This is probably the most polarizing of the Superman films to date because of what it tried to accomplish. I'll say now, I've only seen it all the way through once, and that was en route to writing this marathon.
That said, I had seen all the scenes over the years, just not in one sitting. Now that I have, though, I can honestly say that there is definitely a lot of good here, but it's marred by an insane premise and simply going far longer than it needed to.
The film takes place either after the Supergirl movie or the Richard Donner version of Superman II, I think. One of the main plot points is the use of the speech Marlon Brando's Jor-El gave to his son in the first film, so it clearly acts as an alternate sequel to the first two movies. But then again the Fortress is destroyed in the Donner version, but even then his time reversal thing COULD have restored it. It's kind of hard to pinpoint but my best bet is it's an alternate sequel to an alternate version.
I mention the Supergirl film because in that one, Superman is missing in space, so that would fit fairly well here.
Anyway, after five years of trying to find the ruins of Krypton, which he couldn't, Clark lands back in Smallville where Martha Kent (still alive in this version) greets him.
And thus comes my first problem here: Jor-El said outright that the place blew up. Why would he willingly leave his protected home for five years on the off-chance something is there? I suppose if you subscribe to the "Superman is the primary persona" theory he'd have no problem telling the world to screw off for a time, but this felt really selfish.
My second major problem comes when Clark returns to work at the Daily Planet. My issue here is this: Superman returns within a couple of days of this. How is it that NONE of the best journalists in the world have any suspicion about the Clark being Superman when 1) He went away at the same time, 2) He came back at the same time, 3) He has the same height and hair as Superman, and 4) He now has glasses that somehow further accentuate his iconic blue eyes? I could buy it if he was at another paper, but this is pushing plausibility to its limits.
Let's talk Brandon Routh's performance in the role, though. Clearly, they wanted this story to be a spiritual sequel to the original films and thus told all the actors to match the tone and mannerisms of the original actors, and that's fine. The problem is that Routh, while able to look like Christopher Reeve, lacks his charm and ability to be light while still being serious.
This whole film feels too dark and too serious given the nature of the script. They're clearly going for the old campy style but fail so hard thanks to the excessively serious acting.
Kevin Spacey has a similar problem in his attempt to match Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor. I really wish the crew here understood that when you try to mimic an actor, you're only going to be able to serve the same role as a cover band: Close, but not the genuine article. You're going into the film with a handicap; the acting is automatically lower than the previous films, and if your plot is weak, you can get a really bad movie out of the situation.
Kate Bosworth was given the role of Lois Lane, and while a bunch of people complain that she is too young, I'm able to forgive that because her performance was actually really solid. She mimicked Margot Kidder enough to show she understood the role, but because of the position Lois starts this movie in, she's able to be more her own character.
Anyway, Lois speaks for the entire audience when she tells Superman at their first meeting back that it's a load of crap that he left without saying goodbye. Seriously, who does that?! And she reveals that she has a child.
I'll just say this: You can pretty much gather immediately that they're setting up for the kid to be Superman's. They play him off as so weak and the hair is so similar. Nonetheless, it's an interesting callback to that night Superman and Lois spent together.
That's... actually not a bad plan, come to think of it. Kudos to this much more maniacal version of Luthor and his random new bimbo.
Superman's return is met with fanfare, but it quickly just turns into desperate need, as the new landmass has started natural disasters on normal land that Superman has to attend to. Because of this, he almost doesn't notice that Lois, in an attempt to interview Luthor, has been caught with her son on his property. While there, the son throws a piano at a henchman, showing his true lineage.
Oh yeah, I should talk about Perry White's nephew/Lois' fiance. He does fine in his role and is likable enough. My biggest issue with this whole dynamic is that Clark's obsession over it causes him to nearly fall into stalker territory. It becomes really glaring how weird Superman could get.
Lois manages to get a fax to the newspaper to give her coordinates. Her fiance comes by in a helicopter while Superman flies over and saves the two. He goes to fight Luthor on his land, but he doesn't realize it's made of Kryptonite and he gets his ass handed to him.
One thing: Shouldn't that volume of Kryptonite kill him almost immediately? I guess I'll just assume it's because this Kryptonite also has crystal properties.
Lois' helicopter comes by and saves him and he comes up with the plan of taking a massive layer of earth and putting it between himself and the continent as he lifts it into space. Clearly we're getting into the Donner-Lester "insane ending that makes no sense theory," but even though that much Kryptonite SHOULD still do damage to him, it actually does by sending him into a temporary coma, so I guess it works to an extent.
Honestly, the biggest pain of this film is the last 20 minutes, where Superman is in the coma and they can't help him heal further because his body becomes like steel after the Kryptonite is removed from his body. This movie felt like it didn't want to end, and it started to really bore me watching Lois clearly tell Supes that they have a kid together.
Much of the final 20 minutes lacks dialogue and only has the background music. Just a word of advice for filmmakers, if you don't have an epic score to complement the scene, sheer silence works just as well, if not better. But yeah, Superman watches the boy sleep and then flies off to stalk the crap out of the entire world.
This film has a lot of good ideas in place, but too much was tried too quickly. My biggest issues with the film are mostly in concept. It just feels too unbelievable that Superman would leave the earth to fend for itself without telling anyone that he was trying to navigate the galaxy for his homeworld.
A lot of things happen that have shoddy explanations at best. It beats the no-explanation we got at the end of the earlier films, but at least they made sure the rest of the movie made sense. This was just a lot of guesswork for much of the film.
Still, I'd rather think of this as Superman III than actual Superman III, so I guess it succeeded in that sense. I still think the tone felt too dark given how light the characters involved are, and this would have worked better if they had just written it to be a reboot, but it still made a little money and proved the series could continue after Reeve.
All the same, it is better that this series finally got the full reboot after this. As for the score here, I'll give it 3 stars and 6.9 out of 10.
That's it for the standalone films, but tomorrow, I review the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II, and honestly, this is one that if you don't know about it, you NEED to. It's something you won't want to miss.
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