“SUPERMAN RETURNS” VS “MAN OF STEEL” – VERDICT

Greetings all!!!

So, for a while, I’ve had this debate going on in my head and with my friends. The topic? Which was the better Superman movie? Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel? Or Bryan Singer’s 2006 film Superman Returns?

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The majority of people I know and the majority of film audiences preferred Man Of Steel, which is understandable, but I feel that Superman Returns is completely shat on for no absolute reason.

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If anything, I personally preferred Superman Returns. Especially after watching it again a few days ago.

And yes, while I preferred Singer’s film, I’m not gonna absolutely shit on Snyder’s picture based on bias or some sort of loyalty. As I said in my review, I did like Man Of Steel but I had some problems with it.

Also, I’m not going to be inhumanly supportive of Superman Returns and be worryingly blind to it’s faults.

One of the big areas that always comes up in this debate is who made the better Superman. Now, I am a big fan of both these portrayals.

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Brandon Routh played the dual roles of both Clark and Superman really well. Along with Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman, Routh’s incarnation is without a doubt the most under appreciated superhero portrayal. He portrayed the character with the grace and respect that is deserving of a character of such magnitude.

The way he delivered his lines as Clark and Superman had you believe that they really were two very different people being portrayed by two different actors.

As Clark he bumbled and spoke very softly, but as Superman he spoke with great confidence and authority. And I always love that scene when he speaks to Lois on the roof of the Daily Planet as Superman. This is where Routh really shines as Superman.

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Henry Cavill was also great. I was first skeptical when he was chosen for the role, but when you see Cavill out of the context of the film, when he is going about his everyday, you can’t help but only see him as Superman because he seems to have a lot in common with the character in terms of personality.

From what I’ve read, Cavill is a very nice and approachable and generous guy when it comes to the fans, so it does seem like there is a lot of that character in him. The scene I loved from Cavill was a very small and quick scene, but spoke so man volumes.

It’s when he tries to hitchhike a ride from a passing van after the confrontation in the bar he worked in. You could see the pain and internal anger felt by Clark, almost as if Cavill has, at some point in his life, been through that sort of angst. You believe that scene at the bar affected the actor more than the character.

But an interesting point I will make, whereas I can see Brandon Routh portraying both Singer’s and Snyder’s incarnation, I don’t think I could picture Cavill as Singer’s Superman. Does that mean Routh was better? You decide…

In terms of the films themselves, I can admit Singer’s film had it’s faults. Superman Returns wasn’t perfect, but it was the film that made me fall in love with the character of Superman, because Returns was the first Superman film I ever saw. I was 14 when it came out.

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Returns blew me away because all the cool things about Superman I ever wanted to see in a Superman movie was shown in the movie. Like the scene where he’s been shot at by a machine gun and the bullets are bouncing off his chest, or the scene where he caught the falling globe on top of the Daily Planet building, or especially the scene where he is saving the falling jumbo jet.

The scene where Superman is saving the damaged plane is by far, for me, the coolest scene I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie. And that’s saying something. It was such a well filmed, breath taking, edge of your seat scene. And the special effects were superb.

I’d happily take that jumbo jet scene over Superman vs Zod any day.

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I’m not claiming to be the number one Superman fan ever. I haven’t read every single issue that ever existed in the characters history. Hell, I’ve never even read the iconic Death and Return of Superman storyline.

But from the stuff I’ve learned about the character over the years, Superman Returns keeps more to the character than Man Of Steel does, especially in the action scenes.

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Think about it. In Man Of Steel, how many people did Superman try to save or even saved? Just a couple of soldiers…and Lois Lane…on several occassions. Most of the time, Superman was defending himself from taking a beating from nearly everyone who wanted to kick his ass.

But in Superman Returns, you can see Superman is trying to save everyone as much as he possibly can. Even putting personal issues to one side, particularly in the scene where he is heading away from Metropolis to save Lois.

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He has to make the choice as to whether he had to save the people of the city or save Lois. And in the end, in his true fashion, he goes to save the people, the innocent bystanders of Lex’s ever existing plan.

And it’s also the themes that both the films present to the table. Whilst Man Of Steel is a refreshing take on Kal-El’s origins, it tries too hard quite a lot of the time. It asks the questions: “Can you imagine how the world would react if they found out that someone like this was living among us?” 

It is trying to tackle a very realistic approach to Superman. How would the world react to an alien that has been living amongst us? But you never get the answer to that in the film. You don’t get that sense of awe and wonder. That theme is dismissed quite early.

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Man Of Steel also tries too hard to be iconic, to mean something. It asks so many other questions, like: “What if a child aspired to be something more than society intended?”

That is all well and good but it made no difference to the plot. And you can see the imagery used is deliberately set up to make Superman seem Christ like, but it seems at times more of a hindrance, as if you’re thinking, “Okay, we get it. Superman is symbolic. But can we just get on with the story?”

There is also such a huge emphasis on everything that is said and everything that happens regarding Clark’s parents. The film takes itself far too seriously that the thing that makes Superman such a lovable character seems missing.

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On the other hand Superman Returns tackles more mature themes regarding the character, moreover, it poses an interesting question. “What would happen if Superman came back to a world that no longer needed him? A world that moved on from him?” It’s a film that deals with loss, with moving on and with change.

It deals with Superman getting used to the change happening around him. That in a world in which he was once it’s beloved saviour, that world now needs him no more. What’s even more heart breaking is that the whole “the world doesn’t need Superman campaign” is being spear headed by the woman he loves most. His anchor to the Earth, Lois Lane.

Throughout the movie, Superman has to acclimatise to the world that is changing around him. Even though eventually the world does see that it still needs him, it’s a world that is so different to the one he left behind.

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And the scene where Superman goes to see Lois on top of the Daily Planet, is an emotionally moving scene. Why? Because Superman and Lois want to rekindle what has been lost.

Lois has been hurt by Superman, because she still loves him, and it is out of that love that she feel so much pain and hurt and anger that makes her decide to write the article Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman.

Superman is hurt that she wrote the article. That Lois has settled down and moved on. That she doesn’t depend on him like she used to. And for a fleeting moment, when they come back from their flight, they are about to kiss, and we get a glimpse of what was, and what could have been.

But Lois can’t forgive Superman, and she’ll never forgive herself for betraying Richard, her fiancé like that. Because in the end, Lois has truly moved on. She loves Richard, probably more than she realises. And that’s why she stops herself.

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Imagine it like this, we all have our exes. But there’s always that one that has such a huge impact on your life, that even seeing them has a profound effect on you. That when they enter and leave your life it’s like a tidal wave or a car crash of emotion.

The one the might have been. The one you still care a great deal about. But that person is the one that can still hurt you without being in a romantic relationship with you. The person who will always somehow find a way to let you down.

But the two of you have moved on and have to move on, because it’s for the better and you have someone else in your life who has a better hold on your life and is a better pillar of support in your life than your what-could-have-been.

And that’s what we have with the Superman, Lois and Richard triangle. Superman is Lois’ what could have been. But when Superman left for five years, he let Lois down. She felt like he had abandoned her.

And that’s where Richard comes in. He is always there for Lois. He is her constant and is with her even through the raising of her child. What’s more, Richard’s love for Lois is strongly demonstrated throughout the film. When Superman is in hospital she lets her go see him, even though he fears that there is a lot of history between Lois and Superman. But that demonstrates that he trusts her.

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But the scene that stands out with Richard is when he finds Lois and Jason on the plane. It’s basically telling us that Richard loves Lois so much he is willing to move heaven and Earth to save her, that he flies through hell on Earth to find her.

It’s themes like that, that made Superman Returns brilliant. Even Lex Luthor can’t seem to move on and get accustomed to change. Even he is angered by Superman’s departure. So when he stabs Superman, you can see that there is still some resentment towards Superman, but it’s resentment that transcends more than an age old rivalry.

But like I said earlier, Superman Returns did have it’s many flaws. And those flaws in my opinion, was about two characters. Lex Luthor and Jason White.

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Luthor’s master plan, while inventive, wasn’t the character I’ve come to know in the comics. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Spacey is, without a doubt a great Lex Luthor, but what stops his incarnation being the greatest were his motives.

The Lex Luthor I know from the comics and come to understand is that it seems that all the actions he takes are done in order to preserve human progression. And he sees Superman as someone who gets in the way of that. He sees Superman as a threat. It’s the world’s most powerful man against one of the universe’s most powerful beings.

He wants to be the one who leads mankind to greatness. He doesn’t want that job taken from him by an outsider. An alien. And if people think I’m wrong, think again. If Luthor really wanted to bring mankind to it’s knees, he wouldn’t on several occasions, suit up to work alongside the Justice League to save the world.

But in Returns, Lex Luthor wants to commit mass genocide in order to turn a profit. That’s not Lex Luthor.

Jason White was another minor flaw but could be seen in both a positive or negative way. I don’t mind that he’s Lois’ kid, I just don’t like that Superman is the father. I feel that in order to have Lois completely absolved of Superman, she needs everything about him completely deleted from her life. Having Jason as Superman’s son changes all that.

But then, like I said, people might see that as a positivity, that Jason is the reason for Superman to always be around in Lois’ life.

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A lot of people tend to complain that Superman Returns “sucked” because it lacked action. That they wanted to see Superman punch something. So in that sense Man Of Steel succeeded where Returns failed. But then people complained that they wanted to see more of the heart in Man Of Steel and that there was too much action.

Which I guess brings me to the point that I guess it seems that it’s never going to be easy making a Superman movie, because which ever approach you take to the character, not everyone is going to be happy. But I’ll say this:

For those who mindlessly shit on Returns, watch it again and get back to me. I think the problem was Returns seemed more of a romance. I guess that’s how you should look at it.

But I think if Returns wasn’t a Superman movie. If it was about a completely different, made up character, and it was marketed as a romantic film with touches of the superhero element, it might have been better received.

But the fact that it’s got that big S attached to it, puts it under pressure and high levels of expectation, so maybe SInger’s approach may have been wrong. I can’t believe I’ve said that about Bryan Singer of all people.

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I also think that people are saying Returns is terrible because it seems like the right thing to say now. Hell, I read Empire magazine’s 5 star review of Returns but as the years went by they slowly tore that film a new one.

Man Of Steel I think was the Superman film people wanted to see, but it lacked the depth and heart that would put it in the same category as The Dark Knight and make it a masterpiece.

But to it’s credit, what made Snyder’s film great was, like I said in my review, that it brought forward themes about Superman no one considered before. That, like most of us, we are still looking for our place in the world, for a sense of purpose and belonging. And that like Clark in Man Of Steel, we all, at some point in our lives, know what it’s like to be an outsider.

At the end of the day, what I’m really saying is Man Of Steel is a likable movie. And it had so much potential. But right now it seems unpolished to me. Still rough around the edges. I feel it needed something more to give it more punch, or something taken away.

Whereas Singer’s Returns was much more tidy, much more polished, much more of a complete picture. It was an elegant picture that hit at the core of the character and hit at the hearts of audiences. How can you not cheer along with the crowd after Superman saves the plane from crashing into the baseball stadium?

So, what do you think? Do you agree? Or do you think this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever posted? And who do you think made the better Superman? In fact, list your top five Superman portrayals if you please. For me, based on the incarnations I’ve seen, from 1 to 5: Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh, Henry Cavill, Tom Welling then Dean Cain.

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*Sighs* What could have been…

Comment below and I’ll see you on the next post!!!

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