The Superman Movies! (part four)

Previously on All UR Movies Are Belong to Us, we tore into the Christopher Reeve Superman movies (and then briefly skimmed over Supergirl and Steel), this time we’re looking at the last two outings of the Last Son of Krypton… which could not be more tonally different!


Superman Returns - poster with Lois


Directed by: Bryan Singer

Starring: Brandon Routh (Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane), Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor), James Marsden (Richard White), Parker Posey (Kitty Kowalski), Frank Langella (Perry White), Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olsen), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent), Kal Penn (Henchman #2), and Marlon Brando (space dad hologram).

Plot: Nothing happens for the first 90% of the movie, and then for the last 10% the stakes are finally raised to EVEN MORE nothing happening. Also, Superman is a deadbeat dad who spies on Lois Lane constantly, never punches anything, and has a dorky bastard kid with superpowers and a terrible haircut. Speaking of terrible haircuts, Lex Luthor is back at it again with another ridiculous scheme involving real estate!


Comic Zombie: Superman Returns is the exhibit A some people point to when they say that superhero movies shouldn’t be made by fanboys (to which I counter with The Avengers). It seemed like a no-brainer: Brian Singer had just made two very successful X-Men movies, it has a solid cast (on paper), a huge budget, and was a do-over for parts 3 and 4, which this film pretends never happened. Just like the rest of us.

I mean, nothing could go wrong this time around, right? Right??!!

WRONG! - Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey)

Turns out they probably should have just started from square one with a hard reboot. And a different director. And a different cast. And with a script that SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN.

Basically, ever single choice they made with this film screams ‘WRONG’ to me. From the horrible writing to the poor costume design to Kevin Spacey being wasted with a ridiculous Lex Luthor with a terrible scheme to the horrible pacing, this whole movie, like this sentence, is just a mess.

Superman Returns - Brandon Routh

You, sir, look ludicrous.

It doesn’t satisfy any of the things that fans of Superman were hoping to see. Instead of a love story between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, we get Superman: Absentee Father and Creepy Stalker, Superman’s bastard, bowl cut sporting son, and a love triangle in which the only likable character is the guy the audience should be rooting AGAINST, not FOR. (Does Brian Singer hate James Marsden, or something?). Instead of a huge battle with a classic Superman foe we see the man of steel go toe to toe with…. well, not really with anyone. He actually doesn’t even punch anything. In the entire movie. Nothing screams “Superman!” like absolutely no fighting. I guess he needed to save his energy for being really fucking creepy.

Superman Returns - Superman staring into space

Superman’s new power: Blank staring!

And Lex Luthor’s real estate plot… not only have we already seen this hackneyed nonsense, but it wasn’t even good the first time! His idea is terrible, by the way. I don’t care how big he can make a continent out of kryptonite, nobody in the world is going to want to live on that desolate, ugly, barren wasteland. You’re a fucking idiot, Lex. But then, I already knew that.

Superman Returns - Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Parker Posey as Kitty Kowalski


Bottom line, this movie is inexcusably dull. And while the art direction and overall look of the movie is fine, and at times pretty striking with its retro, art-deco look, the look just feels off. Not a solid entry into the franchise, but at least it’s suckitude allowed for the reboot I always wanted.


Erik Smash:

I have some really mixed feelings about this one…

Superman Returns - savior poster

What’s up with all the blatant Jesus motifs? Don’t they know the creators were Jewish?

As a Superman fan, there’s some really great moments in it, but overall it’s just not the movie it should have been. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, it just pails in comparison to… well almost the entire genre of super hero films. I hate to admit it, but I had a really painful time re-watching this entry. It’s sooooo flawed.

Superman saving plane - Superman Returns

That one good action scene…

At the time, I gave it more credit than it deserved, because I was just excited to see a Superman movie in theaters. In fact, that is one of this movie’s saving graces, it looked really good on the big screen. They really captured the scope and look of the classic Superman movies, with a 21st century update, BUT that right there was part of the problem. It was a nostalgia-fueled trip with no substance of its own.

Superman Returns - Lois and Clark

Speaking of no substance…

There’s a couple really powerful moment where it seems like Superman sacrifices himself to save Metropolis, but it’s completely wasted. The whole movie seems like set up for a show down that never really materializes. It just seems like so much squandered potential. Mongul, Bizarro, Metallo, Brainiac, Livewire, Parasite, Doomsday, Zod, Solomon Grundy, a random army of robotic zombie Nazis – just give Superman something to punch! At the very least, give Lex a mech suit or a super serum. There’s so much about this movie I could’ve forgiven if they’d just do something more interesting that giant chunk of Kryptonite. (Even Smallville proved that there’s a dozen more interesting ways to utilize Kryptonite)

Superman Returns - Kryptonite

Ok, so the Kryptonite shank wasn’t a terrible idea…

I was hoping the movie would at least try and incorporate some elements from the post-Silver Age comics, but it was all a love letter to the Richard Donner original, which is ultimately a better movie. Superman Returns isn’t the worst Superman movie ever made, but it does feel like a missed opportunity. This movie had a HUGE budget and it was all spent on slow atmospheric shots of the Man of Steel moping. The very little action there is in the movie is good, but it’s unfortunately bogged down by so much unnecessary drama.

James Marsden, Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth

Oh, no. Our careers…

I mean, come on, he’s a character that debuted in ACTION COMICS!

Brandon Routh is actually a great choice for Clark Kent and Superman, but he’s too busy acting like Christopher Reeve. Kevin Spacey does an entertaining portrayal of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor, but it’s not the version of Lex Luthor anyone wants to see at this point, aside from the fact that this is the FIFTH movie in the franchise and the fourth to feature Lex Luthor…

Lex Luthor - stabbing Supes from behind...

Scream all you want, Routh! If I can’t leave this shitshow you damn sure aren’t going anywhere!


CZ: Exactly! I mean, Lex Luthor should be the easiest villain ever to get right on the screen. There are literally hundreds of comics where he is genuinely threatening. Scary, even! Hell, the Timm-verse animated Superman and Justice League series did a far better job portraying Luthor in 20+ minute episodes than Warner Bros did in FOUR movies! And Superman 4 is just shy of 95,000 hours long, so it’s not like they didn’t have the room to explore his character. If they even bothered to give him one.


Spoilers: They did not

Ugh, there are SO MANY bad choices in this movie. I dislike it more than some other super hero movies that I should hate more (I’m looking at you, Green Lantern!) simply because I had such high hopes for it, and those hopes were smashed to pieces. Stupid, boring, crotch hugging pieces. Did we learn NOTHING as a species from Joel Schumacher??

ES: Apparently not…



Man of Steel - poster


Directed by: Zack Snyder

Starring: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Russel Crowe (Jor-El), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White), Antje Traue (Faora), Harry Lennix (Gen. Swanwick), Richard Schiff (Dr. Emil Hamilton), Christopher Meloni (Col. Hardy), Mackenzie Gray (Jax-Ur), Michael Kelly (Lombard), and Rebecca Buller (Jenny Olsen).

Plot: Zod and the other exiled Kryptonians come to Earth to get the Kryptonian codex, which contains the genetic history and makeup of their entire race. It just so happens that it is in the possession of one Kal El, aka Clark Kent, aka Superman, aka… no, wait, I think that’s all of them. An obscene amount of fisticuffs and property damage (and oh so many civilian casualties) later, we have an amazing movie with an insanely powerful, and somewhat incompetent, Superman.


Comic Zombie: Superman fans seem to be rather split on this one, and for the life of me I can’t quite figure out why. Man of Steel is, for the most part, the Superman movie I always wanted to see. It’s grounded enough in reality that it doesn’t seem too insane for a bunch of aliens to be destroying everything in sight, but embraces the fantastic enough that it doesn’t shy away from the massive, MASSIVE amounts of property damage and casualties fights like Superman vs the Kryptonians would actually cause.

Man of Steel - Metropolis destruction (Perry White and Jenny Olsen)

Oh, shit, run! We wandered into Transformers 3!

Some people are mad that Superman ‘allows’ so many people to die in Metropolis. My response to that is that the Superman in Man of Steel is very much a novice. He’s never really fought anyone before, and his first real combat is not only against people from his planet, people he might have been able to relate to and learn from, but they are all combat trained military officers.

They are able to adapt to the powers Earth’s yellow sun gives them very, very quickly, while Clark has spent a lifetime showing restraint in all things, and while his prolonged exposure to our sun ultimately makes him the most powerful of the Kryptonians, its like being stronger than a UFC fighter but having no fighting skills. Sure, you can lift more than the guy, but in the ring he’s going to hand you your ass. That’s pretty much what happens with Superman. He’s way over his head, and not prepared for the fight he is facing. Which causes him to grow up a lot, and embrace his insane power. By the end of the movie he is pretty much exactly where you would want him: confident, righteous, and in control of his powers.

Man of Steel - Supes kills Zod

Also a murderer.

I guess the major point of contention is that (Spoilers!) Superman is forced to kill Zod to save some innocent people. I have heard “Superman doesn’t kill. No matter what.” And believe me, as a die-hard comic book fan, I totally get this point of view. I just don’t agree with it. In this situation Superman has no real choice. Zod forces his hand. Superman’s choices boiled down to: Let an innocent family die in an inferno of fire stares, or twist Zod’s head around like a fucking soda bottle top. Obviously he went with door #2, and here’s why I don’t have a problem with Supes executing ol’ assface Zod. Superman couldn’t stand by and watch an innocent family die. Especially not while they are right in front of him.

General Zod

“Those Internet Trolls, bring them to me!” – Zod

So while I get where some of the film’s detractors are coming from, I just don’t understand what movie they were watching. Did they miss out on the incredible score? Or the insanely cool fight scenes? Or the solid performances by Amy Adams and Russel Crowe? Or Henry Cavill kicking ass as the big blue boyscout? Be honest, the first time you saw him on the big screen in costume you were like “wow”. He looks the part and then some.

Man of Steel - Henry Cavill as Superman

‘Sup, girl?

Zack Snyder did a terrific job with the Man of Steel. And it’s good. It’s one of those cases that you look at the previous film, in this case Superman Returns, and say ‘man that last one was horrible. So, so horrible.’


Erik Smash:

I LOVE this movie. To me, this isn’t just one of the best Superman movies, it’s probably one of the best super hero movies ever made AND easily the most misunderstood superhero film. “Man of Steel” isn’t just a fun action movie, it’s a new and interesting take on a character that still honors his 75 year history. But more importantly – we actually get to see Superman unleashed! In a lot of ways it’s the exact opposite of what we got last time. In fact, the biggest complaint about the movie is that there’s too much action.


We heard you, America!


It’s not a perfect movie, but it is everything I’ve always wanted to see in a Superman movie: Superman letting loose on a villain who can take it, Zod and other Kryptonians wrecking shit up, Lois Lane being a badass, Lex Corp!, Superman being given an impossible choice, Clark struggling with his destiny and dealing with the fact that he’s the last of his kind, acknowledgement that his greatest weakness is his loved ones, slightly better pseudo-scientific explanations for Kryptonian physiology, and Superman fighting an alien robot.

Also, Faora…


This scene could’ve gone very VERY differently…

Still, I kinda miss Ursa…


So about those butt hurt fan boys complaining about that ending – here’s my take:

On Superman destroying Metropolis – Yeah, the city did get leveled by Zod and his Kryptonian dub-step machine, but blaming that on the only guy trying to stop it is something Lex Luthor would do. People seem to forget that this is not an experienced Kal-El, he’s doing the best he can to survive much less save the world, which he does!


Oh come on Henry Cavil, now you’re just showing off.

On Superman killing Zod – Despite the shocking nature of this scene, I thought it was earned and actually intrinsically made sense to the story. AND for the record, this isn’t the first time Superman has killed Zod! It could even be argued that he killed Zod in Superman II, sure we never saw a body, but I think it’s pretty clear that there’s three Kryptonian corpses at the bottom of the Fortress of Solitude.

Superman has even killed Zod in the comics – on more than one occasion!


Superman: Killing Zods since you were living in your dad’s junk.

What’s more is that it makes even more sense in the context of the movie, because he really has no other choice:

  1. This is a world that is not equipped to incarcerate someone who can headbutt the moon in half.
  2. Kryptonite has yet to be discovered.
  3. The Phantom Zone portal was destroyed.
  4. Zod is fully committed to destroying all life on the planet.
  5. Superman is barely a physical match for Zod.


It’s also worth noting that Superman doesn’t actually become Superman till the end of the movie at which point he’s forced to choose Earth and his adoptive parents over his Kryptonian heritage and truly embraces his role as Earth’s protector, even from his own kind. He doesn’t even don the ‘Clark Kent’ disguise at the Daily Planet till the very last scene of the movie. Speaking of which, I really appreciated the way they developed the Lois and Clark relationship, with her knowing his secret from the get go. I also really dug the score by Hans Zimmer, it had an appropriately other-worldly vibe to it, reminded me of ‘Mass Effect’. My absolute favorite scene though was the holographic simulation sequence where Zod asks Kal-El to join them.

Man of Steel nightmare

“Man of Steel” is a modernized take on Superman’s origin story. It proposes what it might actually be like if a super-powered alien were to really show up on Earth, how the world might react and the destruction it might cause. It’s also about a normal guy who just so happens to be one of the most powerful beings on the planet attempting to find his place in the world and do the right thing.



Coming soon: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!

Click here to check out our take on ALL the Batman movies! (Holy Bat-movies!)

Also the Spider-man movies…

And 6 Terrible Superman movies you won’t believe almost happened!

4 responses to “The Superman Movies! (part four)

  1. Pingback: The Superman Movies! (part 3) | Comic Zombie

  2. Pingback: The X-MEN movies | Comic Zombie

  3. Pingback: The X-MEN movies (Part 2: Wolverine and Deadpool) | Comic Zombie

  4. Pingback: The X-MEN movies (Part 3: First Class – Apocalypse) | Comic Zombie

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