The original comic book super-hero is back on the big screen in a rip-roaring adventure directed by Bryan Singer, who made the first two "X-Men" movies. Alan Silverman spoke with the director and his stars for this look at "Superman Returns."

Superman has been gone for five years, but, suddenly and mysteriously, he returns. At the Daily Planet, that great metropolitan newspaper, editor Perry White wants the story.

Lois Lane got the scoop last time, but when he left he broke her heart. She found a new boyfriend and even had a baby; and Lois also won a Pulitzer - American journalism's top honor - for her editorial titled "Why the world does not need Superman:"

Over the past decade or so, there have been several attempts to get a new Superman movie off the ground; but he finally flies again under the guidance of director Bryan Singer who says the new film had to respect the original 1978 hit that starred the late Christopher Reeve.

"I learned a lot of that doing the X-Men films: there is a certain kind of history that came before me and will live long after me and it's kind of my responsibility as a custodian of this universe of Superman that I have to be respectful of that. At the same time, I try to bring some of my own point of view to the character; but I'm not in any way trying to re-invent the wheel. I'm just trying to re-invigorate it," he said.

Singer insisted a newcomer play Superman [and, of course, his secret identity Clark Kent]. He chose a tall, handsome young actor from the Midwestern state of Iowa, Brandon Routh, who admits just putting on the tights-and-cape costume was daunting.

"The first time I wore it I hadn't really trained yet, I hadn't read the script and I hadn't really worked on the character at that point. I was standing there in a room full of costume designers and some other people and everybody was judging me right away. I said 'don't make your judgment on if this is Superman or not just yet' because I hadn't done all the work that I would later do. But then I was able to track the process of my growth as I did more work on the character ... and I really did grow into it," he said.

Kate Bosworth co-stars as Lois Lane, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who somehow never figures out that her mild-mannered colleague Clark, who also mysteriously disappeared for five years, is actually Superman disguised only by a pair of glasses.

"Oh come on, that's the fun of the film," she said. "If we really wanted to be serious about that, it's ridiculous. It's part of Superman. That's how it was written. That's the fun. That's the magic. That's the way it is."

Of course Superman needs a super-sized villain: Lex Luthor, played by Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey.

"There's no question that Lex Luthor is a big, iconic, almost theatrical character," he said, "and there are times when you think 'was that a little over the top? Can they see the mugging from a helicopter?'"

By definition, Superman is a larger-than-life character; but in Superman Returns, director Bryan Singer adds some unmistakable Christian imagery to the legend.

"We always viewed the first movie as very much the story of Moses: they send the child away, down the river, to find his destiny. In this story, yes ... you grow up in the Judeo-Christian culture and the Christian allegory and those influences are not in any way lost to me or in the making of this film. I think in a very celebratory, meaningful and beautiful way it recognizes that," he said.

Superman Returns also features James Marsden as Lois's steadfast new boyfriend, the nephew of editor Perry White, who is played by Frank Langella; and Eva Marie Saint is Clark's foster mother, Martha Kent. Watch for cameo appearances by two stars of the 1950s Superman TV series, Noel Neill and Jack Larson; and the late Marlon Brando is back - through sequences shot for the 1978 film - as Jor-El, Superman's father from the planet Krypton.