First of all, anybody who is implying that this is somehow re-imagining the franchise is cracked. Yes, some of the characters are re-interpreted as new actors are performing them (most noticably Kate Bosworth's Lois Lane), and the special effects are significantly updated (but honestly don't look better, just different) but there is - as promised - full continuity with Superman: The Movie and Superman II, down to the Kryptonite meteor being the one from Abbas Addaba. The latter two films in the previous franchise have been skipped completely; they aren't discussed at all, and how certain events in this film play out, it is quite clear that they couldn't have happened. That's fine. I don't think anybody really cares to be reminded of the whole Nuclear Man affair even if it really did happen anyway.
Brandon Routh has many resemblances to the late Christopher Reeve; he certainly looks something like him, but what's really shocking is how much he sounds like him. His performance is very much in the mold of Reeve's, especially as Clark. As Superman, however, he is quite a bit more soft-spoken, and it is that relatively minor difference which sticks out the most when he is so eerily echoing Reeve. Either way, Superman is... well, Superman. The whole point of casting an unknown in the role is to allow that Superman persona to be greater than the actor playing him, and Routh does a more than decent job of it.
The transition from Gene Hackman to Kevin Spacey is surprisingly smooth. Spacey is a littler leaner and meaner a Lex Luthor than Hackman's, but then again he's also five bitter years older. As I said before, Bosworth has a very different take on Lois than Margo Kidder, but unfortunately she comes across as more bland than she should be. Frank Langella and James Marsden (wasn't he supposed to be in X3...? Oh, yeah. Right. Snicker) don't really have much to do, with most of the Daily Planet scenes being stolen by Sam Huntington's Jimmy Olsen (again, it's Jimmy Olsen; you can only do him so many ways). Having seen North by Northwest on the big screen fairly recently, it was quite nice to see Eva Marie Saint again, and Noelle Niell and Jack Larson (Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, respectively, in the 50s television series) also have cameos.
The story is okay and hits all of the necessary buttons, and film does so in a reasonably satisfying manner, though you can see some plot developments coming from a mile away. Instead the movie concentrates on its characterization and the ethical quandries Superman faces. While the film definitely has many of the echoes of the Jesus myth, as did Richard Donner's original, here it is balanced by invoking Norse and Greco-Roman imagery, although some of it is more apparent than others (cute Atlas gag). The film kind of has Superman reacting more than acting, though his challenges are moderately well thought-out. It is quite a spectacle (and I do plan to check out the 3-D Imax presentation next week), but at a bloated two and a half hour running time, it is ultimately less than the sum of its parts, perhaps working best as an extension of the previous two films. But it certainly is entertaining.
My first impression of John Ottman's score on the record was essentially the same as it was hearing it in the film... his own material is pretty good, but when the #%&$ hits the fan, Ottman really relies on Williams' material. There is quite a lot more of Williams' music in the film than there is on the album, actually. Ottman manages to integrate this material into his relatively simpler compositional style. When his own music asserts itself the most - as with Lex's theme, for example - it manages to keep itself rather clean and efficient. There are some moments when the score does get a bit overbearing, but it is usually when the film is doing something terribly mythic with Superman, so for the most part it gets away with it.
The Spider-Man 3 trailer looks pretty frickin' good, too...