By Darren Franich
Updated August 03, 2010 at 07:45 PM EDT

Image Credit: David JamesWhen it comes to superhero movies, there are three truisms: 1) One good villain is worth more than three bad ones. 2) The sequel is usually better, but the threequel is always worse. 3) Superman Returns was a major disappointment. It’s not as if Bryan Singer’s movie did poorly at the box-office – it made a little less than $400 million worldwide, which is more than any of your movies made in 2006 unless your name is Brett Ratner – but the film has accumulated a serious stink around it, probably only behind Ang Lee’s Hulk on the list of “Films Fanboys Hate.”

Brandon Routh just spoke to Empire about the mysterious new Superman reboot currently being conceived by those irascible Nolan brothers. Routh amenably said, “I would love the opportunity to be back…we’ll see what Chris and Warner Bros. has to say about it.” It’s a good bet that the Brothers Nolan won’t ask him back. (Christopher Nolan has yet to return EW’s calls for comment.) They want to leave their own mark on the franchise – these are the same guys who made a Batman movie without a Batcave. And That’s totally cool. But PopWatchers, it’s time to take a second look at Superman Returns. Especially when superhero movies are starting to feel a bit samey-samey, Superman Returns is looking like more of an eccentric curiosity: a superhero movie that seems utterly uninterested in being a superhero movie. (Read Owen Gleiberman’s review here: He gave it a B!)

Everyone knows that Bryan Singer set out to make an homage to the original Superman movies; hence the deployment of John Williams’ jaunty 1978 score, and the zombie digitization of the late Marlon Brando as Jor-El. That makes Superman Returns a dollhouse recreation of a ’70s movie that was already a ’30s pastiche. That’s a lot of retro for one movie. When you throw in Routh, who eerily plays Christopher Reeve playing Superman playing Clark Kent, Superman Returns feels more like a missing chapter from Grindhouse than a movie with a fast-food tie-in.

I’m not saying the film is perfect. Kate Bosworth is miscast as Lois Lane. Practically nothing happens in the middle of the movie. But the more you watch Superman Returns (and it seems to be on TV constantly), some of the film’s flaws start to seem appealingly gonzo. James Marsden plays a character whose only purpose is to be the coolest man alive – people, he owns a prop plane. And Lex Luthor’s henchman are so stupid, they might as well be carrying bags imprinted with dollar signs.

Okay, (SPOILER ALERT) the whole Super-Baby subplot is bananas, but it’s actually a little bit bracing to see such a strenuously anti-canonical plot twist in a superhero movie. Especially when films like Iron Man 2 and Watchmen seem hermetically sealed in their attempts to stay “faithful,” it’s pretty darn cool that Singer just decided to really go for it. Superman and Lois Lane had sex! Without protection! And now he’s a deadbeat dad! And she still doesn’t know he’s Clark Kent. It’s like a Kevin Smith riff come to life.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Am I crazy to love Superman Returns just a little? Do you think Routh should get a second go-round with the last son of Krypton? Is John Williams’ Superman score better than his Star Wars score? Sound off below!

Superman Returns

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 157 minutes
  • Bryan Singer