Although I can definitely respect what Superman Returns attempted to accomplish. The movie aimed to deliver on nostalgia by honoring the deservedly fondly remembered original Superman move. Unfortunately, the very fact that its so difficult to explain how the film fit in to what had come before should have set off red flags. Let me give it a try. Released 26 years after Superman II, Superman Returns was a sequel to Superman II set about 5 years after the events of that film. Superman Returns pretends that Superman III and IV did not exist, or at least had not happened yet. Now this setup may have been a little easier to buy if the actors were of believable ages, but Lois in particular does not seem 5 years older than she was in Superman II, nor did many of the other elements of the world seem believably in the same continuity. So what was Superman Returns? Kind of an outdated mess, too respectful of what had come before to be anything on its own, and yet so disrespectful of the source material to make Superman even more unrelatable than he is already often portrayed. Good superhero movie? Debatable. Good Superman movie? Not really.
I don't want to beat up on the movie too much, but it was just a shame that in trying to rekindle the magic of those original movies, the franchise felt the need to erase the progress Superman had made in the ensuing 25 years. Luthor had evolved to being a much more complex character than a zany real estate tycoon. Also, the love triangle set up between Lois, her boyfriend Richard, and Superman really had no possible satisfactory outcome. Such is life sometimes, but who wants to see Superman miserable or being a miserable father? The first time I saw this movie, I do admit to having enjoyed it, but every time since it seems longer and worse. I don't need to see Superman constantly punching things, but the lack of action (aside from the amazing airplane rescue) are legitimate criticisms. That and the plot makes no sense. Its sort of a shame the movie ended without resolution to many elements, but after a couple years I really didn't care anymore. Thank goodness the franchise would get another shot.
Check back next week for another chapter in The Super History of Superman.