‘Superman Returns’ Retro Review

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Brendan Routh, Kevin Spacey

Plot: Superman…um…returns and finds that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Review: Although on the outset this seems like a pretty solid superhero tale it has been oft criticised and easily forgotten. The problem lies with the attempts made by director Singer to make a movie that introduces a new audience to the Superman mythos whilst paying fan service to the original films. Sadly it’s that double edged sword that the film was impaled with.

The concept of marrying the new with the old is flawed. At times we’re given new flashbacks to Superman’s childhood to provide context for new viewers whilst referencing events from past films that the new audience would, by definition, be unfamiliar with. Making it a direct sequel is already impeding the narrative as we’re forced through exposition scenes every few minutes to inform the viewer about where Superman has been and why Luther is out of prison. On the other hand there’s an assumption that we are all familiar with the supporting characters, leaving them as little more than stand-ins for the original actors.

Amid the juggling of the old vs the new the thing that most people want to see – Superman in action – is only included as an afterthought. Action sequences are hokey and forced with Superman not donning his spandex until more than half an hour in. This would be acceptable if they were starting a new franchise ala Batman Begins, but as this is a direct sequel they’ve got nothing to hide.

Filling the void of action scenes we have Superman coping with family drama and searching his emotions. Already silly to watch since we’re dealing with a grown man in tights who’s flying past Lois’ happy home and using his x-ray vision to spy on them, and dragging it out for almost two and a half hours is tedious.

Performance wise Routh and Spacey fill their roles well, even if Routh looks as though he’s suffering from stage fright. Sadly Beckinsale is just plain boring and Luther’s wacky entourage of bumbling misfits only serve to annoy. The comedic timing is completely off and it’s amazing that Luther didn’t feed Posey to piranhas in the first scene.

An over-thought, under-whelming experience.

Before I wrap this up with a score, I’m taking a couple of marks away for one line said by James Marsden. I don’t blame of course – I blame the script writers and director as well. It’s a minor moment in the film, but one that really sticks in my craw. He enters the office with son in tow and says to Lois “He got an A in science, but only a D in gym. Guess we’re doing something right” with a tone that suggests that they could never be proud of their son, no matter his accomplishments as he got a D in gym. And they were planning on retiring early on their sons big dodgeball and rope climbing money. Sure, he’s a whiz when it comes to science and has remarkable natural talent, but fuck him as he got a D IN GYM. Seriously, what’s the fucking problem? The kids gasping on his inhaler in every scene, how’d you expect him to measure up in athletics? And they lay this disappointed tone, complete with the “hey, at least he’s not a total fucking waste of our precious genes” attitude, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE KID, in a room full of people!

Bang up parenting there, douchebags. Not that Lois ever acts like she’s related to either of them anyway.


Make sure you check in later for Darknite’s list of things we want to see in the next Superman movie! By weird coincidence we wrote about Superman on the same day.