Movie Review: SUPERMAN RETURNS, 2006

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Classic Movie Review
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Parker Posey, James Marsden
Review by Andrew Kosarko



For five years, Superman (Brandon Routh) has been away from Earth, coaxed into space by a belief that Krypton may still exist. Finding nothing, he comes back to a changed world–not only has terrorism become rampant, but Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has married, started a family, and won the Pulitzer for her piece “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” After a stop in Smallville to see his adopted mother (Eva Marie Saint), Superman is back in Metropolis, and Clark Kent has his old job back at the Daily Planet, with everyone still incredibly oblivious to his alter ego. But where there’s Superman, there’s Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), and he is likely to be planning something dastardly–in this case, using a piece of pilfered kryptonite to grow an entirely new continent that he will control.


This is not the Superman movie we all wanted. That’s pretty much a nutshell so you prepped for how the rest of this review is going to go. The ….well…..we’ll get to all of it as we go so I don’t harp over the same things repeatedly…..

The Story:

So Superman is homesick to a home he never knew and apparently, some NASA scientists think they found that his planet didn’t actually blow up and that it’s still there. That’s about as much of this movie that’s going to make sense for you until the ridiculousness butts in and overtakes it. Ignoring everything he’s learned from his dead father’s crystal in the fortress of solitude, Superman somehow fit himself into the tiny space ship he originally came to earth in and got it to fly again, piloted it back to where his home was supposed to be, found out NASA wasn’t on their game (anyone surprised? Anyone?) and now returns to earth after a long long time. Now all this takes place off screen, which in my opinion would have been pretty interesting to see him struggle with the decision of leaving and how the heck he did all the things I listed above.

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s get to it. Lex got out of prison (because Superman violated his rights when he stopped him = aka a technicality let him loose. I buy it. Good job movie) and then swindled some old lady out of her fortune. So now he’s a clean slate with a boat load of money. Hey….wait a second….are we trying to get him back on track with the comics version of Lex Luthor? Maybe….or maybe not. He’s still after this whole “I want land and to kill tons of people” deal. Psssst….Lex just hates Superman. He’s not a mass murderer or money hungry. Lex Luthor’s hatred for Superman is based on the ideal that Superman restrains society from bettering themselves. A good metaphor is that Lex is the son of an overprotective parent, but he’s ready to move out of the house and be on his own. Make sense? Hopefully it does. But ok, so we need a villain for the movie. Lex wants land, I’ll take it. So in retrospect, this film is supposed to take place after Superman II (aka – Richard Pryor, Jacoby and Myers guy and Nuclear Man never happened), so Lex knows where and how the Fortress of solitude is. So with his new yacht and his criminal cronies, he sets forth on a venture to take some crystals from the Fortress to make his own weapons and…you guessed it, his own island (key part of that last word = land). Superman, however, returns to the world and finds out they don’t care about him anymore. That is, until Lois’ plane launches into space. How she survived that many years without him, I have no idea. But he saves her in the most thrilling movie scene I’ve ever witnessed. This scene was just so….Superman. I loved it. And then the movie dies and spirals downwards. Superstalking of Lois, Lois and Superman had a kid (how the hell the kid didn’t kill her when he was kicking in the womb is beyond me. Maybe because he hadn’t been exposed to sunlight – which is what gives Big Blue his power, but still at least they gave him asthma. A realistic effect of interbreeding two different species.) So after about an hour an a half of boring, the movie picks up with a glimmer of hope. Lex forges his new island, shanks Superman in the back with a jarred piece of kryptonite and throws him off a cliff. Ok, I’m awake again. Then Lois finds him in the water and pulls him out. Problem not so dramatically solved. Meanwhile, Lex and his crew are chilling on the island doing nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And then there’s this whole forgotten part of the story. Lex outlined his evil plan to Lois on the boat about how the island would displace water and kill millions, err, BILLIONS of people. And yeah…no title wave. Not even high tide. In internet language, this would be called an “Epic Fail.” But we’re not done yet. Superman, now pissed and charged up in the sunlight decides that the same island, which in case you don’t remember is made partially of kryptonite, decides that the same island he was stabbed and beaten on before because he was too weak to walk on it, well he’s just going to go swimming and lift that sucker out of the ocean and throw it into space. Alright, I’ll grant him a little leniency. Willpower and adrenaline can make people do some crazy stuff. Then, after he plays island toss he falls to the ground (passing right by the sun mind you which would have re-powered him instantly) and is in a supercoma. Now the doctors easily rip off a costume that repels bullets, then try and poke him with needles like they think it’s going to work. But the biggest problem is, they know how he ticks. They know sunlight powers him and his skin is tough and all that. And so what do they do? They put him in a hospital room……and SHUT THE BLINDS. Are you freaking kidding me? And then Lois comes in and plants a magic wake up kiss on him and that’s that. He’s back to super stalking her and now his estranged child (who mind you threw a piano and killed a guy earlier. Very Super-man like. NOT.) And Lex is stuck on a desert island to munch on dogs. Do I need to backtrack and miss all the other points I missed? Nah, I think I hit the major ones here. Let’s move on shall we?


Brandon Routh – Clark / Superman: Ok now this was good. He’s not boring. He’s not unbelievable. He’s the second best Superman we’ve got (tied with Tom Welling in this reviewers opinion.) Routh may look like Reeve, but he’s also got something there to back it up. He’s good at playing a double role and makes all the cheesy stuff funny, and not so cringe worthy. And I believe that this character is tortured emotionally when I watch him. Excellent job.

Kate Bosworth – Lois Lane: Not bad. Not great. She’s just ok. She’s better than Margot Kidder was, and not annoying like Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane in Spider-man. But she also isn’t exactly likable. For whatever reason a strong independent woman in a movie has to be somewhat of a bitch. There, I said it. And it bothers me. She doesn’t have to try so hard. Lois is tough skinned, sure. But she’s a little whiney in the film. If you had given me Katie Holmes’ “Rachel” from Batman Begins and put her in as Lois in this film, then it would have been perfect if you ask me. Even the casting I could have liked more. Nothing against Bosworth. But Lane should be likable to some extent.Kevin Spacey – Lex Luthor: Spacey toes the line of an amazing Lex. Which is needed. He’s not perfectly the comic book mythos and he’s not Gene Hackman either. I like to look at this film as a “transition” for Lex. It really is setting him up to be much darker for later on in the franchise. And I can deal with a little camp from him now if that means we’ll get rewarded later. Spacey has fun with the role as anyone would, but he needs to play it more of a “10 steps ahead of everyone but acting like he’s not” a little more. Then he’ll be right on the money.

James Marsden – Lois fiancé: I don’t even remember his name. I know he’s Perry’s nephew or something, but he’s just a throw away character so we can hear Lois’ feelings about Superman, a red herring for the boy’s father and also potential death bate for a later film. All while still being the ex-bf that Superman will have to overcome. Cuz yeah, we have a character with all these powers but we want that O.C. type drama. *Rolls eyes*

Parker Posey – Kitty: Funny, believable. But overall…not really needed. She’s a nice character for Lex to play off of but in the end she’s just another girl pining over the alien boy scout.Frank Langella – Perry White: Grumpy, yet not the kind of grumpy that we got from the Reeves’ movies. It’s just not as much fun. I did like how they’re hinting that Perry figured out Clark’s secret. I mean come on. Clark comes back to work the same day that Superman shows back up. Way to keep the coast clear on that one Clark. Kal Penn – Lex’s head goon: Yeah, all his lines were cut. So I can’t tell you how he did.

Sam Huntington – Jimmy Olsen: Ok as Clark’s confidant, but more like a tag along here. He really should be Lois’ side kick but I only remember one scene with them together. And it was a set up for a joke about the “it’s a bird, it’s a plane” line.


One of the main thing I did love about this film is the crisp clear and beautiful shots. Everything is very nostalgic and romantic. It’s very nice to watch on blu-ray or high def. Especially some of the action scenes. The colors are vibrant and it’s a well done translation of a comic property to a film medium.

Production Design:

Also amazing. Everything is very noir and shiny and clean. The way it should be. Look at it like this: Superman is the opposite of Batman. In every way. Batman’s city should be grimy and gothic and nasty. Superman’s should be super clean and brand new. And it is. +2 points for that.


For the most part, it just seems like the pacing of the movie is too slow. The writing is at the main fault for that with too much lulls in the action but the editing isn’t minimalist enough to make up for it and many people find themselves getting bored.Top of Form

Special Effects:

It’s pretty. But it ain’t no man on strings. Give me that over CGI any day of the week. Please. I beg you. Use strings. And don’t be lazy in the next film with a CGI cape. It’s just….annoying.


John Williams created the theme. So it always gives me goosebumps when I hear it. It encompasses Superman perfectly and is just as recognizable as Reeves, the “S” logo or anything else identifiying with Superman. John Ottman does a good job with what he has. And although I’m glad he gave Lex Luthor a new theme that doesn’t remind me of Ewoks, it’s also not that memorable either. But I give him credit for trying. In closing:

This movie is maddening to me. I have said before that Superman and his co-characters have the potential to making the greatest superhero film ever made….ever. This movie doesn’t even seem like it’s trying to me. Sure, it takes it a little more seriously. But when you’re playing with the possibilities that they are and you don’t take them as far as you can go with them, it’s a let down. It can be so much more than what it was. A note I would give to the film makers – it’s ok if Superman has too many problems. It’s even better if he can’t stop all of them. That’s what makes good drama. So my final consensus is that this movie is worth watching to see the Plane sequence alone. After that, if you need to mow the lawn, do the dishes, straighten out your taxes or sleep, by all means, feel free.


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