Many people say that you can’t compare the new Superman movies to the Christopher Reeve movies. That the Reeve films, while great, belong to a different time. Ok, fair enough. So let’s just compare the last two movies.
While I have discussed Man of Steel I haven’t really said anything about Superman Returns. I was so disappointed with it I never even acknowledged it in past articles except to trash it. But…maybe I am being to hard on it. I mean it had it’s moments and it’s even possible that Superman Returns is a better Superman movie than Man of Steel. Man of Steel, on the other hand, I expected to hate and while flawed I ended up liking things in it more than I expected to. Though there were things about I did not like!
Which is really the better Superman movie? Let’s see if we can figure that out as today I present my first movie related face-off (obviously following the sitcom face-off format), as we have :
Superman Returns came out in 2006 and did not do so well. It was so badly received that the next movie was a total reboot, Man of Steel of course came out last year. Some loved it, others did not. But which was better? And yes I know I am not the first to do this kind of comparison.Â I’m doing it anyway and of course all opinion feel free to disagree.
I will omit any discussion on Clark Kent since Cavil is Kent for a whole three second in MOS. So let’s focus on Superman. Who did the character better? Truth is this may be the easiest category, but let’s discuss it anyway. Brandon Routh tries…he really does! But the bottom line is he was horribly mis cast in this role. If this were Superboy the movie then maybe. Cavill is very good in the role. When we first see him in the suit, I felt like I watching Superman. On the down side, the whole hour or whatever before he get gets the suit Cavill sucked! Now it’s not his fault but he was so mopy and, let’s be frank, boring! I was more interested in the kid when we flashed back to him. We don’t really care about this guy until he finally gets the suit…and that’s when things get better! However, Routh had his mopy scenes to when he was stalking Lois and being moody. The difference? When Superman fought Zod in MOS it was epic! When Superman fights Luthor in Returns he is kicked around and cries like a baby. While not ALL bad Routh’s Superman just fails in the end. Oh and I almost forgot..Cavil’s costume is soooooo much better than the lame one Routh wore.
WINNER-MAN OF STEEL
CATEGORY 2:LOIS LANE/Romance
Let’s forget the idiocy of having Lois married with a kid (trust me, we’ll cover that!). Was Kate Bosworth really that bad? Not in the whole movie. The biggest flaw with her was the area which was probably the most important…her chemistry with Superman. Simply put, she had none. That scene with Superman and Lois on top of the Planet building felt so empty to me. At least when Amy Adams and Henry Cavill were together I could feel some heat between them. With Bosworth, not quite. The scenes where Superman is nowhere to be found, I could see her playing Lois. But even then she seemed too young and needed her husbands help which was weak (and he was dull btw). But Amy Adams just knocked this one out of the park. This was the Lois I always wanted to see, and her performance is one of the major reasons I decided to give Man of Steel a break. She is tough, no nonsense, and I love that she isn’t just the damsel in distress. She is right there trying to help Superman. And that scene where she escapes Zod’s ship is one of my favorites in the movie (Russell Crow rocks that scene). While I think in my heart I will always prefer the versions of Lois we had on TV, as far as the movies go Amy Adams nailed it.
WINNER-MAN OF STEEL
CATEGORY 3:SUPPORTING CAST
So let’s talk the supporting cast which is always an important part of Superman’s mythos. We have his father. In Returns we just get Malon Brando as Jor-El in voice overs, in MOS Russell Crowe is in the role and let’s be fair…he is awesome as Jor-El. However, it’s after that the cast kind of loses me. Kevin Costner as Jon Kent was not done well, and the other characters just sort of fade into the background. They’re just there to react to things, not to interact with Superman and Lois. Not that Returns was a LOT better, but it at least understood the reason Perry and Jimmy were there and let them participate a bit more. Heck was Jimmy even in Man of Steel? This is a tough call, but I just think Superman Returns did it better by staying true to the characters as they were in the comics. Man of Steel seemed for forget why these characters existed.
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So which do you prefer, the occasionally over the top Kevin Spacy Lex Luthor or the dead serious Michael Shannon as Zod. You could argue that Zod is a bit one dimensional here, with just one focus. But, that’s the whole point. Zod was bred to protect the integrity pf Krypton and isn’t going to let anything stop him…even Kal El. In Returns Luthor is…stupid. Now Spacy is ok though I agree he was basically doing a Gene Hackman as Luthor impression. It’s just his motives are so baffling. As a character Luthor isn’t, believe it or not, a bully. He is a very smart man who cannot accept that Superman is more powerful than him. And this movie just totally misses the point of the character, turning him into a cartoon character I might have expected to see on Superfriends. Zod was just nasty, and you really could feel the threat he presented. Also he had cooler henchman in MOS including Faora. In Returns the henchman were boring and the woman Luthor had just kind, stood there.
WINNER-MAN OF STEEL
This may be a bit unfair, but here we go anyway. One thing that does not stand out for me when I think of Man of Steel was the music. It wasn’t bad, Hans Zimmer rarely disappointed, but it also wasn’t very memorable. Of course Superman Returns used the old John Williams score and while I admire MOS for not using it, that music will always be associated with Superman. And hearing it in Superman Returns was one of the few things I enjoyed about that film.
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This does not cover the climax of both films we’ll get to that in the final category. If you read my article on Man of Steel I did with my friend Les than you can guess where this is going. But let me explain my reasoning anyway. One of the reasons I decided to give Superman Returns another look was watching the scene where vibrations start tearing Metropolis apart. We see Superman sweep in and try to contain the damage, and save lives. It’s a nice scene and one of the few that feel like a Superman movie. What do we get in Man Of Steel? A city being annihalated while Superman simply fights Zod while doing nothing for the people below (also credit to Superman Returns for remembering that Superman could do more than throw punches!!!!). The action scene before the city is destroyed is not a favorite of mine, and not just for the endless product placement. I said it before and I’ll say it again, it feels like they were trying to be Transformers. Fast action with lots of CGI and all sorts of needless destruction. That isn’t what I want to see in a Superman movie. Superman Returns just has more “Superman” moments including the one where he bounces bullets off his chest, when he catches the daily planet globe, or that awesome airplane scene, who can’t love that!! In the end, that movie did the comic book action stuff better than Man of Steel which was trying to thow to much at us. And let’s not even get into the way Metropolis is utterly destroyed….way to much! The worst part was that there was nothing in between the action in MOS, it just throws so much at us with very little time to breath. At least Superman Returns gave the characters a chance to breath and for us to spend some time with them.
Of course if you know me than you know I am more of a story person anyway. So let’s get into our final and deciding category…who told the better story!
The plot of Superman Returns is simply Superman returning to Earth to find a world that has gone on without him. Luthor plots revenge on him for sending him to prison. Oh, he also has a plan involving real estate which is incredibly dumb. In the original Superman Luthor’s plan made some sense, here it’s stupid. People are supposed to live on that…whatever it is he creates? We also find Lois married and with a kid who we learn is actually her’s and Superman’s. This was lame and predictable. What comes from this? Very little really. The plot of Man of Steel is simply that Superman is the lone survivor of Krypton. Raised by his foster parents to love humanity, he refuses to allow Zod to terra form Earth into a new Krypton. Plus there is a lot of stuff about people being scared to discover aliens among them which also amounts to very little. You would think Returns would be the stronger story, and it is, until you get to the end. The end of these movies is truly the deciding factor here for me. Let’s discuss them. Superman Returns has Luthor beating the crap out of Superman thanks to kryptonite, who is rescued by Lois. He then inexplicably carries a whole island of kryptonite into space before falling back to Earth (why do people bitch about the Jesus symbolism in MOS when it is ten times worst in Returns?). And that’s it really. No fight with Luthor, Superman is in the hospital until he recovers, says goodby to his son, promises Lois he will be there and then movie over. They never get together or anything! YAWN YAWN YAWN. In MOS Zod has decided to kill every last person on Earth which starts a massive struggle with him and Superman. They stay toe to toe until at last, Zod is using his heat vision to incinerate some people. Superman begs him to stop, but ultimately breaks Zods neck to save their lives. Lois is there to comfort him in his anguish. Beautiful scene. Any follow up? Nope. We get the origin of Clark Kent which was done well I admit. HOWEVER, that scene with Zod is much stronger than the stupidity of Superman lifting that island he shouldn’t have been able to lift! There is drama and tension, and I love how Lois is there to comfort him. If it had been built up more that scene would have been strong as hell. Superman Returns ending was just so…anticlimactic. Not to mention it was so busy trying to be part of the Reeve films that it failed to become it’s own thing. Was it a sequel? An homage? No one knows. Man of Steel started fresh and, love it or hate it, wasn’t trying to copy previous movies.Â But yes, despite my gripes I am finally admitting that Superman Returns wasn’t all bad and did do some things right, maybe even better than MOS. However, it still fails in some major areas and at the end of the day, the winner and better Superman movie is :
Please feel free to comment if you think I am right or way off the mark. Till next time my friends.