And that was a big part of my problem with the film. It was too half-hearted, stuck between paying homage and doing something new. It lacked a clear identity of its own. I'd rather have seen it commit wholeheartedly to creating a new, fresh take on Superman. That would've been a better tribute to Donner than just copying elements of Donner's films, because it would've instead been following in the footsteps of Donner's approach: reinventing Superman, bringing a fresh, modern take to it.
Personally, I thought Singer's radically different tone and visual style, as well as the poetic, reflective nature of the story, were MORE than enough to make SR feel like it's own thing.
Those elements all came across so strong
in my mind that the Donner homages barely register at all in comparison.
They feel like nothing more than just small, respectful nods to me, and I'm always amazed that it's all other fans seem to notice. Maybe when you break it down on paper
the comparison is there, but that's certainly not the experience I have when actually watching the movie.
I agree completely. Superman Returns
was much more thoughtful and meditative than Richard Donner's films ever were. They were more action/adventure movies, and Singer's film was decidedly more romantic.
Besides that, as has been mentioned before, the tone and visual style as you say is also radically different. Donner's films are a reflection of the times, very bright and bland and stylistically one-dimensional, but Singer's film had visual depth, with a darker, more complex and ultimately more expansive color platette.
Plus, when I watch Superman Returns
it feels like I'm watching a movie that is more deeply about unrequited love, but when I watch Donner's films, as enjoyable and entertaining as they are, I kind of feel like I'm watching any sort of average, standard action/adventure film, admittedly one that is very well-made.