Here's my side of an email exchange I had with a friend about Superman Returns:
1.It’s a middling film: not great and not terrible. It has its moments. One moment is when Superman takes Lois on a little night flight over NYC. Another is his freefall from heaven to earth.
2.One problem is the built-in limitations of the Superman character. He’s basically a juvenile fantasy: what every little boy would like to be like, or every adolescent who’s been bullied at school.
Superman is godlike: virtually omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. That doesn’t leave much potential for character development.
Making him vulnerable to kryptonite is a way of giving him an Achilles heel. But that’s a limited plot device.
Likewise, you can try to accentuate his social isolation, as an alien outsider and loner.
3.There are some potential avenues that a screenwriter could explore. What about the temptation to abuse his powers? His potential for evil?
Or you could have him kidnap Lois and try to win her affections by tempting her with all the goodies that his superhuman powers can lavish on her.
4.In this film, the character of Lois isn’t very appealing. A career woman with no time for the men in her life. Not the ideal love-interest. Who’d want her for a girfriend? She’s married to her job.
5.In this film, the character of Lex Luther was also a failure. Comic book villains are supposed to be enjoyable in a perverse way. Have a wicked sense of humor. A flair for the dramatic.
This time around Lex Luther simply comes across as mean. Spacey is a fine actor, but maybe he’s too naturalistic to ham it up and play a melodramatic comic book villain. He can’t chew the scenery.
6.Also, the save-the-world theme is a tired dramatic convention. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used. But it’s so overused that it requires a lot of imagination to breathe fresh life into that dramatic convention.
Likewise, having Superman restrain muggers and bank robbers and so on has limited dramatic potential. It’s all fairly interchangeable.
7.Finally, there’s an incomplete feeling to the film. I think that’s because directors like to hedge their bets on action films. They need a stand-alone story line. But they also want to leave room for a sequel in case the film is a blockbuster. So you end up with action films that are a dramatic compromise. They aren’t quite satisfying on their own terms because the directors wants to leave the door open for a sequel.