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Superman vs. Pirates - Who Wins?

Pirates of the CaribbeanThe mega budget films "Superman Returns" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" have been out for a couple of weeks now. If you're like me, you probably didn't rush out to see either film immediately, but by now you may have seen them both. Which is better?

I know what the box office numbers are saying. "Superman," which was released on June 28 currently stands at $164.3 million while "Dead Man's Chest," which opened a week later on July 7, stands at a whopping $258.3 million.

Does that mean "Dead Man's Chest" is a better film than "Superman"?

The critics certainly don't think so. "Superman" has consistently ranked higher than "Pirates" on review sites like Metacritic and Rottentomatoes.

Then why isn't it doing as well? Anyone?

Superman ReturnsI can't figure it out. I've seen them both and "Superman" wins hands down. Sure, there are a few plot holes whose rationales were not entirely satisfying, but overall it's a strong film and a solid reentry into the Superman saga. "Dead Man's Chest" isn't much different than the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" - except it's not as good. This installment is waaaaaaaaay too long, contrived and flat. There's also so much CGI that your head will hurt after it's over.

What's interesting is that "Superman" is technically 7 minutes longer than "Dead Man's Chest," but it doesn't feel that way. Maybe it's because you care about the characters more. Maybe it's because you're captivated by Brandon Routh's performance as both the Man of Steel and his alter ego Clark Kent. Honestly, I didn't go in to "Superman" thinking I'd like it very much. I've been a Christopher Reeve fan ever since he first donned the red cape, so I wasn't prepared to accept another actor in the role -- but I did.

Don't get me wrong, I love Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski's work. Just... not... here. At least not enough to pay the $9.50 per person at the theater to see "Dead Man's Chest." I was only glad I saw it because it got me out of the summer heat for two and a half hours.

"Superman Returns" is another story. I'm considering seeing it again, but this time on IMAX 3D to get those extra minutes of footage shot just for that venue.

Who's with me? -- Shannon Nolley

Posted by Shannon on July 18, 2006 11:13 PM
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i LOVE johnny deep as the dread pirate sparrow however, pirates two was just...well stupid in places. the gags were far to contrived and i was bored in places.
superman had me from the start. brandon was brilliant. kevin was just fantastic as always. loved every second of it. i had no idea it was longer then pirates! arrrrrr

-- Posted by: Laura at July 19, 2006 12:36 AM

What was wrong with Superman? It was overlong and boring. And talk about plot holes... we could go on all day about what didn't work and why. The kid? An awful plot point that they are now stuck with. Brandon Routh had no personality; Kate Bosworth, besides being WAY too young to play this part, was annoying, not fiesty the way Lois should be; Kevin Spacey was too restrained. And what more could they shove into this movie? They bring him back, give him a kid, have Lois in love with someone else, have Lex try to take over the world (with land that no one could live on for maybe a few hundred thousand years), practically kill Superman and whatever else I may have forgotten. At least Pirates was mindless entertainment that I could enjoy for two and a half hours. Superman was a good time to take a nap.

-- Posted by: Chris at July 19, 2006 7:48 AM

I'm with you! I've seen SR 8 times so far and I love it more each time. IMAX is INCREDIBLE - just an amazing experience! I have no interest in Pirates - so I won't be seeing it. I have also heard that it is not a very good film. Give me Superman over some crazy pirates any day of the week! :)

-- Posted by: Genine at July 19, 2006 10:57 AM

Are you kidding me Superman Returns sucked!!!! It was too long, the characters didn't have any charisma, there wasn't enough action, it's wack that Superman has a kid (does he owe super child, Superman looks weak towards the end, and it was too soupy, geez!! I expected more out this movie, and just didn't deliver. The visuals were good and some the action scenes werem cool. I would of preferred Tom Welling playing Superman.

-- Posted by: Courtney at July 19, 2006 11:25 AM

Ignore for a minute, if you will, which movie was better. The question is, why is Pirates a better draw? The fact is, that's the movie people wanted to be made.

Superman was made not because Singer & company had the passion & story to make it. It's because the studio wanted to hop on the bandwagon of superhero movies. They spent ten years & $60 million in development before Singer ever signed on. As Smallville heads into it's sixth season, there's already something out there for people who want to see a Superman story. The studio should have either taken Smallville to the big screen after it's run on TV finished, or sat on it for another ten years.

Pirates on the other hand, people were seriously jonesing to see. The first film was phenominal, and Depp's performance was so good he got an Oscar nod for a commedic role (very rare). There was a thirst in the audience to see more of these characters. And that has been reflected in an outpouring of box office results, despite the panning from the critics.

So regardless of the quality of the films, Pirates was going to outdraw Superman. The market was simply hungry for one, and not the other.

-- Posted by: Jason at July 19, 2006 12:30 PM

I haven't seen Pirates/Dead man's Chest, but I've seen Superman Returns and I understand perfectly why the film is doing so poorly. Take away the special FX, and the film has no heart. There are plenty of reviews out there that can point by point, tell you exactly what's wrong with the film.
The plot holes aren't "minor", they're gaping chasms. Characterization is as flat as it can be. You're given no reason to invest yourself emotionally into the story, or the characters.
The SPARK that existed between Reeve and Kidder is totally absent between Routh and Bosworth.

The introduction of the kid in the film is the first sign of the movie jumping the shark..The kid is a tag-along character that may as well have been a sack of groceries. The audience already figured out who daddy was waaaaay before the scene with the piano. It was anticlimactic. There was no reason to care.
I won't even begin to delve into the "dead beat dad" aspect.

Kevin Spacey's best scenes were in the theatrical trailers. His talent was otherwise wasted.
This film was way too short on substance, and I was VERY aware of how LONGGGG the film was while watching it.
Singer drew too heavily from Donner, and it comes across as a poor simulation of a Donner film. I believe Superman1 and Superman2 are STILL superior films.
If Donner had available to him then the special effects technology of today, his efforts would further shame Superman Returns.
I'm as much a Superman fan as anyone, but I'm not wearing blinders. For the money invested in this production, audiences were short changed on story.
Word of mouth spreading is why this film is trailing so far behind, bank on it.

-- Posted by: Jerry at July 19, 2006 6:50 PM

Superman sucked big time! It was so long that it creeped me out. The story line was a super drag and by the end of it I nearly fell asleep! It's funny that critics find this movie better than Pirates when the latter clearly wins hands down! MAYBE THE QUALITY OF CRITICS ARE NOSE DIVING THESE DAYS!!! That can be one possible answer to your question: ["The critics certainly don't think so. "Superman" has consistently ranked higher than "Pirates" on review sites like Metacritic and Rottentomatoes.

Then why isn't it doing as well? Anyone?"]

or maybe they have only a vague knowledge of the word "Entertainment"! Whatever it is critics definitely lost their face on this one!

-- Posted by: Pal at July 19, 2006 7:35 PM

Below is a good portion of a typical review of Superman Returns I shamelessly lifted. I think its a fair objective assessment of the film.

"Superman Returns" ends without a place of its own in cinema history -- other than the most expensive film to date. It borrows from, and kowtows to the original "Superman" films so heavily you'd think it owed them back rent. The actors play dress up, diligently saying their lines like a "Superman" revival company but never owning their characters.

There's no spark. No life. A chuckle here or there but no romantic tension, no wit, no inspiration. Even the one sparkling line "It's a bird, it's a plane" was a reference to the originals. What the film does have is money. Almost $300 million worth of special effects, gigantic set pieces and however much it cost to tailor that costume. This isn't a bad film, just a desperately disappointing one. The pace is solid and the many action scenes are stellar -- especially the shuttle mission, train set sequence, city destruction and telling piano push -- but they can't carry the film. There's deep emotional and philosophical stuff being said, but it feels shallow. Even the scene with Superman and a sleeping little boy -- which should give chills and water the eyes -- isn't as moving as a moment between Adam Sandler and The Fonz in silly little "Click." It's a combination of the writing and acting.. The script takes for granted that we already know and love them, and the actors don't have enough oomph to connect the dots.

It's not Brandon Routh's fault, really; they picked him for his resemblance to Christopher Reeve, but Routh's Superman was hopelessly bland. His dorky side, Clark Kent, at least has the suggestion of personality. Routh is the Al Gore of Supermen.

Lois (Kate Bosworth) -- A single mom and Pulitzer Prize winner for the article "Why the world doesn't need Superman." Her Lois Lane is lifeless too. At least Bosworth's version of her is, or should I blame director Bryan Singer? Margot Kidder has shown this character can (and should) have moxie -- a great foil for the wholesome Reeve. Gene Hackman's more comedic Lex Luthor gave Reeve another front to work with -- diabolical cleverness and a way with sharp one-liners. Kevin Spacey is no stranger to creating iconic characters and in a film with this much Wonder Bread, his Luthor had plenty of room to run wild. But even he's not exciting. Not the kind of villain you love to hate or even hate to hate. I want to care about all of them but I'm left cold, as wistful for the past as the filmmakers.
The point isn't to compare "Superman Returns" to its predecessors -- though the retro opening sequence won't let you forget -- but to show how originality can wipe slates clean. Reeve didn't invent the characters. Neither did original director Richard Donner. But they made their mark and it stuck. Consider last year's "Batman Begins." Christopher Nolan and company went out on a limb and it worked. It could have failed, and even then it would have been admirable in its attempt. That's what I expected from Singer. I can't say what was in his mind, but clearly it wasn't originality, or even a real interpretation of Superman mythology. This was more a "fan of Donner film" than the re-introduction of Superman to the big screen. The movie suffers immeasurably because of it.

-- Posted by: jerry at July 20, 2006 12:38 PM

Well, I don't think that's exactly a "typical" review of the film, but I don't entirely disagree with it either. Generally, I don't read reviews because I rarely find them accurate anyway. I mentioned them solely as another way to compare the films.

The whole kid thing is one of those major plot holes that I was unhappy with. The kryptonite exposure at the end was another.

I also think Bosworth's Lois Lane was flat. I think someone like Amanda Peet would have been a better match.

I still think Routh did a good job. I also think Spacey was a great Lex (though I love him in just about anything so I could be biased).

I too would have preferred more substance to the film, but I thought it was a good attempt to draw in a new generation of fans by using traditional characters (the kid aside).

Good point, Jason, about the public's desire for the second "Pirates" film. I think you may be right about that.

As for Chris' comment that "Pirates" was at least mindless entertainment - well, that's why I hated it so much. It was completely mindless. I was bored out of my head. I don't like paying full ticket price to see something mindless.

Love it or hate it, at least "Superman" gives us more to chew on.

-- Posted by: shannon at July 20, 2006 1:17 PM

Here are a couple more "typical" reviews of Superman Returns, and a link to another by Roger Ebert..

This is the last time I'll post on this subject. I just want to make the point for every "good" review" of this film, there's reviews like these that don't gloss over the movie's glaring faults. Because of these failings, you see debates on message boards over this film. Is that a good thing? Not when Warner Bros. has invested the Millions that it has. Spiderman 2 is the standard these films should be measured against. Banking alone on Superman's stature as an established icon is a bad gamble. Especially in the light of films of the quality of Spiderman2 and Batman Begins. The bar has been raised and special effects alone won't meet it.

Movie Review: 'Superman Returns' fails to fly

By Tony Robinson
Movie Critic

I’m a comic book fan. While I’m not an apologist, I enjoy many comic book movies that others flat-out hate. I’ve never been a big fan of Superman, but I have to admit that I love Christopher Reeve’s portrayal as the Man of Steel.

So now after nearly 10 years of development and 250 million dollars, Superman Returns hits the big screen. When X-Men 1 & 2 director Bryan Singer was hired it seemed like a match made in Heaven. He should have been the savior to bring Superman back to life and help reclaim his status as the king of all superheroes. While I really wanted it to be good it just doesn’t happen.

In this film, Superman returns to Earth after spending five years in space searching for remnants of his homeworld. In that time, the world and Lois Lane in particular have moved on without him. She’s a mother now and has a fiancé. Just as Superman re-establishes himself in Metropolis, he not only has to repair his relationship with Lois, but deal with the re-emergence of criminal mastermind Lex Luthor.

Director Bryan Singer has made this film as a love letter to the 1978 Christopher Reeve classic. It’s basically an updated version of that film dressed up as a modern continuation, but it lacks soul and feels cold and impersonal. What you get is nearly three hours of a moody, brooding, pondering Man of Steel.

Superman has always been the boy scout of the D.C. universe, standing proud and tall for truth, justice and the American way (they leave that third part out in this film). Now you get a self-conscious, doubting superhero that possesses none of the spirit of the character or the old Christopher Reeve films.

The film is somber and overly reflective when it should be exciting and adventurous. Bryan Singer fills the movie with way too many shots of Superman floating in space, looking down upon the Earth as a lonely sentinel, helping humanity but remaining cold and distant from the people to which he tends.

The trend to have an overly analytical view of a superhero’s psyche is one of the reasons people hated 2003’s Hulk so much. I loved that movie and the approach, but the dual nature of Hulk/Bruce Banner lends itself more to this type of storytelling. The same holds true for Batman, D.C.’s other flagship character. Superman should be playfully innocent if not campy and the tone of this movie just doesn't fit.

Christopher Reeve, in particular, brought an exuberance and joy to the role of Superman and Clark Kent that is desperately missing here. Newcomer Brandon Routh not only looks like Reeve, but he sounds like him to boot. It’s too bad he didn’t or wasn’t allowed to let Reeve’s good spirit shine through. I would liked to have seen what kind of Superman he could deliver instead of only coming off as a stiff imitator

There also isn’t a whole lot of action in this movie and what we do get is a rehash of the super-rescues seen in previous films. Those types of stunts, now aided by computer images, were spectacular in 1978 but now they seem tired, bored and rehashed. We deserve to see something new.

The one set piece that really works happens early in the film when Superman thinks back to childhood days when he discovered his powers. It’s the one lighthearted and adventurous portion of the film and there should have been more moments like this.

Kevin Spacey does his best playing the villainous Lex Luthor, but some of his dialogue is awkward and clunky and some of his humor fails miserably. Parker Posey could have been interesting as his sidekick but her role is a complete waste.

Kate Bosworth plays a credible Lois Lane, but it’s difficult to believe someone so young would be a famous award-winning journalist. Minor characters such as Perry White (Frank Langella) and Jimmy Olson are fun and effective, but they aren’t nearly enough to carry this film.

This is basically a $250 million romantic drama and it doesn’t work on even that level. The film’s love triangle doesn’t work because the writers haven’t given us a reason to believe the romance between Superman and Lois except for what has happened in previous films. In fact, her fiancé comes off as heroic and probably deserves Lois much more than Superman does; which makes her look bad for being so tormented.

So the movie isn’t an effective romantic drama, it isn’t a particularly effective superhero movie, it offers no new thrills, it’s too talky and is way too long. That’s not a good sign for a movie needing to make nearly half a billion dollars to turn a profit.

I didn’t have high expectations going into this film, but I expected a lot more. I’m not a hater. I’m a full-on comic book geek and I enjoy some of the most mediocre superhero flicks (I admit it). But for the amount of time and money spent on such an important film, it really is a disgrace how bland and lackluster it turns out to be. Superman Returns is nowhere near the worst movie of the year, but it is the most disappointing.

Ok, I'm ready. Let the onslaught of e-mails begin.

Superman Returns
Rated PG-13

And of course, the link to Roger Ebert's review..

Director Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns fails to find what motivates a superhero.
By Scott Renshaw

Director Bryan Singer doesn’t waste any time letting you know that he’s going retro for his franchise re-boot Superman Returns. The block-letter opening credits swoop and whoosh just the way they did in Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman; in the background, John Williams’ rousing fanfare plays. Marlon Brando intones the voice of Superman’s father Jor-El from his original performance. Even Brandon Routh’s squeaky-voiced delivery as Clark Kent provides frightening echoes of Christopher Reeve. Singer wants to return us to that time when, as the tag line famously announced, we could “believe a man can fly”—because at last, special effects technology had allowed comic book pages to come to life.

Nearly 30 years and an immeasurable number of gigabytes later, it’s no longer exactly a problem convincing audiences that a man can fly, or shoot webs. But the bar has been raised—by the likes of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, or even last year’s Batman Begins—for the psychological depth given to super-powered folks in tights.

That’s a crucial missing piece in a story that embraces Superman as an icon rather than an individual. It’s set 5 years after the events of Superman II, with Superman (Routh) having just returned from a quest to see whatever might remain of his home planet of Krypton. The world has had to figure out how to go on without him, with Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth)—now a single mom with a son coincidentally around 5 years old—having taken the departure most personally. Everyone is thrilled to know the Man of Steel is back—with the exception of Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), recently freed from prison and armed with a plan to use Superman’s history against the world.

Singer, of course, has plenty of experience by now with big-budget comic book adaptations after his work on the first two X-Men movies, so it’s not surprising that he has a firm grip on action sequences like the jet-in-peril set piece. He also gets great work from Spacey—who won his Oscar for the Singer-directed The Usual Suspects—whose take on Luthor brings more pure malevolence than Gene Hackman’s. Great villains are half the battle in comic book adaptations, so Superman Returns would seem to be on solid ground.

But the other half of that battle is creating a compelling dilemma for the protagonist, and it’s there that the script by X2 writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris hits a wall of steel. The big hook is supposed to be the triangle involving Supes, Lois and her new beau Richard (X-Men’s James Marsden), and the lingering bitterness from Lois’ Pulitzer Prize-winning essay “Why We Don’t Need Superman.” That would require some kind of spark between Bosworth and Routh, whose face seems as impervious to emotion as his curly forelock does to dishevelment. We never feel the tension of lovers separated by a hero’s duty and his desire for a normal life.

Perhaps, that’s because—at least as far as we can tell—Lois is only really in love with the idea of Superman. And that’s not terribly surprising, because Singer himself seems mostly to be in love with that idea as well. He’s making a movie about our need for hope in a dark time, trying to cobble his Superman/Jesus metaphors to the necessary machinations of a blockbuster. The result is something slightly aloof—a hero only briefly allowing us to touch his cape before he’s off to the Fortress of Solitude.

It’s kind of a shame, because Singer has actually crafted a comic book movie confident enough not to shout every scene at us. A meteor crashes in one scene not with a spectacular explosion, but with a distant, muffled thud; one climactic moment comes and goes without the expected whoop-it-up kaboom. But these muted moments are matched by a muted personality, nothing remotely close to the simple exhilaration of the first two Reeve Superman films.

Late in Superman Returns, Lois stares at a blinking cursor, frustrated in her attempt to create an essay titled “Why We Need Superman.” With his attention to abstraction rather than inner life, Singer never manages to come up with a decent answer either. It’s not enough to believe a man can fly. We need to believe that the thing flying is actually a man.


-- Posted by: Jerry at July 21, 2006 11:49 PM

Pirates is mega crap compared to Superman Returns.

When you realy think about it, in say 20 years, or even 10, Pirates of the Carribean won't be heard of. Superman Will always be there.

Brandon Routh did a great job of emulating the man of steel. He pulled off not only a believeable Clark Kent, but he was one of the most powerful encarnations of Superman I have ever seen.

Superman also has an iconic theme, Pirates theme is quite unforgettable.

Superman will always be the greatest Superhero of all time and is I think about the 5th most recognisable symbol in the world.

So what this pirates show we were talking about again?

-- Posted by: Jack Donovan at July 23, 2006 11:26 PM

typical "hardcore fanboy" answers to any intelligent issues in dissecting a film.
Superman is known round the world, big deal. We're talking grown up stuff here, the film's merit. I agree with the thoughtful reviews, not meaningless ravings of a fan.

-- Posted by: Harry at July 24, 2006 8:24 AM

Those who believe Pirates is better are quite simply WRONG!!! They are deluded fools who wouldn't know good film making if it sat on their faces! I can't believe idiots are saying Pirates is better simply because it made more money - COME ON!!! Remember the Phantom Menace anyone - that made LOADS at the box office but was by far the weakest of the Star Wars films.

In fact, we're not even going to have this conversation - Superman was awesome; it was full of character, depth and love. Pirates was just full of shit!!!

-- Posted by: john at July 28, 2006 1:10 PM

Those who believe Pirates is better are quite simply WRONG!!! I can't believe people are saying Pirates is better simply because it made more money - COME ON!!! Remember the Phantom Menace anyone - that made LOADS at the box office but was by far the weakest of the Star Wars films.

In fact, we're not even going to have this conversation - Superman was awesome; it was full of character, depth and love. Pirates was just full of shit!!!

-- Posted by: john at July 28, 2006 1:11 PM

And once again another post devoid of any real substance other than the ravings of a "fanboy".

-- Posted by: Harry at July 28, 2006 2:27 PM

pirates wins

-- Posted by: roop45 at July 31, 2006 10:40 AM

I didnt like Superman Returns. I was highly disappointed when i went to see it, after reading the comic books most of my life and seeing Singers other movies, I came out of the theatre feeling ripped off.

Why? It was too long, there wasnt enough action and I dont like chick flicks. The comics arent packed full of romance or drama (at least not as much as the movie) so why did Singer feel the need to put it in?

I despised the new Superman and this messianic feel he has to him. Reeves showed more emotion when he played Superman and acted better than Routh. In the comics Superman is a regular joe when interacting with people, he doesnt come off as a sort of saviour figure and I think this is were the movie dissapoints me most. I believe that this Superman movie doesnt have a heart like the comics or the Donner movies.

Having said all that - this would be how I'd rate this summers blockbusters.

Top Three Movies for Me This Summer
1. Pirates 2 8/10
2. X men 3 7/10
3. Superman Returns 6/10

Pirates was too long, X-men killed off their main character five mins into the movie and Superman just sucked.

-- Posted by: Matthew Brown at August 20, 2006 6:32 PM

Harry, You seem to like putting down the fan boys. Well then, I can tell you Superman Returns was WAY better than Pirates, Because of it's film aesthtics, including, musical score, cinimatography, special Effects, and Direction. Superman had many subtle underlying jokes put in, as only a Fanboy would know about.

In fact why shouldn't a person make a comment about a film that he is a fan of?

-- Posted by: Jack Donovan at August 21, 2006 1:49 AM


The problem with "fan boys" and their mindless praises is just that. Its all based on mindless enthusiasm and devoid of any intellectual appreciation or discernment for what is truly art and good story telling as opposed to a film like Returns which for fan boys was the equivalent to catching a Deer at night with high beams. Fan boys refuse to be honestly objective in what's good or bad in film regarding the object of their affection. That's why their opinions are worthless.

-- Posted by: Jerry at October 23, 2006 6:48 AM


The problem with "fan boys" and their mindless praises is just that. Its all based on mindless enthusiasm and devoid of any intellectual appreciation or discernment for what is truly art and good story telling as opposed to a film like Returns which for fan boys was the equivalent to catching a Deer at night with high beams. Fan boys refuse to be honestly objective in what's good or bad in film regarding the object of their affection. That's why their opinions are worthless.

-- Posted by: Jerry at October 23, 2006 6:50 AM

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