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You’ll believe a man can fly

Superman Returns flyer

Superman Returns flyer

When did the first Superman film come out? 1979 or thereabouts? I seem to recall being 6 or 7, running round the playground with my jacket buttoned round the neck like a cape, arm in front of me. Those days flooded back this afternoon when we saw Superman Returns on the IMAX screen in Auckland.

Yup. Superman. On IMAX. In 3D (partially). With crappy sound, but hey – you can’t have everything.

The tickets were $20, around £6.50. This is how much a cinema ticket goes for in the UK anyway, and only a two quid more than the price of a regular matinée ticket here. Worth every penny.

Things have been great recently for superhero films. Three superb X-Men outings, Batman Begins getting us back on track after Joel Schumaker’s utter abortions, Spiderman throwing away all memories of Mark Hammond’s straight-to-TV nonsense of the 70’s, and now this. Absolutely superb.

The WB logo fades out with a little twiddle at the end that tweaks the memory. Then the music starts up. Short bursts like the opening chords of the Jaws theme. Then the full flurry of that wonderful theme music, the overture that anyone aged 30 or over should be hugely familiar with. The hairs literally stood up on the back of my neck.

The director is Bryan Singer who did the first two recent X-Men films (coincidentally, the guy who was originally listed to do Supes ended up doing X:3) and it shows in the scripting and vision. The effects are utterly wonderful, but what shines through is the story. Anyone who is familiar with the original trilogy (let’s ignore Quest For Peace and pretend it never happened) will feel right at home with the little references. Kevin Spacey steps perfectly into Gene Hackman‘s shoes as Lex Luthor – manic, scary, sneaky. The play between him and his henchwoman perfectly mimics that of the original The Movie. The other henchmen hardly say a word and wear black. More reminiscent of The Penguin’s hoods from the old Batman TV series, but they just work.

As for the new Superman… spot on. He really looks like a young Christopher Reeves. The little smiles, the raised eyebrows, the way he stutters around Lois when posing as Clark. Brilliant. No, I can’t remember his name as I type this up but then, nobody had heard of CR when he took the role all those years ago. As another bonus, the makers have seen fit to update the costume only slightly – it’s more of a Spiderman-like update than a Batman one.

Louise & Clark and Smallville along with the comics themselves have had a big hand in turning Superman into a soap opera over the last 20 or so years. There’s enough backstory and twists in Returns to let them do the same on the cinema screen. I for one and waiting for the next one. There’s no doubting it’s in the pipeline already and I only hope it’s as good as this.

Oh, if any of you out there have children who haven’t yet seen the original films then for crying out loud, get them sat in front of the DVDs immediately. Then take them to see this. It’s the best excuse you’ll have. I don’t need such an excuse. I’m a big kid and everyone knows it!

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