Complementing my moderately negative review
and the blistering review of Evil Robbie Reed
, Ezra Klein has a thoughtful post up about why Superman Returns fails to mirror the narrative success of Batman Begins and the recent Marvel offerings
As the comic book industry matured away from its characters' invincibility and towards their vulnerability, Superman was always the toughest of the bunch. In the old comics and cartoons, they used to just invent new powers by the episode, everything from ice breath to turning back time by reversing the earth's rotation. It was a bit silly. But, at the time, popular. Superman's strength, however, gave way to Wolverine's rages, Spiderman's conscience, Xavier's vision, and Batman's darkness. Comic book characters began fighting themselves, their enemies little more than triggers for their internal conflicts. Superman, lacking these troubles, was left behind.
So the comics had to find ways to subvert his invulnerability. They didn't, generally, do this through strategic usage of kryptonite. Instead, they pitted Superman against his need for public legitimacy (as in when Luthor became president) or his desire to simultaneously have and not endanger loved ones. The movie, however, takes neither of these approaches. Luthor has no public legitimacy, he's a crook with a coterie of morons providing comic relief. His plan appears entirely taken from those crystal growing chemistry kits I had as a kid -- he's going to use the krypton crystal's unexplained ability to sprout in water to create a new continent on which folks will then pay him to live. Oh -- and this continent will fall atop North America killing a bajillion people.