June 12, 2006

A&E Salutes Man of Steel in Superman Documentary

By Erik Pedersen

LOS ANGELES -- Look, up on the screen! It's a religious allegory! It's post-Depression American history! It's ... an ad for a big summer movie.

Cynicism aside, A&E's "Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman" is a well-made, reverent tribute to the king of superheroes.

But only the most fervent fans of "the most virtuous man on Earth" can be expected to weather its ambitious two-hour running time. Still, that's a sizable chunk of potential viewers.

"Look, Up in the Sky" is a meticulous chronology of the beloved character, crammed with facts and commentary.

Beginning with a slick montage of his various incarnations in various media, the documentary weaves together clips, stills and a parade of familiar and not-so-familiar faces discussing the impact Superman had on their lives and the world.

It also flirts with some bigger issues, such as "what it means to be a hero" and the Man of Steel sometimes being the symbol of a struggling nation.

One of the most interesting aspects of Superman and the program is the evolution of his skills, morals and motivation. But more screen time is understandably given to the lives and fates of George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, the two actors most closely associated with the character.

Ultimately, the show whets appetites for the superhero's next assignment, "Superman Returns," which hits theaters this month.

Kevin Spacey, who plays archvillain Lex Luthor in the film, delivers mostly uninspired narration, as if under contractual obligation. But fans of the man in tights will relish this comprehensive look back -- even though it could have been done in half the time.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter