Super Movie Monday – Superman Returns, Part 2

Continuing a three-part recap of 2006’s Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s bigger, faster, louder ode to the original 1978 film. But before we get back into the plot, a word about Brandon Routh’s eyes.

They are brown. Not in the film, but in real life. Which means that in the film, he had to play the role in blue contacts. And they are very vividly blue. One might almost say impossibly blue (sorry, private joke).

But one interesting side effect from the contacts is that something about them–their blueness, or perhaps the fact that the pupils don’t dilate the way a real person’s would–makes Superman, for the first time ever, seem convincingly alien. His weird eyes seem to highlight the fact that, though he tries hard to appear to be one of us, he really isn’t. It’s almost creepy.

So we left off last week with Superman returning to Metropolis just in time to save Lois Lane (and some other folks) from a fiery death on board a crashing jet. Hmmm. First Norm Palmer conveniently dies, and now, on Superman’s first day back in Metropolis, there’s a convenient disaster to put him in the public eye. Yes, yes, it’s because of the EMP Luthor caused, but if Luthor hadn’t caused it, might it have still happened? Those release catches were awfully stubborn…

And now we get another scene that is an echo of the 1978 film, as Perry White gathers his staff and orders them to learn everything about Superman, asking a dozen questions that they should be asking. But because this film is all about being bigger and better, the set is golden and idealized, and the staff is huge. And Lois still can’t spell.

Lois thinks she should be writing about the massive black-out, but Perry insists that she ignore the blackout story to concentrate on Superman, because Superman sells papers and he has that big loan to pay off. Wait, different continuity. Anyway, while they’re arguing, Clark meets Lois Jr, an eerie asthmatic kid whom Lois describes as “fragile.”

Meanwhile, Lex is putting the pieces of his plan together, sending his henchmen out to retrieve a certain package while contemplating a gem and mineral exhibit being advertised in a local museum.

Clark and Lois have a brief conversation in the lobby (echoing a similar scene after Clark’s first day in the office in 1978), but look at how different the lobby is: everything’s in marble or brass.

Then instead of catching a bullet from a mugger, Clark uses his Super-Cab-Summoning Whistle. Because even Bryan Singer is not immune to the urge to create new Superman powers.

Then we go into another tribute to the original movie, but first a CG close-up.

And I’m torn, because on the one hand, this is a really good model that is almost completely convincing, and I’m glad they have the confidence to show it close-up like this. But on the other hand, this is dangerously close to uncanny valley territory (and if you want to check out the uncanny valley for yourself, go here and play with the creepy ADD lady–you will need Flash).

But if the CG Superman doesn’t creep you out, the story decides to seal the deal by having Superman fly out to Lois’s house and peep through the walls with his X-Ray vision at Lois Lane and Richard White (played by James Marsden, who played a superhero himself in Singer’s X-Men films), while he listens to their conversation with his super-hearing. Richard is jealous of Superman, and Superman is jealous of Richard.

So Superman flies through the clouds while JorBrando does his voice-over bit (as in the 1978 film), then there’s that brilliant moment we saw in all the trailers as Superman hovers in near-space, listening for cries of help. He hears something and zooms down into a scene that is both awesome and really stupid.

Some guys are robbing a bank, and while they’re loading the money into their getaway helicopter, they have also set up a freaking huge autocannon on a crane that the bad guy uses to blow up some cop cars. And while the firepower is really impressive, I’ve just got to wonder why they went to all this trouble. You know, the helicopter is right there, ready to go. It just seems kind of extraneous.

The head robber then turns the autocannon to shoot a couple of security guards. Talk about overkill. But Superman is there to intercept the bullets.

Which is followed by the movie’s defining moment of cool, where the robber, having run out of machine gun ammunition, pulls out a pistol, aims it right at Superman’s eye, then pulls the trigger, whereupon the bullet bounces off his eyeball, just to show how uber-tough he is.

Superman smiles as the bullet drops to the ground, but we never find out what he did to the robbers. Arrest them? Wrap them up in pieces of helicopter? Kill them? Pay them off, since the only reason they have the freaking big machine gun around is to let Superman have his moment of cool? Seriously, between Norm Palmer’s death, the suspicious timing of the shuttle accident and now this, I’m wondering if maybe Superman is a criminal mastermind of the type that Luthor can only hope to be. Add in the fact that Superman’s costume is now the same colors as when he was evil in Superman III, and it really seems as there’s a hidden message in here somewhere.

Speaking of Luthor, he’s visiting the museum in a wig while Kitty, his new moll (played by Parker Posey), is busy careening out of control with no brakes to create a distraction for Superman. Which she does, because not only does he get to save her, but he gets the chance to strike an Action Comics #1 pose while he’s at it.

Kitty, instantly smitten (just like Miss Teschmacher in the 1978 film), begs Superman to take her to the hospital, then clumsily tries to ask him out for “coffee.” Meanwhile, Luthor steals a very particular Addis Ababa meteorite from the museum (callback to the 1978 film–the Kryptonite meteorite Luthor nearly killed Superman with came from Addis Ababa).

The next day, Perry wants Lois covering the Superman story, but Lois wants to write any story but that one. Like what story, for instance? How about the blackout? Or the museum robbery? Or what about tracking down the missing Lex Luthor and see what he has to say about Superman’s return? (callback to the scene in the 1978 film when all the story threads get hashed out in Perry’s office just before Superman gets the dog whistle from Luthor).

Kitty chews out Lex for nearly killing her as Lex’s minions are creating some sort of Kryptonite payload for a black market rocket launcher they’ve acquired. And Lex is fascinated by one of the shards of Kryptonite left over, a sharp piece of crystal like a dagger of green glass.

Lois and Clark are working late trying to track down the blackout story, and Lois decides to go to the roof for a smoke. Superman tells her she shouldn’t smoke, and this entire scene is a callback to the rooftop interview from 1978, even ending the same way, with Superman taking Lois for a brief flight.

However, it is most definitely not a musical. Lois is mad at Superman for leaving, but also clearly still in love with him. The “Can You Read My Mind?” theme swells as they fly, though, and Lois almost kisses him, but stops herself, remembering how pissed she is at him for leaving.

The next day, Superman heads out to the Fortress only to discover that someone has stolen all his Kryptonian knowledge crystals. Hope he’s got good insurance. And BTW, it’s only fair to mention that, as much as I rag on the film (and will continue to), some of the images are amazing, as when Superman descends into the Fortress in this scene.

Meanwhile, as she’s getting ready for her Pulitzer Prize award dinner (which makes no sense, since she already got the award–we saw the plaque on her desk earlier), Lois engages in perhaps the only bit of honest-to-goodness investigative reporting we’ve seen in any Superman movie. She calls up all the different utilities and generating stations, trying to discover the source of the blackout.

Just as she finds it, however, she realizes she’s late in picking up Lois Jr.  from school. She then takes him out to the old lady’s mansion to inquire about the blackout. But the sound of opera music from the yacht draws her out there, so with Lois Jr. in tow, she sneaks on board the boat. She realizes what a mistake she has made when she discovers a wall full of men’s wigs, but before she can leave, the boat casts off and she runs into Lex Luthor in his bathrobe. Awkward.

Be here next week for the big finale. Wait, there’s how much time left in this movie? Jeez…

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One Response to Super Movie Monday – Superman Returns, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Super Movie Monday – My Super Ex-Girlfriend | Hero Go Home

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