starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Kevin Spacey
screenplay by Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
directed by Bryan Singer
by Walter Chaw The saddest, most desperately lonesome and melancholy mainstream film in recent memory, Bryan Singer's Superman Returns is about loss and, as a Scrabble board early in the picture denotes, alienation. It's about fathers and sons and, by extension, why so many of our mythologies are about sons divorced from fathers who spend the rest of their lives, nay, the rest of eternity striving for impossible reunions. Prometheus is mentioned by name while Atlas, Christ, and Lucifer are referenced in image, Singer's transition from fallen Titans to fallen Angels an ineffably graceful symbolic examination of where, exactly, comic-book martyrs and gods (of which Superman is both) place in the modern spiritual pantheon. Superman is a figure at a juncture in the middle of pagan and Christian just as he's become something like a transitional icon bridging science and religion, classic comics and the modern superhero era, and Americana and the Wasteland. In the film, Superman is a character warring between what he wants and the destiny his father has charted for him--and aren't we all. When a child in Superman Returns takes a picture with his cell phone that we recognize as the cover for Superman's debut, 1938's "Action Comics" No. 1, it's at once bemused and in love with Richard Donner's original vision of the hero, but most of all it's eloquent in its assured, maybe even prickly, recognition of where we were and what we've become.