Superman (Brandon Routh) has been gone for five years, investigating the remains of Krypton. While he was gone, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) was released from prison and married a rich widow, who soon died. Superman, unable to find any other Kryptonians, returns to Earth and Clark Kent shows up at the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Lex Luthor travels to the Fortress of Solitude and steals Kryptonian crystals which cause an East Coast power outage, interfering with the launch of a space-shuttle from atop an airliner, on which Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), covering the story, is a passenger. Of course, Superman saves everybody.
The world welcomes him back, but Lois Lane is to marry Richard White (James Marsden), nephew of the Daily Planet editor Perry White (Frank Langella). They have a five-year-old son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). Lois is assigned to interview Superman and Clark is sent to investigate the blackout. Lois is attacked by Luthor’s henchman. Jason defends her by throwing a piano at him, proving just whose son he is. Superman is dealing with Luthor and the landmass he is creating with the Krypton crystal.
Superman discovers the landmass is filled with kryptonite and he falls into the sea. Lois removes the kryptonite shard from his neck. When he regains his strength, he puts layers of earth between him and the kryptonite and lifts the entire landmass into space. Luthor and his girlfriend Kitty (Parker Posey) are stranded on a desert island. Lois visits Superman when he is in a coma from kryptonite poisoning and whispers a secret in his ear. When he awakens, he visits Jason and repeats his father Jor-El’s (Marlon Brando) last words to him.
Marlon Brando appears posthumously as Jor-El via previous footage and computer technology. The film was directed by Bryan Singer of the X-Men films. It totally ignores Superman III and IV, as do I. The film received positive reviews, though it was criticized for a lack of action scenes and a kind of over-reverent attitude. At least it wasn’t full of stupid jokes. Warner Brothers was disappointed with the box office and cancelled a planned sequel. Brandon Routh was chosen largely because of his resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, and because of the latter’s widow’s enthusiastic approval.
When Bryan Singer met Brandon Routh in a coffee shop to talk about the role, Routh stumbled and poured hot coffee all over the table. He was mortified, but Singer said he was the perfect Clark Kent. He put on twenty pounds of muscle. The Space Shuttle engineer is played by Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic. General Zod was to appear, and Singer wanted Jude Law, and Jude Law only, to play him. When he turned it down three times, the character was written out of the script. The new costume for Superman was inspired by that of the Golden Age of Comics but looked modern. DC Comics released several titles to tie in with the movie.