There's an interview that just came out in which Bryan Singer talked about why he felt "Superman Returns" didn't work. My personal feelings, which he admittedly didn't ask for, are a little strong on the subject. Let's face it, though, I have my own informed opinions. I've watched a lot of movies, give thought to story structure and know more about Superman than Bryan Singer ever will. I'm willing to take a look at it under my own examination light.
Part of the problem with the film was that he was trying to do a romantic tribute to Superman as though he was some icon of a lost age. This means that he was attempting to recreate a feeling evoked from exploiting previous material. Bluntly, he was trying to mimic what seemed to work before without committing something so obvious to film as a remake. He even pulled bits of Brando out of the files from "Superman: The Movie" that had gone unused and made a fuss of utilizing the wonderful music John Williams composed for the earlier film. Unfortunately, that great score was cut-up about as much as Brando's work was and ineptly applied to the newer work.
Mr. Singer goes on in his interview to talk about the christian parallels he was trying to present and then to rave about the form that the upcoming Zack Snyder "Superman: The Man of Steel" should take. Bryan Singer's only kind of half-got-it. Like so many Hollywood-folk, they're in love with this idea of the blessed "reboot" of a franchise. They're concerned about money, not art, no matter what they may tell people to the contrary. Let me say: please stop wasting our time in your efforts to take our money. How much of the audience doesn't have the basics down on how Superman got started by now? Hey, they're planning another Spider-man movie where they tell the world about his origin, too. Spoiler: Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider and gets superhuman powers rather than super-poisoned. Before long, I imagine they'll be starting "fresh" and showing us Bruce Wayne becoming Batman and Tony Stark crafting Iron Man's armor all for the first time. It's a sadly continuing pattern in which safety and complacency are chosen over originality and it's allowed to pass over and over again. They do it in television, too. I suppose, if there were some real cunning at work in the world of publishing, some way could be found to rewrite and repackage whole litanies of classic books as "remakes" and never have to make another truly new thing. If I hurry, maybe I can get in on the ground floor of that. I'll be known for influential modern "retellings" of "Treasure Island", "Frankenstein", "Billy Budd"...Hold on, I think I just made myself a bit nauseous.
Singer's right: he should have (past tense) done a "balls to the wall action" flick with a little bit of romance instead of a romantic tribute to the Man of Steel presented as an exalted allegorical figure. Superman should have been presented as the Hulk was, flexing his muscle against some villain(s) he could cut loose against. I'm not talking about the flying ballet we were given in "Superman II". I'm talking about hard-hitting, bone-jarring, unbridled, landscape-chewing, knock-down, drag-out action that conveys raw power and shows off the super in balance with the man. That would be a Superman movie to see. For novelty, they could even sideline Lex Luthor and the kryptonite for one installment. People like Mr. Singer, who claim to only have familiarity with the movies and none of the decades of continuously published source material (aka comic books), may be unaware that there are a wealth of villainous types who've proven themselves eager to tug on that bright red cape.
Not me. I know better. I don't spit into the wind, either.