A C Gralying

The philosophy of Superman

From Prohibition-era enemy of the mob to post-9/11 saviour

I must declare an interest: as a devotee of DC Comics’ Superman since early childhood, I am incontinently prepared in advance to enjoy every radio show, television series and film that features him. So before seeing this one, Superman Returns (which opens here on 14 July), I was ready to give it a good review, and I have not been disappointed. It’s a cracker. Christopher Reeve look-alike Brandon Routh does not have to act — his task is to be tall, to fill the famous suit well, and to keep still for the cameras when in flying pose, and he succeeds on all counts; so there are no problems there. Because the real acting is done by Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, the result is a treat.

Given the nature of the Superman mythos, it is inevitable that everything proceeds to formula. Ninety-five per cent of the film consists of noisy special effects; the remainder is divided between the stock evil of Luthor’s world-domination obsessions and Lois Lane’s Superman obsessions, with the standard semi-comical Clark Kent subplot attached.

The story, so far as there is one beyond a revisit to the two obsessions mentioned, is that Superman has been gone for five years, seeking any evidence of the remains of his home planet, Krypton. Unsuccessful in this quest, he returns to Earth, oddly enough in a spaceship which makes a very bumpy landing near his adoptive mother’s humble farmstead. He gets his job back at the Daily Planet (crusty editor Perry White still in charge) only to find that Lois Lane, severely annoyed that Superman had left without saying goodbye five years earlier, has a partner, a son and a Pulitzer Prize for an article entitled ‘Why The World Does Not Need Superman’. The movie is, roughly, about why she changes her mind.

For aficionados, the film’s real interest lies in the evolution it represents in the Superman persona.

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