Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns turns 10 this month, and over the last decade, it’s managed to build up something of a mixed legacy.
A quasi-sequel to the Superman films of the 70s and 80s starring Christopher Reeve (well, the first two, at any rate), the film received generally good reviews, with critics praising Singer’s heartfelt direction, the fine performances of the cast, and the strong visuals courtesy of cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel and production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas.
And yet Superman Returns ended up having a polarising effect on audiences. Among the more commonly criticised aspects of the film were its oddly melancholic undercurrent, Lex Luthor’s nonsensical evil scheme and the introduction of a cute kid who – spoiler warning! – effectively transforms Superman into the Deadbeat Dad of Steel.
Fans also took Singer and screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris to task for the film’s romantic tone – although this tends to be downplayed by many naysayers these days, now that they’ve been confronted by the dour nihilism of the Man of Steel reboot – and its lack of a proper, superpowered dust-up.
Admittedly, many of the set pieces in Superman Returns do boil down to “Superman encounters heavy object, lifts it”, and the film is hamstrung by the absence of any real physical threat to the Big Blue Boy Scout.
Still, it featured at least one action scene that everyone seemed to agree was pretty damn amazing, which is when the Man of Steel wrangles a failing Boeing 777 in mid-air, a pulse-pounding demonstration of just how difficult this sort of feat would be, even for a guy who can do pretty much anything.