I entered Superman Returns in the manner of an archivist, fairly certain of what I was going to see but determined, anyway, to catalog its relevance to our culture. To my surprise, I was surprised. I had no idea how much of a dick Superman is. I mean, Dean Cain just seemed like a lovable dork. Tom Welling's too hot, and can't make up his mind about Lex, but he suffers prettily so I overlook that. And Christopher Reeve is dead and was, in life, a nice guy, so I can't say anything bad about him (that's already been done by South Park, and much better than I could). So what's up, Singer? Why is your Superman such an ass? Why is Lex Luthor the only interesting person in this movie? Well, I know that, it's because of Kevin Spacey. But seriously, guys, the credit sequence set me up for a nice exercise in nostalgia (I wore out tapes of I and II, and bow continuously to this day to General Zod) but all I got was Superman the jerkface and lots of really phallic crystals.
Which actually would have been kind of cool if Superman had been gay. Wouldn't it be great if Lex stole Superman's phallic crystals and he's forced to choose between Lex and Lois' new boyfriend, Cyclops? By the way, Singer, that was a good one putting ace dickmaster Marsden in there, thereby setting the usurping boyfriend up for audience hatred, then making him an okay guy. You totally got me, there.
So. Basically, Superman's been away for five years to visit the nonexistent Krypton, which seems pretty arbitrary given the fact that he and Lois seemed to be getting pretty hot and heavy around the time he left. Which he did abruptly, and without telling her. Again, for no explicable reason. That whole “it would hurt too much” is just cowardly. Are we supposed to believe Superman's a coward? Or only when his sex life is on the line?
Once back, he spends most of his time eavesdropping on Lois and Cyclops' conversations with his super hearing, making eyes at Lois' kid, and x-ray-visioning their house to spy on them yet again. He shows up in the kid's room, uninvited and unannounced. He presents bewildered confusion to the notion that Lois might, in the past five years, have taken up with someone else after her boyfriend mysteriously disappears with no indication that he's coming back, let alone whether he even likes her that much. I'm sorry, but eavesdropping with your secret powers (he's dressed as Clark, and Lois ain't any smarter here than she ever is) is not cool. I don't care how much you hate Cyclops.
Not that Brandon Roush emotes much of anything, here. He's pretty, sure, and he looks as nice as one can in a skin-tight bright blue suit with underwear outside it, but so what? As superman, Roush looks like he's been constructed from the same weird rubber stuff his suit is made from. He's just kind of there. The best Supermen make the most of Clark; Clark's the heart of a good Superman, the guy who has to actually live the anonymous life he's chosen for himself. Clark does nothing in this movie but break Lois' stuff and look confusedly at her boyfriend.
Lois doesn't do much better herself. Call me old-fashioned, but no matter how much trouble Margot Kidder got in, she was feisty and brash. Kate Bosworth contributes fainting and even less curiosity about that whole Clark/Superman thing than usual. She's a reporter, for god's sake. Although, in this universe, her skill seems to be in saying mean things about Superman. Hey, maybe I quality for a Pulitzer!
There is a plot other than Superman being a dick. It's a sort a of re-imagining of the first Reeve film, with a few of the same lines and a similarity of plot that is more entertaining than it sounds. The parallels are amusing to those who catch them, but unimportant if you miss them. It's a sort of a cross between a sequel and a remake, and it's interesting to tease the threads out.
But at the end of the day, although Superman regains control of his phallic crystals, nothing about his dickliness is resolved. He's just as much of an asshole at the end as when he left Lois the first time. This Man of Steel might be for Truth and Justice, but he's sure not for ethics. This movie's ready-made for a sequel, and I can't wait. I hope it involves Lois investigating Superman's multiple alimony checks, which he pays with money laundered through the Kryptonian mafia in Metropolis.
And if you don't believe me, check out SuperDickery.com, who figured this out a long time ago. The evidence speaks for itself.