Brandon Routh

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e05 – A Head of Her Time

Continuing whatever this season is doing with its creative Arrowverse accounting, Dominic Purcell and Caity Lotz mostly sit out this episode. Lotz is in Star City on some kind of bland personal business, which leaves Jes Macallan in charge. Macallan, who used to run an extra-dimensional time agency, gets very worried about captaining the Legends, which leads to her bonding with Tala Ashe, which is fine.

Meanwhile Purcell is just heartsick and apparently off drinking about it during the action.

Apparently having Purcell and Lotz on partial duty means Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Adam Tsekhman get to do things, so they’re the backup in Matt Ryan’s Constantine story arc. They really should’ve renamed it “John Constantine and the Legends of Tomorrow,” then did a bit about how Ryan got more famous than everyone else and it’s a thing. But they didn’t and instead it’s “Legends of Tomorrow with Special Guest Star John Constantine.”

Ryan, Richardson-Sellers, and Tsekhman are doing a horror humor bit involving Ryan’s history with Hell villain Olivia Swann. Turns out Ryan used to have a thing for Swann’s mom, Alice Hunter, and maybe only consigned Swann to Hell because he was trying to resurrect Hunter. The flashbacks also allow for Ryan with a mohawk, which is a lot of fun.

Also a lot of fun is the main plot, which has Macallan, Ashe, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, and I hope they keep him around somehow Shayan Sobhian trying to get a resurrected and not entirely unjustifiably angry Marie Antoinette (Courtney Ford) from ruining history.

Ford, who also plays another character, a fairly regular cast member, is pretty funny as Antoinette and the gimmick works.

Amidst the Antoinette arc is Ashe’s misadventures as a rookie time traveling superhero, though some of those misadventures are because she’s also a 2040 social media influencer who wants to exploit history for likes. It works out, especially with the big gala event for the action-packed finale. “Legends” is doing an excellent job integrating the character development with the action this season.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e04 – Slay Anything

“Legends” does a double homage this episode–Slay Anything is simultaneously an eighties John Hughes homage and an eighties slasher movie homage. High school prom killer Garrett Quirk is the latest condemned soul sent back to Earth to reign Hell or whatnot. So what does a spree killer become once Hell-powered? A telekinetic slasher, out to get the final girl (Veronika London).

Caity Lotz, Jes Macallan, and Dominic Purcell are trapped in the high school reunion where Quirk’s back to get London—it’s also Purcell’s old high school and he runs into almost flame Lisa Marie DiGiacinto, giving Purcell a rather personable arc—while Nick Zano and Brandon Routh go back further in time to the first prom to try to stop Quirk from ever becoming a killer in the first place. I think it’s the first time “Legends” has used Back to the Future logic, but it fits so much I wish they’d homaged it better.

Complications ensue because Routh’s fairy godmother girlfriend Courtney Ford is visiting him and when she hears the pleas of Quirk as a teen–now played by Seth Meriwether—she finds herself bound to him. A slasher with a fairy godmother. It ends up being Ford’s best turn on the show; she does an excellent job.

Also doing an excellent job are Tala Ashe (obviously) and Shayan Sobhian. They’re hanging out on the ship while Routh and Zano try to save Meriwether from himself. Very nice sibling interaction and character development for Ashe and Sobhian. “Legends” ends up doing a lot this episode—though besides some fighting and being cute with Lotz, all Macallan gets is a reveal about her podcast, which is rater funny.

Meanwhile, apparently the show’s saving Maisie Richardson-Sellers for Matt Ryan’s plot lines, which this episode separates from the main.

The stylish opening titles are permanent now too. “Legends” is firmly footed this season; the showcase for Ford just makes it too bad she’s leaving at some point in the near future (along with real-life husband Routh).

Bummer. But until then… “Legends” is working just fine.

Nice direction from Alexandra La Roche this episode too; lots of effective slasher movie nods.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e03 – Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me

It’s a strong episode. Like, really strong; great pacing too. It starts with Constantine (Matt Ryan), who teleported to Hell at the end of last episode, getting to Hell and having a chat with lost soul turned season villain Olivia Swann. It’s a welcome scene not so much for the content—Swann is better in her second appearance this episode, when Ryan’s actually able to surprise her—but for its presence. I was thinking Ryan was zapping off to Hell for an unseen adventure and would be sitting out this episode—he’s still credited as a “special guest star” or some such thing; he’s not a “Legends” star proper. But, as it turns out, he seems to be a regular because he doesn’t just get one of the biggest plot threads this episode, they also get him to start acting goofy.

Ryan’s never really been goofy on “Legends” before. But now he’s getting close.

His part of the episode involves him trying to get forties gangster moll Haley Strode to turn on Bugsy Siegel (Jonathan Sadowski); Bugsy’s this week’s back-from-Hell villain. Sadowski’s doing a Vince Vaughn impression but he’s not bad. He’s got a solid sense of humor, which is the most important thing for a “Legends” actor to have. Strode’s okay—she’s playing the Annette Bening part from the movie only without enough detail to be an actual historical figure—Ryan’s really good with her.

Meanwhile, odd couple Ava (Jes Macallan) and Mick (Dominic Purcell) are bonding over drinks, leading to some truly wonderful comedic showcasing for Macallan. It seems like it’s going to be good, then it just keeps getting better and better.

Caity Lotz and Brandon Routh are doing more serious (and less interesting) mission stuff, Maisie Richardson-Sellers is M.I.A., so the third major subplot has Nick Zano and new guy Shayan Sobhian visiting his family. Sobhian’s a new regular this season, in for Tala Ashe, who blinked out of the timeline at the end of last season. Only then Zano found a Princess Leia-esque message and now he runs into her at Sobhian’s parent’s house. Only this Ashe was never a superhero or Zano’s girlfriend, she’s a social media influencer in 2044 or something. It shouldn’t exactly work but… it does because Ashe’s amazing. The writing’s really good too—credit Ray Utarnachitt, especially on the bickering between Ashe and Sobhian—but Ashe playing lovestruck Zano? Just fantastic.

Between Ryan and—eventually—Routh playing Chinatown, Ryan getting some character development, Macallan getting to be hilarious, Ashe getting to flex her range… it’s a strong episode. It’s one of those, “Now, this is why you watch ‘Legends’ episodes.”

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e02 – Meet the Legends

Good “Legends” is both bad and obvious, and obvious. When the show hits the right notes, it keeps ringing the bell through the end of the episode. Once an episode of “Legends” clicks, it stays in that higher gear.

This first post-Crisis episode means there can be all sorts of new changes in addition to Shayan Sobhian being the new guy on the team only no one knows it because before they messed up time last season, Sobhian was Tala Ashe (who’d really gotten good on the show, even with the absurdity of her romance with hero bro Nick Zano) before. They keep the same powers. Sobhian’s likable—you can be middling on “Legends” but you can’t be unlikable. You’ve got to enjoy watching “Legends,” they work for it.

Anyway, it means there are changes to be watching for. But there’re also the first real episode of the season changes to be watching for. And then the show’s in a fake documentary form; Jes Macallan has to prove the Legends’ worth to the U.S. government so they want a documentary. The Legends are famous after saving the world least season, which is a bit of a blur. It didn’t end well. Starting with the documentary bit seems like a cop-out. Except they stop the format—the team fights a resurrected Rasputin (Michael Eklund) this episode; it’s fun. Eklund’s… a likable villain. Rasputin tries to become an influencer. It’s works just well enough. Throw in some good fight scenes for Caity Lotz, the right amount of Brandon Routh’s adorkable, occasionally Matt Ryan appearances (with Adam Tsekhman as his sidekick), and it works out well. Ramona Young becoming Dominic Purcell’s sidekick, however, is an unexpected delight. They give Young more than she tended to get last year and better material and she kills it; Macallan’s gotten funnier with being so serious, which is really nice because Zano’s only fun around Routh really, but Young’s the biggest success.

So bummer when she bows out for some of the season. A few of the other cast members go off on side missions so they can keep the casting budget down. But “Legends”’s budget constraints sometimes work out for it and having characters recur instead of loiter in the background… I’m going to be really bummed if Young’s not back soon. Like. No. They’re making Young’s not simple part—a superhero fangirl becoming a werewolf—work and they need to stick with it.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s06e01 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Five

Given how much work these Arrowverse crossover events make for the show’s creative teams—just imagine if they had to bother with good writing, better direction (though this episode isn’t too bad), and good guest stars—you’d think they wouldn’t have wasted twenty-percent of Crisis on Infinite Earths with this utterly superfluous episode. Outside the big bad guy not being gone for real and coming back so the heroes have to team up, again, to take him down (though with a lot less heroes than in previous episodes)… not much gets done. Except everyone’s on the same Earth so crossovers could be easier but probably won’t be? Because the characters existing in alternate dimensions isn’t the problem.

The episode opens with Supergirl Melissa Benoist discovering everything is back to normal but has changed. Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer in way too short of a cameo) is now a good guy and Benoist is now buddies again with (not seen) Katie McGrath—tune into “Supergirl” to see how this move saved their butts dramatically but don’t because it’s too late for “Supergirl.” Benoist soon runs into Grant Gustin, who also is realizing their Earths have combined, but there’s no “Flash” supporting cast so we don’t even know what’s up with Gustin and wife Candice Patton. Tune into “The Flash” for that reunion? Or don’t.

There’s a Marv Wolfman cameo where everyone pretends he cared a lot about Supergirl and the Flash? I mean, he killed them off in Crisis on Infinite Earths the comic book and there’s a moment where it seems like Benoist is toast but… nope. Because this episode’s narratively pointless. Yes, it provides the first ever live action Sargon the Sorcerer (a DC Comics character since 1941 who did have something to do with the Crisis comic but not this crappy crossover event) and (sort of) a coda for Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns but eh. There’s a Beebo cameo for people who actually watch “Legends of Tomorrow,” which is at this point the only Arrowverse show worth watching (though I’m seasons behind on “Black Lightning,” which is now an Arrowverse show). Pointless fights, badly directed ones (okay, maybe the direction isn’t okay), bad writing. There’s a new President in the Arrowverse and, no spoilers, but they didn’t get anyone famous for it.

There’s a “Super Friends” ending, which they’re way too excited about doing, especially since it’s in an empty warehouse. It’s lifeless stuff.

There are two lengthy sequences dedicated to Stephen Amell, with various people providing eulogies, and you have to wonder if Amell made them put those scenes in because they’re poorly written, performed, directed, and everything else. No one who liked “Arrow” so much they needed emotional closure on the series ending cares if Benoist and Gustin moon over Amell.

I forced myself to make it to Crisis on Infinite Earths this season to give myself a good jumping off point for the shows (not “Legends”) but I really wished I’d jumped before these last two episodes. The universes combining without any of the regular cast members from the shows taking part? Who cares. It’s got the dramatic resonance of… well, a bad Arrowverse show. A really bad one.

The Flash (2014) s06e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three

Crisis: Part Three is a scant handful of okay moments surrounded by truly godawful dialogue, sometimes so bad it’s impressive the actors are keeping it together—points to Grant Gustin, Elizabeth Tulloch, Cress Williams, and Candice Patton—one inventive plotting point, a couple big nostalgia deep-dives (they really felt the need to validate “Birds of Prey” fans, which I’m not sure I believe is a thing), and a lot of nonsense. Along with plot points from other DC Comics crossover events, including one of the silliest ones.

There are a lot of obvious budgetary shortcuts, like how Brandon Routh’s Superman returned never gets a shot actually going through the teleportation effect because apparently there’s only so much CGI budget. But also the lack of exterior shots (they don’t even recycle footage from the last time they showed Crisis hitting Earth on “The Flash,” which might threaten some kind of extended cut?).

The three big plots this episode—almost called it issue, but no, if it were an issue of Crisis it’d look better, George Perez and all (seriously, how they didn’t get a uniform good score for the crossover instead of just dropping in the old superhero themes…)—anyway, it’s Gustin, Carlos Valdes, and Danielle Panabaker trying to save the world from the speed cannon, which is an utterly crappy sequence. Especially compared to the comic, but even compared to when Gustin disintegrated in his nightmares earlier this season. Like they spent more money on that effects shot from a regular episode than the money shot in this one. It’s a bummer. Even if it’s got a good nostalgia hook but also an exceptional missed opportunity. The crossover asks for a whole bunch of slack and doesn’t deserve any of it.

Oh, wait, there are four big plots. I forgot about Matt Ryan leading David Ramsey (whose acting has gotten worse the longer he’s been on “Arrow,” and not just because he has a very forced Malcolm X quote to show he’s a Black man, which might be the most questionable creative decision in a series of very questionable creative decisions), Stephen Amell, and Katherine McNamara on a cameo-filled field trip through the Arrowverse purgatory. Even though it’s unclear how the infinite Earths work with purgatory, because it seems to be unified between realities but… whatever. Anyway, it’s just for cameos and to give Ramsey some crossover time. McNamara’s got almost nothing to do so she’s nowhere near as bad as last episode.

Then Ruby Rose and Melissa Benoist are bickering about Benoist wanting to use the Book of Destiny or whatever it’s called to save the lost universes and acting like they’re in a Frank Miller rip-off until they get girl power. Rose is bad, Benoist’s not good but also not bad; it’s neither of their faults. It’s the script, it’s the direction. Their plot’s a pointless, terribly written one.

Finally, Patton is tasked with introducing Osric Chau to the Arrowverse. I’m sure he’ll have a job after the crossover as Atom II. He’s actually okay, even though the scenes are atrociously written. Because of course they are.

The big cliffhanger—it’s five weeks until the last two entries—lacks in grandeur and execution, also not a surprise. It’s almost like they don’t have the budget for the guest stars and special effects and so went with the former. Or maybe it really is just a terribly produced crossover. It’s not like the last one was any good either.

There is a pleasant surprise at the finish, but only because it promises to amuse when they get back. Amusement would help. This episode’s not amusing. Or entertaining. And Audrey Marie Anderson and LaMonica Garrett are still terrible. Oh, and they managed to get an even worse performance out of Tom Cavanagh than he’s been giving the rest of the season (he should quit after this disservice to his filmography, just for the godawful costuming alone).

Is it as bad as the first episode of Crisis? No. Is it as middling as the second one? Nope. But whatever’s coming in five weeks, it’s pretty clear even if it’s entertaining or amusing or manages some decent moments from the actors… it’s not going to be good. And it’ll probably be bad. It’ll definitely be tedious. The cliffhanger would have been the end of the first installment if this Crisis were any good.

Batwoman (2019) s01e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two

So “Batwoman”’s Crisis crossover is rather instructional, at least in understanding what’s going to go wrong with it (the crossover). The writing. “Batwoman”’s script is all right. Not great, but leaps and bounds over the previous one. Even if the performances get a little shaky and they’re trying too hard to foreshadow, but Don Whitehead and Holly Henderson’s script does something “Supergirl” couldn’t manage. They make a decent “hour” of superhero adventure TV.

Albeit an hour with absolutely nothing to do with the regular “Batwoman” stuff, including having Ruby Rose play second-fiddle to pretty much everyone and then have this weird “straight-coding” moment with Melissa Benoist, which is a pointless Bechdel fail. How is it possible the Arrowverse shows can’t find a writer capable of not screwing up at least one of the characterizations. It’s not like comics got to have writers’ rooms or paid assistants so you’d think there’d be someone checking on this stuff, but whatever. It’s a short scene and soon gives way to the simultaneously successful and not successful Kevin Conroy cameo.

How does “Batwoman” get away with never having Batman on the show? Go to the future on an alternate Earth during the Crisis and introduce old man Batman Kevin Conroy (who voiced the “Animated Series” cartoon for years along with a bunch of other cartoon features and video games). Shame Conroy’s really bad at acting. Though director Laura Belsey gets major props for trying to hide it. Most of Rose and Conroy’s scenes together consist of Rose standing and listening to Conroy speak, close-up on Rose, maybe an over the shoulder from Conroy every once and a while because that way Conroy’s speaking but not having to emote. It’d be more impressive if the Conroy cameo added up to anything, but not really.

Meanwhile, there’s the Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor hopping universes to kill Superman over and over again, leading to a shockingly good Tom Welling cameo. I’ve never seen “Smallville” but Welling seemed like he’d impress as an actor but he’s good here. Is able to play off Cryer without much setup. Good stuff.

Then there’s Brandon Routh getting to put on the Kingdom Come Superman outfit and do a Superman Returns sequel, with plenty of references… then a sad Joker one. And it turns out… Routh really was a lot better at playing Clark Kent than Superman. Maybe he’d have grown into the part if Returns had gotten its Man of Steel but… also maybe not. Though he’s in old age makeup and CG-buffed or something to play old man Superman here so who knows.

Oh, right, then there’s Grant Gustin and Caity Lotz (the best performance in “Supergirl,” decidedly not feeling it here; she seems exhausted) going on a secret mission with Green Arrow fille (Katherine McNamara, who’s not good) and exhausted too but still lovable Matt Ryan. Dominic Purcell shows up for some comic relief, along with an actual nice surprise cameo.

Candice Patton’s also around, participating in the continuing Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch “Superman Family” backdoor pilot. It’s still cute enough, more so here just because the episode’s a lot better television than the “Supergirl.”

Shame the Arrowverse producers didn’t care about consistent writing… with this crew on the whole crossover, Crisis might have had a chance. But hopefully it won’t ever be as bad as “Supergirl”’s entry again.

Got to be fair and point out there’s less LaMonica Garrett in this episode than the “Supergirl,” which means less absurdly godawful acting and just regular tepid TV performances and not even many of those… it’s a very professionally executed episode.

Supergirl (2015) s05e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One

With the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, the CW Arrowverse achieves one of those DC Comics’s successes—they promise they understand, they promise they get it, they promise they’ll do it right, then it’s terrible. Not just regular terrible but also profoundly inept in some manner. See, you know, DC Comics’s comics for the last… twenty years? Twenty-five? Depends on if you want to see “Zero Hour” as the last chapter of the old or first chapter of the new. And Warner’s even done it with the movies–Batman & Robin and Justice League being the most obvious examples. They say they know what they’ve got, then they show they don’t. The fail the project’s potential.

Like, I hoped it would be better than the regular production values on “Supergirl.” It’s worse. Melissa Benoist gets to play second fiddle to Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch’s “Superman Family” backdoor pilot, which is fine because Hoechlin and Tulloch are a hell of a lot less obnoxious than the regular cast this episode. Even though it’s a regular “Supergirl” director (Jesse Warn), somehow Jesse Rath’s totally different. Like no one’s on the same page with the character, actor, writers, director, and it makes his every expository deliver simultaneously exasperating and enraging; the show doesn’t have to be so bad, why aren’t they trying to at least not make it its worst. They ought to be showcasing their strengths.

The show’s shockingly inept at introducing the other heroes, which kind of makes sense since you’ve got to spend time with the regular cast since you’re not paying them all to crossover… but maybe mix it up a bit. Ruby Rose and Katie McGrath doing something has a lot more potential entertainment value than McGrath and Chyler Leigh sniping at each other over McGrath’s supervillain potential. Brandon Routh and David Harewood doing something would beat Routh playing second fiddle to Caity Lotz (who gives the episode’s best performance) and Harewood still having his stupid wisdom lines.

Nicole Maines and Azie Tesfai only show up to herd people out of the waterfront area, which has become the show’s biggest and stupidest action trope now. Is it a Vancouver fun run or something, shooting “run from the huge waterfront in the Kansas City stand-in city” every week?

Basically no one gets anything good. Hoechlin and Tulloch excepted. Hoechlin even gets to be sad about Benoist’s long-lost mom dying because guest star Audrey Marie Anderson (who’s terrible and going to be in all of the crossover episodes, which is really bad) didn’t have enough energy in the Dilithium crystals to save her. It’s a poorly plotted episode. Like, I get there needs to be a bunch for Stephen Amell because it’s his last crossover but they pad they heck out of his scenes. He and future daughter Katherine McNamara have the same conversation at least twice, maybe more, and when it gets time for Amell and “Flash” Grant Gustin to have their big crossover moment they don’t get one because there’s not time, there’s already the “Superman Family” pilot in session.

Worse, it’s cheap. They fight the “shadow demons,” which were the “Crisis” comic disposable baddies but they’re like medieval-ish ghosts… like, cheap CGI model ones. All the action sequences with them are terrible, even worse than the “meet Batwoman” action sequence the show goes with. Warn’s never been a good director but they really should’ve gotten someone else.

They also should’ve hired a good composer special for the crossover. The music is truly horrific.

The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths is off to its most inevitable start… it’s a shitty DC event crossover.

And while the opening cameos with Robert Wuhl (from Batman 1989) and Burt Ward (from “Batman: The TV Show), along with the clip from “Titans?” They set up a false expectation of competency. Maybe not technical prowess, as the green screen shots are terrible, but they at least suggest the crossover gets its entertainment potential.

Then it fails. Over and over.

Outside convincing me to maybe try “Superman Family” and to reassure me I’m not missing anything on “Arrow,” the show’s greatest success is providing a solid jumping off point.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010, Edgar Wright)

In terms of emotional depth, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World comes in a little below the average John Hughes teen picture. Supposedly Scott Pilgrim is about a listless twenty-something… but with Michael Cera playing the lead, it definitely feels about that deep.

Cera’s not bad, but he’s playing the same role he’s played since “Arrested Development.” Opposite Ellen Wong, who plays his high school aged girlfriend who he wrongs, he works. Opposite Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the object of his affection… well, she’s actually acting. So it doesn’t work.

It’s unfortunate Edgar Wright felt the need to “faithfully” adapt the comic book, because there’s a decent story without it and it’s unfortunate he wastes a lot of good performances on a gimmick movie.

Neither of the “superhero” cameos–Chris Evans and Brandon Routh–are bad (both are really funny). But they’re also both useless. All of the fight scenes are boring–the movie’s only interesting for a moment at the end, when it’s clear Cera and Wong have more chemistry and it seems like Wright would have noticed and figured something out to utilize it. Big shock, he doesn’t.

But the great performances–Kieran Culkin, Mark Webber, Alison Pill–are the straight supporting roles. And Wright wastes them.

Then there’s Jason Schwartzman. Schwartzman’s performance is so one note, he makes Cera look deep. The movie nosedives once he shows up.

The movie’s got its funny moments and Wright is, technically, a fine, imaginative director.

Shame the script’s completely unimaginative.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Edgar Wright; screenplay by Michael Bacall and Wright, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss; music by Nigel Godrich; production designer, Marcus Rowland; produced by Eric Gitter, Nira Park, Marc Platt and Wright; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Ramona Flowers), Kieran Culkin (Wallace Wells), Chris Evans (Lucas Lee), Anna Kendrick (Stacey Pilgrim), Alison Pill (Kim Pine), Brandon Routh (Todd Ingram), Ellen Wong (Knives Chau), Aubrey Plaza (Julie), Mark Webber (Steven) and Jason Schwartzman (Gideon Graves).


Superman Returns (2006, Bryan Singer)

My expectations for Superman Returns were incredibly high (especially since everything Bryan Singer’s done since The Usual Suspects with the exception of the “House” pilot has been dreck). Three stars. I don’t bother putting star ratings on The Stop Button, since whenever I see them in reviews, I look at them and then at not the review. Also, the New York Times doesn’t do it. Watching the previews for Superman Returns, I realized Singer wasn’t just making a sequel to the originals, he was structurally remaking the first Superman. That prediction proves true, but it’s not a bad thing. The first Superman film has a fine structure and it isn’t as though Returns was ever going to be as good as the first film. For moments during the film, it seemed like Superman Returns might get up to that three star level. The film runs two and a half hours, so there’s a lot of time for it to make up for early faults. During the first hour and a half, Singer cuts between Superman and company and Lex Luthor and company, which doesn’t work particularly well and there are major dips because of the pacing–and it takes a long time for Superman and Luthor to seem like they’re in the same film. The Luthor scenes have a comical, winking with the audience feel, while the rest doesn’t.

On an episode of “Boston Legal,” there was a line about winning a case in the closing testimony–going on and on and on until you’ve won the jury over. Singer implements that practice in Superman Returns. It doesn’t exactly have multiple endings–in fact, it doesn’t really have one–but he goes on and on until he’s gotten the film to where he can let it go. Singer obviously loves the film he’s made and there’s a lot to love about Superman Returns. While it never achieves the wonderment of the original film, the flying scenes in this film are breathtaking. Green screen special effects and computer compositing have finally gotten to good spot. But that ending trouble, it isn’t something inherent in the film, it’s all because of Singer’s structuring. Superman Returns has some great scenes, but whenever–with one exception I’ll get to–Singer deviates from that appropriated Superman structure, the film gets long.

As for the cast… Brandon Routh is fine. He’s good as Clark Kent and fine as Superman. Here’s the problem. Not enough Superman–and when there is Superman, Singer doesn’t let Routh do much. I wonder if there was a trust factor involved–I’m sure Singer wasn’t willing to let Routh end his career. Kate Bosworth is adequate as Lois Lane, but Superman Returns reconfigures her character so much, she’s not really Lois Lane anymore. She’s been domesticated. Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane never had long hair because she would have thought it too much of a fuss. Bosworth looks like she spends as much time combing hers as Marcia Brady. James Marsden plays Lois Lane’s fiancé, one of Superman Returns’s best innovations, and he’s actually really good. His action scenes are the exception I talked about before, where he shows human heroism, which nicely offsets the guy who can lift continents. I’d only seen Marsden in X-Men and thought he was the pits, but he gives the second best performance in Superman Returns. The first is Parker Posey. She’s great (she’s also been on “Boston Legal,” though not in the episode I was talking about). Kevin Spacey occasionally has fun as Lex Luthor, but he never embraces it like Gene Hackman did. I kept waiting for him to do it and it kept seeming like he would, but it never gets there. The rest of the supporting cast is fine, but not worth name-checking.

While my fiancée has no interest in ever seeing Superman Returns again–as she told me in no uncertain terms–I’m curious how a rewatch might affect the experience. I imagine it would have a positive effect, but I’m not sure how much (no matter how many times I watch it, for example, John Ottman’s score will never get better). For this entire post, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to lambaste Singer’s Ripley into the lava shot, which might have been all right, if the music weren’t so overbearing, but I’m having trouble–but now I think it’s the music’s fault. The music stops working at a certain point in the film. It stops relying on the John Williams score and it starts to sound cheap. Leaving the Williams score behind is a bad idea, given Superman Returns’s agreement with the audience is solely based on the images the score conjures and breaking that agreement is what gets Superman Returns into the most trouble. And the little kid. The little kid gets real annoying.

While the film didn’t earn the three I wanted, it did get two and a half, which isn’t bad–even with all the problems, it’s still Superman.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Singer; written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, based on a story by Singer, Dougherty and Harris, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Elliot Graham and John Ottman; music by Ottman; production designer, Guy Hendrix Dyas; produced by Singer, Jon Peters and Gilbert Adler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Brandon Routh (Clark Kent/Superman), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane), James Marsden (Richard White), Frank Langella (Perry White), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent), Parker Posey (Kitty Kowalski), Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olsen), Kal Penn (Stanford) and Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.
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