Sure, Superman Returns is worth seeing on the big screen, but is it worth seeing on the really, really big screen? Not only has the movie been simultaneously released in IMAX format, but a few minutes have been converted to 3D. The movie’s publicists say there’s 20 minutes of 3D footage, but I saw the modified movie last night, and it feels like less; in any case, 20 minutes out of 157 amounts to just 1/8 of the movie.
There are four such visually enhanced sequences: a flashback to Clark Kent’s joyous early flying experiences in a Smallville cornfield; Superman’s midair rescue of a disintegrating jumbo jet (pictured); a shipwreck and rescue sequence; and some final moments of Superman flying solo. Of these, the plane wreck is the most impressive; you’ll feel like the jet is being dropped into your lap. Otherwise, Superman’s feats (and the FX behind them) are generally impressive enough that the 3D effect seems superfluous. I’d say that, if you’re just seeing the regular 2D version at the multiplex, you’re not missing much.
That said, the giant-screen IMAX format does suit Bryan Singer’s sprawling epic, with its grand vistas of the Metropolis cityscape, or Lex Luthor’s vast, black, desolate, crystalline island. You can see every vulcanized thread in Superman’s costume and every villainous pore in Kevin Spacey’s face. But the 3D aspect does give me a new appreciation for Clark Kent. Now I have an idea how it feels to be gifted with unusual visual powers — and to have to wear big, stupid glasses.