COMMENT: Ebert on Superman Returns

Like Fantastic Four last summer, I feel no sense of urgency about seeing Superman Returns this weekend, if at all, unimpressed by the various trailers I’ve seen or glowing (yet often awkwardly vague, and not in the “avoiding spoilers” sense) reviews I’ve read — but haven’t really been able to put my finger on why, other than never having been a fan of the character and not agreeing with the primary casting choices.

I certainly enjoyed the first two movies — and I have particularly fond memories of the “You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly!” angle for the first one, because it did, in fact, make me believe — even though I’ve never thought as highly of Christopher Reeve’s performances as others apparently do. I was a kid then, of course, and those were simpler times when simpler heroes (and actors) were perhaps easier to swallow. So I was pleased to find Roger Ebert, of all people, with whom I disagree about as often as I agree, find the words for my intuitive lack of interest:

“As for Superman, he’s a one-trick pony. To paraphrase Archimedes: ‘Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the universe.’ Superman doesn’t need the lever or the place to stand, but as he positions himself in flight, straining to lift an airplane or a vast chunk or [sic] rock, we reflect that these activities aren’t nearly as cinematic as what Batman and Spider-Man get up to. Watching Superman straining to hold a giant airliner, I’m wondering: Why does he strain? Does he have his limits? Would that new Airbus be too much for him? What about if he could stand somewhere?

Superman is vulnerable to one, and only one, substance: kryptonite. He knows this. We know this. Lex Luthor knows this. Yet he has been disabled by kryptonite in every one of the movies. Does he think Lex Luthor would pull another stunt without a supply on hand? Why doesn’t he take the most elementary precautions? How can a middle-aged bald man stab the Man of Steel with kryptonite?”

It’s a thoughtful review (including a potential spoiler towards the end) that avoids the over-sentimentilization of the first two movies many of the more positive reviews have been guilty of — I swear there’s an undercurrent of guilt over Reeve’s paralysis and relatively recent death running through most of them — and confirms many of my negative preconceptions about the movie.

I’m sure I’ll catch it sometime down the road on DVD, but when it comes to summer movies I’m really looking forward to and plan to make an effort to see, Pirates of the Caribbean tops my list, as I suspect it will top the box office come summer’s end.

* Action Comics #392 cover from

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