Oh, Bryan Singer, you brought such a lot to your take on Superman: a perfectly cast lead (for our money, Brandon Routh did a fine job as both Clark and Superman, nodding to but never directly ripping off Reeve’s incarnation), a perfectly cast villain (Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor), some really outstanding visuals and some interesting, potentially fertile ideas (Superman’s son; the world needing/not needing a savior). So how the hell did you forget to pack any stakes? Our level of childhood investment in the Superman franchise is such that we were genuinely excited to witness Superman’s return after the 19-year hiatus occasioned by the awful critical, and poor commercial, reception of “Superman IV” so really the most damning thing we can say is that apart from a brief flutter when John Williams’ iconic tune rang out for the first time, we were almost completely unmoved by “Superman Returns.” As handsomely mounted and solidly played as it was, it is also so un-involving as to be a bit dull in parts, especially with the ham-fisted handling of what should have been a home-run addition in the father-son theme. The miscasting of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane (just too slight and pretty a presence to bring any depth of feeling to an underwritten role), and the lack of any surprise around the paternity of her son, or indeed even of any particular moments of interest as the boy discovers his powers, bar one flinging-of-a-grand-piano, mean that at its emotional heart, the film is empty.
Choice quote: Superman: “You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one..”
You know, in the hard, cruel game of film criticism (obviously regarded as one of the toughest professions out there, right up there with lumberjack-ing or oil rig roustabout-ing), sometimes your heart has to take a backseat to your head. “Superman II” is probably our favorite of all the Superman films to date, but with the best will in the world, we can’t pretend it actually stacks up better over the years as a film than Donner’s original “Superman.” So we’re giving it the second spot on the list, though our inner child is all like “What’s up with that?” and stomping off to its room heartbroken. Despite the tendency to lurch into comedy oddly at times (an inclination that would then be expanded to “Airplane”-levels of zany antics in “Superman III”) and some effects that just look terrible now even if they BLEW OUR YOUNG MINDS back then (the Phantom Zone prison thingie the trio of evildoers are trapped in was astounding back in those innocent times; looks a bit shit now), "Superman II" does still boast some great elements. And chief among them has to be Terence Stamp’s Zod who is just an infinitely more threatening and interesting villain than Hackman’s Luthor, and still stands as the series’ best (no wonder that’s where Zack Snyder & Co. are returning to for “Man of Steel”).
Choice quote: General Zod: “This ‘super-man’ is nothing of the kind; I've discovered his weakness...He cares. He actually cares for these Earth people.”