Better than I expected.
I’ll go into more depth, but that was my initial impression when Bryan Singer showed off his clip of Superman Returns during last Saturday’s Q&A panel at Comic Con in San Diego (it was the only major film I managed to catch the presentation for). He significantly downplayed the clip before running it, describing it as very rough footage even though it basically could serve as a finished trailer (co-writer Dan Harris assembled the clip) — a successful gambit that helped earn Singer a standing ovation from the crowd, although not everyone was equally impressed (Nick thought it’d be cooler with a giant shark). I’m still not entirely sold on the movie myself, perhaps because I have so little interest in the character, but the footage goes a little further toward convincing me to buy a ticket when it’s released next summer.
The clip begins on the Kent farm, and we quickly learn that Superman (and Clark Kent, of course) has been away from Earth for a few years seeking remnants of his home planet (the film takes place after the first Superman film, although Singer will apparently incorporate elements of Superman II), during which time Lois Lane has married Richard White, the son of her boss, Daily Planet owner Perry White. The world at large seems relatively impartial to Superman’s return – during his absence, his necessity was called into question – but Perry knows it’ll sell papers, and at least one smooth-skulled villain is concerned with the last Kryptonian’s return. There are quick clips of Clark and Superman attempting to reconnect with Lois, scenes from some kind of jet disaster, Lex Luthor looking ominous, and then the money shot – Superman hovering just above the atmosphere, his cape barely rustled in the still vacuum of space, and then launching down toward the surface with a burst of light and a sonic boom that drew cheers from the crowd.
Nearly everyone in the major roles seems a good fit – Frank Langella as Perry White is a particularly great choice (he actually replaced Hugh Laurie, who bowed out when his TV series House got renewed). James Marsden, who I barely recognized without his Cyclops glasses, is once again getting the short straw in the superhero love triangle but seems decent enough in the runner-up position. Kevin Spacey didn’t have much screen time but glowered appropriately and smirked menacingly. Despite some evident technology upgrades (the Daily Planet bullpen is a maze of high-def monitors), the movie is obviously going out of its way to retain the aesthetic of the original (Luthor grips a crystal shaft like the one that “activated” the Fortress of Solitude), and the clip wisely utilized John Williams’ original score and posthumous voiceover from Supes’ dad Marlon Brando.
The bad news? Kate Bosworth is all sorts of wrong for the role of Lois, dark wig or not. Much like I thought Kirsten Dunst was horrendously miscast as Spidey’s gal Mary Jane Watson (Alicia Witt or Jessica Biel, where were you?!?), Bosworth has the potential to bring down what could be an otherwise great comic adaptation, particularly since she’s obviously the focus of the film (I have no idea what the actual main threat of the movie is, despite seeing the clip twice, but there’s sure to be plenty of relationship drama).
As for unknown quantity Brandon Routh in the title role… nothing to worry about there. His appearance, demeanor and line delivery feel more like an impersonation of Christopher Reeve than natural acting, but if Singer is shooting for some kind of continuity from previous film incarnations, that’s not only expected but perhaps beneficial. And he looks pretty nifty in the suit, too. Note to Warner Bros. — putting this clip online somewhere would surely make for many happy faces.