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DC Movies Wiki
Superman Returns
Director: Bryan Singer
Producer: Gil Adler
Jon Peters
Bryan Singer
Chris Lee
Writer(s): Screenplay:
Michael Dougherty
Dan Harris
Bryan Singer
Comic Book:
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
Release Date: June 21, 2006
Running Time: 154 mins
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Superman Returns is a semi-reboot of the Superman series. It takes the place of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. The film uses Superman: The Movie and Superman II as a vague backstory. In the film, Superman has returned after being gone for five years, and tries to restore his relationship with Lois Lane and stop Lex Luthor from destroying America with the Fortress of Solitude's Kryptonian crystals.


Opening titles reveal Superman has been missing for five years after astronomers discovered the remains of Krypton. He returns to Earth with his spacecraft crashing back into his adoptive mother's crop field, and awakes the next morning reminiscing of his childhood. He returns to work as Clark Kent at The Daily Planet in Metropolis, where he learns Lois Lane is now a mother and has won the Pulitzer Prize for her article Why the World Doesn't Need Superman. During Superman's absence, Lex Luthor has been released from prison, conned a rich widow into a sham wedding to get his hands on her money, and stolen Kryptonian crystals from the Fortress of Solitude. Luthor returns to Metropolis and experiments with a tiny fragment in a pool which grows to immense size. The growing crystal causes a blackout, affecting the take off of a space shuttle-like vehicle tethered to a Boeing 777, which Lois Lane is aboard, covering the story. Clark flies into action as Superman and stops the plane from crashing into a baseball field.

The world rejoices in Superman's return, but Lois is more concerned with the blackout. Clark meets her fiancé Richard White, nephew of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White, and their son Jason. Superman is hurt when he overhears a conversation between Lois and Richard in which she says she never loved Superman. He buries himself in his work, including halting a bank heist and saving Kitty, Luthor's co-conspirator. While Kitty distracts Superman, Luthor steals Kryptonite from a museum. Perry assigns Lois to interview Superman whilst Clark investigates the blackout. At night, Lois goes out for a smoke on top of the The Daily Planet and Superman takes her for a flight, during which he apologizes for leaving her.

After her latest Superman interview, Lois focuses her attention on the blackout again and learns where it started. Lois and Jason sneak onto Luthor's ship, not realizing who owns it, and are captured. Luthor reveals his grand scheme: using one of the stolen Kryptonian crystals to grow a new landmass, supplanting the United States and killing billions in the process. He also inquires as to who is the father of Jason after noticing Lois' reaction to the kryptonite being near her son. Luthor launches the crystal (now encased in kryptonite) into the sea, causing a chain reaction resulting in its massive growth. Lois faxes their co-ordinates to The Daily Planet and is attacked by a henchman. Jason throws a piano at him in an apparent display of super strength, and after hearing news of the incident, Luthor imprisons them in a galley as he escapes in a helicopter. The landmass' growth causes destruction in Metropolis which Superman attends to, and Richard arrives in a sea plane to rescue Lois and Jason from the ship, which splits in half and sinks with them trapped inside. Superman rescues them and he flies off to find Luthor, who has returned to the landmass.

Meeting Luthor, Superman discovers the landmass is filled with kryptonite, which allows Luthor and his henchmen to beat and torture him. Luthor stabs Superman with a shard of kryptonite, after which he falls into the ocean and is left to drown. Lois makes Richard turn back to rescue Superman, and she removes the kryptonite shard from his back. Superman regains consciousness and flies back to deal with the landmass before it reaches America. Gathering more energy from the Sun, Superman lifts the landmass into the atmosphere. Luthor and Kitty escape in their helicopter, but not before Kitty tosses the crystals; she and Luthor are stranded on a desert island some time later. Superman throws the landmass into space, but weakened by the kryptonite, crash lands back to Metropolis. The doctors cannot penetrate his body with their medical equipment, but manage to remove the rest of the kryptonite from his wound. While Superman remains in a coma, Lois and Jason visit Superman at the hospital, where, careful not to let Jason overhear, Lois whispers a secret in Superman's ear. Superman later awakens and flies to see Jason, reciting his father's last speech to him as he sleeps. Lois also starts writing Why the World Needs Superman.


References to the broader Singerverse

Connections to Superman and Superman II

Singer has said that Superman Returns uses the first two films that began with 1978's Superman as a vague history to the events of this film. By establishing the plot as taking place after the first two films, it consequently retcons Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace out of existence. The many references to the first two films include:

  • In the first full trailer for the film, Martha Kent is heard in voice over "Your father used to say that you were put here for a reason", directly quoting a Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford) line from the 1978 Superman.
  • In the Kent house, there is a framed photo of Jonathan Kent, Clark Kent’s adopted father, displayed with other framed family photos. The photo is of Glenn Ford, the actor who played the character in the 1978 film.
  • When Kitty and Luthor are in Fortress of Solitude, Kitty says to Lex Luthor, "You act like you've been here before" (he had, in Superman II).
  • Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor paraphrased a quote made by Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor in the original 1978 movie: "Son, stocks may rise and fall, utilities and transportation systems may collapse. People are no damn good, but they will always need land and they'll pay through the nose to get it!" Along with that, after Spacey's Lex prefaces his sentence with, "Do you know what my father used to tell me," Kitty answers, "Get out," at one point in jest, the same response Miss Teschmacher gave Hackman's Lex in the original when he rhetorically asked a similar question.
  • Kitty also has a lapse of judgment similar to Teschmacher, and her final refusal to help Lex.
  • The threat of "billions" of people dying is again referenced to and by Luthor, his scheme is again a real estate-themed threat to destroy part of America and make profit on the newly-expensive plot of land.
  • Superman also struggles with kryptonite while trying to keep to the surface of a body of water, in Superman: The Movie, Lex places a kryptonite necklace around Superman while he drowns in his pool. In Superman Returns, Lex stabs Superman and drops him to the ocean. Both times, a woman rescues him.
  • The score composed by John Ottman features leitmotifs created by John Williams for the original film. Aside from the main "Superman March" theme, Ottman references "The Planet Krypton" theme, the "Death of Jonathan Kent"/"Leaving Home" themes and the "Lois Lane Theme" (aka "Can You Read My Mind") in the score for the film. The teaser trailer relies on the cue "The Planet Krypton", which was featured in the 1978 film.
  • Some of John Barry's Kryptonian designs for Superman, including the Fortress of Solitude and the baby Kal-El's transport pod, have been recreated.
  • In the original film, after saving Lois, Superman says, "I hope this hasn't put you off flying. Statistically speaking, it is still the safest way to travel." Then she faints. In Returns, after he saves an entire press corps on board a flight by preventing the plane from crash landing he recites the same dialogue and Lois again faints.
  • When Luthor and his henchmen steal the Kryptonite from the museum, the placard indicates that the specimen was recovered from Addis Ababa in 1978. The kryptonite in the original Superman film was taken from Addis Ababa and the movie was released in 1978.
  • The film mentions Lois' article "I Spent the Night with Superman" — written by the character in the 1978 film.
  • Lois still smokes (unlike her comic counterpart), prompting Superman to say in Superman and Superman Returns, "You know, you really shouldn't smoke, Miss Lane."
  • As in the original two films, Lois is still a horrible speller (as implied by the original film quotes, "How many T's in bloodletting?" and when Perry White points out that she incorrectly put two P's in "rapist"). In the new film, she asks, "How many F's in catastrophe?"
  • In Superman II, Lois hoped to win a Pulitzer Prize by doing a story on French terrorists who were attempting to destroy the Eiffel Tower. In Superman Returns, she has won the Pulitzer for her essay "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman".
  • In both Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns, Lex Luthor (while holding kryptonite) states that he will defeat Superman by using "mind over muscle".
  • The final scene, now computer-generated, shows Superman in space, smiling at the audience, in almost the same pose as in the final scene of the 1978 film (which was re-used at the end of the other three Reeve pictures).
  • As established in the first two Christopher Reeve movies, Metropolis is essentially New York City. Featured are the Twin Towers, the Statue of Liberty, etc. (Richard Donner confirms this in his commentary for the film). This is in contrast to comic book continuity which maintains that the two cities co-exist (although even in the comics they are identifiable as the same city). Singer's film continues the canon established by Donner by setting Metropolis in place of New York City. This is supported not only by the maps on Lex Luthor's yacht, but also aerial shots of Metropolis in which Manhattan Island is clearly identifiable (its shape, Central Park, etc.) as well as its proximity to Roosevelt Island, the Hudson River, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, etc. The only difference between the two cities' skylines is the presence of the Daily Planet building (with its iconic spinning globe) in Metropolis.
  • While the design of Kal-El's spaceship is essentially the same as in the first film, there are some differences. The ship in Superman Returns was given a larger size to accommodate Kal-El as an adult. Also, in the Richard Donner classic, the ship starts to deteriorate as it enters Earth's orbit (and the wreckage of the ship is then hidden in the Kent barn), which is not apparent in the 2006 film.
  • In the first movie, Lex Luthor plots to destroy the coastal area of California for real estate speculation purposes. In Superman Returns, his creation of the Kryptonian landmass would have flooded most of the U.S., except the California coastal area. Also, in both Superman II and Superman Returns, Lex makes explicit references to "beachfront property".
  • Answering a question in the Fortress of Solitude, Lex calls it a "monument to a long lost civilization." Similarly, Zod refers to the fortress as "a sentimental replica of a dead civilization" in Superman II.
  • Lois makes a reference to Luthor's double life sentence that was mentioned in Superman II. (However, according to a prison guard in Superman II, Luthor only received a "Life + 25" sentence.)
  • Clark describes one of Richard's ideas as "swell". In the original movie, Clark also used "swell" as an adjective, to which Lois responded, "You know, Clark, there are very few people left in the world who feel comfortable saying that word." In Superman Returns, they simply give him an incredulous look.
  • About halfway through the movie, Lois drops a pack of cigarettes, and she and Clark both reach to pick it up. This is a reference to a scene the end of Superman II, where a similar thing happens, after which the two kiss.
  • Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor, like Gene Hackman's, disguises his baldness with a hairpiece. Upon his arrest in Superman, Luthor smugly discards the hairpiece when he informs the prison guard who he is. In Superman Returns, his goal accomplished, he smugly tosses his hairpiece to the child of a family whom he has just swindled out of their fortune.
  • In both Superman and Superman Returns, Superman approaches Lois for an interview because a lot of people have questions. In both interviews Superman makes a point to not know Clark. In Superman Lois tells Superman, "Clark said that you were just a figment of somebody's imagination, like Peter Pan" and Superman responds, "Clark? Who's that, your boyfriend?" In Superman Returns Lois says, "Clark said the reason you left without saying goodbye was because it was too unbearable for you; personally I think that's a load of crap." In return Superman simply replies, "Clark?"
  • In Superman, after Clark's first day at work at the Daily Planet, Lois and Clark leave the building, and Clark gets stuck in the revolving doors on his way out. Similarly, in Superman Returns, as Lois and Clark leave the Daily Planet, Clark gets himself stuck in the same slot of the revolving door as Lois, as they awkwardly exit the building.
  • In Superman and Superman II, the opening credits show the titles coming at the audience in a simulated 3-D effect in space. Superman Returns utilizes similar opening credits with the titles coming at the audience in 3-D fashion as the camera moves about outer space.
  • In Superman Returns, Superman is seen to be flying around the Eiffel Tower. In Superman II the Eiffel Tower was the setting for the opening action sequence.
  • In Superman, Jimmy Olsen accidentally calls Clark "Mr. Clark", which Clark then corrects him, saying it's "Mr. Kent". In Superman Returns, when Clark returns to the Daily Planet for the first time, Jimmy gets overexcited and starts calling him "Mr. Clark", but then corrects himself.


  • Returns
  • On June 30, 2006! Look Up In The Sky!


The film was shot in parts of Australia and New York.


Video Gallery

For even more videos, check out the Superman Returns Gallery

External links

Superman Films
Serials Superman: The Serial | Atom Man vs. Superman
1950s films Superman and the Mole Men
Donner/ Lester/ Furie series Superman: The Movie | Superman II | Superman III | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Singer series Superman Returns
DC Extended Universe Man of Steel | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Spin-offs Supergirl | Steel