Why Brandon Routh’s Superman returning is great news

Can someone pass my smelling salts? The two best Supermen will be supermanning together this year, and I may fai…

Brandon Routh, who played the Big Blue Boy Scout in Bryan Singer’s 2006 film, Superman Returns, has announced he’s donning the big blue tights again, this time for TV.

According to various reports, Routh will appear in a five-episode Arrowverse crossover event called Crisis on Infinite Earths, along with Supergirl‘s Superman, played by Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf).

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Super. Double. Whammy. Man.

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According to Screen Rant, Routh had “mixed feelings” about taking on the role again.

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Partly, I’m sure, because he already plays a character in the Arrowverse: Ray Palmer whose alter ego is The Atom onDC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and Arrow. He’ll play both characters in the crossover event, according to Screen Rant.

I do not have mixed feelings about the news.

My feelings are singular and sound a little bit like a dolphin on helium. Because of the almost 30 actors and voice actors who have played Big Blue, Routh is still one of the best. No, hear me out.

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The film had problems, boy did it ever, but Routh was not one of them.

He was a handsome, elegant, Superman in the vein of Christopher Reeve. He played the part with the same stoic-yet-vulnerable charm Reeve brought him, something the character totally lost in Zach Snyder’s 2013 ubermacho, Ayn Randian nightmare, Man of Steel.

Routh’s Supes has more in common with Chris Evans’ Captain America. Strong and gentle, in control of his power, rather than revelling in it; respecting those in need of help just as much as his super bros, without being a paternalistic or patronising jerk about it.

The epitome of non-toxic masculinity, Routh’s Superman has no problems expressing his fears and feelings, nor embracing them and facing up to them like a grown up.

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He’s also a sweetheart. Lord have mercy, but the scene where he asks Lois (Kate Bosworth) if she’s alright after he saves the crashing plane, and the one where he takes her for a night time flight? That’s romance, my friends.

And the way he never pressures or chides or guilts her for moving on without him and  the way he respects her new partner even though meeting him must hurt like a bitch….that’s manly as hell. That’s Superman, and Routh nails it.

But more than being a great Superman, he’s great as two Clark Kents and a Kal-El too.

I’ve written before about how understanding the alter egos is what makes Ben Affleck a great Batman (don’t fight me on that).

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It’s the same reason I’m so nuts for Tyler Hoechlin in the role. They all seem to get that the only way to manage the bombast of a character like Clark/Kal/Supes is to know which one of those names is the man and which are his alter egos’, and how that can sometimes change.

Phew, that go philosophical fast, but hang in there.

I reckon playing with that idea, with what those alter egos mean is also key to making the somewhat bloated, old fashioned archetypal heroes of the DC verse more palatable to modern audiences. It’s part of why they do so well as TV shows, where there’s all the time in the world to explore different aspects of the characters, the tension and frustration of hiding who you are, or even losing who you are, getting all melodramatic and soap opera-ish with it.

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Routh manages all that in one film with Superman Returns.

The film was tacitly positioned as a reboot of the 80s films from the third sequel, so Routh was sort of playing Christopher Reeve as Superman. But with his excellent comic timing (check him out in Edge Wright’s Scot Pilgrim, he’s good) and expressive face (man, he can do a lot of heavy lifting with just a look), I swear, the guy is criminally underrated.

After Returns garnered a lukewarm box office, he only got to play the role once.

“It’s an opportunity for me to kind of say hello and goodbye to the character in a way I didn’t get to the first time,” he’s reported as saying at San Diego Comic Con on Friday, when his return to the role was announced.

“Being a young individual of 24, 25, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this for years and make multiple movies.’ And that of course didn’t happen.”

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Today the film has a solid 75% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and is fondly remembered by Superman fans. It’s exciting to get some of that back.

In DC comics history, Crisis on Infinite Earths is the title of a story line from the 80s that pared back the many different superhero storylines, eliminating many of the “worlds” where different Superheroes with the same names and similar backstories had different adventures. Kind of the antithesis of 2019’s Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse, which introduced the multiverse idea to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s not clear if the TV version of Crisis will follow the comics version closely or not, but it doesn’t really matter. What I’ll be tuning in for is the return of a comic book legend, The return of a true Superman.

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Fun fact: Hoechlin appeared in 2017 horror The Domestics playing a devoted-but-bumbling husband to Kate Bosworth… who played Lois Lane opposite Routh in Superman Returns.

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