Among geek cognoscenti, 2006’s Superman Returns may be one of the most divisive superhero films of the last decade. On the one hand, it was kinda slow, Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane was about as feisty as a damp sponge, and the entire endeavor was oddly slavish to the Richard Donner-era Superman films – which many young theatergoers had never seen.
On the other hand, the Richard Donner-era Superman films are still among the very best superhero movies ever. More to the point, Superman Returns had soul. Director Bryan Singer dared to give the Man of Steel real pathos, and to make the film far more personal and idiosyncratic than your average cookie cutter comic book flick (coughhackGreenLanternhackingcough).
Now that Singer’s original opening for the film has hit the interwebs – it’s a deleted scene extra on the Superman Anthology Blu-ray edition – that debate is likely to get even louder. Because, you guys, this scene is just plain weird. It chronicles Supes’ trip back to the remains of his home planet of Krypton, and, well, check it out for yourself:
Bizarre, right? Why is the erstwhile Kal-El in a grey unitard? Wouldn’t he want something a bit more roomy for an intergalactic journey? Why is there a Superman “S” carved into the rock face? Who left it there, Jor-El? Braniac? Mr. Mxyplyzyk? And why does Superman seem surprised that the remains of Krypton would be, you know, completely made of kryptonite? And yet, this original opening serves as an elegant set up for the final act of the movie, in which (SPOILER ALERT!) Superman nearly died lifting Lex Luthor’s kryptonite-infested island away from Earth and into space. The sequence’s brittle, quasi-Kubrickian beauty also, ironically, reminds me of the Dr. Manhattan-on-Mars sequences from 2009’s Watchmen – which was directed by Zack Snyder, who is currently hard at work on the Superman reboot Man of Steel.
So is it a good thing that Singer cut it, or should he have just let Superman Returns’ freak flag fly proudly? Probably the former, but my goodness, would that have been an interesting moviegoing experience if it’d been the latter. What do you make of it?
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