Superman Returns is a 2006 superhero film directed by Bryan Singer. It is the fifth and final installment in the original Superman film series and serves as an alternate sequel to Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) by ignoring the events of Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
The film stars Brandon Routh as Superman, as well as Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Frank Langella, and Parker Posey, and tells the story of the title character returning to Earth after a five year absence. He finds that his love interest Lois Lane has moved on with her life, and that his archenemy Lex Luthor is plotting a scheme that will destroy the world, starting with the United States.
After a series of unsuccessful projects to resurrect Superman on the screen, Warner Bros. hired Bryan Singer to direct and develop Superman Returns in July 2004. The majority of principal photography took place at Fox Studios Australia, Sydney, while the visual effects sequences were created by Sony Pictures Imageworks; filming ended in November 2005. Preceded by an extensive marketing campaign at the cost of $44.5 million, Superman Returns was released to positive reviews and received many award nominations, but Warner Bros. was disappointed with the $391 million worldwide box office return. A sequel was planned for a summer 2009 release, but the project was later cancelled. The Superman series will be rebooted in 2013 with the film Man of Steel and will be directed by Zack Snyder with Henry Cavill as Superman.
Superman (Brandon Routh) has been missing for five years, since traveling to the location where astronomers believed they had discovered the remains of Krypton. During his absence, Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) was released from prison and married a rich widow to obtain her fortune upon her death. Superman, having failed in his quest to find surviving Kryptonians, returns to Earth and, as Clark Kent, resumes his job at the Daily Planet in Metropolis. He subsequently learns that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has won the Pulitzer Prize for her article “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” Meanwhile, Luthor travels to the Fortress of Solitude and steals Kryptonian crystals, which he uses for an experiment that causes a power outage on the East Coast. The power loss interferes with the flight test of a space shuttle to be launched into space from its piggy-back mounting on an airliner, occupied by Lois Lane, who is covering the story. Clark flies into action as Superman and stops the plane from crashing onto a baseball stadium.
The world rejoices at Superman’s return, but he has difficulty coping with Lois’ fiance, Richard White (James Marsden), nephew of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White (Frank Langella), and their 5-year-old son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). With Superman distracted by an out-of-control vehicle (a diversion involving Luthor’s henchwoman, Kitty Kowalski), Luthor steals Kryptonite from the Metropolis Museum of Natural History. Perry then assigns Lois to interview Superman while Clark investigates the blackout. Lois and Jason inadvertently board Luthor’s ship and are captured after Lois decides to hold interest in the blackout story, which she connects to Luthor’s experiment. He reveals to them his grand scheme of using one of the stolen Kryptonian crystals, which he has combined with the Kryptonite, to grow a new continental landmass in the Northern Atlantic Ocean that will cause sea levels to rise drastically, killing billions of people.
Seeing Jason seemingly have a slight reaction to Kryptonite, Luthor asks who Jason’s father really is; Lois asserts that the father is Richard. The crystal begins to create Luthor’s new landmass, while Lois attempts to escape but is attacked by a henchman. Jason throws a piano at the henchman, killing him and showing that he is actually Superman’s son. Meanwhile, Superman is attempting to minimize the destruction in Metropolis caused by the new landmass’ growth when Richard arrives in a sea plane to rescue Lois and Jason. Superman soon arrives to help and then flies off to find Luthor.
Meeting Luthor, Superman discovers the landmass is filled with Kryptonite, which weakens him to the point that Luthor and his henchmen are able to beat him. Superman is stabbed by Luthor with a shard of Kryptonite and falls into the ocean. Lois makes Richard turn back to rescue Superman, whereupon she removes the Kryptonite from his back. Superman, after regaining his strength from the sun, lifts the landmass after putting layers of earth between him and the Kryptonite. Luthor and Kitty escape in their helicopter; Kitty, unwilling to let billions of people die, tosses away the crystals that Lex stole from the Fortress of Solitude. She and Luthor are stranded on a desert island when their helicopter runs out of fuel. Superman pushes the landmass into space, but is weakened by the Kryptonite and crashes back to Earth. Doctors remove more Kryptonite from Superman’s wound, but after it is removed they cannot penetrate his skin with their surgical tools. While Superman remains in a coma, Lois and Jason visit him at the hospital where Lois whispers a secret into Superman’s ear and then kisses him. Superman later awakens and flies to visit Jason, reciting his father Jor-El’s (Marlon Brando) last speech to Jason as he sleeps. Lois starts writing another article, titled “Why the World Needs Superman”. Superman reassures her that he is now back to stay, and flies off to low orbit, where he gazes down at the world once again.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Mar 14, 2012 – Last Updated: May 10, 2013