I was surprised that this is a continuation of the Chris Reeves' SUPERMAN movies, taking five years after Superman has mysteriously disappeared from Metropolis. It turns out that he went back to Krypton, the planet of his birth-only to find it a graveyard, with no answers. He comes back to find that the world has managed pretty good without him-and Lois Lane (an underwhelming Kate Bosworth) giving him the cold shoulder. It turns out that she's living with the nephew (James Marsden of X-MEN)of Perry White, Editor of the Daily Planet. And she has a four year old son, who plays a significant part in the plot (I'm sure you can guess what it is).
The special effects are far improved than the previous movies and the guy who portrays Superman is well-cast, as is Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor (I think he's a bit better than Gene Hackman was). Unfortunately, I'm not the biggest fan of Superman 3 or 4 and this part 5, although it manages not to be as campy as those previous films, is still a bit of a disappointment, as I just didn't feel all that interested in the characters. Sure, there is an interesting plot point (that kid again) but I rather wish this Superman movie was kept separate from the others so that we didn't have the comical villain and his woman sidekick (Parker Posey in the Valerie Perrine role) or those crystals that make up his Fortress of Solitude. Perhaps I didn't like this movie as much because I'm a fan of SMALLVILLE-- and got so accustomed to that show's angst-- that the character problems in RETURN paled in comparison. The movie also felt too long.
SUPERMAN RETURNS isn't a bad movie, it's simply not that super.