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Superman Returns

release date 14/07/2006

Flying back onto the big screen, almost 20 years after Christopher Reeve donned the red and blue spandex for the final time, Superman Returns brings the summer blockbuster season to a spectacular close.

Bryan Singer's bravura re-invention of The Man Of Steel puts Mission: Impossible III and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in the shade. The special effect-festooned action sequences are as exhilarating and brilliantly orchestrated as you'd expect, but it's the intense emotions of Superman Returns, which set the film apart. Not since Spider-Man have we witnessed a comic book adaptation that quickens the pulse with such giddy abandon, and makes us care so deeply about the protagonists.

The heart-rending story of Superman's forbidden love for Lois Lane propels the film to its rousing finale. Screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris don't quite deliver the knockout emotional blow but they come close. Perhaps they are holding something back for the sequel, which could intensify the superhero's suffering as he wrestles with his true feelings for Lois whilst honouring his responsibilities to a world that can never truly understand him. The story begins five years after the events of Superman II.

The Man of Steel (Brandon Routh) returns to Earth, and his adopted mother Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint), having searched the galaxy in vain for survivors of his home planet. He reveals that Krypton was a graveyard and that he is the last of his kind. "The universe is a large place," responds Martha tenderly. "Even if you are the last, you are not alone.

" In his guise as clumsy reporter Clark Kent, Superman secures his old position working under bombastic editor Perry White (Frank Langella) at The Daily Planet, where he learns that the woman of his dreams, ace reporter Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), has won the Pulitzer Prize for her essay, "Why The World Doesn't Need Superman". More pressingly, she now has a young son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), and a fiance Richard (James Marsden), who is Perry's nephew. Arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is also up to no good, threatening world peace with his latest dastardly scheme, aided by sidekick Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) and his henchmen. When Lois is caught up in a mid-air disaster, caused by Lex's dastardly meddling, Superman flies to the rescue, re-igniting long dormant passions.

Perry immediately assigns Lois to cover the return of the Man of Steel. "Three things sell newspapers: tragedy, sex and Superman," argues Perry. "People are sick of tragedy, we know you can't write a damn about sex..

." So Lois reacquaints herself with Superman, which leaves Richard feeling a tad jealous and insecure. "Were you in love with him?" he asks Lois. "He was Superman - everyone was in love with him," she smiles.

"But were you?" he pushes. "No...

" she answers, pausing a little too long for comfort. Superman Returns holds us spellbound for more than two and a half hours, and when the end credits roll, we hanker for more. The visuals are incredible, from countless scenes of Routh flying to the tour-de-force airplane sequence that reunites the superhero and Lois. In another adrenaline-pumping set piece, Superman faces a gang of heavily armed bank robbers.

One of the thieves, shoots at The Man Of Steel at point blank - in slow motion, we see the bullet implode as it hits Superman's startling blue left eye. Physically, Routh fits the part beautifully and recalls the young Reeve with his classic good looks. He also brings sensitivity to the role, illuminating the terrible burden that Superman must bear alone: "You wrote that the world doesn't need a saviour," he tells Lois, "but every day I hear people crying for one." Screen chemistry smolders with Bosworth, who looks her age (a youthful and fresh-faced 23), which means that Lois would have been barely legal when she and Superman first met.

Supporting performances are colourful, particularly Spacey and Posey, who bicker relentlessly as the devilish, hare-brained master plan unfolds. "You're not a god!" shrieks Kitty. "Gods are selfish beings who fly around in little red capes and refuse to share their power with mankind," snarls Lex. The screenwriters remain faithful to the legacy of the old films, including excerpts of Marlon Brandon in scenes at The Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic.

"My son, you do not remember me. I am Jor-El," he booms, "I am your father. By now, I will have been dead for many thousands of years." With Singer at the helm, Superman soars to breathtaking new heights.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2006, All Rights Reserved.

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