It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a man or in this case a Superman on a mission. A mission to find himself, his planet, his history. For us earthlings the equivalent would be taking an extended backpacking journey to discover ourselves. Superman (Brandon Routh) embarks on his own voyage of discovery, five years worth to be exact. But with his departure, he has left Metropolis as well as the rest of the world in chaos. He also left his romantic life in, well not exactly chaos, not in the best of shape. He soon realizes that his long search for his internal answers and his destiny lie on the Kent farm, and the rest of Earth where he must deal with us flawed but ultimately good humans.
It’s a snap for the Clark Kent side of Superman to get his old job back at the Daily Planet and to have Jimmy Olson (Sam Huntington) and editor Perry White (Frank Langella) welcome him back like he hadn’t missed a beat. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), well that’s a different story. She’s moved onto greener pastures, complete with a Pulitzer Prize for her essay “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman” as well as fiancée/editor’s nephew Richard White (James Marsden) as well as a young son.
Turns out she’s wrong, as the man of steel wastes no time donning his blue tights and pulling Lois Lane’s fat out of the fryer when he rescues her and the other passengers from a fiery space shuttle crash. Toss in a few prevented armed robberies and assorted good deeds and the world can overlook the past five year hiatus.
It’s not long before evil mastermind Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) enters the picture. Lex Luthor must have some kind of travel agent as he leads his own group of evildoers to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. No tourists lurk at this hideaway but Luthor does find a bounty of crystals. One of the crystals acts like a Tivo of sorts as it displays an audio-video version of Jor-El (Marlon Brando) from the original film. Luthor packs away these crystals and soon finds that offer more than just entertainment. Luthor embarks on a plan to create his own gigantic island just of the coast of New York City and kill billions of people in the meantime. Curious how in the original the California loomed as the target with all that soon to be created beachfront property. Here Luthor wants to eventually sell off his newly created East Coast real estate. Will Luthor succeed? Is the Superman-Lois Land romance dead? Does Luthor have his real estate license?
The real question here is that how could they spend roughly $250 million but not create any passion, inject so little humor, offer such flat characters and provide only moderately creative special effects. The film’s problems ultimately falls into the lap of director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-men and X2) who maintains a passion for comic books and well crafted characters as demonstrated in the first two X-men installments. Here most of the characters fall flat. Kate Bosworth turns in an amazingly uninspired performance. Isn’t Lois Lane supposed to be a fiery reporter? In the original Superman Luthor’s henchman Otis and Miss Tessmacher added vitality, energy and comedy to the mix. Gene Hackman brought more sarcasm and attitude to his Luthor but in this Lex version Kevin Spacey adds no energy, no passion and unfortunately no wit. Here’s a master villain without a sense of humor.
Without any characters to hang onto, it’s usually a no brainer to enjoy the special effects but considering the astronomical budget the effects don’t exactly fly. A few even look downright cheap or unfinished.
The film looks like a journey with introspection, but it feels hollow, and lacks heart and depth. When Superman went of his five-year journey maybe he should have been looking for some script doctors who could have injected this flick with something more powerful than kryptonite.