Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Those who’d been holding on the best they can waiting for Superman saw director Bryan Singer deliver a 2006 juggernaut with all the weight and whimsy of the Flaming Lips’ song about the superhero.
Superman Returns reclaimed the Man of Steel’s good name from bad movies almost as well as Batman Begins did for the Dark Knight. Whether dabbing furiously or employing smooth strokes, Singer had a painter’s eye, and the budget (a whopping $260 million) allowed you to believe Superman could do more than fly.
Wisely pretending Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace never happened, Returns depicts yet another nefarious Lex Luthor plot. (Kevin Spacey imbues the bald baddie with fresh, palpable menace without losing sight of the villain’s raconteur style.)
After Superman (Brandon Routh, making the role his own with internalized angst) returns from the shards of his home planet, he finds Luthor running rampant and that his longtime lady love Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on to Richard (James Marsden), with whom she has a son.
Through this, Superman must measure out what he sees as abandonment from the woman he loves against her and Richard’s capacity for goodness. It’s the Atlas icon weighing whether the world that really made him warrants saving, and it’s given graphic-novel seriousness, though never so solemn so as not to be a good time.
Just a shade shy of great, Returns was easily one of the best superhero films ever made.