This summer, you'll have the chance to pick between the chest-thumping pop myth and an incendiary recreation of a story that was ripped from the headlines by one of the most versatile directors working today. One film features a hero in a latex costume with fluttering CGI cape, the other has orange jumpsuits and men in chains. Superman is invincible (unless there's Kryptonite) and infallible (unless he's wearing glasses), a picture of perfection and valor. The Tipton Three, English Muslims who were arrested in Afghanistan and spent two years at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, are men full of ambiguities who may or may not be telling the truth. Both movies are about superpowers.
Michael Winterbottom, director of such very different films such as 9 Songs, 24 Hour Party People, and Tristram Shandy, is a protean innovator. (Singer's script just blathers on about Prometheus.) Superman Returns isn't simply infantile--that much is expected. The real surprise is that Winterbottom's film is superior entertainment, harrowing but gripping. Filmed in the same quasi-documentary style as his 2002 immigration drama In this World, The Road to Guantanamo make a news story come alive with eye-opening intensity. The drama of attack dogs and black hoods, shaved heads, authority, submission, humiliation, and release is far more engaging than anything Singer has to offer.