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A Super Man Returns: Why it's Great Brandon Routh is Back

A Super Man Returns: Why it's Great Brandon Routh is Back

When it comes to actors who have played the iconic Last Son of the Planet Krypton, there are a few Supermans that time has forgotten, or at the very least, made secret identities out of the careers of the actors in question. From Dean Cain (Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) to Tim Daly (voice on Superman: The Animated Series) to Gerard Christopher (Superboy... wait, remember Superboy!?) playing the Man of Steel doesn’t always been you’ll be ushered into a superhero hall of fame. And perhaps the most abused Superman of them all was Brandon Routh, who played Supe back in 2006’s Superman Returns. But now, Routh is set to return to the DC universe—this time as The Atom on Arrow—and it’s good to have him back.

It’s sort of appropriate that Routh is taking on the role of The Atom, since the primary super-ablity of this character is being able to shrink and hide yourself. The reviews of Superman Returns weren’t exactly savage, but the general “meh” response from the fans and moviegoers  probably didn't make him feel great. Which is a shame, because Superman Returns isn't as bad as a lot of people say it is, and Routh was a competent and charming Superman. While Henry Cavill’s hulking-bod might be the Superman we wanted, Brandon Routh’s portrayal was in many ways, the Superman we deserved. Coming from the straight-up aww-shucks Christopher Reeve tradition, Routh’s Superman was literally supposed to be the same character as that 1978/1980 Supe, which if you think about it, is pretty rough on an actor.

There was no way Routh could have actually convinced anyone he was Christopher Reeve, so instead, he split the difference and gave us the Reeve twinkle with his own sense of danger. Brandon Routh’s Superman didn't feel super-strong in a total hunk sort of way, but he did feel like a Superman who had gone through something. The only trouble was, the audience wasn't quite sure what that something was, and would have had to watch the older Reeve films while squinting to really understand it. It didn't help that Routh was also—like Reeve—in the shadow of the ghost of Marlon Brando, who was brought back to life via old recordings and digital effects. Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor was okay, but it didn't really match the tone of Routh’s Superman, and so, the movie, for many, fell flat. Still, Routh’s portrayal was a little nicer, and little softer than our contemporary Supe; Henry Cavill. And in his other roles, he’s charming as hell.

Because if you haven’t seen Brandon Routh’s turn in Scott Pilgrim Saves the World, then you haven’t seen how hilariously charming this guy can be. Hopefully in his new turn as the Atom on Arrow, Brandon Routh will get to employ some of his laser-sharp wit, while having us root for him as he runs in to save the day, again.

Brandon Routh: underrated or over him completely?

Tags: tv, superman, arrow, dc entertainment, brandon routh, atom

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About the Author
Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths, forthcoming from Plume (Penguin) Books on 11.24.15. He's written for The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Awl, VICE Motherboard, Clarkesworld Magazine, and is a consulting editor for Story Magazine. He lives in New York City.

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