I don’t review movies much these days. That’s mainly because it normally takes me a couple of weeks to see anything that’s in the cinema (it’s not like I get to go to the premiere parties or anything), by which point the review’s kind of pointless. Plus I don’t see as many films as I used to, either.
But, I did see Superman Returns on Monday, down at the London IMAX, so I thought I’d let you know my thoughts, both about the movie and the IMAX 3D aspects of it.
First, the movie.
So long! Two and a half hours. I think I know what the problem was though. Superman Returns is roughly 50% action movie, 50% chick flick. However, these two separate films have been welded together without much editing, so we have a movie that’s roughly twice as long as it needs to be.
Now the action movie half is very good. If you’ve seen Superman: The Movie – and I suspect you probably will have at some point – then Superman Returns is basically the same film but with modern effects. Seriously, it’s more or less the same plot, with the same sets, the same music and the same characters. It’s almost like someone took one look at Gus Van Sant’s frame-for-frame recreation of Psycho and thought to themselves, “What if we did the same with Superman?”
It looks exceptional, though, and the action set pieces are amazing, with only the occasional piece of CGI looking a little too flat to be real. You really will believe a man can fly. You just wish Richard Donner had had access to modern day technology when he was making his movie nearly nearly 30 years ago (yes, it really was that long ago, give or take two or three years). Listening to that John Williams score again will really tear you up, too: it really goes to the heart.
The big problem with Superman Returns is with the chick flick half. Don’t get me wrong. I like good chick flicks. Unfortunately, this is a bad chick flick, with wooden characters, miscast actors and no real emotional depth, despite appearances to the contrary.
Kate Bosworth is a fine actress in the right role, but Lois Lane isn’t the right role for her. All her lines may be Lois Lane lines, but close your eyes and imagine Margot Kidder saying them and you’ll realise that they really do have the wrong actress.
Brandon Routh is great as Clark Kent, but gets few good lines as Superman and little to do except repeat the same lines Christopher Reeve got three decades ago. I imagine it must be disheartening for him. Since he has to maintain a god-like quality as Superman, Superman’s relationship with Lois is a little sexless and there’s no spark. It’s as though his Superman wants to be loved but can only really cope with it when it’s from afar. Which is worrying, because most of the time, he’s a super-stalker, following Lois around, listening in to her conversations and x-raying her house to see what happens when she’s at home.
Kevin Spacey, on the other hand, is perfectly cast as Lex Luthor, carrying on very much where Gene Hackman left off. Most of the time, he’s hamming it up something rotten, but when given something truly evil do, he suddenly becomes a very scary, vicious man. He’s Keyser Soze – again.
Director Bryan Singer, who was indeed responsible for The Usual Suspects as well as X-Men 1 and 2, gives us some fantastic compositions, but really needs to work on pacing. Superman Returns is a bit turgid to watch, but good to look at, with snatches of brilliance thrown in for good measure, where you’ll spend the entire time hoping that Superman will just get over that Lois Lane girl, move on and get on with the thorny business of saving the world from itself.
If you’ve never seen a film in the IMAX format before, you really should – it looks so much bigger and better than a regular print.
IMAX 3D I’m not so sure about though. For one thing, you have to wear special glasses. These aren’t the red and green ones you might be familiar with, but are transparent polarising glasses. They really do work most of the time and the results are impressive.
The trouble is they also make things look a little blurry. I spent a reasonable period of time during the four 3D scenes of Superman Returns adjusting my glasses, blinking, moving my head, etc, trying to focus on what was happening. When it works, it’s great, but when it doesn’t, which is more frequent than I would have liked, it’s distracting.
There’s also the annoying need to keep taking your glasses off at the end of action scenes and put them on again just as soon as something’s about to get good. It really takes you out of the movie and makes it harder to feel involved. Either do the whole movie in 3D or not at all – don’t mix it up.
So, I would recommend seeing Superman Returns at an IMAX cinema if you’re planning to see it, simply to get the picture quality of IMAX in the non-3D scenes. Just don’t expect total perfection from the 3D scenes.
Here’s the trailer for Superman Returns, just to whet your appetite.