Australian Council on Children and the Media

Superman Returns

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Viol. Scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Superman Returns
  • a review of Superman Returns completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 July 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended for children under 13 years.
Children aged 13-15 Children aged 13-15 years should view this movie with parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Superman Returns
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Moderate violence
Length 154 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After scientists discover traces of his homeland, Superman (Brandon Routh) goes on a personal odyssey to find Krypton. He returns five years later, with a clearer understanding of his purpose, to a much changed world, in as much in need of his help as ever before. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, and is engaged to Perry White’s (Frank Langella) nephew Richard (James Marsden). She also has a young son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). Superman discovers that his alter ego, Clark Kent, has only been missed by Jimmy Olsen at his former workplace, The Daily Planet.

In the meantime, Lex Luther(Kevin Spacey), who during Superman’s absence got out of jail on a technicality, has been busy using technology from Krypton to harness energy and create land masses for real estate. Furthermore, he ensures that Superman won’t interfere in his schemes by developing a stock of Kryptonite. During Lex’s first attempts to create a land mass, there is a widespread power shortage in Metropolis, creating chaos and putting Lois and a shuttle mission in peril. Superman is able to save the day in spectacular fashion and has his first re-encounter with a less than impressed Lois.

Back at the Daily Planet, the competing news stories of the city-wide power shortage and Superman’s return become the focus for Lois, Jimmy and Clark. Following a lead and taking her son along with her, Lois correctly finds Lex Luther at the centre of the energy crisis plot and once again, is caught and at his mercy. As Lex’s grand plan unfolds, risking the lives of millions of people, Superman must again face his old adversary and save the woman he loves, no matter the costs to himself.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Natural disasters, people in danger

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • a shuttle launch off a jumbo jet goes wrong during the power failure, resulting in the plane crashing. Lois is on this plane and is unable to get strapped into her seat. Consequently, she is thrown violently about the cabin.
  • during a bank robbery, the thieves use a very powerful machine gun, targeting police men and security guards. No one is seen to be hit or die. Superman stands in front of the security guards and is unharmed by the hundreds of bullets hitting his body.
  • Lex’s current girlfriend, is upset with Lex and slaps him in the face. This scene is depicted comically.
  • after being caught attempting to send a fax to the Daily Planet for help, Lois is grabbed by the hair and dragged across a room. Her forehead is slammed into a piece of furniture and she collapses to the floor
  • the same man is killed by a falling piano, although his death is not shown.
  • after exposing Clark to kryptonite, Lex and his henchmen attack a much weakened Superman. He is kicked in the stomach, and directly in the face, choked and thrown across the ground.
  • Superman is held by two men and punched and kicked in the stomach by another. As he tries to crawl away, his face is forced into a puddle. He struggles to free himself as his head is held under the water.
  • Lex stabs Superman with a stick of kryptonite. Sound effects accompany the stabs, and Superman is seen to be in a great deal of pain.
  • Superman falls from a high cliff into the ocean, apparently unconscious
  • a rockfall on Lex’s newly created land mass crushes three of his henchmen. Their dead bodies are not shown.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Mrs Kent is alone at home one night when her home begins to shake and she appears fearful. She sees a great fireball (Superman’s ship) crash-land into her farmyard.
  • a plane, full of terrified journalists, including Lois Lane, crashes in flames toward the earth. As it plummets, it appears to be heading towards a crowded baseball stadium.
  • the scene in which Lex uses Krypton technology to create a new land mass in the basement of his home
  • during the bank robbery, a machine gun is targeted at police and security guards, who all look very fearful and try to hide.
  • Kitty, Lex’s girlfriend is shown to be hysterically screaming in a run away car, as it ploughs through the crowded streets of Metropolis. People are shown to be diving out of the way.
  • Lois and Jason are caught by Lex and guarded and menaced by his henchmen. They appear afraid, with Jason witness to his mother being assaulted by the guard.
  • Lois, Richard and Jason are trapped in a sealed boat cabin as it sinks underwater. They appear to be struggling to keep their heads above water and are distressed.
  • As Lex’s land mass grows out of  the ocean, it causes small tidal waves and earthquakes in Metropolis, with innumerable accidents, gas leaks and fires. Many people are shown to be afraid and running for safety.
  • Richard attempts to fly a plane out of a very narrow canyon, nearly crashing several times. He appears very scared.
  • As Lex’s new land mass starts to fall apart, there are many earthquakes and rockfalls. Lex and his sidekicks appear worried as they flee. Lex’s henchmen are all killed by a large rock collapse.
  • Superman lifts and flies the kryptonite-infiltrated land mass into space. This exposure greatly weakens him and he falls unconscious and heavily to the earth. He is rushed to hospital, where efforts to revive ‘a man of steel’ appear largely unsuccessful.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

All of the above mentioned violent and scary scenes could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, particularly the scene in which there are tidal waves and earthquakes in Metropolis, with innumerable accidents, gas leaks and fires.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children over the age of thirteen years will cope better with the violence but could still be concerned by some of the more threatening situations and violence portrayed in the movie.

Product placement

None

Sexual references

There are a couple of sexual references:

  • it is implied that Lois and Superman have slept together, by Lois writing an article called “My night with Superman”
  • Lois states “I’ve done Superman” and the comment is taken out of context

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Use of substances

One scene in which Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent go to a bar and there are patrons drinking there.

Coarse language

There is very little coarse language in this movie, including:

  • one of Lex’s henchmen says “Holy Sh…”, without completing the phrase
  • crap.

In a nutshell

Superman Returns is an action adventure movie of good versus evil. Adults and older adolescents may enjoy the action sequences and special effects, the developing love triangle storyline, and picking up on the deliberate similarities between the current version and the 70s and 80s depiction of Superman.

The main messages from this movie are good triumphing over evil, and not being afraid to live up to your potential and purpose.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • loyalty to friends and family
  • being prepared to make sacrifices in order to fulfil responsibilities
  • people deserve a second chance and it’s never too late to make the right choice.
  • characters all played a part in stopping Lex’s plan and saving each other, regardless of their powers, gender or age.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • lying and breaking the law
  • using violence as a means to resolve a conflict.

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