Friday, June 30, 2006


I wish I could take a pair of scissors to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I really do. Overall, it’s a boffo entertainment, with a terrific cast, great dialogue, a sense of humor, and action set pieces that filled me with the sense of wonder I wish the Christopher Reeve films had offered me three decades ago. But its pacing...I don’t know how else to put this... sucks big time.

After a stunning recreation of the old 1978 opening credits from Richard Donner’s Superman, complete with John Williams score, the movie opens with...Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) forcing a dying old woman (Noel Neill, the 1950s Lois Lane) to sign her wealth over to him. Then we quickly shift to...Ma Kent (Eva Marie Saint) washing a dish in the kitchen of her farmhouse. Soon after, we spend an insufferable amount of time watching her son Clark (Brandon Routh), returned to Earth after five years, staring out over the Kansas landscape, reminiscing about his youth.

By this time, 15 minutes into the picture, I was mentally screaming, “Put on the friggin’ costume!”

But first, Lex and his cohorts are shown in the Arctic, breaking into the Fortress of Solitude. Then Singer treats us to Clark’s return to Metropolis, his lengthy helloes to Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Lois Lane (the truly luscious Kate Bosworth). This takes another 15 minutes or so. Then we’re back with Lex, now playing endlessly with a train set. Then Jimmy and Clark go to a bar for drinks to mull things over with a bartender (Jack Larson, the 1950s Jimmy).

Then — finally! — more than a half-hour into the movie, Clark rips open his shirt and takes to the sky.

Superman Returns suffers from a very slow opening. Superman, we learn, has been missing from Earth for many years because he’s visited the remains of the planet Krypton. Maybe we should have been shown that, not told about it. Or Singer might have moved the film’s first big action sequence — Supes’ spectacular airplane rescue — into the first six or seven minutes of the movie. Returns needs a kick-start, not a dishwashing scene.

After the first 30 minutes, Superman Returns really soars...for about 105 minutes. Then, after the Big Final Action Sequence, it dribbles off for 15 angst-filled minutes to its end.

This movie is slightly more than two and a half hours long. Given the chance to re-edit it, I’d cut the first 30 minutes to maybe 12, trim 10 minutes off its end, and shuffle an action scene or two. Then you’d have a nice, fast-paced Superman Returns, just two thrilling hours in length.

But I doubt we’ll see a Conger’s Cut of Superman Returns on DVD anytime soon. A pity, even if I do say so myself.


At 3:51 AM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I agree with you about Singer's need for a good editor, but I still had a great time at this one, the best movie I've seen this summer

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Matt Jenny said...

"By this time, 15 minutes into the picture, I was mentally screaming, “Put on the friggin’ costume!”"

Did you feel that way about Batman Begins too?

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Matt, Batman Begins is an origin story, so I cut it some slack, just as I did 1978's Superman, which didn't get Clark into the costume for a full hour. PLUS, there are no real action sequences at all for the first 30 minutes of Superman Returns.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Matt Jenny said...

Okay, fair enough.

But reading your review makes me want to see the move nonetheless. ;)

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

See it! It's GREAT -- for 105 minutes, like I said in the review. Just needs a few trims and shuffled scenes, that's all.

At 4:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life is in the way of my movie viewing at the moment,,, however - Superman's character originally was deliberately based on Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Supe is a Burroughs Hero, which explains his unending popularity. ERB rules again.


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