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Hops and Box Office Flops: ‘SUPERMAN RETURNS – A Failure to Launch’


Nineteen years. That’s how long it took for Superman to triumphantly come back to theaters. Yet just as quickly as he flew onto the screen, he was gone faster than a speeding bullet—a victim of low receipts and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for this movie’s ponderous take on the “Big Blue Boy Scout.” 

Though decently reviewed—75% on Rotten Tomatoes with a Metascore of 72—and laden with talent (a portion of it admittedly troubled, even if we didn’t quite know it at the time), Superman Returns was not the home run the studio had hoped. It barely broke even. With a final production cost of $223 million, another $100 million in marketing, and the ugly baggage of the aborted development of Superman Lives, its $391 million dollars in worldwide gross just didn’t cut it.

Money aside, this is not a poor film. Far from it, in fact. And it truly gets Superman, delivering quintessential moments of heroism that define what kind of character he is. In typing that, I still must acknowledge that it wasn’t enough. The plodding pace of Returns turned some viewers off. The distinct lack of action—a far cry from what was to come—failed to ignite the fervor some would expect after the character’s long hiatus.

Thus, it has the dubious distinction of again killing the franchise. While Batman flourished in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Superman floundered. He’d be sidelined for another seven, brutal years. And when he finally showed his face, he’d again been repackaged.

That, unfortunately, is this movie’s legacy. What began with hope and optimism—a promised revival of all we’d loved about Richard Donnor’s version—ended with disappointment. The studio was unwilling to give this incarnation another opportunity. I will always lament that.

But, hey, we’re here to have a good time; so sit back, grab a Stone Brewing’s Enjoy by July 4th, 2019 Unfiltered IPA, prepare to leap a tall building in a single bound, and enjoy, as I, the Thunderous Wizard (@WriterTLK), Capt. Cash, and Chumpzilla battle for truth, justice, and the American way!

This Week’s Segments:

  • Introduction – We take flight, assessing what went wrong and what went right with Superman’s long awaited return to the big screen. (00:00)
  • Why Did It Take So Long for Superman, Well, to Return? – We dive in to the behind-the-scenes jostling throughout Superman’s bizarre journey back to cinemas, including all the hilarity in the late Jon Schnepp’s brilliant The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?(38:27)
  • Who Played It Best? – Through each of the Man of Steel’s big screen adaptations, we determine who played key characters from Superman lore the best. (52:24)
  • Our Kryptonian Quiz! – Capt. Cash and Chumpzilla face-off in a five-question Superman Trivia smackdown! (1:11:13)
  • Recommendations – Sticking with the theme, we each offer a Superman-related recommendation for the week. (1:21:07)

And, as always, hit us up on Twitter (@HopsandBOFlops) to check out all the interesting factoids—Kevin Smith’s recollections of working on Superman Liveswhy we pull no punches on Bryan Singer and more—from this week’s episode!

You can find this episode of Hops and Box Office Flops on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherPodbean, and Spotify!


Thomas L. Kelly

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