THE 10 OF 2006

# NUMBER 5 :

It’s all about HEART - not that the spectacle falters; this is the finest popular entertainment since the Star Wars trilogy closed. Superman doesn’t fly - he soars. The film is magnificently mounted, it moves like a speeding bullet and it's so respectful of Superman traditions that even the pickiest of die-hard fans should love it. After a lapse of two decades, it revitalizes the franchise and makes it seem fresh and alive.

Grandly conceived and sensitively drawn. 'Superman Returns', which infuses its action with poetry, soars as a love story filled with epic yearnings, thwarted desires and breathtaking imagery.

Would the Man of Steel fly for a new generation of moviegoers? Could Bryan Singer resurrect the series Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve revitalized in 1978, which sputtered out in 1987, three sequels later?

Bryan Singer did the right thing. From the start of this gorgeously crafted epic, you can feel that Singer has real love and respect for the most foursquare comics superhero of them all, as well as a reverence for the Richard Donner version, which serves as his visual and emotional template. In 'Superman Returns' (written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris from a story they cooked up with Singer), the caped crusader for truth, justice and peace... Superman(Brandon Routh) returns to crime-ridden Earth after a five-year detour amid the remains of his home planet. Back in Metropolis - where, as Clark Kent, he gets his old Daily Planet job back, he learns that Lois Lane(Kate Bosworth) has a nice, good-looking live-in boyfriend (James Marsden) and a son, and to add insult to heartbreak, has won a Pulitzer Prize for her article "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman". Also back from a stint behind bars is master criminal Lex Luthor(Kevin Spacey) with heinous plans to create a new continent(?) at the expense of several million lives.

Mr. Singer aroused a feeling that I, as a victim of Chronic Summer Superhero Movie Fatigue Syndrome, wasn't expecting: I felt happy to have Superman back, as if I'd actually missed the guy. You know that you are in the presence of a very high order when a comic-book romance can actually produce a lump in your throat. Newcomer Brandon Routh may or may not be a real actor, but he effortlessly lays claim to the iconic role, just as Christopher Reeve did. Indeed, he virtually duplicates Reeve in the way he plays Kent as a diffident, awkward Midwestern/Smallville colt. Singer cleverly doles out his hero in small portions, so that we're left, like all those awestruck admirers in Metropolis, wanting more glimpses of him than we get.

The movie follows form by making Lex Luthor a comic menace. Spacey, who can do ironic megalomania in his sleep, has a decidedly lighter touch than Gene Hackman. Both he, and Parker Posey as his moll, are great fun to watch. But Luthor's evil schemes are the most nonsensical and forgettable aspects of the movie. Singer's real forte is lyricism. This "Superman", which infuses its action with poetry, soars as a love story filled with epic yearnings, thwarted desires and breathtaking imagery: Lois, spied on with her lover's X-ray vision, ascending in a skyscraper's elevator; Superman, zapped with kryptonite, descending silently and helplessly through space.

This sturdy, poetic fantasy proves that, of all comic-book heroes, the Man of Steel belongs to everyone.

Nothing makes me feel like a kid again like Superman and though 'Superman Returns' wasn't perfect, and could've been edited down, I admired the filmmakers' decision to make the movie, not a reimagining of the myth (a la 'Smallville' and 'Casino Royale' ), but a continuation of a 25-year-old movie series. At the same time they updated matters, and never more so than when Superman takes Lois Lane for yet another ride around Metropolis. As they hover over the city he asks her what she's hears. "Nothing," she says. "I hear everything," he responds. And that's the key. The problem with Superman has always been:

How do you find a credible villain? How do you create drama?

He is SUPERMAN: He should be able to defeat anyone. But perhaps the drama should be in his being Superman. In being able to hear everything. What a burden that must be. 'Superman Returns' suggest this. Not enough, but who knows, maybe that's the direction the sequel will go. Either way, it's good to have the big guy back.

It's good to feel like a kid again.