New York (Reuters): Superman Returns, which opens in the United States next week, is receiving knock-out first reviews from critics, with newcomer Brandon Routh tipped to win over audiences as the latest crime-fighting Man of Steel. Hollywood's two trade newspapers, Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter, gave the movie strong reviews, with The Reporter describing it as ''a heartfelt Superman movie that plays to a broad audience thanks to an emotionally troubled Man of Steel.'' Daily Variety critic Todd McCarthy said director Bryan Singer had imprinted the Warner Bros. movie with its own personality. Superman Returns is never self-consciously hip, ironic, post-modern or camp. To the contrary, it's quite sincere, with an artistic elegance,'' he said. Routh won praise for his apparent effortlessness-with his resemblance to Superman predecessor, the late Christopher Reeve, not going unnoticed.
The movie's plot has Superman returning to Earth following a mysterious absence of several years. Back home, an old enemy plots to render him powerless once and for all while the superhero's great love, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), has moved on or has she? Newsweek said Singer, who left the popular X-Men franchise to make Superman Returns, did the right thing from the start of ''this gorgeously crafted epic'' by showing respect for the most foursquare comic superheroes of them all. The magazine added that ''Routh may or may not be a real actor, but he effortlessly lays claim to the iconic role, just as Reeve did. Indeed, he virtually duplicates Reeve in the way he plays Kent as a diffident, awkward Midwestern colt.'' ''Next to Singer's champagne, most recent superhero adventure movies are barely sparkling cider.''
Time magazine said Singer and writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris had revived and revised the story's premise. ''The result is an action adventure that's as thrilling for what it means as for what is shows,'' Time said. The film is Superman's first big-screen appearance since the 1987 movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace starring Reeve. Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.