This week I went to see Superman Returns with one of my younger brothers. I enjoyed the Superman movies with Christopher Reeve when I was growing up, but I wasn't a huge fan or anything. My brother, however, has a passion for all movies superhero, and he'd been counting down the days til the opening, and was annoyed that other plans prevented him from going to see the midnight showing the night before.
I wasn't sure what to expect. While not a huge fan, I still couldn't imagine not-Christopher-Reeve as Superman. I actually had a brief chance to meet Reeve and his wife Dana Reeve while working as a work-study student during seminary at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Dana Reeve acted in some productions while I was working in house management. Christopher came to see her perform. Very surreal. A little star-struck. Hey, it was Superman!
I was very pleasantly surprised. Brandon Routh as Superman was excellent. His mannerisms, his similarities to Christopher Reeve are uncanny. He has the same smirk, the same awareness of the absurdity of the Clark 'disguise', and, thanks to technological help, the same piercing look with his blue eyes. Since Superman Returns is meant to be a continuation of the series (following I and II, pretending III and IV never happened) and not a remake, I thought the continuity with Reeve's portrayal was very appropriate. Kevin Spacey made an ideal Lex Luthor, and Parker Posey, who I've grown to love from her work in Christopher Guest Films (like Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind), was fine as Kitty, if, as called for, mostly one-dimensional. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was really the weakest link. I think Bosworth is a decent actress, but I thought she was 1) too young for this fole 2) missing that humor and sarcasm so present in Margot Kidder's portrayal 3) too dark/serious in her role (though that's part script too. This is not a quirky Lois Lane.
Perhaps most interesting is the savior theology/symbolism that is extremely near to surface in the film. I think all the Superman movies had this symbolism as an undercurrent, but in Superman Returns, the theological references are frequent and obvious. I'm not sure what to think of this - it was maybe a little much, but asks some intriguing questions. A disenchanted Lois Lane argues that the world doesn't need a savior. But Superman responds by saying something like "you say the world doesn't need a savior. But I hear them crying for one." Certainly Superman saves in a more literal way than does Jesus. But I think we're perhaps as ambivalent about needing a savior. In our independent and private culture, we certainly don't like needing things, unless we know where we can buy it from. We definitely don't like needing other people for things. We don't want to need someone to save us, physically or emotionally or spiritually or eternally. But out loud or in our hearts, are we crying out?
Go see it!