The Superman Movie That Time Forgot:
A Look Back on Superman Returns

By Felix Quinonez

March 30, 2016

He's great as everything except Superman. Pretty much.

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But all of this would fall flat if the actors didn’t deliver, and for the most part, they do. There isn’t really a bad performance. Obviously Routh’s performance as the man of steel is the most important and he - gently - knocks it out of the park. Routh brings a quiet confidence to the role in an understated performance that audiences - unfairly - overlooked. He brings warmth to both as Superman and Clark. He’s a hero that people can cheer for. It also helps that he bears more than just a passing resemblance to Christopher Reeve.

And although Bosworth isn’t the revelation that Margot Kidder was in Donner’s film, she still gives an admirable performance. It takes some time - and perhaps, multiple viewings - to warm up to Bosworth’s portrayal of Lois. But in the end, her performance proves to be multifaceted and does justice to the character. It initially seems that Lois has a cold and cynical personality. But as the layers are peeled back, it becomes evident that her icy exterior is a veneer of sorts. She’s hidden some emotional scars that are forced to the forefront by Superman’s return.

The relationship between Superman and Lois is the emotional center of the movie and provides it with its romantic underpinnings. Routh and Bosworth are great together even if their chemistry doesn’t jump off the screen the way Reeve and Kidder’s did.

In Superman returns, their relationship is more subdued and tempered with regret. They have an undeniable past but an uncertain future. There is uneasiness between them that is common when old lovers try to reconnect after a long absence. The tension between them is - arguably - as important to the movie as Superman’s conflict with Luthor. And Singer provides a satisfying payoff for them.


As they are flying away in the helicopter - a standout scene - Lois reverses the damsel in distress role by pulling a shard of kryptonite out of Superman’s back, saving his life. There she is torn between the past she can’t let go (Superman) and the life she has made in his absence. (Richard, her fiancée.) As always, Superman has a world to save but this time he gives her the goodbye he denied her five years ago and with it, a sense of closure.

Although that’s technically in the vicinity of what could be called a happy ending, it’s still a shame that they didn’t actually end up together. If even Superman can’t get the girl, what hope do the rest of us have? But Singer was presumably saving that for the unrealized sequel.

Lastly, Spacey also gave a great, if uneven, performance. His version of Luthor is much darker than the one Gene Hackman gave in the 1978 movie. But there still seems to be a connection between the two. Again we see the impact that the passage of time had on these characters. Spacey does a great job at showing that Luthor is older and angrier. He even mentions the five years of his life that Superman stole by putting him in prison. It’s a shame that at times he veers into campy territory.

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