Movie Review: Superman Returns

June 30, 2006 § 6 Comments

 [This review is FULL of spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you have been forewarned.]

Do you know anything about crystals, Superman? They take on the characteristics of the minerals around them.

This line, delivered by the scene-stealing Kevin Spacey (as criminal mastermind Lex Luthor), encapsulates the anticipated Superman Returns. Crystalline substances, by definition, are some of the purest substances chemically obtainable. But, if grown in close proximity to some alien mineral, the maturing crystals will take on the characteristics of the other mineral. It is for this reason that lovely crystals must often be discarded as waste in chemical research; if they are not pure they are not worth the effort of analysis.

Superman Returns is one of these tainted crystals.  Superman, as described in the earliest comic books, stood for truth, justice, and a host of other virtues. As a super-hero, he is indeed intended as a paradigm of virtue, help up in the imaginations of readers as someone to admire and aspire to be. This beautiful crystal of the Superman story was transplanted into the environment of Hollywood, to mature into the newest film. Even Superman did not escape the inevitable; the crystal was poisoned by the decidedly immoral environment “popular” in current culture.

Of course, the movie had a few good points as well. The in-jokes and incessant hat-tipping to the original movies added a few laughs, and John William’s theme music was included to make everyone nostalgic. The Messianic themes and imagery, emphasized in Focus on the Family’s movie reviews, were so obvious they were nearly ridiculous.  After enduring his “passion” at the hands of Lex Luthor – including a stab-wound in the side – Superman falls from the sky, his arms outstretched in the form of a cross.

Could director Bryan Singer have been trying to draw in the newly-discovered Christian audience? Perhaps, but if so he misunderstood what the cross and the Messiah stand for. In the movie, Lois Lane has moved on since Superman left five years previously. She is now engaged indefinitely and is living with her fiancée. In addition, she is caring for a child conceived out of wedlock. Not willing to give up completely on her relationship with the Man of Steel, Lois refuses to marry her fiancée Richard, who is a decent, hardworking man who loves her very much.

Furthermore, over halfway through the movie we find out that the child is in fact not Richard’s, but Superman’s, offspring. Lois decides not to tell poor Richard the truth about the child, although one knows it is only a matter of time before her fiancée realizes that “his boy” didn’t inherit the power to throw pianos across the living room from him. The movie now contains premarital sex, single motherhood, cohabitation, and lies and it is not even finished!

The thing that was bothersome about the film, however, was more subtle. These themes are commonplace in trashy films today. What made this movie different from any other released this summer? Superman. The hero is delivered to us in updated, Hollywood style: a man who indulges in one-night stands, without regrets or apologies. Not once does Superman show any shame, even for the fact that Lois must carry on and raise his child largely without his support, as he will be busy “saving the world”. 

What does this message teach audiences today? If indeed this is what is considered a secular “hero”, who are people to imitate? The true failure of Superman Returns is that it teaches to strive for fallen human nature and nothing more.

Save your money for the next summer hit.

§ 6 Responses to Movie Review: Superman Returns

  • Father Joe says:

    You saw Superman…next you will tell me you saw the Pirate movie, too! Actually, I want to see the pirate film…oh well.

  • peanut1red says:

    What pirate film?

    You wouldn’t have liked Superman anyway; it was awful.

    We (Mommy, Kenny and I) are planning to go to the Pirates movie on opening night at midnight with some of his friends…are you game?

  • Father Joe says:


    What’s that noise?

    It’s Father Joe snoring!

  • Fr. White says:

    Genna, your review of Superman Returns is very insightful. There is something dreadful and sickening about Superman being a deadbeat dad. The attempt to render him as a figure for Christ is completely destroyed by this. His character must be pure and celibate to be coherent (like a certain cast of characters in our beloved Church). As an absent father, Superman makes no sense; he isn’t Superman. The champion of truth and justice has been untrue and unjust to Lois and his son.

    As I tried to put it in the parking lot after Holy Mass on Saturday, though, I think there is one heartening aspect to the movie, if we consider it as part of the unfolding history of our culture. Superman II saw the ruination of Superman’s coherence when he fornicated with Miss Lane. That movie was made around 1980, I think, and the idea that conjugal union and child-bearing go together had been eliminated from movies and t.v. by the triumph of the contraceptive mentality. I don’t remember Superman II all that well, so I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think that there was any reference whatsoever to the possibility of a child. The whole business was simply a matter of romantic love.

    But now Hollywood has made a sequel to that movie in which the child is a reality. They didn’t have to do it: the new Superman movie could have been a completely fresh start without any of the “baggage” of the older movies from over 20 years ago. Something, however, moved Hollywood to acknowledge that conjugal union and child-bearing go together. To an older fellow like myself, this is somehow heartening, a step toward the truth–although it is hopelessly burdened by all the disedifying problems that you explain very well in your review. So I agree with you that the movie is not to be recommended.

    Thank you for inviting me to visit your blog. Love, Fr. White

  • Genna says:

    I see your point, Father, about the aspect of child-bearing being a part of love included in the film. And I agree, it is heartening. It is too bad that there wasn’t more about the movie to recommend.

    Thanks for dropping in! Please come back sometime soon!

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