Superman Returns (2006) Revisited: Brandon Routh’s underrated Man of Steel

Last Updated on October 10, 2022

Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns is perhaps the most divisive Superman movie. When the movie came out in 2006, it was widely expected to launch an all-new franchise, reinventing the character for the 21st century. It came out with a lot of buzz attached to it, with Singer famously turning Marvel’s X-Men into a viable film franchise. Brandon Routh, who played the Man of Steel, was plucked from obscurity and was widely expected to become the next big thing, but the film was a notable underperformer.

While it still made $200 million domestically, the film probably lost money for the studio, given the budget. Even worse, fan reaction was decidedly cool, with many wondering why Singer opted to make the film a sequel to the first two Richard Donner Superman movies rather than a soft reboot. Singer’s gentle film, which never featured The Man of Steel throwing a punch, was considered old-fashioned, and planned sequels were abandoned.

In the years since, the film’s reputation has not been helped by the fact that two of its most prominent players have been “cancelled,” with Bryan Singer and Kevin Spacey (who played Lex Luthor) both notoriously radioactive following allegations of abuse. However, many have come around to Routh’s sensitive portrayal of the hero, with him parleying the role into a part as The Atom in the CW’s DC shows. At the same time, he also reprised his role as Superman in the Arrowverse “Crisis on Infinite Earths” adaptation. While he never became a star, he’s worked steadily and is a popular figure among fans.

In this episode of DC Revisited (written, narrated and edited by Tyler Nichols), we examine the making of Superman Returns and its legacy as a one-off Superman movie.

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.