In “Superman Returns,” the Man of Steel delivers a bright and shiny package of excitement. Director Bryan Singer (the first two “X-Men” movies, “The Usual Suspects”) chooses Brandon Routh, a charismatic and handsome young actor who made his break on television. Routh, who bears a resemblance to Christopher Reeve, separates himself from this reference because the true stars of this visually impressive extravaganza are the special effects guys.
Superman returns from his five-year journey searching of any remnants of Krypton and immediately starts mixing it up with nemesis Lex Luthor, a deliciously dastardly Kevin Spacey. Singer slowly develops Superman’s awkward transformation back into Clark Kent, while Luthor busily assembles what he needs to dominate the planet.
Even after the battle lines have been drawn, the story throws in some nice curves. The film also gives the characters enough breathing room to make them fully actualized humans. The chemistry between Superman and Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) hangs just beneath the surface, making their brief run-ins sweet and full of subtext. There are really cool, sophisticated visuals throughout, from underwater chambers to hideaway crystal caves.
The DVD offers interesting featurettes, “How Filmmakers Recreated Jor-El, Superman’s Father, Played by Marlon Brando,” and “The Joy of Lex: Behind the Scenes with Kevin Spacey” which goes beyond the typical “how-we-made-this-movie and aren’t-these-funny-outtakes” fare. And you can’t deny that Routh and Bosworth look great on a 42-inch plasma screen.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
Walt Disney Pictures
That’s the noise I made when I woke up from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which has the same problems as the first one—a lack of focus. As entertaining it might be, about one hour into this monstrosity, the audience makes a collective discovery that not only is the ending not going to bring home the dangling plot ends but it’s really a 150-minute teaser for Pirates Part Three. And the third installment was filmed at the same time—so I guess I’m right.
Still, the sequel to “Curse of the Black Pearl,” which made a haul over $300 million is fun. Depp’s return as the devil-may-care Captain Jack Sparrow is on the money. Orlando Bloom does the heavy lifting as aspiring suitor Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth shows enough ample boob-age to keep teens rivited. The plot of “Dead Man’s Chest” exists purely as a means of getting from one action sequence to another. The film’s most impressive special effect is Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), whose squidlike head is entirely computer-generated (and you can’t even tell) —yet Nighy’s personality and sad eyes shine through. Overall, however, the charms of the original—playfully morbid humor, swashbuckling action, and Depp’s giddy performance—are a bit washed up.