Superman Returns - The FAQs

Frequently-Asked Questions about the movie "Superman Returns"

By Steve Younis

Last Updated: July 19, 2006



INTRODUCTION: This article attempts to answer some of the more frequently asked questions being received by the Superman Homepage about various plot points in "Superman Returns". The answers are culled from a variety of sources including Bryan Singer's video blog journals, trailers, and other promotional materials.

This FAQ is a continual work in progress. If you have any comments, suggestions, or corrections please feel free to e-mail Steve Younis.

NOTE: Do NOT read this FAQ if you have not yet seen the movie, as it contains MANY spoilers.



CONTENTS

(+ updated question; * new question since last update)

The Movie
Q: Is "Superman Returns" a sequel or not?

Krypton
Q: Where did Superman return from?
Q: If Superman's father told him, via the crystals in the Fortress of Solitude, he was the last survivor of Krypton, why would Superman think there was anything left of Krypton - or possibly any Kryptonians - left to find?
Q: Why did the trip take him around five years?
Q: Why did Superman need a spaceship to travel to and from the remains of Krypton? Couldn't he have flown?
Q: Why was Superman so weak when he returned?
Q: Where did Superman get the adult-version of the spaceship that took him to and from the remains of Krypton?

Smallville
Q: Who was the man seen leaving the Kent Farm, waving goodbye to Martha, just before Superman crashed back to Earth?
Q: How old is Clark Kent when he first discovers he can fly?
Q: Why was young Clark Kent seen to be wearing glasses during the flashback sequence of "Superman Returns"?

Lois Lane
Q: How did Lois fall pregnant?
Q: But Superman is a Kryptonian and Lois is from Earth... How can two different species procreate together?
Q: Did Superman know Lois was pregnant before he left to search for the remains of Krypton?
Q: How does Lois know that Superman is the father of her son Jason if, at the end of "Superman II", he gave her that super-kiss to make her forget?

Lex Luthor
Q: How did Lex Luthor create the new landmass using the Kryptonian crystal?

Superman
Q: Why was Superman so weak when he confronted Lex Luthor and his henchmen on the new landmass?
Q: Why wasn't Superman immediately aware of the Kryptonite affecting him as soon as he landed on the new landmass?
Q: How was Superman able to lift the landmass into space? Why did he pass out and fall to earth?
Q: Superman appeared to be dead and the hospital equipment showed his heart had stopped, how did he survive?

Jason White
Q: How does Superman know Jason is his son?
Q: Does Jason know Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same?
Q: Why is Jason White so sickly at the beginning of the movie?
Q: How does Jason have super powers if Superman was mortal when he spent the night with Lois in "Superman II"?

Richard White
Q: Who is Richard White?
Q: Does Richard White know that Jason isn't actually his son?

Notable Characters
Q: The old rich lady at the beginning of the movie, Gertrude Vanderworth, looks familiar. Who is the actor?
Q: Who is Gertrude Vanderworth?
Q: The bartender who serves Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent looks familiar. Who is the actor?
Q: Who is this Bo bartender character?
Q: Are there other notable appearances or cameos?

Miscellaneous
Q: During the rescue of the Boeing 777 one of the wings came off, where did it fall to? And what happened to the space shuttle?



The Movie

Q: Is "Superman Returns" a sequel or not?

A: While Bryan Singer was often quoted as saying "Superman Returns" used "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II" in a "vague history", there's no doubt that there are solid continuity ties between those earlier films and "Superman Returns". References to those earlier two films include:

  • Jor-El once again portrayed by actor Marlon Brando.
  • Superman (and Clark) re-using/referencing certain words and phrases such as "Swell"; "You know you really shouldn't smoke Miss Lane"; and the "Statistically speaking/safest way to travel" line.
  • Kitty remarking that Lex Luthor acts as if he's been inside the Fortress of Solitude before, which he had in "Superman II".
  • Richard White mentioning the "I spent the night with Superman" Daily Planet article written by Lois Lane in "Superman: The Movie".
  • Lois now has a child, which is obviously the result of a de-powered Man of Steel sleeping with Lois Lane in 1980's "Superman II".

Krypton

Q: Where did Superman return from?

A: When scientists alleged to have possibly found the remains of Krypton, Superman flew off into space to see what remained of his home planet and whether anyone survived the cataclysm.

It's interesting to note that the comic book adaptation of the movie has Lex Luthor claiming he and Stanford (one of his henchman) came up with the false report about Krypton's remains, as a way to get Superman out of the way. They hoped his trip to the Kryptonite infested remains of Krypton would kill him.

Q: If Superman's father told him, via the crystals in the Fortress of Solitude, he was the last survivor of Krypton, why would Superman think there was anything left of Krypton - or possibly any Kryptonians - left to find?

A: First, the messages on the crystals would have been prepared by Jor-El on Krypton before the planet blew up - think of a video will. The message would likely have made certain assumptions about the demise of Krypton.

Hearing the report that astronomers claimed to have found the remains of Krypton, Superman may have wanted to check if any other life forms survived. Superman makes a similar return to Krypton's atmosphere in "Superman: The Animated Series", which is when he discovers Supergirl in suspended animation.

Q: Why did the trip take him around five years?

A: Krypton occupied space in a totally different galaxy to that of Earth. Just as his first trip from Krypton to Earth took around 2-3 years when he was a baby, the round trip from Earth to the remains of Krypton, and back to Earth took around 5 years because of the vast distance.

In "Superman: The Movie" Jor-El's voiceover during Kal-El's original trip to Earth mentioned that the trip takes 3 years. In the Fortress of Solitude, Jor-El says, "By this reckoning, I would have been dead for many thousands of your years". This is because of Albert Einstien's Theory of Relativity, which, in part and abbreviated, states that when one travels close to the speed of light, time speeds up for everyone else not traveling at the same speed or traveling at a slower speed. It's possible to assume that when Krypton's Sun exploded, it scattered the remains of Krypton outwards. Parts of Krypton would be closer to Earth after many thousands of years, therefore, the trip to certain remains of Krypton would only take 2-1/2 years, instead of 3. Thus the round trip would only be 5 years.

Q: Why did Superman need a spaceship to travel to and from the remains of Krypton? Couldn't he have flown?

A: Superman derives his powers from Earth's yellow sun. His body acts like a solar battery, converting the yellow sun energy into his amazing powers. Being away in deep space means Superman's powers would eventually run out without a source of yellow solar radiation. Therefore Superman wouldn't be able to fly to and from the remains of Krypton under his own power. In other mediums (comics and recent cartoons), Superman can hold his breath for hours on end, a trip into the deep vacuum of space would not be possible for him unaided. Perhaps this reasoning also applies for the film version.

Q: Why was Superman so weak when he returned?

A: As stated in the answer to the previous question, Superman derives his powers from Earth's yellow sun. Being away from a yellow sun for five years undoubtedly robbed him of most of his powers. It also appears to be likely that he would have been subjected to intense Kryptonite radiation in Krypton's solar system as much of the planet's remains would have been irradiated and converted into the deadly green rock. An early video blog showed Superman's ship travelling through a field of green Kryptonite asteroids.

Q: Where did Superman get the adult-version of the spaceship that took him to and from the remains of Krypton?

A: Superman used the Kryptonian crystal technology in his Fortress of Solitude to build/grow the spaceship, much as Jor-El would have done when originally sending his infant son to Earth. It's shown how Jor-El did this in the "Superman Returns Prequel: Krypton to Earth" comic book. It's also worth noting that Lex Luthor (after learning everything from his time in the Fortress of Solitude) relates to Kitty that the Kryptonian crystal technology is capable of being used to create weapons and vehicles.

Smallville

Q: Who was the man seen leaving the Kent Farm, waving goodbye to Martha, just before Superman crashed back to Earth?

A: That was Ben Hubbard (played by actor James Karen). Ben is Martha's neighbor, who, it is revealed in "Superman: The Movie", was asked by Clark to help out with the farm after Jonathan Kent died and Clark had to go "north" to create his Fortress of Solitude. Ben and Martha formed a close friendship in Clark's absence. Hubbard can also be partially seen standing next to Martha Kent outside the hospital at the end of the movie.

Q: How old is Clark Kent when he first discovers he can fly?

A: In the flashback scene shown in the movie, where Clark falls through the barn roof and floats above the ground, he is fifteen years old. This is obviously the first time he realizes he can defy gravity.

Q: Why was young Clark Kent seen to be wearing glasses during the flashback sequence of "Superman Returns"?

A: It's never clearly explained. Some have speculated that perhaps Clark was already formulating his less-than-super disguise as Clark Kent for future use. Others are suggesting that Clark's Kryptonian senses were somehow stunted, needing glasses like any normal child might, until he'd built up enough yellow solar radiation to develop his sensory powers like x-ray vision and heat vision.

Lois Lane

Q: How did Lois fall pregnant?

A: In "Superman II", Superman relinquished his powers in a red solar radiation chamber so that he could be "mortal" and be permitted to love a mortal (Lois Lane). While de-powered, Superman and Lois spent the night together. It's assumed that this resulted in Lois falling pregnant.

Q: But Superman is a Kryptonian and Lois is from Earth... How can two different species procreate together?

A: We're talking about a comic book story. If you can believe a man can fly... If you can believe an alien from another galaxy just happens to look exactly like people on Earth... then is it really that difficult to believe that under the circumstances seen in "Superman II" that Superman and Lois were able to conceive a child together?

Q: Did Superman know Lois was pregnant before he left to search for the remains of Krypton?

A: No, Superman did not know that Lois was pregnant. He only found out she was the mother of a child when Jimmy Olsen told him about it after Clark discovered the photo on her desk (as seen in the movie).

Q: How does Lois know that Superman is the father of her son Jason if, at the end of "Superman II", he gave her that super-kiss to make her forget?

A: The "super-kiss" is not a power that has ever been used before in any version of Superman storytelling, so nobody really knows how it works or what it makes a person forget. Some speculate that Lois' memory may have started to return, or perhaps Superman's kiss only made her forget that Clark and Superman were the same person, while not erasing her memory of their union.

Lex Luthor

Q: How did Lex Luthor create the new landmass using the Kryptonian crystal?

A: Kryptonian crystal technology basically acts like a seed, growing and replicating itself using the environment with which it is surrounded. Lex discovered that submerging the Kryptonian crystals in water caused them to react and grow, much the same way young Clark Kent built the Fortress of Solitude when he threw the crystal into the icy waters of the North Pole in "Superman: The Movie".

Superman

Q: Why was Superman so weak when he confronted Lex Luthor and his henchmen on the new landmass?

A: To make the new landmass an unwelcoming place for Superman, Lex encased the Kryptonian crystal in a cylinder of Kryptonite, knowing that it would take on the characteristics of the Kryptonite as it grew. Located under the crystalline surface, the Kryptonite weakened Superman, causing him much pain and making him vulnerable to attack. Prolonged exposure would likely have killed him.

Q: Why wasn't Superman immediately aware of the Kryptonite affecting him as soon as he landed on the new landmass?

A: Perhaps the Kryptonian crystals mask much of the Kryptonite's radiation, ebbing Superman's powers without him actually feeling the pain. Perhaps he was so angry at what Lex had done that he didn't even feel the effects of the kryptonite. Even Lex says to him, "Didn't your father ever teach you to look before you leap?!"

Q: How was Superman able to lift the landmass into space? Why did he pass out and fall to earth?

A: Knowing that the ever-growing landmass and Lex's possession of more Kryptonian crystals would (as Lex boasted) be the death of billions of people, Superman knew that, despite the danger to himself, he had to rid the world of the deadly landmass. Relying on willpower, determination, and the extra yellow solar radiation he used to recover from being stabbed with Kryptonite, Superman lifted the landmass out of the water by diving underneath it, below the seabed, putting layers of normal earth rock between him and the deadly kryptonite. However, as he lifted it skyward, chunks of earth fell away, and the landmass continued to grow, exposing the Kryptonite. As the exposed Kryptonite wracked his body with pain and ebbed his powers, Superman used every ounce of his strength, carried the landmass on his shoulders, and with the last of his failing life-force threw it into space.

Q: Superman appeared to be dead and the hospital equipment showed his heart had stopped, how did he survive?

A: Nobody knows what death really is for a Kryptonian with super powers on Earth. Perhaps his Kryptonian heartbeat slowed to a point that it couldn't be detected by Earth machines. Alternatively, Superman could indeed have been clinically dead for a few moments, only needing to be exposed once again to yellow sunlight to revive him.

Jason White

Q: How does Superman know Jason is his son?

A: Lois whispered it in his ear when she visited him in the hospital.

Q: Does Jason know Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same?

A: It appeared as if he noticed the resemblance between Clark and Superman when watching a TV news report on the Man of Steel - though it's possible he was simply suffering the onslaught of an asthma attack. It's never expanded on or further explained during the movie.

Q: Why is Jason White so sickly at the beginning of the movie?

A: Jason appears to be half-Kryptonian and half-Earthling. Apparently, he suffers from the same frailties as normal human children. Whatever powers he does have, the film suggests they only kick in when he's under great stress or anxiety. During the movie Richard White remarks that Jason's school report card showed he excelled academically, but failed physical education.

Q: How does Jason have super powers if Superman was mortal when he spent the night with Lois in "Superman II"?

A: While Superman had his powers removed, he was still Kryptonian. Jason's DNA would still be a human/alien hybrid, giving him a physiology with unknown properties... He seems to be fragile, yet exhibits superpowers under moments of duress or extreme danger.

Richard White

Q: Who is Richard White?

A: Richard White is the nephew of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White. He apparently was brought in by his uncle to help save the newspaper's international division soon after Superman left to look for Krypton's remains. Richard and Lois live together with Jason, and are engaged to be married. Richard is a pilot, owning a sea-plane which is docked behind their water-front residence. Jason considers Richard to be his father.

Q: Does Richard White know that Jason isn't actually his son?

A: It is never revealed whether Richard knows Jason is not his biological son. The child's full name is "Jason White" so it is assumed that he is legally recognized as the child's father.

Notable Characters

Q: The old rich lady at the beginning of the movie, Gertrude Vanderworth, looks familiar. Who is the actor?

A: The character is played by Noel Neill. Noel is the first live-action actress to portray Lois Lane. She played Lois alongside Kirk Alyn's Superman in the 1948 "Superman" serial and the "Atom Man vs Superman" 1950 serial. Noel also returned as Lois Lane for seasons two through six of "The Adventures of Superman" TV series starring George Reeves as Superman/Clark Kent when Phyllis Coates left the show. It should also be noted that Noel made an appearance in "Superman: The Movie" as Lois Lane's mother (playing that same role in a 1988 CBS television special). Noel also appeared in an episode of the "Superboy" TV series. Noel's involvement in "Superman Returns" makes her the longest serving member of the Superman family, with her Superman career spanning 58 years!

Q: Who is Gertrude Vanderworth?

A: Gertrude is a billionairess. With her aging body and failing health, Gertrude is on her death bed when we're introduced to her in "Superman Returns". Kitty Kowalski posed as a maid inside the Vanderworth mansion and, according to the "Superman Returns Prequel: Lex Luthor" comic book (story by Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris), Kitty worked inside the jail where Lex Luthor was imprisoned. Befriending Lex, Kitty tells him about Gertrude's failing health and large bank accounts. Lex corresponds with Gertrude from jail and somehow cons her into believing that he's worthy of her love, and, when he is released, she signs her entire fortune over to him, then immediately dies. Gertrude Vanderworth is not a character from any previous version of Superman - she was created purely for "Superman Returns".

Q: The bartender who serves Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent looks familiar. Who is the actor?

A: The bartender (named Bo or Bibbo) is played by Jack Larson. Jack starred as Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s TV series "The Adventures of Superman". He also appeared with Noel Neill in an episode of the "Superboy" TV series, and played a prematurely aged Jimmy Olsen on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman".

Q: Who is this Bo bartender character?

A: Bo is the owner of the Ace 'o Clubs tavern. He appears to be based on current comic book character Bibbo Bibbowski who also owns the Ace 'o Clubs in the comics.

Q: Are there other notable appearances or cameos?

A: Yes. Richard Branson (owner of Virgin) makes a cameo appearance as the the third space shuttle astronaut and shuttle engineer. He speaks one line in the movie, "The couplings are non-responsive." Screenwriters Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty also make a cameo appearance as two students taking notes in the Metropolis Museum. Riley, one of Lex Luthor's henchmen, ushers them out of the area where the Kryptonite meteor is on display.

Miscellaneous

Q: During the rescue of the Boeing 777 one of the wings came off, where did it fall to? And what happened to the space shuttle?

A: The space shuttle went off into space as planned, thanks to Superman's help. As for the wing of the plane, Superman clearly looks at it, sees it's falling towards the ocean, and continues on after the plane.