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. I didn’t think superman returns was that bad, it was definitely a dumb movie, but it had some good things about it. I actually like Brandon Roth as superman. I thought he did a great job, and even though the story was a bit boring it was pretty well developed. I was not a fan of man of steel at all. I feel like it lacked in way too many areas, but the action was incredible. If you mix the strong aspects of both movies together then it would be the perfect superman movie.

    • I agree. Brandon Routh was a good casting decision at that time. Singer’s version of Superman was a nostalgic-down-memory-lane-trip. hence, we get the Spit curl hair, the red underwear, even the costume with original colours. Heck, they even had the original music score.

      That scene when Supes and Lane fly together at night, was a direct nod to the original 70s and 80s version.

      the only minus was the script writing. audience never got explanation why he left Earth in the 1st place. also that Kryptonite island thing. also Superman’s Son was never mentioned again. (remember he threw that piano at the bad guy? )

      Kevin Spacey as Luthor was fun to watch.

      • The reason he left earth was because he read that the system Krypton was part of had been found. He left thinking he could find some remnant of his people. I remember seeing a scene that was cut from the movie where he was in a ship examining the debris of Krypton. They should have left that in there. I agree that SR was not as good as MoS, but I did like some parts of SR, especially the plane scene and gatling gun scene. They should have gotten a better actress for Lois and scrapped the kid angle.

  2. Singer always seems to have great ideas for movies he didn’t do……

  3. People need to get it through their skulls. MOS was NOT as Superman movie. It was about Clark Kent/Kal-El figuring out where he came from, who he was, and what he was meant to do. No more, no less, He doesn’t become Superman until the damned prologue at the Daily Planet. But some folks are so far up Donner’s ass that they can’t see the movie for what it is.

  4. Critics need to get through their effing head that MOS was not a Superman movie. Ot was about Clark Kent/Kal-El figuring where he came from, who he is, what he is meant to do. Vut people’s heads are so far Donner’s ass that they can’t see the movie for what it is.

    • Which is the reason why they decided to call it Man Of Steel. As Snyder said, “this isn’t quite Superman just yet”.

      • I don’t understand why people completely ignore that. It seems with a lot of them that if it isn’t explicitly laid out in front of them they can’t put it together. Is it really that hard to infer something based on the information shown? That being said, MoS was fantastic.

        • I generally have the same attitude with movie viewers that I had for years about pro wrestling fans when that was a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.

          “Most fans are idi0t$”.

          Unfortunately, that aspect for both movie viewers and pro wrestling fans still holds true. They ignore common sense and logic and seem to come up with their own ideas about what may happen, no matter how ridiculous those ideas are then get angry and become hilarious incompetent and inept when things don’t go their way.

          I wish it wasn’t like that but hey, people tend to be like that.

          • Oh, Dazz. Myself and many others “got it”, as it was far from a complex film. We just didn’t like it, for many, many reasons.

            • reason #1-you suck
              reason #2-bad taste

              • Yes, Cody, because I and many others don’t agree with you…we must “suck” and have “bad taste”.

                Eyes rolling…as they often do at your comments.

          • Ironic. I generally have the same attitude about pompous pricks who somehow manage to be able to look down their noses at people while simultaneously doing so having their heads tightly wedged up their a$$.

          • So you watch pro wrestling as an adult, yet come on here and insult other people?

            Dazz, you’re the definition of a joke. Fawk off would you? All you do is spam other people’s posts with your very narrow minded opinion. This entire message board is proof of that.

            Just wait another 30 years so you can get the OLD part to go with your BITTER FOOL personality.


      • I enjoyed Man of Steel for the most part but that argument doesn’t really hold.

        For example, that’s the same reason they called the 2nd Nolan Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight’ and not ‘Batman: Blank.’ Because they were going for a different tone than what is expected from a Batman movie. But at the end of the day, Batman was still Batman.

        Now it makes sense why Superman would be so destructive at first, he’s young and immature. But that probably doesn’t need to last throughout the whole film. He needs to become the Superman we all know by the end of the film or at least its climax, and we didn’t get that. Just more mindless destruction. I really do hope that all that violence had a point and will factor into ‘Supes v. Bats.’ Otherwise it’s just gratuitous.

        And the product placement was some of the worst I’ve seen since I. Robot.

        • So you missed the part when Clark started to become Superman after killing Zod and screaming in anguish?

          That’s the point where he realised he’d changed as much as the world had thanks to Zod.

        • That’s not why they called it The Dark Knight though. It’s title is a reference to the juxtaposition of Batman and Harvey Dent. Harvey is Gotham’s “White Knight”, and Batman is Gotham’s Dark Knight, the whole story is about the hero Gotham needs vs. the hero Gotham deserves…

    • “welcome to the Planet”.

      Great line summarising the movies subtext and his journey through the film.

  5. Chin up Bryan, I loved Superman Returns and still do, I have watched it countless times.

    Man of Steel was my love child also but it didn’t give me that same feeling after walking out of Superman Returns, maybe because I had not seen a new Superman movie in a long time back then and superhero movies are all over the place these days.
    So SR had a story that showed that Superman is not always about fighting (which people don’t seem to understand) and MOS had that pow bang which Superman have to do from time to time (but some people still didn’t get it) chin up Snyder.

  6. Man Of Steel had a fight in an IHOP. Um…yeah.

    • Superman Returns had no fights. Unless you count Kumar and the gang kicking Supes on the ground.

    • Man of Steel had fights in many places, from sears to space.

  7. Oh Brian……you crack me up. If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that you would have DEFINITLEY done things differently. (Supes getting his ass handed to him in a plate by Kumar). And we also know that you had a “different” viewing of the character, but geared towards women? A superman film, geared towards women? Please stop talking.

  8. I can’t help but to feel badly for Brandon Routh. At the time, everyone thought he was going to be the fresh new face of Superman – good for at least 3 films. Turns out his career sorta fell off the map after that film. I guess he couldn’t have known he was starring in a poorly written movie at that time. Poor guy.

    • hahaha yeah, what is his latest film?

  9. In retrospect it isn’t unusual for someone to wonder if they could have done things differently be it a minor tweak or major one. Halfway into reading this post, I knew where it was heading. Sure enough:

    “…but he perhaps just won’t face the fact that it’s a mediocre film at best.

    First things first. I loved Man Of Steel. Slightly overrated, but still loved it.
    Superman Returns was alright, I thought. Yes, it could -no should – have been better. There is no getting around that. So what’s my objection, Anthony? Simple. You are injecting a subjective opinion that’s a “mediocre film” (which I don’t disagree) and Singer should owe op to it (which I DO disagree). Look at the comments here. Some folks didn’t care Man Of Steel or had mixed reactions. Can’t please everyone. But it’s a subjective opinion. Should Zac Snyder owe up that Man Of Steel didn’t please everyone? Of course not.

    The piece does seem to want to bait Singer in trash talking another director’s work. Singer didn’t fall for it and refused to take part (“I am in awe of the world building…”) but the post appears to condemn Singer as if he did.

    That all said and out of the way- there is one item here we can both agree on.
    Yeah. It would have been better to have Superman Return to save the Earth from Darkseid. Would have been better than another land grab plot of Lex Luthor.
    (also, I would have had Parker Posey and Kate Bosworth switch roles, but that’s just me)


  11. Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.
    The fact is, Singer’s contract was immediately terminated by WB after SR officially announced it was a flop.
    He came crawling back to Marvel to his beloved X-men franchise. Where he found success in the first place.

  12. Listen people, in what world does a superhero not throw a single punch in his own movie…#Superman(R)did.

  13. I thought Superman Returns was a terrible as Superman 3 and 4. It was boring no action and he got beat up by Kumar enough said.

    If he would have made Darkseid I think he would have screwed that up also. MOS is the best Superman movie so far. It had some things I didn’t like but what movie is perfect,You can find faults with any movie, (I still don’t know how Thor came back to earth for the Avengers), But Superman returns sucked hard.

    • Odin did some hocuspocus thingy to send Thor back I believe. Atleast that is implied during Thor and Loki’s little talk when Thor nabs Loki out of the plane before all awesomeness commences.

    • To answer your Question It was vaguely explain in the avengers when Loki ask Thor how much Dark Energy was use to bring him back.

  14. Superman Returns was a terrible flick for so many reasons, however, his casting of Brandon Routh was good, and honestly would’ve liked to see him in man of steel. Cavill was simply too buff. But then again that’s personal opinion playing, well everything in a comment is.

    The biggest problem with Superman Returns, it picks up where it “kind’a” left off, lots of people including myself kind’a forgot/missed that backstory as to whyyyy things are as they are. Not to mention superman’s son with super powers and no kryptonite weakness really (=)_(=) well there were a lot of things in that movie, but there will always be stuff in film that we can point at and say hmmm.

  15. Never understood all the hate for Superman Returns !
    It was a very good Movie and a real continuation of the Original and in that i succeeded !
    It felt right at home with the Classic,the moment the iconic John Williams Superman Theme played in was just goose bumping !

    Great Movie,and a real Superman Movie at this as well !

  16. Captain Hind-sight to the rescue!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Thank GOD Singer was dropped! Snyder’s version is waaaayyy better than his. Singer’s sequel wouldn’t have been good anyway, take X-men as reference. And if that sequel had come to fruition, all would have been like “Well that escalated quickly!”
    Singer is so funny! :D

  18. I wasen’t really impressed by MoS, but it is the best Superman movie ever by far. Finally Supes throws an actual punch instead of catching a plane or throwing a lager sticker at his opponents.

    I just hope somebody finally uses Darkseid in S vs B of in the JL movie. It’s just amazingly weird and sad that nobody has used Darkseid in a movie yet. If I don’t see Darkseid in the JL movie i’ll just give up on DC’s movies. (Only great movies form DC being the Bat-Nolan’s)

    DC is running around like a headless chicken behind Marvel’s succes in live action films.
    The only one keeping hope alive is Batman, the rest is just sad.

  19. There is more cinema in one minute of Superman Returns than in two hours and a half of MoS. I will never understand why all the hate for this movie, specially now, after MoS, that in comparison makes the former way better.

    SR was made with love and devotion for the character while MoS is not even intended to be a Superman film. That idea of Superman “not throwing a punch” as a reason to make it a bad movie is the most absurd I´ve ever Heard. But ok I guess many fans got what they wanted and deserved: a movie full of punches but no soul at all.

    • I actually think that people get annoyed to have a movie about somebody like Supes and just have him lifting heavy things and fly around. Supes never gets challenged in movies, atleast not in a phisical way. That is what bothers alot of fans, including myself.
      Just having him fly around and lifting islands just isn’t enough. People want to see an epic fight not superman catching a plane or bounching bullets of his chest. But it is true that SR had more soul to it then MoS. That’s probally my biggest problem with MoS. They need to find a middle between the two movies and throw in Darkseid. That is a Supermovie I would like to see.

      • Superman returns was an established Superman. MOS he wasn’t Superman yet It was his first day with the suit on and using his powers.

        What else could he do, He didn’t hide he turned himself in to save earth, then he stopped the machine to save Earth. and then he stopped Zod to save Earth.

        Superman returns sucked. If they made a Marvel movie with no action their fans wouldnt have accepted that movie either you know like the first Hulk movie. But Even that movie had more action than Superman returns.

    • @Ultronunlimited If Avengers 2 Age of Ultron has the same action of Superman Returns, you will be screaming for your money back and you know it.

  20. Agreed that there are a lot worse CB movies than Superman Returns.

    I guess the biggest issue is that after Superman IV – it was a chance to make Superman relevant for a modern audience and it just chose to rehash Donner’s films instead. I remember after watching it feeling underwhelmed and at time bored and those are two feelings you should never have from Superman movie.

    It just felt like such a missed opportunity especially after Batman Begins.

    This is why I loved Man Of Steel so much. Yes it had it’s flaws. But there was such an ambition, scope and purpose there that was lacking in Singer’s film.

    Usual Suspects remains his best movie and I’m still not wholly convinced by Days of Future Past either.

    • In total agreement here. Eventhough Superman Returns looked good; it lacked in many of the areas you mentioned. Brandon made a good clark kent…a horrible looking Superman. He looked more boyish than man. The costume wasn’t good. There was only one sequence that stood out, and that was the airplane rescue…but seriously; we should’ve got that with the opening…like singer said now in hindsight.
      Poor Brandon Routh…his career took a nose dive after that film.


  22. The only problem with Superman Returns is that it’s a virtual carbon copy of Donner’s original.

    All the beats are exactly the same in the same order, the only thing missing was a death of Jonathan Kent scene. Even Lex’s motivation is identical….. real estate….. there wasn’t an original idea in the whole thing

    Spacey does an okay job, Routh is solid if not spectacular, Marsden is always very watchable, Bosworth not so much. Production values are right up there, the script isn’t terrible. It’s a sunday afternoon, nothing else on it’ll do 6/7 out 10.

    • I’ve said the same thing about Superman Returns as Jonathan. It is nearly identical to the first movie. I don’t understand why Warner Brothers let Singer get away with it. I give Brandon Routh a pass. He was good for what he had to work with. Kate Bosworth was the WORST Lois Lane ever! Kevin Spacey a great actor was good, but as mentioned before, Luthor has the same motivation, real estate. They even gave him a dumb bunny female assistant in Parker Posey. Anyone who saw the first Donner film can see that she is a modern update of Valerie Perrine’s “Miss Tessmacher.”
      Singer is right on one account he should have started with the the space shuttle rescue scene. That is the best part of the whole movie. He dropped the ball after that.
      Imagine how much farther along DC could be with their films if they’d have gotten someone who knew what they were doing. We might have had Flash or Wonder Woman films by now.
      I don’t understand how Warner Brothers owns DC and yet if you take away Nolan’s Batman films and Snyder’s Man of Steel they cannot make a successful superhero film.

    • I don´t see the problem on being a remake of the first one. In fact I thought that was the point, bringing back the myth for a new generation. Superman Returns was a sequel/remake/homage to the original and I´m perfectly fine with that. It´s a tribute to Donner and Christopher Reeve´s Superman and at the same time a new starting point.

      People never trusted that this could have been the new beginning of the franchise and probably, as we can read here, in a sequel we would have had many more punches without giving away the classical elements.

      Instead we have a Superman movie that is not a Superman movie.

      Probably it´s me that grew up with John Williams mythical score. I discover that probably I will never like a Superman movie without that music. For me it´s like changing Indiana Jones score o Star Wars fanfare.

    • Well put. I really think Singer did what he did with Returns and the lack of action figuring he was going to make one if not two more films over the next few years. He established everyone in Returns and was ready to go “Wrath of Khan” in the sequel.

      I still get bummed thinking about what a sequel might have looked like, but I’m glad to have gotten Man of Steel in its place.

  23. I enjoyed Singer’s rebirth and homage movie more for the potential it showed to lead into a much better follow up. Liked Spacey, the Fortress of Solitude with Brando, and the green crystal island. Routh was very Reeve ish, but Bosworth was lame. As usual Lois is deeply unworthy of dating an alien godling. Man of Steel may have made her more confident and competent, but I just felt like her sassy arrogance didn’t bring much character to the story. As pleasantly dark and mature as the films have tried to become, I think it’s tacky to hear Lois Lane talk about “measuring our d*cks.”

    I dig when Clark hears that she is married in SR and immediately starts drinking.

  24. I never understood the criticism against “Superman Returns”. To me it was the best of the Superman movies. On the other hand, “The Man of Steel” with its “histrionics” completely turned me off to future super-hero movies.

    It seems what is popular in such movies is not a carefully constructed story but instead one that blinds you with special effects…

    • You have to be kidding me. Superman Returns was in no way the best Superman movie. I would rate:
      1) Superman:The Movie
      2) Superman II
      3) Man of Steel
      4) Superman Returns
      5) Superman III
      6) Superman IV
      Brandon Routh was suppose to be a rising star …but look what Returns did to that promising career. Thank Singer

  25. Im so confused so people hated Superman Returns because it had too little action but hated Man of Steel because it had too much action … how does that work?

    • Superman Returns had it flaws. It was focus on emulating the donner films too much and the lois/son story is weird. However, I ultimately preferred superman returns over MOS because we still see superman show off his heroic acts, things that make him a hero. Not letting building collapse and letting thousands of people die. Superman Returns may have been a bit boring at times but MOS overcorrects the problem to the point where the cgi becomes boring.

      • You don’t think he was fighting Zod to save people? He even told him the only way this would end is one of their deaths. His sole purpose at that point was killing people and Supes was trying to stop him.

        So say he grabs some part of a building what do you think Zod’s is gonna be doing waiting for him to finish so they can finish fighting or killing the population.

        He was in a no win situation on his first day as Superman. I guess you forgot about the soldiers he saved in Smallville. The only reason he could do that was because other soldiers were fighting back and had the other Kryptonian’s attention at times.

        Do you have complaints about the Hulk in the avengers Im sure people died when he was putting that worm creature through buildings. Or Ironman making aliens crash in buildings.

        • Did you even watch avengers? What i saw were the avengers settings g up a perimeter and trying to limit damage. We see captain america givi instructions to police and saving citizens. Also, hulk is at times more of a monster than hero.

          Once again , superman couldn’t push zod out of the city?

  26. Oops Fake a$$ lex lueger

  27. Its funny because the only reason that Singer has been allowed to come back to X-Men is because the general movie audience has no prior knowledge of how great the X-Men could have been without the mediocre films they have been in. Singer saying he doesn’t get why people dident like Superman returns…is just reaffirming to me. he doesn’t really care about fans and hes really pulled an Okey doke on the general movie audiences with X-Men and for him not to understand what makes superman work…is tragic to me, WB made a great choice dumping him.

    I do generally feel sad that X-Men was the first comic to be made into a film in 2000…I kinda wish it had been some other comic book. And I have a hard time forgiving Bryan Singer when his films fail because hes always come across as very smug & condescending in his interviews.

    • Well, different opinions, but I liked the X-Men from before the films and felt very inspired by the way that they were adapted in X1 and X2. I think that they were good films.