After 28 years and three pathetic sequels, “Superman Returns” attempts to recapture the spirit and brilliance of Richard Donner’s 1978 film.  
And while director Bryan Singer’s take on the Man of Steel is certainly an improvement over the previous three films, it is still a
disappointment.

The most obvious problem with “Returns” is its length.  At 154 minutes the film feels painfully bloated.  How many scenes do we really need
of Superman pining for Lois Lane?  Or of Lois being conflicted at Superman’s return?

The worst part is that despite all these character development sequences, I didn’t feel like the characters were developed at all.  It doesn’t
so much show an arc in a character’s motivation as much as restate their beliefs endlessly until some event changes them.

The script is far too repetitive and Singer should have had the sense to compress it down to some level of conciseness.

Another problem (with the first half of the film in particular) is that it is too much like the original film.  Many jokes are rehashed and some
sequences replicated with only slight changes.

Perhaps the one plotline that actually turns out to be an improvement is the Lex Luthor one.  He is a much larger part of this film and his
presence is felt throughout it.  It also helps that Kevin Spacey gives the best performance in the film as the industrious villain.

Brandon Routh also proves himself to be a very good Superman, although his Clark Kent pales in comparison to Christopher Reeve.  But
that’s nothing compared to Kate Bosworth’s dull interpretation of Lois Lane.

There are some things that “Returns” does very well, however.  The art direction is good throughout and the sound effects and mixing are
top of the line.  

Bryan Singer’s action sequences are also excellent.  The airplane crash near the beginning of the film and the climactic saving of
metropolis are both thrilling sequences that stand far above the rest of the movie.

There are also a few scenes very late in the film where you finally begin to feel some emotion towards the characters.  But even then, it is
quickly diffused.

The most successful component of the film is John Ottman’s score.  Utilizing John Williams’ classic “Superman” themes and new themes of
his own, Ottman truly gets the best of both worlds.  He remains faithful to the spirit of the original, but with just enough of his own twist to
make it fresh and thrilling.  It’s unfortunate that the rest of the film couldn’t follow his example.

* * 1/2
(out of four)
SUPERMAN RETURNS
Directed by: Bryan Singer

Written by: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris

Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey,
James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella

Cinematography by: Newton Thomas Sidel

Music by: John Ottman

Released: June 28, 2006; 154 Minutes