Another problem with Superman Returns is the set design. There is no doubt that the set design is top-notch. It really is. However, it doesn’t quite fit into a Superman film. If Superman Returns is a quasi-sequel, then the set design here would constitute a continuity error (most of this is aimed particularly at the city of Metropolis). The Metropolis in this film looks nothing like the Metropolis in Superman II (it changed a lot in five years?). What’s problematic about the set design is that it kind of belongs more in a Tim Burton film than in a Superman movie (unless of course Tim Burton was making a Superman movie, which by the way he was about a decade ago). One example would be the mansion we see after the opening credits (Batman should have immediately come to mind when seeing it). It’s understandable for one to think that Tim Burton might have directed or produced this film; the look of the film in terms of sets and lighting more than suggests his involvement. There also seemed to be too much use of CGI. There are those who made claims of CGI overuse in films like the Matrix sequels and Van Helsing, but it didn’t bother me (especially since their budgets were $150 million and $160 million respectively). The CGI overuse in Superman Returns, however, does bother me (obviously because of the huge budget). There had to be a few sequences that could have been shot with miniatures that would then get some digital enhancements. One such sequence could’ve been the one where Superman lifts the Kryptonite continent into the air and pushes it out into space (the miniature obviously being the Kryptonite continent). When Superman fell down to Earth, he seemed to have fallen into Central Park. While this sequence was done with CGI, the wide shots could have been accomplished by shooting some templates in New York and then digitally remove whatever shouldn’t be there for the sequence. I admit that the CGI, although overused, was very impressive.
Another reason for this film having a Tim Burton feel to it is the dark costume that Superman wears. This is the only costume that I found problematic. Why was it dark to begin with? Does anyone remember Christopher Reeve wearing a dark Superman costume? Oh wait, that’s right. It was in Superman III when he developed a dark persona for a while after being exposed to that ersatz Kryptonite. Why did Bryan Singer think it was a good idea for Superman to fly around in a maroon and dark blue suit? The colors of the costume Christopher Reeve wore in the four Superman films he appeared in were just fine; there was absolutely no need to darken them. Someone should’ve told Bryan Singer that while darkening the costumes was a good idea for X-Men, it wasn’t a good idea for Superman. Superman Returns skips over the events of Superman III, but yet Superman Returns has Superman wearing the dark costume from Superman III. I’m sure some people found that confusing (or at the very least mind-boggling). Bryan Singer has often stated that there were certain basic elements of Superman that shouldn’t be messed around with, but yet he messed around with the colors of the Superman costume (which seems to qualify as a basic element of Superman). Can anyone say flip-flop? And just to be clear, this argument wouldn’t apply to the upcoming Man of Steel since that film will not be in continuity with the Christopher Reeve Superman films, which Superman Returns supposedly was (I’m quite fine with the Superman costume and its colors in the upcoming new film since it starts the story all over again).
There’s also the issue with the kid. In Superman Returns, Lois Lane has a young son named Jason and it’s quite obvious from the first time he appears that he is Superman’s son. Because it was so obvious to begin with, it was hardly surprising later on when he pushed the piano towards Lex Luthor’s henchman to save Lois. It is also quite surprising that no one in the film brought up the question of Jason’s father until Lex noticed the kid slightly cringe at the sight of Kryptonite. There were many opportunities in the film for Superman to discuss this issue with Lois, especially during their flying sequence. The idea of Lois having a son with Superman as the father brings up the question of whether or not they had actually had intercourse in Superman II. Bryan Singer stated that he assumed that they did and that is why she has a kid in Superman Returns. Assumed? Mr. Singer, either they did or they didn’t. You can’t just assume that they did because maybe they did have protected sex (which means you made the wrong assumption). By assuming that Superman and Lois had intercourse, you’re implying that they had unprotected sex, which raises a further question: Is Kryptonian biology compatible with human biology? This issue had actually been raised on an episode of “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (with Dean Cain as the Man of Steel and Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane). It had been revealed in that episode that their biologies were in fact NOT compatible and, therefore, they could not have children. But still, it was just a bad idea to include Lois having a kid, especially since Kate Bosworth was going to be cast as Lois lane. Or rather miscast. Granted, Kate gave a terrific performance and was, to a point, convincing as Lois. I say to a point because Kate Bosworth was only 23 when Superman Returns hit theaters in the summer of 2006. An actress about five years older should have been cast as Lois because, if anything else, it would’ve helped with the credibility factor. Why couldn’t Kate Bosworth play Lois on “Smallville” and Erica Durance play Lois in Superman Returns? Oh well.
According to an interview with the Washington Post, Bryan Singer mentioned a scene that was in an early draft of the script but was never filmed. He said, “At one point, I had a scene in the script which I never shot, and I probably was never going to shoot, where Superman would be standing … at dawn at Ground Zero. Sort of standing there, almost as if to say, ‘If I had been here, this might not be.'” It’s a good thing he never shot it because it wouldn’t have fit in with the rest of the film. But then again, perhaps he should have shot it as an extra for the DVD; technically it wouldn’t be a deleted scene but rather just a Superman moment since it would have nothing to do with the film. It would’ve made an interesting feature for the DVD.
In terms of trying to keep the budget down, there was a shot in Superman Returns that cost $3 million but seemed like a waste of money. It was during the bank robbery that Superman foiled. The bank robber was shooting at Superman with the giant machine gun, and then he took out his gun to shoot Superman. In one of the trailers, the shot was shown in slow motion. It shows the bullet leaving the gun and going all the way to Superman’s eye. The bullet then gets crushed upon impact and falls to the ground. Perhaps the point of the shot was so that it would be something cool to show in the trailer. It seems like a waste of money for that shot because it wasn’t an important one. That shot could be taken out of the film and the scene will still have the same impact on viewers. Bryan Singer had to convince the studio to give him the extra $3 million for that shot, and they actually agreed! They should have said no mostly because of the enormous budget he was already playing around with. And what’s with the thieves having that machine gun? The only purpose served by having the thief shoot at Superman with the machine gun was to show another homage to Superman: The Movie. In the restored director’s cut of Superman: The Movie, there was a scene of where Superman, who dug underground in search of Lex Luthor’s hideout, is subjected to bullets, fire, and ice before finally arriving at the hideout. The machine gun fire that Superman is subjected to in Superman Returns is nothing more than a visual reference to that bullets, fire and ice sequence from the original film.
75 Years of Superman: Why Bryan Singer Shouldn’t Have Made Superman Returns Part Four)