A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie features some violent images, beginning with the fiery crash of Superman's return vehicle, along with lots of explosions, earth-shakings, giant waves, and an especially harrowing sequence in which a plane almost crashes. There's an earthquake, a bank robbery, and a near-drowning. And lots of bloodless violence: The villain stabs Superman repeatedly, and in a long scene, Superman is kicked and beaten. Someone is crushed by a piano. Some younger kids could be upset by the fact that both mothers and sons are in jeopardy, and some scenes are very sad (Superman grieves for his lost father and his changed relationship with Lois; when he's in the hospital, people worry). Finally, it wouldn't be summer without smoking in a movie (every year it happens in kids' films...) -- Lois carries cigarettes; one scene in a bar shows beer drinking.
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What's the story?
After a five-year absence, Superman returns to Earth. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) now lives with her fiancé, Richard White (James Marsden) and her young son. Paroled from prison, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) starts an electromagnetic pulse that cripples a NASA plane, and Superman shows up just in time to save the frightened passengers (mostly reporters, including Lois). Before Superman travels to the Fortress of Solitude to commune with Jor-El (an archived Marlon Brando), Lex gets there, thrilled and renewed when he finds Jor-El for himself: "I'm his son," gasps Lex, as Jor-El starts dispensing wisdom: "The son becomes the father, the father, the son." To make space for his new self-concept, Lex decides to build his own continent, literally. Accompanied by his moll Kitty (Parker Posey), Lex combines crystals and kryptonite to grow a land mass to serve as his empire's base and to kill Superman. It's a brilliant scheme, nation-building a its most extreme, unnamed and insidious.
Is it any good?
Bryan Singer pays loving homage here to Richard Donner's 1978 Superman: The Movie, but this film features a saddened, more experienced Superman. He's seen the aftermath of world destruction, and so comes with a perspective not quite so boldly idealistic or pompously ideological. Yes, he still means to save this world, but the triumph is less complete now, the costs more visible. Superman's return in this film actually raises the question of why "we" need him. In a post-9/11 world, superheroes might seem idealistic and quaint concepts, even, as Lois has written in a Pulitzer Prize-winning article, "irrelevant."
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