Superman Returns (2006)

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

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Rating: 1 2 3

Brandon Routh as Superman

It's a seminal cinematic moment in any child's life: the first time you see Superman move the world back on its axis to turn back the clock. Despite the fact that, even at the tender age of nine (or however old you happen to be), you know it's only Christopher Reeve, lying on a table against a blue screen, arms aloft, there's still something immensely powerful and moving about that scene.

And now, 19 years after the last Superman film (the somewhat rubbishy Superman IV) hit our screens, and two years after the death of Christopher Reeve, the Man of Steel is back. And as the inimitable John Williams theme tune blasts triumphantly out, accompanied by suitably retro looking titles, all the excitement of that moment comes back too. But can his new reincarnation capture our hearts and minds the way the original did? Surprisingly, it can.

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and Brandon Routh as Superman in Superman Returns

Five years have passed since Superman disappeared in search of the remains of his home planet (it's a movie - suspend your disbelief already) but now he's back, in a blinding meteoric crash. And whaddaya know, newcomer Brandon Routh is the spit-curl image of the late great Christopher Reeve: all endearing geekiness and awkward stammer when lying low as Clark Kent, all noble profile and rippling bod when he rips off his shirt and tie to reveal his trademark suit beneath (although he appears to have replaced the Hot Gossip spandex with some kind of fetching rubber material). Back too are love interest Lois Lane, played by Kate Bosworth, who doesn't look nearly old enough to be the mother of fragile, allergy-ridden five-year-old Jason (you do the math.) and archenemy Lex Luther (Kevin Spacey, who does his best, but who can't really fill the mighty Gene Hackman's shoes) and he's, you know, plotting to take over the world, or whatever...

To be honest, the plot doesn't matter all that much. What matters is that this new chapter in the Superman franchise preserves perfectly the good, wholesome, apple pie morality of the original films, while adding in the kind of effects that Christopher Reeve and co could only dream about. Perhaps it's a little bit darker than its predecessors - certainly there's none of the farcical slapstick that's scattered through the earlier movies - but there's no tortured soul searching in the style of Spider-Man or Christian Bale's Batman either. There's simply a hero who does good deeds. With his underpants over his trousers.

More a loving homage than a remake, Superman Returns won't stretch your brain or tickle your wits that much, but it will warm your heart and make you feel, for a couple of hours, as if you're nine-years-old again.

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