Meanwhile, the disappointment of SUPERMAN RETURNS’ worldwide grosses continue to cause vague, disquieting unease in Hollywood:

Now that Warner Bros.’ “Superman Returns” has flown around most of the world, the question is: What was the factor that proved kryptonite to weaken the superhero’s results?

Was it the studio’s marketing campaign? A character too steeped in Americana, at a time when “truth, justice and the American way” is under fire? An inability to update the wholesome Man of Steel for the “Grand Theft Auto” generation? Or was it just the film itself? [snip]

“Some hardcore fans thought, ‘This is the way it is supposed to be,’ ” says one international vet. “But others thought it was old-fashioned. Maybe Singer was too much of a fan?”

A previous story digs even deeper into SUPERMAN RETURNS fiscal irresponsibility:

Warner Bros. Pictures execs are mulling whether to go ahead with a planned sequel and ink another deal with director Bryan Singer.

The film is not such a blockbuster that a follow-up is inevitable — but not such a disappointment that a sequel would be ludicrous. After all, the first “Austin Powers” pic was a modest hit that begat two huge grossers.

Word on the Warners lot is that the studio is trying to lock down a deal with Singer for a sequel.

Many speculate that WB has invested too much time and money to walk away. What’s more, the film fuels a number of Time Warner outlets, including homevid, ancillaries and merchandising — even subsid DC Comics.

Warners and co-financing partner Legendary Pictures have a shot at breaking even on “Superman” once all the revenue streams are accounted for, but it’s going to be a long, tough haul.


  1. What lead to its failure? Its not that we’ve changed, its not that today’s moviegoers want an updated hero….
    It was an EH! bordering on FEH! movie that should have been great, and that it’s not making $$$ — too bad. DC should refund movie-goers tickets by way of offering them the TP of All-Star Superman instead, proving there’s magic in this “superbrand” as opposed to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. the movie should have been called Lois and her man and Superman… good job on the movie’s part for introducing a son, that took cojones, but that SO SO much of the movie hinged on Lois and her fellow saving the weakened Superman, etc BORING, MELODRAMATIC, and just plain weird… kids seeing this movie, are going to see Superman’s rival being just as super as he is, but sans powers, and Superman still gets the love, what does that teach? Am I missing something or is this as icky to anyone else as it was to me.

    As far as a sequel goes, hell YES

  2. Maybe they shouldn’t have made a movie that was in so many ways just a remake of the first Donner film! I mean, jeez, Lex comes up with another real estate scheme? Oy.

  3. CONT’d from previous
    ..As far as a sequel goes, hell YES. The basic ingredients are there. Brandon was a solid superman. Dialogue was good. the feel was appropriately “super” they just need to figure out the right balance of wonder versus action versus mush, with some seriuously visual villains, and my prediction is sequel will be best Superman movie since first. Spiderman got it. First 2 X-men were tight. Batman Begins had some hearty mystique and oomph….. They should go Grant with the next one. ESPECIALLY Jamie Grant’s techopsychedelic color scheme….

  4. Let’s see, how can I put this in a genteel fashion?

    I’ll be damned if the Superman movie didn’t screw the pooch when it came to fueling another “I just gotta see what happens next” kind of movie. Warner may not realize it now, but the possibility of people ignoring the next movie is quite high. I’ll only mention Ang Lee’s “Hulk” in passing here, but sometimes the only solution is a reboot.

    Now, ignoring the original Supes III and IV, this movie tried to restart the movie franchise. The debate referenced in post above is whether the movie actually did restart that franchise. While the box office/DVD money may suggest that the jury is still out on this, I’ll advise Warner to really think hard on this one. I have several suggestions, but the core response is, “You don’t want to see people laugh at Superman”. That movie came real close to it.

  5. The rebooted Batman with Batman Begins.
    And should have done the same here. Singer was too much of a fan of the movie he grew up on and forgot the demographic they were trying to sell this movie to wasnt even born when the first set of Superman movies came out!

  6. I suspect the biggest problem with Superman Returns was that it never passed its biggest hurdle — it needed to convince moviegoers that it was cooler than Smallville… or even Lois & Clark. There were two popular new takes on the franchise since the original film, so promising a homage to the original seemed rather quaint.

  7. True! But maybe Singer should have looked deeper for his homage, a la AllStar Superman with its million ideas a minute, taking 50s silliness into the sublime, or even Alan Moore’s Supreme take on the same Weisinger era. The Fantastic Four movie had similar problem but even worse, they kept everything but the KIRBY and brought in Dr.Dud.
    Also how about the whole design element. yeah the crystals looked cool but sooooo much of them was just Gormenghastian in its oppressive vibe….. (my entire 3 comment train of thought was all just an excuse to use the former adjective)

  8. In my personal opinion, the problem is the film itself. Instead of a new Superman film for the 21st Century, we got a sequel to an almost 30 year old franchise. I don’t think that a modern movie audience really wanted a love-letter to Chris Reeve.

  9. I can sum up the problem with the film very simply: It was glum and depressing instead of joyful and uplifting.

    When Chris Reeves flew, my heart leapt into my throat with joy. He looked like he was having tremendous fun.

    When Brandon Routh flew, he looked grim and depressed.

    Superman is an icon of wonder, and that’s what we need to see. But glum and gritty is what you get when you bring in a director known for dark, edgy material.

  10. Strictly speaking from a financial angle, “Superman Returns” cost WAAAAAAY too much money to make. End of story. Putting adjusted grosses aside for a moment, this was an almost impossible project to recoup an investment from. Also, I don’t quite see where all the reputed $225 million dollars went… the FX were nice, but no wheels were reinvented. Right?

  11. There was little to nothing new here:

    – Spacey was channeling Hackman (except when he stabbed Supes in the back. You felt this guy spent time in prison).

    – Posey was channeling Perrine (why oh why do henchmen always have to be silly? Is this a rule I’m unaware of?)

    – Brandon Routh was chosen to play Christopher Reeve playing Superman/Clark Kent.

    This could have been a cool movie that spoke to this generation and inspired them….

    But no, we got a movie that’s stuck in the past.

  12. There wasn’t enough really cool moments in the trailer and frankly, not enough Superman. The coolest thing he does in the movie is rescue a plane? It was cool, but I thought the trailer for the videogame, complete with city smashing Brainiac, was more exciting. The technology is there to make any of DCs more visually appealing, more threatening, villains shine on screen.

    And the whole thing about him being gone so they could give him a kid with Lois just seemed too forced to me. I highly doubt he would have just split without talking to Lois. It’s not like finding out if Krypton had survivors was some urgent event that he had to leave last minute.

    That said, I know lots of people who loved it. My parents, who don’t read comics and aren’t big into movies, thought it was really great. The sequel potential is really high though. Funny that someone else mentioned a similarity to Hulk. It, too, sacrificed fun superhero action with long stretches of boring dialogue. Let’s hope they fix that in the Hulk 2/Supes 2.

  13. I’m not as analytical when it comes to filmed entertainment, so I couldn’t make any determinations of the movie itself. I only heard things like “they weren’t all really acting, just doing impressions of the old cast,” and “they used too much screen time to tell the story (well, that one I can believe because just when you think “they can’t end it like this and they’re going to,” they don’t),” and other stuff like that. My sole observations were that they made heavy references to the first two movies, and about most of the flying sequences were rendered in CGI (the actor’s face looked like it was rendered by computer). They did really ruin it by including the kid and the “special surprise” that comes with him.

  14. I thought the film was very well done all-around with only one exception – lack of suspense. Despite the fact that Luthor’s plan could have been devastating, with nobody else knowing about it (aside from the principles and co-horts) there was no sense of threat. I didn’t feel any worry for any of the people of Metropolis or the rest of North America or the world. And how many people really expected Superman to die while in the hospital?


  15. There’s nothing wrong with the character of Superman; hell, just watch any episode of “The Adventures of Superman” and see what I mean. He may be corny, but it’s a GOOD corny… it’s the notion of someone with the power of a god choosing to do good and help people. No, the problem was the movie itself. It breaks down into four sections:
    1) Superman returns
    2) Gets depressed
    3) Fights some rocks, and
    4) Almost loses
    What does that have to do with Superman? Where were the supervillains? Why is Lex so wimpy? Why the annoying bimbo sidekick? Why leave the Fortress of Solitude unlocked? Why use Kryptonian technology to build an island? Why is Superman stalking his ex? Why does Lois look like she’s 19? And don’t get me started on that kid…
    Seriously, before anyone invests another $200 million into a boring angst-fest, they should watch the Superman Adventures cartoons of the 1990s. Those guys captured the feel of Superman perfectly, and the pilot would make a GREAT theatrical film.

  16. SR’s disappointing returns have nothing to do with the character of Superman. As someone mentioned earlier, Lois & Clark and Smallville have both succeeded in telling versions of the Superman story. SR’s problem is that no one making the film really wanted to do their own interpretation. For all the flack that a lot of fanboys give Smallville, at least they were able to reinvent the character for the 21st century while remaining true to the essence of Superman. Also, the show’s take on the Luthors and the Kents are, IMHO, the best live action interpretations of these characters. Ever.

    Superman is still one of the most recognizable pop culture icons in the world. And a movie about him SHOULD have been one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) grossers of the year.

    Aside from L&C and Smallville, Superman has since 1978 successfully evolved as a character in countless comics (Post-Crisis, For All Seasons, Birthright, etc.) and animation (Supermant TAS, JLU). WB’s fatal mistake was entrusting their biggest franchise to a director whose only context for the Superman character was a 30-year-old movie adaptation.

  17. They had an actor trying to play Christopher Reeve playing Superman and an actor trying to play Gene Hackman playing Lex Luther. Top that off with a poorly done script and an over the top “Superman = Jesus” tone and what do you expect? It had it’s few and far between moments that made made the trailer look decent but once people sat in there and came out telling their friends, word got out.

    No, Nick Cage as Superman would have been horrible, this was just a step up. They could have done worlds better but they didn’t. As usual it’s the general population’s fault and no fault of Hollywood, or Holy-Wood as they seem to consider themselves. All that needed to have been done is make the movie be something people wanted to see.

  18. Everyone’s got some good guesses as to why Superman Returns failed, but, if it hasn’t been brought up here yet, I think I may have the answers:

    What seems to have led to the movie’s failure was at least two things: the scriptwriters turned the movie into a needless advocation of single parenthood, and using an actress who looked like she’s just 23 or younger, may have also made some people uncomfy about the implications from there.

    And, there’s also the deliberate omission of the old slogan that first debuted in the Superman radio serials of the 1940s: “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” When word got out that the filmmakers were ashamed of their own heritage, as if being American means that you can’t be a European’s hero as well, or vice versa, that apparently doomed the movie to box office oblivion. I’ll be quite honest here, but the way that Perry White asked if Supes still stands for “truth, justice, all that stuff?” sounded very unpleasant, as if truth and justice are meaningless. What next, no justice for people whose hard-earned money was robbed by a mugger?

    Columnist Michelle Malkin was bored by the movie, but it was the contempt by the filmmakers for what made Superman the great character he is to begin with that really turned her off, right down to the muting of his costume’s colors. I can only wonder if the upcoming Wonder Woman movie will suffer any of the same problems. I hope not, and with any luck, maybe the controversy that arose over Superman Returns will convince WB to be more respectable of the Man of Steel in the sequel…assuming there ever is one.

Comments are closed.