Monday, November 21, 2011

Superman Returns Movie Review

Superman returned but, as it turns out, he doesn't refund. Because after I saw this movie originally in the theaters that is what I wanted to ask for: A refund. The shame of it is this film does so much RIGHT yet misses the mark so completely. I'll spare you the suspense: Worst Superman Movie of All Time. But, let's first highlight the positives:

  • This film has a healthy respect for the property and the original two movies.
    • The John Williams score is iconic and evokes the essence of Superman immediately.
    • Brando footage - how awesome is it that they used the actual voice and image of Brando as Jor-El? Freakin' awesome, that's how awesome.
    • Keeping Superman I and II in film continuity is a stroke of genius... in concept. In execution.... see below in "the bad."
    • Even the opening credits style mirrors the originals.
    • Superman strikes a pose in one scene that mirrors the cover of Action Comics #1. 
  • Kevin Spacey portrays an excellent Lex Luthor. My favorite line, "We've got time to kill!"
  • The entire first portion of the film is amazing. 
    • Director Bryan Singer respected the audience by not rehashing the entire origin of Superman. You get a plot synopsis, a travel through time in a title sequence and then the movie starts.
    • Superman's crash into the field is visually amazing and there are quite a few very nice character moments.
    • The "Superman learns he can fly" sequence fills in an important gap and is a very cool sequence... but it hardly seems necessary to the film and is in no way relevant to the plot.
Now, the bad. And there's a lot of that as well.
  • First, Brandon Routh. He's no Reeve, that's for sure. I'd say he is my least favorite Superman AND Clark Kent out of EVERYONE that has played these roles. Even Dean Cain did a better job. Routh just looks mean and kinda creepy.
  • Some of the main plot points are very weak.
    • Astronomers seem to have found Krypton. Oh really? How, exactly? How did they know it was Krypton? And, it turns out, there's really nothing there after all. Say what?
    • Wait... so Lex's big plan is to create a new continent that looks like the Fortress of Solitude? Have you seen that thing? Who would want to live there? That terrain is extremely uneven and hard to navigate... let alone, you know, grow crops on or anything. Oh, and to top it off, let's make it radioactive with Kryptonite!
    • Superman flies a MOUNTAIN ISLAND of Kryptonite Crystals into outer space? Wait, I thought a softball sized chunk of this stuff almost killed him in the first movie... Does... Not... Compute....
  • The fact that they kept this film in continuity is great but they seemed to count of the audience not remembering the other films. For example:
    • Lois whispers to Superman that the child is his. Sure, she could figure this out because the kid heaved a piano but Lois doesn't REMEMBER having intercourse with Superman. After all, Superman wiped her memory with a Super-kiss in Superman II. Isn't Lois at all... you know... curious about when Superman impregnated her? For that matter, wasn't she at all curious when she got pregnant HOW she got pregnant and who the true father was? During SR Lois doesn't show any other signs of remembering Clark's secret identity. Very odd.
    • At the end of Superman II the fortress's control panel and the crystals are destroyed but here it is perfectly fine and fully functional with all of its crystals. Huh?  
    • In Superman II, Clark sleeps with Lois AFTER giving up his powers so how does his son have superpowers? 
    • At the end of Superman II, Superman says, "I won't let you down again," to the President. Are we to believe he then promptly takes off for five years? Thanks a lot, Super-Jerk!
  • Superman travels to Krypton and back... a trip that takes five years. 
    • First of all, Superman returns in a Kryptonian spaceship. Where'd the ship come from? Not from the Fortress of Solitude since it was rendered inoperable in Superman II. 
    • Why did Superman even need a spaceship? Clearly he can travel faster than light on his own (turning back time in Superman : the Movie) and he can survive in space (as seen in multiple Superman movies).
    • Where did the spaceship go after the landing? In one scene we see a weakened Superman collapse and in the next sequence Clark looks out over the field... no spaceship at all and no crater, burn damage or trench where the spaceship hit.
    • Are we to believe nobody investigated this "meteor hit?"
  • Sometimes when the film "honors the original" it simply is laziness. Do we need a repeat of the rotating door gag or Lois flying again or Superman saving another plane or the old "Lois interviews Superman" thing? No, probably not.
  • A big problem is that this movie just STALLS OUT half way through. HOW BORING. Upon repeated viewings I actually had a hard time staying awake. Not a good sign. And the ending is so weak.
  • Probably my biggest complaint is the characterization of Superman. In this film he's nothing but a selfish, creepy voyeur. 
    • Using his Super-hearing to eavesdrop on the meeting between Perry and Lois.
    • Spying on Lois in her house.
    • Trying to steal Lois away from Richard, her very, very boring fiancĂ©e.
    • "I'm always around, Lois." Wait, is that a threat? Are you stalking me? Answer: YES.
    • Clark drinks a beer then flies off to save a plane. Yeah, that's the Clark I remember. From Superman III when he went evil! I can just see it - Superman gives his "air travel safety" speech and flies off. One reporter turns to another and says, "Is it me or did Superman's breath smell like Budweiser? Maybe THAT'S where he's been for five years! Living inside a bottle!"
    • How can we make Superman cooler... hmmm.... how about making him a deadbeat dad. Yeah, everybody loves a really heroic deadbeat dad!
So, in the final analysis, I applaud Bryan Singer's INTENTIONS. If he had managed to pull this off it would have been sheer genius. For whatever reasons (perhaps, like, 20 years of rewrites or something) this film fails on almost every conceivable level.

Superman may have returned in this film but I wish he hadn't. Skip this film totally lest it tarnish your image of the Man of Steel for good.

1LR Review: 9 out of 20 - It's a Miss!


  1. Excellent review Scott.
    My biggest problem is that an alien and a human could mate. I know that in Superman II he became mortal but he did not become an earthling (or human), he just lost is powers.

    I think this movie was horrible, I would rather watch Superman III and IV rather than this steaming pile of cow sh*t that Singer made.

  2. Sheesh, what a harsh critic. While I agree with most of your post, calling it the worst Superman film ever is really pushing it.

    For example, IMDB gives this a 6.2 out of 10. Where as Superman IV comes in at 3.4 out of 10. Superman III is a astounding 4.7

    Of course, those numbers are based off of ratings from viewers. Where do the critics stand? According to, Superman Returns is given an overall of 76%. By way of comparison, Superman IV is a mere 10%. And Superman III? A whopping 24%.

    According to, in the genre of "comic book adaptation", Superman Returns ranks #13. Superman IV, #79. Superman III, #46. (FYI Scott, Man-Thing was ranked #97)

    So clearly box office, fans and critics alike are in stark contrast to your opinion that Superman Returns is "The Worst" in the Superman series. I think it's safe to say you're wrong. You couldn't be more wrong if you tried. You are the mayor of Wrongsville, in the great state of Skunked, in the country of O.O.P.S.

    I look forward to your Superman IV review, just to see how you can possibly praise this film enough to overshadow Superman Returns. Or, just admit your critique of Superman Returns is a bit too harsh.

  3. I hated this movie. I actually booed the screen before the credits started.
    My biggest problem was Luthor's big speech about giving humankind "fire like Prometheus." So I figure he will cure aids, stop world poverty, end all wars, sheesh stop cow flatulence. Then ruin Superman by letting the world know that Superman withheld these blessings. Superman is no hero! That would have been great, but no. After this big speech he decides to create the Kyptonite planetoid that will murder 2 billion people.
    All of your points were good and true as well. It looks like the script had about 7 authors with numerous rewrites.