Superman Returns (IMAX 3D)
Director: Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, X-Men 1&2)
Story:Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Screenplay: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Producers: Jon Peters, Bryan Singer, Gilbert Adler
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Marlon Brando
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 154 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

     The magic that was Superman has returned. It's been twenty some odd years since the man of steel has graced the big screen; but I was placed right back in that world immediately as the opening credits began to roll.

      Along with those credits (which are very similar to the blue, "3-D" credits that fly through space in the originals), I was not prepared for the chills that rushed through my body as John Williams' original, adrenaline rushing score is brought back to us in all its glory and blasted at level eleven through the surround sound speakers of the theater. No doubt it is one of the greatest and most memorable scores of all time. The second those low, pulse pounding cellos begin to crescendo, we know the day is about to be saved by our hero. And the day was saved indeed. Williams' score is played throughout the film (with some tweaking at times) at the most pivotal moments. And what a beautiful and unexpected treat it was!

      Superman has left planet earth for five years to investigate what happened to his home planet of Krypton. While he is away, Lex Luthor has gotten out of prison and is of course planning world domination. Superman makes a heroic return to save the planet, but also finds a world much different than the one he left. For one, his love interest, Lois Lane, is nearly married and has a son. So on top of the heroic action, we have a fairly complicated love triangle. Not to mention some other new surprises.

      To discuss or encompass the cast in one paragraph would be tough. So each character must be broken up and described within their own brief statement about the actor portraying him or her. So let's just dive right in; ready?:

Superman/Clark Kent - Brandon Routh portrays the son of Jor-El, in my opinion, very much with Christopher Reeve in mind. It's possible he just happens to look, act and sound like Reeve, but I think he made a conscience decision to pay homage to the man we all knew as "the original" Superman. And a very fine job he does too. I swear, at times I thought it was Reeve re-created. So no complaints here on Routh's performance. Especially while playing Kent. Also, now would be a good time to mention that the powers that be, decided Routh's "package" was a little too big and distracting, so they had it digitally reduced in size for this movie. Uh, how cool is that?

Lex Luthor - Very well portrayed by a bald Kevin Spacey. I thought he was good and Spacey is always fun to watch, but his Luthor was less witty than the Hackman version and much more brutal. Good enough for me, but I liked Hackman better.

Lois Lane - The weakest character in the film, I thought. Kate Bosworth is okay. She is defintely a pretty face and has a presence on screen. But the presence is just not the right one. She is too much on the sweet and lovable side. She has no edge or anger that Kidder's character had. Bosworth is a good actress who was just miscast in this picture. It's nothing that really hurts the film exactly, but it could've been someone else.

Kitty Kowalski - Who, you might be asking? This is Luthor's side-kick played by normally independent film star, Parker Posey. I love Posey, and her choice to star in a major motion picture couldn't have had better timing. She provides some chuckles and a female edge to Spacey's side of the table. Someone different than the normal, stooge henchmen surrounding Luthor.

Jor-El - Using archival footage and some tinkering with vocal effects, Marlon Brando has returned from the dead to play this most unprecedented of cameos. I have mixed feelings about this beginning of digitally bringing back the dead to play roles, but in this instance, it was an amazing feat and I was happy during every second.

      Those of you seeking a straight-up action flick may be a bit disappointed. There is PLENTY of action and effects shots, but there is also a lot of romance and character development too. But for me, this brought about a good balance between the two; though some things could've been cut down for time consideration. Especially a romantic interlude on the rooftop and some of the needless exposition in the final 15-20 minutes of the movie. Still, the 150+ minutes seemed to fly by faster than a speeding bullet.

      The action sequences are nothing short of magical. In this day in age in the movie industry, it's really hard to expect anything less, but that still doesn't make it any less of a spectacle. Of particular interest to me, was Superman's heroic return to save a crashing airplane. Arguably the best part of the movie. [That was not a spoiler by the way. If you don't see it coming, you must have brain damage and aren't reading this anyway. Plus, it's in all of the trailers]

      Are there some holes? Sure, it's a super hero movie. Thanks for pointing them out Mr. Ebert, now I dislike you even more. Are there some cheesy lines? YES! One in particular. But c'mon, it's a hell of a ride with some new twists and the end gives us practically limitless ideas for a sequel. So just enjoy yourselves and watch as the red-caped wonder is revived nearly flawlessly under the competency of director Bryan Singer.

      Superman Returns was not a remake or even a new film (ala "Batman Begins"). It felt like a natural extension of Donner's films of the 80's, albeit with a few technological improvements and a different, but more than acceptable, cast. Maybe not the best super hero movie of all time. But certainly near the top; and if there is such a thing as a summer blockbuster must-see, this is it.
4 out of 5 stars.

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Superman Returns

Special IMAX 3-D Review
      20 minutes of this film were re-formatted into a digital 3D experience. I wasn't sure what to expect. But here's what you can expect: First off, it's not 20 minutes straight footage. It's 4 seperate segments in which you are instructed (though it's obvious) when to put on and take off your glasses. This is a little distracting, but I understand why they did it. Two of the segments are fairly intense action sequences with things flying around and superman streaking through the sky right at you. The other two are almost pointless to have in 3-D; but still kind of a neat novelty. Although I am happy I saw this format for it's "fun-ness factor," I'm also very glad that I didn't have to watch the whole film this way, because it tends to distract from what is the focus of the shot while you are watching splashes of water flying into your lap.
      The sheer size of the IMAX, however, is worth paying the extra few dollars. Not only the immensity of the screen, but also the HUGE sound that, at least at our particular IMAX screen, cannot be matched by any local theater that I know of; and I've been to A LOT of them.
      So yeah, it's cool and worth it, but completely not necessary. So don't feel bad if you don't have an IMAX in your area. In fact, if I were to go again, I would choose NOT to see it that way again. But glad I went there the first time.