Following the release of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987, Superman was absent from the big screen for nearly two decades. Then Superman Returns rolled around, a spiritual sequel to the first two Christopher Reeve-led Superman movies that starred Brandon Routh as Kal-El/Clark Kent. Superman Returns was intended to launch a new film series for DC Comics’ Man of Steel, but by the end of the 2000s, the prospects for a sequel were dead.
Brandon Routh has spoken before about how much it pained him to see Superman Returns 2’s chances of happening slowly dwindle, noting how the first movie’s box office performance wasn’t as impressive as anticipated. Recently, Routh provided more context for why the sequel was shelved, saying the following to Geek House Show:
The intention was to do a sequel, always to do, with a big tentpole movie like that. They want to make more as long as they feel like they've recouped the money that they invested into the film. At the end of the day, the studio, Warner Brothers, decided it was too much of a gamble for them to do a sequel. The creative entities, the writers and the directors were on to other things. Certain people at the studio who were excited about Superman had left to go on to other projects at other studios. So, it was both the passion and the interest in Superman dissipated and the movie, I guess for them, didn't bring back enough monetary success for them to pull the trigger on it.
Money is definitely a key factor when it comes to making decisions in Hollywood, and while Superman Returns collecting $391 million worldwide would have been an incredible haul for a smaller-budgeted movie, it wasn’t enough to impress the Warner Bros executives. Granted, there had been talk about moving forward with Superman Returns 2, with the “New Krypton” landmass that Superman threw into space being brought back into play, and villains like Brainiac and Bizarro possibly being used. However, Superman Returns’ disappointing financial performance, followed by several interested parties leaving WB, resulted in the studio deciding by 2009 to throw in the towel on this particular project.
However, Superman fans didn’t have to wait another two decades to see Superman back in theaters. After Superman Returns 2’s collapse, Warner Bros decided to press the reboot button on the character, eventually resulting in Man of Steel’s release in 2013 and Henry Cavill occupying the eponymous role. Admittedly, we’re now back in a place where Superman’s cinematic future is uncertain, but for now, it seems like Cavill’s version of the character will eventually return, though not necessarily in his own movie.
Luckily for Brandon Routh, Superman Returns didn’t make his first and only time contributing to the DC landscape. In 2013, he joined the Arrowverse as Ray Palmer, a.k.a. The Atom, a role he would occupy for the next seven years, primarily on Legends of Tomorrow. More importantly, Routh finally received the opportunity to play Superman again last year in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event, with his version of the character now wearing a Kingdom Come-inspired costume.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” ended with a new multiverse being established, and Earth-96, where Brandon Routh’s Superman resides, was among the previously existing Earths brought back into existence. So the door’s open for this iteration of Superman to possibly return, be it in the Arrowverse or elsewhere. Routh has also expressed interested in appearing in The Flash movie, which is delving into multiversal craziness through the inclusion of both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton’s versions of Batman.
Rest assured, if it’s officially announced that Brandon Routh will play Superman again, we here at CinemaBlend will let you know. In the meantime, look through our DC movies guide to learn what this corner of the superhero market has coming down the creative pipeline.