttle, jeopardizing the lives of everyone on board (including Lois Lane) when the rockets fire and the plane can't let go. (Nothing like a space shuttle in trouble to re-introduce Superman to the world, right Mr. Byrne?) While the rest of the world is focused on the return of Superman, Lois's attention is solely on the cause of the blackout, which she traces to Lex's hideout (with son Jason in tow -- the perils of the working mom.) And it's shortly after this point that it becomes abundantly clear to everyone that Richard White is in no way Jason's father.
Superman in Action. No Superman fan worth his salt doesn't
recognize this recreation of the iconic cover of the world's first
view of Superman in Action Comics #1 (inset).
(c) 2006 WB and DC Comics
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Featuring Frank Langella ("Good Night and Good Luck") as Perry White, Sam Huntington (Veronica Mars) as the Jimmy-est Jimmy Olsen since Jack Larsen, Eva Marie Saint as Martha Kent and Parker Posey as Kitty Kowalski, Lex's ultimately disposable girlfriend, "Superman Returns" spares no effort to give the appearance that it belongs with the Donner films. The special effects, however, clearly outpace its predecessors (as one would hope after a couple of decades.) Bouncing bullets, x-ray vision, and island-lifting are all presented in widescreen cinematic glory.
A nice touch from Bryan Singer for the comics fans is the cameo appearances. Peta Wilson (no stranger to the GFB crowd) gets a throwaway role during the airline disaster scene -- but more importantly, viewers will spot Adventures of Superman alumni Jack Larsen and Noel Neill in semi-prominent positions during the early acts of the film.
The Joy of Lex. Kevin Spacey channels his inner Gene Hackman
by way of Bill Murray in his vision of Superman's arch-nemesis,
c) 2006 WB and DC Comics
Overall, while it isn't perhaps the reimagined vision of Superman I would have liked to have seen, it is decidedly not the travesty I expected from having read the novelization. However, whether this film paves the way for more Superman sequels set in the Donner-verse, or whether another director will follow up with a wholly new retake a la Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" remains to be seen.
The bonuses for this release are all to be found on the second disc -- an automatic cue to the astute that there is no commentary track for the feature presentation. But when you get to what's on the second disc, you'll realize you don't need it. The main featurette -- "Requiem for Krypton: Making 'Superman Returns'" -- clocks in just a few minutes shy of three hours! This covers the making of "Superman Returns" beginning with home video footage of Bryan Singer, Mike Dougherty, and Dan Harris in a hotel in Hawaii in 2004, working on the script idea before WB had even hired them. This featurette is one of the most in-depth of its kind I've ever seen, done with a theatrical approach, right down to some special effects, titling, and even a widescreen presentation. Everyone who had anything to do with this film, from the stars down to the cameramen, get their say in here, and there's just a ton of footage of really cool things like Brandon Routh's audition and dress rehearsals.
After that, the next feature is something of a let-down, informative as it is. "Resurrecting Jor-El" is a four-minute techno music video as we see an original head shot of Marlon Brando as Jor-El morphed, painted, digitized, and programmed until his lips matched the words. There are no spoken words here, except for Brando's constant, "You do not remember me." The rest of the commentary is in the form of text written in the corners as the digital face gets tweaked.
There are almost fifteen minutes of deleted scenes (eleven in all), also presented in widescreen and without those annoying film track images. These all fit with the story told in the novelization, and could, for the most part, have been neatly incorporated into the feature presentation (provided the cables, when you can see them, were digitized out.)
Audio on the feature presentation can be set to English 5.1 or Spanish 5.1, with optional subtitling in English, French, or Spanish. Audio on the bonus disc is only in English, with optional French subtitles.
Previews on this set, found on the second disc, include "Lady in the Water" and the Justice League: Heroes videogame.