Title: Superman Returns.
Director: Bryan Singer.
Screenplay: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris.
story: Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris.
Release Date: 2006.
Runtime: 154 min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi.
Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, and many more!
Budget: $270,000,000 (estimated).
My Overall Rating:
Previously in the Superman film series:
Superman II (1980).
Following the catastrophic failure that was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace back in 1987, it was only 19 years later that director Bryan Singer, known for unveiling to the world the X-Men on the silver screen, identifies actor Brandon Routh as his best candidate to take on the mantle of the Man of Steel. While a modernized take on the Big Blue Boy Scout was critically needed to revitalize the legendary character, the task remained colossal to deliver a memorable story that would do justice to the iconic superhero. Serving as an homage sequel to the first two Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, the final chapter in the original Superman film series is brought to a conclusion, despite canceled projects of sequels, only to be later rebooted with Man of Steel in 2013 under the direction of Zack Snyder.
What is Superman Returns (2006) about? Upon news from astronomers of the potential survival of Superman’s home planet, he embarks on a journey that has him missing for five years before returning to Earth. On top of discovering that the world has moved on, surviving without him acting as their saviour, he also finds out that Lois Lane has given up on his return and filled the hole in her life differently. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor plots his own machiavellian revenge plot against Superman and his fellow Americans as he sets in motion a disastrous evil plan that will see millions killed through a planetary transformation, unlike anything he’s ever planned before.
Unlike previous narratives focused on Superman, director Bryan Singer seeks to push the character into a much more emotionally complex state by focusing on his ideals, his values, his morals, and his heart. Short of action sequences, the movie delves into the superhero’s struggle to grasp humanity after his half-of-a-decade hiatus that puts his whole life in perspective. Homeless in a strictly figurative sense, he must now try harder than ever to win back the trust of the people of this planet but also of those he loves, especially when he needs the people of Earth to give him a reason to exist. Rooted in the ideals of his father, he also continuously juggles the eternal dilemma of the greater good and proves once more that his existence is significant enough to impact countless lives into contemplating moral betterment.
Despite his alter ego Clark Kent simply being an insignificant entity in the grand scheme of things, the movie’s emphasis lies in the character of Superman and what he can bring to the people around him. Oddly yet satisfyingly interlacing romance into the equation, the movie also explores the superhero’s personal journey towards acceptance. Unfortunately, the actors in question do struggle at times to convey depth with their characters but succeed nevertheless regardless of some stiff sequences to capture the tone and emotion of key scenes. Although the parallel storyline regarding Lex Luthor is roughly knitted into Superman’s story, giving viewers very few interactions between the two to fully grasp their eternal clash, Kevin Spacey still ultimately offers an entertaining take on the legendary evil mastermind.
While this iteration of Superman doesn’t do much (or any) punching, the movie still utilized extensive CGI effects for numerous scenes that allowed to breathe some fresh air into the character’s powers (from flight to x-ray vision) and the landscapes (from Metropolis to low orbit scenes). John Ottoman also preserved the original John William’s theme music in an effort to further accentuate the homage nature of this movie and to capture the epic qualities of Superman’s victories. If anything, director Bryan Singer succeeded in giving actor Brandon Routh the proper material to deliver a memorable take on the Man of Steel even if Warner Bros. concluded that it wasn’t enough of a success to merit a sequel. Luckily for fans, Brandon Routh does reprise his role in a special 2019 Arrowverse crossover episode in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” with a Kingdom Come version of Superman is worth looking into.
Superman Returns (2006) is an oddly-paced, overlong yet commendable hommage sequel to the original Superman movies as it explores themes of belonging, acceptance, and morality.