Lois Lane (played by Kate Bosworth) and her coworkers at the Daily Planet have been watching the skies hopefully for five years, waiting for Superman’s return. But that’s nothing: It’s been nearly 20 since we saw our hero in 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Largely faithful to the original series but with enough self-parody to make it palatable, Superman Returns is a satisfying sequel. Superman (Brandon Routh) returns to Earth after a visit to his home planet Crypton reveals it to be a wasteland. Five years have passed: Lois Lane is married with a young child, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has weaseled his way out of prison, and even Clark Kent’s mother has given up all hope of his return. In short, the world has gone on without Superman. But as Luthor and his cronies hatch a scheme that will kill millions, it becomes clear that he has returned in the nick of time.
The story is predictable—after all, the man only has one weakness—but that’s what we love about superhero stories. We know the good guy is going to win, we just want to see how. The complexity of the relationship between Clark Kent, yearning for Lois Lane, Lois Lane, yearning for Superman, and Lane’s husband Richard (who she faintly praises as “a good man”) afraid he’s losing his wife, is a nice contrast to the clear-cut battle of good and evil.
Routh is a good Superman, profoundly average and good to his core. Bosworth is an appealing heroine, mother, love interest and occasional savior. And Spacey adds another dimension not just to Lex Luthor, whose grim humor makes him seem like the kind of villain who’d be great at a party, but to the whole movie, lending it the ironic edge that saves it from being lackluster.
In short, Superman Returns gives a nod to its predecessors, presents an entertaining story in its own right, and leaves the door wide open for a sequel.