Sydney, Australia, was named a UNESCO City of Film in December 2010, and for good reason. The city’s vibrant culture, passion for cinema, and exciting homegrown talent have borne valuable contributions to film not just in Australia, but across the globe. In terms of film locations, Sydney offers everything from pristine beaches to stunning skyscrapers, as well as lush mountains and bushlands.
One such movie that made use of Sydney’s stunning variety of landscapes is Superman Returns (2006). Deputy Premier John Watkins relayed that the film’s production contributed over $110 million to the local economy, asserting the city’s potential as a major global film destination.
If you’re a Superman fan or a film buff heading to Australia’s movie capital, here are five key Superman locations you shouldn’t miss.
A pedestrian mall in the middle of the Sydney’s central business district, Martin Place is known as the civic heart of the city. Running between George Street and Macquarie Street, the mall is also accessible from the Martin Place Railway Station.
In the movie, Lex Luthor’s henchwoman Kitty Kowalski nearly hits panicked pedestrians as she drives her Mustang to divert Superman’s attention from Luthor’s museum robbery. Superman then stops the out of control car by lifting it and setting it down in front of the mall’s fountain.
The Australian Museum & Art Gallery of New South Wales
The aforementioned museum robbery actually takes place in two different locations. The film’s Metropolitan Museum of Natural History owes its façade to the Art Gallery of NSW, located along the Art Gallery Road in The Domain.
Meanwhile, the museum’s interior is found in the Australian Museum, which is a few blocks south, along College Street.
Both museums are open everyday, save for Good Friday and Christmas Day, and offer exhibits on fine arts, visual arts, natural history, and anthropology. You may also check out the vegan Bodhi Restaurant along College Street in between the two galleries for your cruelty-free dim sum fix.
Radisson Blu Plaza
Located on the corner of Pitt and O’Connell, the Radisson Blu Plaza is housed in a historic triangular sandstone flatiron building that previously served as the offices of Fairfax newspapers.
The place is minutes away from Sydney’s most well-known sites and, in Superman Returns, was witness to terrorizing fireballs that erupted through manholes in front of the building.
With over three kilometres of sand and fast waves, Narrabeen Beach is one of Australia’s most popular surfing and swimming beaches.
The beach stretches from Long Reef in the south to the Narrabeen Lagoon entrance in the north, and serves as Luthor and Kowalski’s final location at the end of the film. The antagonists are shown marooned on a small island, without any fuel for their helicopter.
Last but not least, the Sylvania Waters development located south of Sydney was the location for Lois Lane’s waterfront home.
More specifically, the home where Superman spies on his former lover and her new partner Richard White is situated on James Cook Island, an artificial crescent-shaped island within the development. The area was made famous in the early 90’s by a reality TV show of the same name.
More than super
Superman Returns earned 6.1/10 on IMDb and a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, on top of its roughly $400 million gross. But more than these numbers, perhaps the greatest achievement of the film was its revival of the Superman franchise, which had a promising start in Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) but was squandered in the sequels Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). It was then nearly two decades before Superman Returns came in, director Bryan Singer’s loving homage to the superhero classic.
Through Singer’s strong direction and the screenplay penned by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, Superman Returns brought new life to the franchise with its vivid characterisation and sensitively conceived plot. This legacy has helped build DC’s further films towards the latter half of the decade and into the early 2010s, with titles like the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Man of Steel (2013). The two Batman films following Superman Returns likewise breathed new life into the franchise, and have since then left their mark on pop culture.
The aforementioned films brought new depth to well-known heroes and villains, showing the heights of superheroes’ power as well as the complexities of their despair and imperfection, while also showing just how evil characters like Lex Luthor and the Joker can be. These characters have been featured time and time again in television shows, spin-off movies, and merchandise, and have also inspired everything from Halloween costumes to video games. One recently released game, The Dark Joker Rizes mobile slots on Slingo, even has an uncanny resemblance to The Dark Knight Rises, albeit not related to the comic book character. In other words, it shows the extent of the influence of such films. Because of all this, it can be said that the ripples made by Singer’s Superman Returns has come a long way since its 2006 premiere, and will continue to inspire even more in the future. As a by-product, similar films will go on to popularize their respective filming locations, like how it was with Sydney’s attractions listed above.
If you’re going to visit the Superman film locations in Sydney or travel anywhere else in Australia, check out The Aspiring Digital Nomad’s short guide on quirky Australian-isms you will hear and learn during your trip. Happy travels mate!