A Look back at what went wrong with SUPERMAN RETURNS!

Hey there kiddies!
With a new Superman movie on the way, thank god…Kevin Dragone and Master Film Maker Mark Mackner bash their brains together to discuss the ins and outs of the last installment: Superman Returns!!!

Kevin Dragone:
He was away from the big screen for over twenty years. The most well known icon in the world whose symbol alone means something to everyone: Power, Wealth, Strength, Leadership, etc. So when I hear the director of the X-Men is going to do the Man of Steel himself, I was ecstatic.

The title? Very appropriate. Superman Returns! The plot, well, it’s right in the title, duh! Haha, okay, well, from what I read, the story follows Superman 2 and disregards 3 & 4 from continuity, which is fine. Those movies were trash, but this review is on Superman Returns, so I won’t say anymore than that…for now….

So anyway, yeah Superman leaves Earth in search of other Kryptonians. After Zod and his musketeers wreaked havoc, Kal-El must know for sure if he is the last one of his kind. He is aware of how dangerous someone with his abilities can be. Problem in doing so…well…time and space is a funny thing. Months could be years! And Clark just so happens to take an extended league of absence from the Daily Planet. Thank God Ma Kent was resourceful back home.

When he finally finds himself back on Earth, he discovers his time away had more of an affect on us than he imagined. Disasters have happened everywhere. Lex Luthor was released from prison since Supes couldn’t testify against him. And wait, what is this? Lois has a child? Who’s the baby daddy? Her new boyfriend/fiancé?

So with this in mind, I was on board for Superman Returns.

In moving forward, I will make this review simple. Listing the good and the bad.

The Good

  • Our new Superman, Brandon Routh, looked the part. Both Clark and Superman. Perfect.
  • Special effects were top notch
  • The original score was kept
  • Kevin Spacey is Lex Luthor
  • Jason Marsden was the closest thing to a Superman than actually being Superman. Phenomenal job in his performance. I actually would have been upset if Lois kissed Superman on the roof.
  • Jimmy Olsen. GREAT job as well.

The Bad…and there’s a LOT

  • Superman maybe had 20 lines in the whole film. No joke. And a lot of them were used by Christoper Reeves in the first movie! Make it a drinking game, kids. You’ll probably remain sober.
  • Lex Luthor’s plan? Once again, to obtain land. Didn’t he already try this? Oh, wait, no…he’ll make a New Krypton. And billions will die in the process? Then who will pay for this land? All the rich people who will definitely survive?
  • No super villain? After a Spider-Man 1 & 2, X-Men 1 & 2 and even the Matrix….we don’t have a powerhouse villain? So great, let’s make kryptonite be what kills him and have normal thugs beat him up.
  • Oh and spoiler alert…Clark, you have a kid! Lois whispers to him while in the hospital. So how does Superman react? Being creepy, sneaking in his son’s room, spitting off lines that were not even Superman’s, but his father’s and flying off. What? Supes doesn’t have to pay child support?
  • No original take from anyone. It was like watching Gene Hackman all over. Spacey, you’re amazing. Why didn’t you do your own thing?
  • Lois is honored a Nobel Peace Prize for an article, titled, Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman…and 5 minutes home, yep, we need him. WE LOVE YOU SUPERMAN!
  • Even Terri Hatcher made a better Lois Lane than what’s her face. Exactly. I don’t even care to IMDB her because she was THAT BAD.
  • The kid realizes he has super powers with impeccable timing. Launching a piano at the henchman. Great. Now open the steel door, kiddo! Oh wait, you’re scared? Okay, son. It’s fine. We’ll just die. Hugs and Kisses.
  • Oh, and of course, like the original, Superman saves Lois from a flying disaster.

Look, I get it. People like this movie. And yeah, as a stand alone, it works, but it’s part of a series, folks. And that’s why I am stressing the bad. There are over 70 plus years of continuity. An awesome rogues gallery. God, everyone knows about Doomsday…why not use that plot.

If this movie was the first, I would have loved it…or really enjoyed it…but it was a story already told with just updated special effects. I mean, honestly, if Nolan went with the same world as Burton, and Joker never died…would you want to hear lines like, “where does he get those wonderful toys” again…or the plot to gas the city? No. You want fresh. So THANK GOD Nolan is saving another franchise. Reboot away. Call it Superman Reboot for all I care. Hell, if Goyer wrote it, I’m fine with that.

And no one has to agree with me, just understand why I’m right :)

Master Film Maker Mark Mackner

Well, dude I’ve never met.  I DO agree with you.  Mostly.  Because while your review lists several of the film’s faults, it doesn’t get unnecessarily nasty about it.  Every time there’s talk of a new Superman film, go on AICN, and there will be a million posts from a million bitter, cynical dorks about how “gay” SUPERMAN RETURNS was, and how gay Bryan Singer is, and how Routh was an awful Superman, etc.  Please, people.  Enough already.

But, you’re right.  If this were the first Superman film, I think I’d say they did EVERYTHING right.  Alas, it is not.  So, looking at it as an entry in a series, here’s my critique…

  • AWESOME opening credits.  Seriously.  You hear that music, and the credits whooshing through space, and you’re a kid again.  SCORE!
  • Routh.  I thought he was PERFECT.
  • Spacey.  To me, this was his only good film since “American Beauty”.  Dude has talent galore, but man, he’s been WASTING it in subpar schmaltz like “K-Pax” and <vomit> “Pay it Forward”.  <shudder>  Dude, go back to doing what you do best, and that’s playing super-intelligent creeps like John Doe and Verbal Kint.  But as Luthor, I thought he did great.  I found him just a bit nastier than Hackman’s Luthor.  Hackman’s Luthor would have let the goons stab Supes with the Kryptonite shiv, but Spacey’s Luthor does it with relish.
  • As far as comic relief sidekicks go, I’d much rather look at Parker Posey than Ned Beatty.
  • But what I really like best is the TONE of this movie.  In an age in films where “super-hero” and “comic book” have become synonymous with “dark” and “edgy”, I find it refreshing to watch retro throwbacks like RETURNS and the Spidey films, that aren’t afraid to be colorful, and humorous, and have a hero who isn’t brooding and surly.
  • RETURNS is accessible to all.  While it continues the story of SUPERMAN II, you can totally go in fresh and follow along.  It stands as its own movie, unlike the Matrix sequels.  In summary, I totally dig the light, breezy, old-fashioned super-heroics.

Is it perfect?  No.  No, it really isn’t.  What’s not so great about it?  Well…

  • The length.  It’s just too long.  They should’ve shaved about 30 minutes off that sumbitch.
  • Kate Bosworth was not the best choice for Lois.  Agreed.  I didn’t find her awful, but her performance was pretty disposable.  That could’ve been anyone.
  • ONE scene between Supes and Luthor????  And only one or two lines of dialogue between them?  NO.  We needed more hero vs. villain scenes.
  • And that brings us to the point brought up by Kevin, which I believe is the film’s greatest flaw: NO SUPER-VILLAINS.  Yeah, that sucks, and it’s unforgivable at this point.  We have the technology and the effects to bring ANY character to life, so WHY THE HELL NOT????  They really screwed up on that one.
  • And, yeah.  Luthor’s plot is pretty lame.

Well, there’s the two cents of the Master Filmmaker.  Is SUPERMAN RETURNS perfect?  No, but I just can’t see why so many fanboys are so violently angry about it, even to this day.  It’s charming and unlike most other modern blockbusters.  I, for one, was happy to see this RETURN.

But, yeah.  BRING ON NOLAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!  If HE can’t do it, NO ONE CAN!!!!!!  Nolan.  Supes.  I’m ALL OVER THAT!!!!!!!!!

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10 Comments to “A Look back at what went wrong with SUPERMAN RETURNS!”

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  1. Hands down the biggest issue was slapping this sumanabitch inside an existing sub-continuity.

    Why Singer thought he needed to dip back into the Donner ink is beyond me, unless DC pushed his hand this makes no sense.

    Twenty years had passed since Superman II came out (I will give them it was a smart move to forget III and IV) ever existed. And this huge gap is what made no one care about this film.

    For those of us that saw the first two films the first time around, I don’t care how passable you try to make the characters, they are not the original characters.

    Routh was close to Reeves appearance and voice, but had just enough softened femininity to those features to be distracting.Kal-El’s cousin who does super interior design.

    Kate Bosworth may be a coke whore like Margot Kidder, but unlike Margot, Kate’s not a hermaphrodite. Margot Kidder could pull off tough as nails because she had a huskier voice than Barry White. Waif Kate had all the toughness of Bambi fresh from the vagina.

    Langella was a better White than the original, this bothered me.

    Spacey, great actor, but was way too subdued. He was more mean than maniacal. Hackman was intellectual and carried enough flourish that I actually believed he believed what he was saying.

    So this basically knocks out the Baby Boomers and Gen X’s willing suspension of disbelief.

    On to Gen Y and forward…they were treated to a movie that was a continuation of a plotline from TWENTY YEARS AGO!!!!!!! There parents were still virgins when this shit came out.

    I agree with all of the points above, I just needed to get that off my chest.

  2. Bobby Kulb says:

    I went to see this on opening day. I will never forget it because as the lights were dimming in the theatre, an african american fellow who looked like a body builder came in and sat directly in front of me; he removed his coat and he was wearing a skin tight powdery blue chris reeves style superman suit. As the movie progressed he slowly began to put on his jacket and cringe in his seat. That to me seemed like the perfect illustration of audience reaction to this film- they went in believing a man could fly and ended up embarassed and feeling childish. This is a bad film. joyless and poorly paced. The best part is the opening credits sequence which is exhilarating only because it plays on your memory of the original film. The use of Brando’s Jor El monologues is stirring and cleverly done. Thats about all thats work here. Spacey’s limp Hackman impression is unforgivable coming from such a talented actor. The plotline with the secret child and Superman’s creepy nocturnal peter pan-like visits was unsettling. The Last Son story arc written by Richard Donner that appeared in DC Comics during the release of this film was a much better story that involved an adopted son, Zod, Bizzaro and Lex all in very compelling ways; I dont undertsand why they didnt use these ideas for the film instead of wasting them on a few throwaway issues of a comic book. Hopefully the reboot will be better.

  3. jaydee says:

    I agree with all of the above! Though I will say I mostly loved it the first time I saw it, I started to be disappointed after multiple viewings. Of all the problems listed above, I too have to say: Luthor’s plan is to get LAND? AGAIN? That’s just lazy writing. And the lack of another villain. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    I agree that while Kate was a prettier Lois, Margot was more believable, by far. Kate just didn’t have the hard-as-nails, will do anything to get a story kind of personality. She was more curious kitten, stumbling on a story than actually..investigating.

    I like our new Jimmy Olsen FARR more than the dope in the original films.

    Bobby: that’s an interesting story about the fella in the Superman costume! I think this is the same way most of us felt watching the new Star Wars trilogy!

    Next up: bring us some VILLAINS. Out of FIVE Major SuperMan films…We’ve had 1 movie featuring a bad-ass fight: Part 2, against the Zod Posse. It’s unforgivable that the last Matrix film had more of a Superman fight than the Superman films!

  4. FlannelGuy says:

    They should have just went with a reboot. I know, I know…origin stories can be monotonous, especially when we already know this story, but it’s been 20 plus years! And it worked very well for Batman…why not start from scratch?

    I love the score. It was truly nostalgic hearing it again, but I’d toss that out in a heartbeat, if it meant a new solid story. Liked the score in Burton’s Batman films, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Nolan’s new ones. So there’s always room for something fresh and possibly better.

    I also get that Smallville was still going. And they didn’t want to step on their toes…but this was the opportunity to see our beloved hero, in tights, kicking ass and taking names.

    How would I have done the film? Mark Waid’s Birthright. What’s great about Supes…and Smallville proves it, is that the character is fun and stunning with or without the suit. He’s not Iron Man. He can do wonderful things in overalls for all I care!

    We could have done Kal-el, traveling the globe, trying to be everywhere and bring world piece. Stop the war on terror, yadda yadda yadda…but with no secret identity..and realizing evil will always be there and things will always go wrong…it’s an impossible task, no matter how many powers you have, to save everybody. And you have people in poverty, turning to him at all hours of the day, exhausting him to fix everything. This is what forces him to make the sacrifice of putting on the glasses and only being there when he’s truly needed. I know…pushing the religious/Christ angle…it’s Superman. Everything from his arrival screams Catholicism.

    So when Kal learns the root of all these weapons are from a familiar face (Luthor Industries) Kal leaves the scene to settle in Metropolis and fight the good fight there as Supes and mild mannered, Clark Kent. This explains why he stays in one spot and isn’t flying around the globe, helping everyone.

    And don’t make the first flick “kryptonsite” as his weakness. Have people fearing him be the threat. That’s why he didn’t go public for so long. Save krytponite for a sequel AND Metallo. Then you get the 2nd flick where the super hero always happens to lose his powers and try a normal life.

    That’s how I would have done it. I’m up for Goyer’s story. Bring it.

  5. JD (Host) says:

    i would definitely watch that movie, but i think it’s a little too “left-field” for mainstream audiences…everyone would bitch about “where’s lois, and jimmy and blahblahblah” all the stuff I remember from the movies when I was a kid. waah waah waah.

    I don’t really think a reboot is really all that necessary, and by that I mean a retelling of the origin. The origin, as with Spider-Man’s, at this point, can just be told in the credits sequence. Don’t skip it entirely, but you don’t really need to keep retelling it. They are part of popular lore at this point and have been done so many times, I don’t think anyone needs it to take up the better part of the movie, they can just get it out of the way quickly

  6. FlannelGuy says:

    Well, I wouldn’t go back to Krytpon, or see him sent to Earth or the Kents finding him. I would literally have the first shot be much like Batman Begins. You see Kal El wake up from a banging noise from his most recent squating hole while he tries to save a country in poverty. It’s a real shit hole and definitely not Kansas.

    So yeah, he wakes up to the people asking for his help at his door. In a very Iron Man esque fashion, he takes out a mess of terrorist from hurting the towns people with a number of powers. This way, we open the film up with a bang and see him in action.

    This would show Kal in his pre-Supes days, but being less mild mannered and all super. Plus, any country he resides, he knows their language, making him almost angelic like…as if he can speak in tongues….and maybe later in the movie, we’d see him impress Lois by ordering food in Chinese at a restaurant or getting the story from someone who doesn’t speak English. Just a little humor, like, “oh, I took a little Chinese in college” or “I studied some Spanish in Smallville”. Always liked when Chris Reeves, as nerdy as he was, he did something super impressive and then pushed his glasses up his nose.

    I wouldn’t spend more than 35 minutes before he’s in Metropolis with the Daily Planet crew and another 30 before he’s rocking the S. I much rather see him transition from Kal El to bumbling Clark Kent (but does happen to know his reporting) and then into Superman. This way, we see the stages and cycle of how he truly becomes a balanced hero who finds his place in the world.

    What I liked about Batman Begins and this approach, is Bruce and Clark are “super” and not because of their skills or gadgets or costumes. It’s because you have the richest man and the most powerful man….who could do anything they want…and chose to help people and fight the good fight. They’re not cops, working for galactic law enforcement or for the gods. And of course, the moral being, one man CAN make a difference, no matter who or where he’s from.

  7. Two words John Byrne.

    Do this shit as a trilogy based on his post CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS reboot “world of” series.

    Movie 1 – World of Krypton
    Movie 2 – World of Smallville
    Movie 3 – World of Metropolis

  8. JD (Host) says:

    i never read the “world of..” stuff…i take it i SHOULD, Optimous?

    FlannelGuy: You got the job. You’re hired to plot out the new Superman movie as far as I’m concerned! That actually sounds like a great Superman film!!!

  9. It’s been awhile since I’ve read the actual material, and it was produced in the mid-80s so some things might be dated, but the structure is what’s important here.

    Everyone tries to cram these stories into two hours, and NO ONE has ever explored Krypton to any great degree on film.

    Why not an entire film with first Jor-El as the “Superman” big dick scientist of his planet – Learn more about what makes Kal-El the man he becomes.

    Then Jonathan Kent Super Dad that makes and forms Clark Kent

    Finally Clark.

  10. FlannelGuy says:

    I think if you’re going to do a BIG 3 pic deal, then yes, Krypton is very integral to the story and who Jor-El is, Kal’s ACTUAL biological father.

    But me, I’d switch things up a tad….unless someone already did it this way….the following would only make Kal’s destiny more prominent and important….and defined.

    I think if you show that Krypton was a world, where even technologically advanced, it was Braniac, its people and greed who helped destroy it. And Jor-El knowing full well that Brainiac was going to do the same thing to Earth one day, he sends Kal to save it (knowing what a yellow sun can do to Kryponian). Problem is, Jor-El was planning to send Kal and family when he was older, but had no other option but now with the destruction of Krypton! So he gives Kal a load of Kryptonian Apple products and ships him to Earth.

    Then you have the final film with Brainiac portrayed in a Lucifer like fashion trying to sway Superman into his ways, but when Supes discovers his true motivations, it’s battle royale in a 2012 setting where Earth may face Krypton’s fate and it’s up to Supes to fulfill his destiny. And maybe you save the Krypton stuff for a 3rd film instead of the first.

    But hey, that’s just how I’d do it. It keeps it full circle and a true fanboy trilogy or at least MY true fanboy trilogy. Who knows…maybe in another 20 years

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