Ultimately, extra effects and the addition of a bank-robbery sequence which gained the movie a trailer-friendly bulletproof-eyeball moment pushed the budget over $200 million. According to the studio, Superman Returns' price tag is $204 million. Without the Australian tax credits: about $223 million. Add in the bills for Ratner and McG, which will count against Singer's film, and the total comes to an estimated $263 million, plus potentially another $100 million in worldwide marketing costs. As shooting wrapped last fall, Warner Bros. inked a deal to split Superman's production budget with an independent film company that will share in the revenue.
But it's superexpensive, nonetheless. By most reckonings, Superman Returns will likely need to gross over $600 million worldwide to make its money back, a feat only two superhero adaptations have ever accomplished: Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. Superman Returns is further challenged by a 2-hour, 37-minute running time. Robinov, however, is hoping audiences will embrace the film as the Titanic of superhero movies, and the cast is feeling confident. Says Marsden, ''If somebody gave you $200 million to make a movie that could reach the most people you could who would it be about? The answer is either going to be Superman or Jesus.''
The larger question remains: In an era of the vengeance-driven Batman Begins, how relevant is a values-driven Superman Returns? Early versions of the script included nods to a post-9/11 world, but Singer and his writers chose to cut them, feeling it was too much too soon for Superman to address. Still, they do present their hero as a citizen of the world, not just an avatar of ''truth, justice, and the American way.'' Singer, who has two more Superman films in mind, believes that the character's cool lies in his universality. ''Is Superman relevant?'' he asks. ''Look around. Aren't we crying out for him?''
Speaking of second comings, Brandon Routh is waiting again. Waiting for the inevitable Christopher Reeve comparisons. Waiting for the chance to prove he can do more than just be Superman (''I have every intention of being an accomplished actor in many other films,'' he says). And waiting for everything to change. ''I already know I can't go to the grocery store. Even if only a few million people saw the movie, that would still be a problem,'' he says. ''But a few billion seeing it wouldn't be bad, either.'' Ah, Superman. Ever the idealist.