Kind of sums it up. Serious and adolescent.
The film is a very long two and a half hours. It kind of picks up five years after SUPERMAN II ended, if SUPERMAN II had been made in 2001 rather than 1980.
The film basically begins with Superman crashlanding on the Kent family farm, found in the flaming wreckage by his adoptive mother, played by the sublime Eva Marie Saint, the first in a series of fine actors who don't get nearly enough to do. Superman, we're told in dialogue and in a title card, has been away from earth for about five years on something of an inter-galactic wild goose chase: astronomers apparently found evidence that Krypton had not been destroyed after all, and Superman just had to check it out. Turns out those pesky scientists were wrong, and Superman has come back home.
In the interim, life has gone on, mankind has moved on, even Lois Lane has gotten on with it: she's now married and a mom. Even that consummate cad Lex Luthor has kept busy, shaking down a wealthy widow and starting up a particularly unpleasant scheme to clean up in real estate and destroy Superman.
Okay. So there's some cool stuff. Superman's big return to action is kind of neat, and has a nifty kicker that I won't spoil. I like Luthor's big nasty plan to grow another continent with crystals pilfered from Superman's Fortress of Solitude. I like the improved flying effects. There is a new intimacy in the way Superman and Lois are able to cling to each other and spin around and still talk. I liked Parker Posey and James Marsden, who deliver the only intelligent and appealing performances in the entire movie. They are the only people in the entire two and a half hours I gave a damn about. Posey plays Luthor's moll, kind of the 2006 equivalent of Valerie Perrine's Ms. Teschmacher from the original. She manages to take a rather stereotypically conceived role and plays it with some zest and fun, and her growing appreciation of Superman's virtues is the sole instance of a character changing in the course of the film. Marsden, after being wasted in not one, not two, but three X-Men films, is very appealing also, similarly breathing life into the thankless role of Mr. Lois Lane. Please, someone, give him a franchise, hopefully one where he can appear shirtless occasionally.
Okay, so the big problem with the casting is that someone somewhere decided to cast the two leads real young. Brandon Routh as Superman and a completely forgettable person named Kate Bosworth as Lois may be the same ages as Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were when they played the roles, but they can't make me believe that they've completed their first summer internships. They just don't have the weight and gravity, and certainly nowhere near the wit and warmth, that most average adults should have and that Reeve and Kidder brought to their versions of the characters. Try an experiment: think of Margot Kidder flashing those bedroom eyes at Christopher Reeve, asking him what color underwear she's wearing, and try to imagine Kate Bosworth doing the same thing. Or even better: try to remember Kate Bosworth at all.
See what I mean? Ms. Bosworth doesn't register. She doesn't need to hike up her panties and sing Dixie, but she should at least do something. How on earth director Bryan Singer didn't re-cast Parker Posey as Lois Lane after seeing the first rushes (or even after the first read-through, if there was such a thing) is beyond me.
Mr. Routh is okay as Superman/Clark Kent, solid and warm and virtuous, doing his best as clumsy Clark Kent and filling out the classic outfit very nicely as Superman. But. It takes two to tango. If Superman is going to be solid and dependable and, well, Superman, that means that Lois Lane is gonna have to add some spice to the central relationship of the film. It don't happen, and it is the film's biggest problem.
As for Mr. Spacey's alleged performance, well, what can I say. Ian McKellen he ain't. Never has an actor underplayed so hard to so little effect, and then suddenly started over-acting still harder to even less effect. I was reminded of William Hurt's horrific over-acting in last year's HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. This is what happens when stiff unimaginative monotone actors decide to show aspects of their talent that just plain aren't there. Was Gene Hackman unavailable, or uninterested, or what?
It may seem unfair to continually compare Mr. Routh and Ms. Bosworth and that Spacey creature with their counterparts in the original films, but the film invites these comparisons. Using the John Williams title theme and even the same stylized opening credits, they are clearly setting up a continuity with the older films, ill-advisedly.
So Happy Fourth Of July.