1. SPOILERS afoot! Do not read this piece if you want the secrets of Superman Returns to remain hidden until you see the flick. Please.
2. GEEKERY afoot! This mini-rant is chock-full of amazingly nerdly nitpicks and such. I'm well aware of this, so there's no need to point out what a dweeb I am.
3. FAN afoot! While I'd politely disagree with anyone who thinks Superman Returns is an Excellent Film, I did enjoy the flick overall, and I think it's got more assets than missteps. Also keep in mind that I'm writing this as an old-school Superman superfan, so please don't think I'm "gunning" for the movie. I hope the flick makes $400 million and spawns a half-dozen sequels, honest. Just having some fun here.
And with that...
1. The Obvious One: Superman and Clark Kent both return from a five-year absence ... and nobody does the math. I have no problem "buying" that people don't recognize Clark as Superman or vice versa, but we're talking about a room full of very talented reporters -- one of whom won a Pulitzer prize before her 24th birthday.
2. Lex is out of jail ... how? He got out on parole? Because Superman wasn't around to ... testify? Parole on a double-life sentence? After escaping from prison in a hot air balloon? And committing high treason? And attempted genocide? Twice?
3. Superlazy: At the end of Superman 2, which we're told is part of the newly-refurbished Superman movie canon, our hero tells the President of the United States that he'll never bail on us in the future. ("Sorry I've been away for so long," (in this case only a few days), "I won't let it happen again." Yet less than half a movie later, he's taking a half-decade space-vacation.
4. The Kid: Since it's safe to assume that the kid isn't the illegitimate son of Bruce Banner, he's obviously Superkid. Right? So the kid tosses a piano at an evil henchman to save his mom from a rather savage beating -- but he can't even TRY to crack open the freezer door to save mom again? He can't even give it a shot? And we're talking about a kid who knows about life and death; basically a normal little kid. Yet his father, after being on Earth for only about 45 seconds, is able to effortlessly, cognitively, and with the clear intention of rescue, lift a pick-up truck before it smashes his brand-new adopted daddy.
5. Superconception: If the Superhump that went down in Superman 2 is the one that created the new kid, then the kid shouldn't have any powers at all -- since Supes and Lois did the horizontal fortress-dance while our hero was completely without powers. And anyway, since Superman ended up deleting Lane's memory of the Supertryst, she'd have no way of knowing that the kid belongs to Superstud in the first place.
6. Superrebound: Does Lois Lane's boyfriend think the kid is HIS? The movie never bothers to address it. Either he thinks the kid is his (which makes Lois Lane kind of a massive bitch), or he knows the kid has a different daddy. Oh, and also that Lois used to sleep with Superman about five years ago ...
7. Superbitty: How the hell did Ma Kent end up in front of a Metropolis hospital? Doesn't she live in Kansas?
8. Lex's Superstupid Scheme: OK, I like the throwback idea of Lex still being obsessed with real estate. Fine. But you think the guy would learn by this point that bubble-headed, soft-hearted henchwomen are really doing him in. Regarding his actual plan: He aims to sink all of North America with water displacement, and then lease acreage on a massive block of green stalagmites and puddle-strewn crystal caves. (A new residence that serves his Evil Squad real well: They end up crushed after living there for less than half a day.) Real long-term thinking there, Lex. I'm sure the worlds' surviving masses will be thrilled to hand you 10 million bucks for a spot on a green rock that cannot support vegetation and offers nothing in the way of shelter. (Plus, how are the grateful tenants expected to REACH their new caves? And with America dead in the water, literally, what good is a couple billion dollars?) Meh, shoulda stuck with Otisberg.
9. Supertrip: As far as we know, Superman flew off to view the wreckage of his home planet, a journey that took five years (yet it only took three years back in 1978), only to return to Earth encased in another giant Kryptonian Tree Ornament. It's probably the same ship from when he was a kid, but since the movie never tells us that, we're left wondering "If all he found out there was "a graveyard," where'd the freakin' ornament come from?"
10. Superclueless: Superman has precisely one fear: Kryptonite. It's the only thing that can hurt him. Everyone in the known universe is aware of this fact. But that doesn't stop kooky Kal-El from landing on a 15-mile CHUNK of Kryptonite! Lex doesn't even bother with the lead casing this time around! Sorry, but the Superman I know could smell a Kryptonite island from 12 miles away.
11. Superlame payoff: Lex Luthor allows people to die. He lets his minions beat on Lois Lane and almost murder a small child. Lex Luthor aims to kill billions and he stabs Superman in the back with a Krypto-dagger! And yet, as the end credits roll, try asking Superman what happened to Lex Luthor. He won't have an answer because he doesn't know where Lex even IS! Yes, it's bluntly ironic to have Lex end up on a teeny, tiny island -- but this is a villain who's more than earned a bitchslap or two, right?
12: Supercuts: Allegedly, Bryan Singer cut the following things out of Superman Returns: A sequence in which Supe is in outer space, an explanation that Ma Kent sent a bunch of smoke-screen postcards to the Daily Planet in an effort to cover her son's absence, and ... the scene explaining how Ma Kent knew her boy was in the hospital. So with snips like these, you lose 3.5 minutes of running time -- while creating a few really annoying plotholes.
13: The Blackout! It's all Lois Lane seems to care about! What about the blackout?? Well, what about an explanation? Is it written somewhere that villainous Kryptonite abuse will inevitably cause a brief-yet-powerful electrical outage? Other than as a plot device to get the jet sequence spinning, the "blackout" is a red herring. And a goofy one.
14. Supercreep: Every time Superman stalks Lois Lane by staring through walls and elevators, five dozen pedophiles, killers, and rapists get an easy night.
15. Superneedle: What good is a hospital to Superman, really? I get that they were going for pathos and all, but Superman in a hospital is like a eunuch in a whorehouse.
Go ahead, savage me. I can take it. (And if I've made a mistake anywhere above, definitely let me know.) Yet despite it all, this geeky rant is coming from a guy who'd STILL recommend the movie to sci-fi / fantasy / comic book fans. (Action fans? Maybe not.) But I still think it takes a lot more than Williams' score, a new infusion of sensitivity, and some nostalgic opening credits to trump Donner's Superman, even if that movie had one doozy of a dorkscene, and you know the one I mean.