Bryan Singer Responds to ‘Superman Returns’ Criticism; Wanted Darkseid for Sequel

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brandon routh in superman returns Bryan Singer Responds to Superman Returns Criticism; Wanted Darkseid for Sequel

Before the 2013 Man of Steel reboot of Superman made the Big Blue Boy Scout a viable big screen franchise again, X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer gave it a shot with the 2006 film Superman ReturnsWe remember that film as a disappointment now, but at the time it was met with generally favorable (if not exactly enthusiastic) reviews and earned $391 million worldwide on a production budget of roughly $270 million. Now, that might not sound like much of a disaster, but when you take into account marketing, percentage of ticket sales that went back to theaters, and back-end deals, the film likely wasn’t all that profitable at the box office.

On paper, it must’ve sounded like a surefire hit: the celebrated director of The Usual Suspects, who ushered in the modern superhero blockbuster with X-Men and X2: X-Men United, would take on the most iconic hero of them all, picking up the continuity established by Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie and the Richard Lester-directed Superman II.

Bryan Singer and screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris would ignore the last two films with the late, great Christopher Reeve in the role but follow in the original series’ footsteps by casting a talented unknown (Brandon Routh) as Clark Kent/Superman and a veteran star as nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey). It didn’t really work.

bryan singer kevin spacey brandon routh superman returns set Bryan Singer Responds to Superman Returns Criticism; Wanted Darkseid for Sequel

Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer on the set of ‘Superman Returns.’

In the wake of Man of Steel‘s success, Bryan Singer has chimed in (again) on what he might have done differently, looking back. While talking about his return to the X-Men universe with Days of Future Past, Singer was asked how he feels about the ongoing perception of Superman Returns as one of the worst comic book movies ever made. He told Empire Magazine (via CBM): 

“Half of that I understand and half of it I never will. It was a movie made for a certain kind of audience. Perhaps more of a female audience. It wasn’t what it needed to be, I guess.”

And if Singer could do it over again, what kind of changes would he make? He had this to say:

“I think I could lop the first quarter off and start the movie a bit more aggressively and maybe find a way to start the movie with the jet disaster sequence or something. I could have grabbed the audience a little more quickly. I don’t know what would have helped. Probably nothing. If I could go again, I would do an origin. I would reboot it.”

This is not the first time Singer has talked about his film in relation to Man of Steel, and it seems he intended Superman Returns to be more accessible to audiences who generally prefer to stay away from superhero movies. Unfortunately, it seems he went about it in the wrong way.

Man of Steel superman Bryan Singer Responds to Superman Returns Criticism; Wanted Darkseid for Sequel

When it came time to cast the Man of Tomorrow, Singer had a very specific type in mind for Superman Returns, and while he evidently knew Henry Cavill at the time, he didn’t cast him for a reason:

“Um…I think Henry Cavill is great. I knew Henry. He and I were friends years ago. Oddly enough, the reason I didn’t cast him was because I was making a sequel to Christopher Reeve and I wanted somebody who embodied Reeve more.”

As mentioned above, Singer’s sequel would’ve shared the title of Zack Snyder’s, but not the villain. Singer originally wanted Jude Law to play General Zod in Superman Returns, but when Law turned down the role, Singer dropped the character altogether. As for the sequel, Singer opens up on the idea they were kicking around:

“We did explore it a little. Just hammering out ideas. I think Darkseid was going to be the villain. It was pretty world-destroying, actually.”

One of the main problems many fans had with Superman Returns was the emo tone and generally passive nature of its hero. We longed for a movie which showed Superman actually throwing a punch - pitting Supes against Darkseid, a powerful New God from the planet Apokolips, probably would’ve leveled the playing field and given fans a good fight.

Superman vs Darkseid Bryan Singer Responds to Superman Returns Criticism; Wanted Darkseid for Sequel

A good fight is what fans witnessed with the city-decimating finale of Man of Steel, and while Superman’s neck-snapping defeat of General Zod proved rather controversial, the eye-popping level of destruction had a purpose to it. Bryan Singer ultimately sings his praises of Zack Snyder’s vision, but hints at criticisms as well, saying:

“I am in awe of the world building and the scope of that picture. It’s tough for me. I’m not a critic and it starts to get into a weird thing where one director is talking about another director. I know how hard it is to make a movie, especially one of these movies and especially a Superman movie, and there was so much I was impressed with in that movie. There were things I might have done a little differently just because of the way I view the character. Don’t misinterpret that as me not liking something. It’s not ‘Bryan Singer’s review of Man Of Steel’!”

Bryan Singer is a great filmmaker, with no reason whatsoever to feel insecure or inferior, but he seemingly can’t let this Superman thing go. He has made similar comments about X-Men 3, but his defensiveness with Man of Steel feels more personal. To his credit, Singer never tries to argue that Superman Returns was misunderstood or blame its current unpopularity on fans or critics, but he perhaps just won’t face the fact that it’s a mediocre film at best. Is it a Batman & Robin-level debacle? No, actually - Superman Returns was clearly crafted with love of the world and character and respect for its lore and fans.

Superman Returns was well-intended, but so many aspects of it were miscalculated, from the inclusion of a bland and miscast Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane to keeping the age-old (clearly dated) screwball comedy dynamic to Lois and Clark’s relationship. Man of Steel had its flaws, but it contained many sharp, logical updates instead of rehashing or paying homage to a forty-year-old film.

Singer at least has a chance to channel these frustrations through the X-Men universe, and perhaps signing on for Days of Future Past was a way to exorcise his Superman demons. We’re looking forward to it, at any rate.


Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters May 23rd, 2014. The next Superman film, Man of Steel 2/Batman vs. Superman, hits theaters May 6th, 2016.

Source: Empire Magazine (via CBM)

Follow Anthony Vieira on Twitter @malaclyptic
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  1. Oh yea let’s not forget the drunk superman from part three lol. I’d rather see Kumar kicking supes behind than that bullcrap

    • It’s funny they are running Superman 3 on cable right now and it is worse then I remember. What I do find ironic is that the whole hero goes crazy and starts acting crazy was done again in Spider-Man 3. Kind of makes the whole dogma about having to make a trilogy not always seem like a good idea.

  2. Superman III was a Richard Pryor movie featuring Superman

  3. Superman Returns was a horrible superman movie. When the best part and most action of your movie is Superman saving a airplane then that’s a problem. When I go to see a CMB movie I want to see some similarities to the comics but more important I want to see some action.

    Its not Shakespeare it Superman you want to see him challenged like in the comics. Then they
    1. Had him stalking Lois

    2. Lifting a Kryptonite Island when a rock of kryptonite can kill him and make him weak

    3. Bullets cant penetrate his suit but they can cut his suit with scissors at the hospital at the end.

    4. No action

    5. A goofy Luthor with a land Scheme. (facepalm)

    If he would have used Darkseid I’m sure he would have made a horrible interpretation of him. He probably would have cast Harold as Darkseid to help Kumar finish Superman off.

    • I can’t believe I am defending any part of Superman Returns. But the suits invulnerability is based entirely on superman’s energy field. Since he was weak and dying his energy field was no longer protecting the suit.

  4. If Marvel made their movies with the action of Superman Returns, people would be screaming for someone to get fired. and they would all flop.

    • Totally true.

      Or maybe they’d love the movies like they seem to do with the worst Marvel movies and Superman Returns but hate on things that actually worked well in other movies in the series or by other studios.

      It’s bias where there doesn’t need to be bias.

      • “it’s Bias where there does’t need to be bias”

        Your whole comment is summed up with your last sentence.

    • I am glad I am not the only one who felt that way. I was wanting a Superman film with the destruction that I have seen in the animation series. And I got just what I wanted, maybe even more because I was blown away by the sheer destruction. Watching all that action in IMAX 3D was the best.

  5. For what they were attempting to do with superman returns, I believe it’s a good film. Singer and crew were clearly trying to pay homage to original film and Superman Returns does just that. However you can’t help but criticize the film for catering only to fans of the old school films. And something that replaces the last two films and is being sold as the true sequel to superman 2 you cant help but think how boring it is compared to part 2.

  6. Despite some misfires, Returns was a far superior movie than MoS. Weightier ideas. A more consistent narrative. More nuanced performances. MoS was all bombast and ridiculous, over the top destruction. Financial success doesn’t mean you’ve got a good movie. Transformers 3 was a financial success too…but is generally regarded as a dreadful film. And check the review sites; Returns is the clear winner with critics and audiences.

    I would have preferred to see more of Bryan Singer’s take on Superman than the dumbing down we got from Zachary Synder.

    • If it was such a winner why no sequel. You know why because it sucked. Nobody wants to pay good money to go to the movies to be bored!!! If you recommended that movie to someone to go pay their money and see, they probably wouldn’t talk to you again.

      Any site or person that gave that movie a good review needs to find a new job. I payed my hard earned money to see it and I’m still pissed off!

      So I can assume you like Superman 3 and 4 also. MOS was the best Superman movie made to date. I’m sure MOS2 will be better because he will really be Superman and the reporter Clark Kent.

        • Because Superman returns was about on the level Superman 3 and 4 but it wasn’t as bad as those 2 turds but its close.

          If you don’t like MOS cool that’s your opinion but don’t try to sell me Superman Returns as some sorta classic. Superman 1 and 2 were ok but that’s like comparing the Hulk tv show to the Incredible Hulk movie.

          MOS was not really a Superman movie because he wasn’t Superman until the end of the movie. But you think Superman 1 and 2 were the best

          1. So Superman can fly around the world and make time rewind really
          2. Superman can kiss you and make you lose your memory really
          3. So Superman can throw S symbols at villains
          4. So Superman can make holographic images of himself

          You can find flaws in any movie. But my beef is with Superman returns because it was clearly terrible. The fan reaction and no sequel tell the story of that movie.

          If you want that old nostalgia and no action buy Superman Returns I’m sure you can get it for 99 cents and watch to your hearts content.

          The rest of the world will be watching MOS2 and the new Justice League. So now I will get off your lawn!

    • Bravo !!!

  7. Superman Returns was the best recent Superman movie EVER!
    The only flaws was there was no epic battles on his level & you gave Superman a son.

  8. @bdrcarter 
    I 100% agree.
    ManOfSteel to was terrible, it was a bad movie. Mine you i’m talking as a Superman movie, i’m talking a bad movie.
    As it could’ve been an Hero from any comic, it could’ve been about anything & it would remain terrible.
    ManOfSteel did nothing but contradict itself into 142 minutes of WTF!?
    The action, fanservice attempted to cover up the poorly written scripted, which played out like David S. Goyer & Zack Snyder was putting it together at the last second & hoped it stuck.
    I read ManOfSteel was re-written a few times & IT SHOWS.
    ManOfSteel fell apart from a script that wasn’t fully thought out.

    When i saw Superman Returns trailers at 1st i didn’t like it, however it turned out better than i thought & Superman Returns does what was intended & pays homage to Richard Donner’s version.
    Just as StarTrek does by paying homage by NOT stepping on the original.
    Superman Returns & Brandon Routh was perfect, just needed more action & no son of Superman just yet.

  9. i am sorry but am i the only one who hated ‘Man of Steel’?
    yes it has its moments but I couldnt help being extremely disappointed by it. The finale of the decimination of the city was completely excessive & exhausting. after a while, you just get numb.
    the cast were great: especially Amy Adams who was so much better than the useless bland Kate Bosworth.
    but the story was just blah… how convenient SUperman suddenly found his calling.
    i did not feel for the character at all in the movie.
    Compare that to ‘Superman Returns’ which had a gd, emotional story
    Brandon Routh was competent as Superman for sure. Henry Cavill is great too but Brandon Routh doesn’t get enough credit.

  10. Leaving the X-Men to do Superman Returns was the worst mistake Singer made. And he might make the same mistake with X-Men: Apocalypse. Apocalypse is the Darkseid of the X-Men and he’s putting him in the wrong time ere against the wrong characters.

  11. Superman Returns is a very good movie. It takes the superhero genre seriously and makes you think about what it would be like for a superhero, who is the only one of his kind, to figure out his role in society. The movie had some incredible action scenes but it is the underlying story of an outcast who, while figuring out his role, comes to the realization that he is never alone that makes the movie great.