During Superman's nearly 20-year hiatus from from the big screen characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men took his place in the pop-culture pantheon. In 2006, director Bryan Singer attempted to change this with Superman Returns, a true sequel to Superman II that featured Brandon Routh as the new Man of Steel, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.

The story focuses on Superman returning to Earth after spending six years away trying to find the remains of Krypton. When he gets back he discovers a world that has moved on without him, including Lois, who's shacked up with another man. It’s a tragic story about the Man of Tomorrow who finds himself unnecessary today. However, the discovery of a new scheme by Lex Luthor and the realization that Lois had his child while he was gone leads Superman to fly back into action as Earth’s savior.

Unfortunately the movie didn’t gain the kind of traction that Warner Brothers had hoped, and a potential new franchise starring Routh was never realized. Still, Superman Returns acts as a love letter to Richard Donner’s Superman and capped off one version of Superman, leading the way for a new one just a few years later.