Perhaps he should’ve stayed in space
Dylan Moran once joked about how silly it was that people were in awe of Arnold Schwarzenegger because he was good at lifting heavy things. The same can be said of Superman – whose entire repertoire here consists of lifting things both heavy and heavier. Shuttles, airplanes, ships, globes, entire continents. In Superman Returns, lifting heavy things is the panacea for all the world’s problems. Is it any wonder it has a hard time holding interest?
Superman went away, and now he’s back. In the intervening five years Lex Luthor has become a rather petty thug and Lois Lane got engaged, though the true origin of her son is an entirely unsurprising mystery. Indeed, with lingering feelings still present between Lois and Supes, the biggest excitement of the movie is whether or not the man of steel will turn out a homewrecker. It certainly isn’t the plodding and pedestrian plot about Lex trying to wreak havoc on the world with stolen Kryptonian crystals.
At first I was quite charmed by the ponderous, brooding nature bestowed on this mature Superman. Thank goodness we didn’t get another origin story reboot! But as the film continued over its preposterous two and a half hours, it quickly became tiresome. The actors are lifeless. Even Kevin Spacey isn’t able to bring any discernable joy to his villainous role. A big problem lies in the well-established notion that Superman is not an interesting character. In contrast to Batman or Spiderman, he is unflawed and pristine. His powers are so magnificent, it requires a special MacGuffin to place him in a position of danger. Combine this with a do-good attitude and a penchant for solving problems by lifting heavy things, and the picture paints itself. Apart from iconic value, Superman holds little worth as a literary character.
A film or series with him as the centerpiece can work, as history shows, but it’ll have to be a lot better than this one.