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« The Revised English Bible (Top Ten Bible Versions #6) | Main | Superman Returns: A Review in Comparative Context »

Superman: The Iconic Review

A Guest Perspective by Andrew Wells

Forget the comics, the TV shows and the movies for a moment. Think about Superman the icon. Unlike every other comic book hero, Superman has transcended his roots to become timeless. Batman, Spider-Man, the X-men--they all change to fit the times and reflect the society as a whole. But Superman rises, both literally and figuratively, above all this. He’s heroic, magnificent, noble, and larger-than-life. We see our dark side in Batman. We relate to the feelings of being an outsider through Spider-Man and the X-men. But we want to be Superman. It’s not just about flying and stopping bullets; it’s about rising above our natures to become better, to become part of something epic--something bigger than ourselves. It gives us a joyous feeling to watch Superman, because we can hope and imagine that one day, we could be like him.

A great deal of this mythos, as Rick said in his review, has been shaped by the Superman movies--especiallythe first oneSuperman: The Movie is flawed in different ways--some outdated special effects, inconsistencies in the plot, goofy humor, etc.—but director Richard Donner, composer John Williams and Christopher Reeve got the epic and joyful tone right; they knocked that one right out of the park. When Superman flies by us in that last scene, it’s as deeply felt a movie moment as any in history: the most powerful being on earth, and he slows down to stop and smile at us. It’s pure joy and bliss, epic and wonderful, and Donner let us relish that moment

For all the lavish and respectful devotion paid to everything Superman, Superman Returns just doesn’t get that. The opening credits and the final scene will tell you why. 

Instead of letting us soar with Williams' theme and feel the vastness of space, director Bryan Singer fills the screen with images as we swoop by various wonders of the galaxy. The movie is too busy trying to keep us interested. The whole movie is like this, with few exceptions.

I’d like to say more, but I’m not sure I really need to. The final scene says it all.

In homage to the Superman movies, we see Superman (Brandon Routh) flying over the curve of the earth, right past us. 

But he’s gone too quickly, and he doesn’t stop to smile.

Andrew Wells can be reached at

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