By Steven D. Gredanus
Along with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Richard Donner’s iconic 1978 film Superman, with its comic-book tale of mythic good vs. evil and grandly nostalgic fantasy and adventure, helped to define the vibe of post–Easy Rider age Hollywood.
Though disaffected critics dismissed these action-packed films as mere escapist spectacle, they were in fact infused with something more. The Force in Star Wars represented an overt appeal to the idea of religious mystery, of the numinous, of good and evil as more than human categories. Raiders of the Lost Ark explicitly wove Judeo-Christian awe of the sacred and dread of sacrilege into a story in which evil — represented by the 20th century’s most reliable icons of evil, the Nazis — is ultimately defeated not by rugged action hero Indiana Jones, but by no less than the God of the Hebrews himself.
The whole thing is here: http://www.decentfilms.com/sections/reviews/supermanreturns.html.
MB: Greydanus is on target. I wouldn't give the film an A- as he does; B+, at the most. There are too many salutes to the first two flicks, too young a Lois Lane and even too young a Superman for my money. And some other problems I won't bore people with here.
Even so, there's a lot of interesting stuff in this film. Read Greydanus for the scoop. I'll underscore only one point in his superb review: the fact that we have the beginnings here of a Superman who inspires deep self-sacrifice in others. The problem with Superman in the first two flicks is that he is largely a Savior from the outside, even though we are led by his Kryptonian father to expect otherwise. Superman saves us from external threats. What mankind needs is a Savior who can transform us from the inside--save us from ourselves, make us into little Supermen. And that requires a Savior who is one of us--as Superman isn't--and yet who isn't one of us, who can work in our souls. It demands one who can truly suffer for us and enable us to transform the meaning of our own suffering. Superman Returns doesn't quite get there, but it's headed in the right direction.