Instead, the film ends up exploring how Clark is even more of an outsider than he was before. Here’s where I think Brandon Routh doesn’t get enough credit. He might not draw such extreme distinctions between his Clark and his Superman that Christopher Reeve did, but by dialing down his Clark’s nerdiness, he makes him a more believable person. In the Reeve films, the conceit usually was that any time we saw Clark, Superman was hamming his performance up.
What Routh does is he largely makes Clark the “real” guy and turns Superman into the mask that can hide those insecurities. Examine moments such as when Clark probes Jimmy about Lois in the bar, or when he later is talking to Lois and trips over trying to explain Superman’s motivations. Little flourishes like that give Clark a reliability that Reeve’s version wasn’t often allowed.
It’s become fashionable to dismiss this film with the scoff that “Superman didn’t punch anything!” Do me a favor – the next time you hear someone offer this opinion as if it means anything, please punch them! I’m pretty sure if you go back into the lore that the George Reeves Superman didn’t punch anyone either, and even Reeve’s Superman rarely threw a punch. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I prefer that the movies I watch be about something.