Tag Archives: Superman

Superman Returns breakdown

Mysteriously gone for five years, Superman returns to Metropolis to find Lois has a son with another man and Lex Luthor has another catastrophic real estate scheme.

Many years ago, I did a commentary for this movie.

I’m breaking down movies by their three-act structure. What is three-act structure? I explain it here.

Note: I break the story down into five-minute blocks to make it easier to see the length of each section. Rough time codes follow.


Legend: Superman disappeared for five years (suggesting this is the late 1980s, after Superman 2, but it’s not clear, which causes problems with Lois’s character later, since in Superman 2, she slept with Superman but he wiped her memory at the end). 5

Act 1

A dying woman wills her fortune to Lex Luthor. Superman falls to earth on the Kent farm. 10

Lex finds the Fortress of Solitude and learns the secrets of Krypton (introducing the conflict, sort of, with the villain). 15

In the morning, Clark reminisces about his childhood. 20

Clark and Martha talk. Clark returns to Daily Planet. Lois has a son with a pilot named Richard. 25

Jimmy says Lois might still love Superman (introducing a sub-plot conflict, which make the circumstance of Lois’ long relationship with Richard its villain, not Richard himself). Lex tests Kryptonian tech and causes an EMP. 30

Lex’s EMP endangers Lois’s flight. Clark sees it on the news. 35

Act 2

Superman rushes to aid Lois (even tho he has no conflict with Lex; he’s just being Superman and it happens to be in response to an incidental side effect of Lex’s plan). 40

Superman and Lois meet again. Perry declares Superman the big story. 45

Clark meets Lois and Jason, her young son by? with? Richard White (it’s not spelled out; it’s Superweird). Lex prepares for an expedition. 50

Superman spies on Lois’s home life (which is Supercreepy) then stops bank robbers. 55

Lex steals some Kryptonite. 60

The Daily Planet team discusses the news. 65

Kitty rants at Lex. Lois and Clark work late. 70

Lois and Superman talk. He takes her for a flight (which is Superawkward). 75

Midpoint Crisis

Lois says she’s with Richard now. Superman discovers his crystals have been stolen. (The crisis for the plot and the crisis for the sub-plot.) 80

Lois goes to Lex’s mansion and takes Jason onto his yacht (which is Superdumb), and she and Jason get kidnapped. 85

Lex reveals his plan and puts it into action (introducing a ticking clock, altho only Lois knows it). Clark and Richard search for Lois. 90

Lois faxes her coordinates but is caught and locked up after Jason protects her by killing a guy (which is Superdark), revealing he is Superman’s son (which Lois apparently knew, but how much Jason and Richard know remains a mystery). 95

Richard and Clark get Lois’s fax. Separately, they rush to save her and Jason (still unaware of Lex’s plan). 100

An earthquake rocks Metropolis as the new continent rises (all is lost! except Superman still has no idea what’s going on). Superman returns to save people in Metropolis (which is a turn, but kind of a turn in the wrong direction). 105

Act 3, but is it?

Flying the Daily Planet seaplane, Richard almost rescues Lois and Jason. Superman rescues them all. 110

Richard flies the seaplane. Superman confronts Lex but the Kryptonite makes him powerless. 115

Lex beats Superman and throws him into into the sea. Lois and Richard rescue him. 120

Richard just manages to take off in the choppy seas. Superman recovers. He flies to space to recharge from the sun. 125

Lex flees as Superman flies the landmass into space (resolving the central conflict he just learned about; Kitty has heroically dumped the crystals Lex stole), but it makes him powerless again. 130

Superman falls to earth and is hospitalized. A shard of Kryptonite is surgically removed. 135

Lois visits the unconscious(?) Clark and confesses Jason is his (which only vaguely resolves the sub-plot’s conflict, since the real conflict is that Superman and Lois still love each other and have a child together but Lois is in a long-term, loving relationship with Richard). Lex and Kitty are stranded on an island without helicopter fuel. 140


Later, Superman visits Jason and assures Lois he is “always around” (which is, again, Supercreepy as well as demonstrably untrue). 145

Man of Steel

Man of SteelNetflix IMDb
Join me and Hardy Lynch of The Speakeasy as we try to make sense of the latest Super-debacle. Hardy likes it more than I do, but we both have decent fun with it. We analyze the odd structure and tone and character motivations. We wonder if it would work better if it weren’t about Superman at all. And we wonder if there’s anywhere to go after the world was nearly destroyed by a terraforming kryptonforming machine.

We compare the film to other Superman movies, Star Trek (2009), X-Men, other superhero movies, Prometheus, and pretty much anything else that crosses our minds.

I’m watching a DVR copy. Hardy is watching the PAL DVD and has to repeatedly sync with me, so there are several times that we announce where we are. Start the film on the countdown between the production company logos and the birth scene.

Superman Returns

Superman ReturnsNetflix IMDb
Join me and Hardy Lynch of The Speakeasy as we shoot machines at the impregnable flesh of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. We complain about the, ahem, “familiarity” of many of the set pieces and dialog; about the things that are new and different; about the incredible coincidences, and that a lot of the minor characters have nothing to do. I complain about the physics of Superman flying and lifting a continent. Hardy complains about James Marsden being a wet noodle. We both love a few things, including Kevin Spacey and some of the action. And we wonder exactly who knows what about you-know-who when.

We compare the film to Superman, Superman 2, Terminator 2, The Matrix, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Five-Year Engagement. We wonder if Superman really left Metropolis to avoid paternity charges or sex offender charges. And we try to rewrite the film and fail.

NOTE: The Tysto Commentaries theme music is called “Point Break” by Mark Fassett‘s band 42 Shades of Gray. I’ve appended it at the end.

I’m watching the US DVD. Hardy is watching the PAL DVD and has to repeatedly sync with me, so there are several times that we announce where we are. Start the film on the countdown between the Legendary Pictures logo and the DC logo (about 20 seconds in).

Superman 1978

SupermanNetflix IMDb
I’m back from the dead after several weeks of a bad chest cold. So join me and Hardy Lynch of The Speakeasy for a tear thru the 1978 blockbuster classic Superman (which we don’t really like very much). Thrill to the Shakespearean blarney at the beginning (which we admire), the slow roll thru 1950s America (which we love), and the screwball romance of the 1970s (which we think is great), right to the big blockbuster finale (which we hate).

We discuss Star Trek, James Bond, Gene Hackman’s career, Clark Kent’s big dope angle, the likelihood of Superman’s mom making pajamas for him, and the implausibility of most of the physics. We swoon over Lex Luthor’s lair, the cinematography, and the acting pretty much across the board.

Bonus: we wonder why the whole third act happens.
Double bonus: I only cough a few times toward the end.

Things I forgot to mention:

  • Clark apparently eats the dog for breakfast instead of Cheerios, because we see it run out to him, but it’s not there when Ma Kent gets there.
  • Clark conveniently avoided the Vietnam draft by fleeing to Canada for his education in the Fortress of Solitude.

I’m watching the Blu-ray. Hardy is watching the PAL DVD and has to repeatedly sync with me, so there are several times that we announce where we are. Start the film on the countdown just as the curtains are fading up (about 20 seconds in).