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Superman Returns, Times Three

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<em>Superman Returns</em>, Times Three

Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns, which opened yesterday, is getting wildly mixed reviews (including pans from Roger Ebert and Manohla Dargis). Three House contributors wrote about the movie for their respective publications this week; excerpts and links follow.

I adored the movie—despite a first act slog that leaves a lot to forgive—because of its mythic spectacle. The movie is visionary bubblegum, unabashedly in love with its source material.

“In scene after scene,” I wrote in New York Press, “Superman Returns implicitly asks what it might feel like to be Superman and to live in a world that has the Man of Steel in it…Where most comic book movies are paradoxically inclined to make their points verbally—bulldozing heaps of raw data in our faces, a la the Matrix movies, Batman Begins and Singer’s own X-Men films—Superman Returns is conceived as a visionary spectacle, a series of mythic tableaus that brazenly liken Superman to Mercury, Jesus, Atlas and Prometheus. It’s a sensory—at times sensuous—experience, modeled not just on great comic book art, but on the crème-de-la-crème of machine-age spectacles: 2001:A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

In Philadelphia Weekly, Sean Burns is only slightly less enthused. “Nitpicks aside, Superman Returns carries you along with the force of a great many iconic, often poetic images, all backed up by Singer’s bold commitment to the forthright emotions of the piece… Despite all the earth-shaking action sequences, this is a surprisingly tender and gentle film—one that feels like it came from somewhere very personal and deeply felt. Lois might have said the world doesn’t need Superman, but it sure feels good to have him back.”

Meanwhile, over in Slant Magazine, Keith Uhlich is not impressed. His two-star review calls the movie “...a pleasant enough piece of hackwork, anonymous in all the right ways so that it neither offends nor thrills…Aside from a reverse-motion shot of Superman inhaling the inverted and impossible breath of a Busby Berkeley extra while lifting a sunken ship out of the ocean, the themes and characters in Superman Returns remain frustratingly conceptual.”