Under The Radar: Superman Returns (2006)
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Release Date: June 28, 2006
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Actors: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Kal Penn
Total Lifetime Grosses
Opening Weekend: $52,535,096
Hot off the heels of two successful X-Men films, Bryan Singer was given the “Brass ring”, when Warner Brothers offered him the director's chair to reintroduce Superman to modern movie audiences. At the time, it seemed like the right choice. Singers X-Men films were loved by both critics and moviegoers alike. Singer’s X-Men films were reminiscent to Richard Donners approach to film making; by remaining faithful to the source material and using practical effects rather than the cold or lifeless CGI approach, which was becoming the norm.
It looked like Superman would finally be done right. Reclaiming the crown as the world greatest superhero! Although Singers 2006 film, Superman Returns, did decent numbers; even beating Batman Begins opening weekend; the film was seen as a failure in relaunching one of DC’s most iconic heroes. It failed to re-ignite Superman with moviegoers but after watching it again, I found it to be a worthy sequel. I thought Bryan Singer did an amazing job with the tone and feel of the film. I really enjoyed how effortlessly Singer managed to pay homage to the Richard Donners Superman film without ever coming across as trying to rip it off. Superman Returns seemed like the natural continuation in the Superman film franchise.
When it comes to superhero films, there's a fine line between visual effects and CGI that enhance the film versus effects and CGI that distract from it. Visual effects supervisor, Mark Stetson (The Fifth Element, The Shadow, True Lies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) really did an amazing job here from Superman breaking the sound barrier, bouncing bullets off his chest or rescuing a falling jumbo jet, the effects are both jaw dropping and believable. Never once upstaging the actor or the story. Even after all the years the effects have aged rather well, a true testament to Stetsons’ talent.
Last but not least, I thought that Brandon Routh, did a fine job as both Superman and Clark Kent. Although he did eerily look and often seemed to mirror the late Christopher Reeve’s mannerisms in the film, it was Routh’s performance as Clark Kent that really brought the film together. I though that Routh’s take as Clark was a little more practical and less over the top than Reeves’ performance…no offense intended.
I see Superman Returns as a bit of an anomaly. It had solid box office returns and mostly positive reviews, it even won Best Fantasy Film at the 33rd Saturn Awards. But the film's legacy has been reduced to another “sucky” Superman film and this is where I am in total disagreement. By encompassing the look and feel of Donners’ film (which is regarded as one of the best superhero films of all time) maybe expectations were too high for the fans and the movie studio alike.
Superman Returns is still a solid film and should be seen right after Superman II, to get the full effect. And just maybe, if Singer incorporated another action sequence at the beginning of the film, I believe that Superman Returns would have had a stronger impact with movie audiences.
In my opinion Superman Returns is very solid Superman film, albeit it wasn’t the one we needed at the time.