Superman Returns

  • Title: Superman Returns
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Date: 2006
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Sam Huntington
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: NTSC, Blu-Ray

“The son becomes the father, the father becomes the son.” – Jor-El, voiceover

“Well, I hope this experience hasn’t put any of you off flying. Statistically speaking it’s still the safest way to travel.” – Superman

“I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn’t need a Saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one.” – Superman

Superman Returns is a sequel to Superman the Movie and Superman II. Superman has been missing for five years, and Lois Lane has moved on having a son and a long-term boyfriend, as well as winning a Pulitzer Prize for her editorial – “Why the World Doesn’t Need a Superman”. Superman crash lands at his mother’s farm, then Clark returns to the Daily Planet. No sooner is he back than an EMP-generated blackout causes havoc on a 747 plane carrying a space shuttle into launch position. Lois is one of the reporters covering the new procedure on the plane. The shuttle is meant to decouple from the plane and then launch with rocket boosters – but the blackout means it cannot detach nor can it shut down the launch procedure. Superman gets the shuttle safely launched into orbit, then goes to rescue the plane. He eventually sets it down in the middle of a baseball stadium. He gets a standing ovation from the crowd.

But the blackout was no ordinary blackout – Lex Luthor had gone to Superman’s fortress of solitude, listened to the crystal recordings, and taken a few of the crystal rods. He then goes to the mansion he’s stolen from a little old lady, and puts a tiny sliver of the crystal in the middle of a pond of water in the midst of a train set. When the crystal grows – it destroys the model city, and causes the EMP that knocked out the power – including to computers, cell phones, etc.

Lois wants to cover the power outage story – but Perry wants her to cover the return of Superman.

Meanwhile, Clark is trying to adjust to the idea of Lois having a child and a serious boyfriend, Richard White, Perry’s nephew.

Superman does what he does – stopping crime, rescuing people, world wide – not simply in Metropolis.

Lex Luthor steals Kryptonite from the Metropolis Museum of Natural History for the next stage in his plan.

Superman lands on the roof of the Daily Planet to talk to Lois, then takes her flying. Lois takes off her shoes before letting him fly with her. The flying sequence, rather than being romantic like in Superman the Movie or in Superman II – is sad. Lois, and Clark, act like old lovers who never quite got together – meeting again years later. Superman tries to explain to Lois that he hears all of the pain in the world – and he’s simply there to help. Lois doesn’t appear to buy it, but she writes an article called, “Superman Returns”.

Superman returns to his fortress of solitude and discovers some crystal rods are missing.

Lois, who should be on her way to her Pulitzer Prize dinner, takes her son with her to continue to investigate the blackout story. She finds the mansion, and the yacht moored at a private slip in front of it. Lois sneaks aboard the yacht to investigate and runs into Luthor, who kidnaps her and her son.

Once on the yacht, Luthor explains his plan – he will place one of the crystal rods inside a hollowed-out tube of Kryptonite, and fire it into the ocean. This will create a massive new landmass for Luthor to sell – and kill billions of people on the East Coast of the US which will be swamped with the displaced water. Luthor carries out his plan. Kitty begins to have second thoughts.

Superman deals with the earthquake and disasters in Metropolis as a result, including saving Perry from the giant art-deco planet that falls off the top of the Daily Planet building and nearly lands on Perry.

Thanks to a distraction provided by her son, Lois is able to send a FAX with her location to the Daily Planet. Richard takes the sea plane to rescue her; and once things settle down a bit in Metropolis, Superman also flies to the rescue.

One of Luthor’s goons, having noticed that Lois sent the FAX, attacks her. Lois’s son throws a piano at him and kills him. Additional goons grab Lois and the boy and lock them in the galley. As the land-mass gets bigger, Luthor, Kitty, Kitty’s very small dog, and Lex’s goons escape by helicopter.

The massive crystal land mass continues to grow, and Jason (Lois’s son) walks towards the door, which is opened by Richard. But just as he starts to rescue Lois and Jason, the shard of crystal stabs the bottom of the yacht causing chaos.

Superman arrives, pulls the yacht out of the water, he grabs Richard’s arm, and when he’s assured Richard has both Lois and Jason, he lets the yacht falls. Superman gets them to Richard’s seaplane and gives them a hand in launching.

Superman then challenges Lex Luthor, but he’s unaware he’s surrounded by Kryptonite. Lex punches and kicks Superman, then his goons and minions also beat Superman. Finally, Lex stabs Superman in the back with a shard of pure Kryptonite. It breaks off in Superman’s back and he falls into the Ocean.

Richard’s seaplane lands. First Jason, then Lois and Richard spot Superman. Lois jumps in to save him, Richard helps. They fly back to shore. Lois removes the Kryptonite, But when Superman recovers he tells her he must go back. He jumps out of the seaplane and flies above the atmosphere to recharge in the sun – then flies straight back to strike at Luthor. Superman picks up the entire island and flies it into space, then crashes to Earth.

Lex and his minions try to escape by helicopter – only Lex, Kitty, and the dog escape – the rest are trapped. Kitty dumps the crystals overboard into the Ocean. Lex, Kitty, and the dog end-up stranded on a desert Island.

Emergency workers bring Superman into the E.R. No one knows if he will live or die. Lois and Jason visit him. Superman recovers and flies off into the upper atmosphere to recharge. When Lois later asks, “Will I see you? Around?” Superman responds, “I’ll always be around.”

Superman Returns picks up a few threads from the classic 1970s Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner Superman films, using clips of Marlon Brando’s voice as Jor-El, the massive and gorgeous Fortress of solitude, and it’s crystal computer. Brandon Routh is quite possibly the most human Superman to date, that I’ve seen, and I liked his portrayal a lot. The story line between Clark and Lois of missed opportunities is truly sad.

The action sequences in the film are what action sequences should be – they work and are meaningful not merely for being “good action sequences” but because characters we care about are always at the center of the action sequences.

I liked Brandon Routh’s Superman and Clark Kent very much – his portrayal is very human. Kate Bosworth is a bit bland as Lois though. She doesn’t have the romantic quality Margot Kidder had, nor does she have Teri Hatcher’s humor and intelligence. She’s not terrible but she’s not great either. It’s like in big budget movies, the directors are either unable to let Lois really shine or unwilling to do so, perhaps for fear of overshadowing Clark/Superman.

Kevin Spacey is brilliant as Lex Luthor. He is a far cry from the Gene Hackman’s bumbling Lex of Superman the Movie and Superman II. This Lex is cold, calculating, and utterly ruthless. He will sacrifice anything and any one to get what he wants. And he has no moral scruples whatsoever. He cares for no one. Spacey’s cold-edged performance is brilliant.

It’s a real pity Superman Returns didn’t do better at the box office, because it really is one of the best Superman movies. I recommend it.

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