This Summer marks not only the 15th anniversary of Superman Returns but also when I started writing this blog because the first post I made was a review of ‘Superman Returns’. Since 2006 there have been 3 further movies featuring Superman although none of them have been connected to ‘ Superman Returns’.
So what happened?
A Superman movie had been in development since the early 90s and there were various Directors and actors attached to the project. The budget for Superman Returns was $204 Million dollars and factoring in the development from the 90s that brought it to over $260 Million, adding in marketing and promotion the total cost of the film stands at around $360 Million. It made a worldwide gross of $391 Million. It’s a profit but for these kinds of movies the studios expect to make double what they paid for it. But take a look at the worldwide gross of ‘Batman Begins’, $371 Million. But the budget for that movie was $150 Million. ‘Batman Begins’ was the 7th highest grossing movie in the USA in 2005. ‘Superman Returns’ was the 5th highest grossing movie in 2006. Despite all of that ‘Superman Returns’ was considered as having under performed and that’s mainly down to budget. The film received positive reviews from critics although audiences were perhaps wanting more action from the movie. Even Quentin Tarantino has said he wrote a 20 page review of why he loves the movie so much (although not available to read as of yet).
A sequel was planned for 2009. Filming was due to start in 2007 but the Director of Superman Returns delayed filming to work on ‘Valkyrie’ starring Tom Cruise. Even in 2008 there were still expectations for a Superman movie to start filming in 2009. Unfortunately things fizzled out and Warner Brothers decided to reboot the character which lead to 2013’s ‘Man of Steel’. The sequels to ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ both went on to make over $1 Billion each worldwide. If WB had stuck to their guns I think a sequel to ‘Superman Returns’ could have made a pretty penny for them. Superman is a property they just seem impatient with, they can’t stick with one vision and develop it to it’s full potential. 15 years later and they still don’t know how to handle the character.
While the rebooted Superman movie ‘Man of Steel‘ did better at the box office audiences felt turned off by the darker, conflicted, almost scary version of Superman. I personally prefer the Superman in Returns. Just compare two scenes from both movies, the first in ‘Superman Returns’. Lex Luthor creates a new continental landmass in the ocean which threatens to rise sea levels dramatically and causes a large earthquake in the city of Metropolis. This is followed by a large action sequence of Superman saving people across the city in various ways and using his powers to full effect. He catches a person falling from a building crane, he uses his heat vision to burn away falling glass from buildings, catches a building sign from crushing cars below etc. Compare that to ‘Man of Steel’, Superman and Zod battle in the city completely wrecking it but one moment in particular was telling of Superman’s character in MOS. Zod kicks an oil truck at Superman who jumps over it and lets it smash into the building behind him which completely collapses. I think it’s a car park but still, he has no regard for anything or anyone around him, all his powers of super strength, vision, hearing and he doesn’t use it to protect people around him.
I felt sorry for Brandon Routh who seemed perfect for the role. He’s still my second favorite Superman after Christopher Reeve. In 2019 Bandon returned to the role in CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. The first thing I noticed when he returned to the role was the commanding screen presence he has as Superman. He really is suited to the role. Unfortunately his appearance on Crisis was all too short. In his return we learn that an attack on the daily planet by a psychopath from Gotham took those closest to Superman. Superman now wears a suit like that of the Kingdom Come comics with the ‘S’ shield in a black background and Superman’s hair slightly grayed. At the end of Crisis we learn that the multi verse has been rebooted and we see Brandon’s Superman once again but this time with a yellow ‘S’ shield as he flies off smiling. I would imagine that this means events in his life may have changed and leaves open many possibilities…
So what was the plan for the 2009 sequel originally? The film had the potential title ‘Man of Steal’ and revolved around the Kryptonite Island Superman had pushed into space. The Island would attract the attention of Brainiac an artificial intelligence from Krypton that destroyed Superman’s world. Brainiac takes over the body of Superman’s son Jason growing to adult side and Superman must now fight his son leading to a tragic sacrifice in order to defeat Brainiac and save the world. Where this would have left a potential 3rd sequel is anyone’s guess. But it would have given us a more actiony film with a Wrath of Khan level ending.
So why did I put a question mark at the end of the title for this blog post? Well, since Routh’s brief return in Crisis there have been rumors that there might be a mini series on HBO Max with Routh returning to the role as Superman. It’s still a rumor for now but I sure as heck would love that and I am sure Routh himself would too. I think there is a sense of unfinished business for himself and fans.
Favorite Quote: “Even in the darkest times, hope cuts through.” – Superman