Franchises of All Time
Superman Returns (2006)
Superman (1978) | Superman II (1980) | Superman III (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Superman Returns (2006) | Man of Steel (2013)
|Superman Returns (2006)
d. Bryan Singer, 154 minutes
Film Plot Summary
The first scene was on the crystalline planet Krypton before it exploded, where Jor-El (voice of archival Marlon Brando) told his son Kal-El (the future Superman) - before launching him away to Earth: "You will travel far, my little Kal-El. But we will never leave you, even in the face of our deaths. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son." Meteorite chunks of kryptonite blasted away, and under the credits, Kal-El's grand journey through galaxies was viewed, until the star-shaped spacecraft entered Earth's solar system and approached the blue orb.
Villainous arch-nemesis and career criminal Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) was first introduced (off-screen) speaking to frail and wealthy widow Gertrude Vanderworth (Noel Neill, who portrayed Lois Lane in 78 episodes of the TV show Adventures of Superman from 1953-1958). During a lightning storm, she pledged her faith in him (although admitting he had made a "few mistakes") after he had written her from prison and married her. [Later, it was learned that during his fifth appeal from prison, when Superman didn't appear in court to testify as a witness, Luthor was released.] Before dying, she told him that he would inherit everything as she signed her rewritten will: "In spite of your past, I know you're a good man. And all good men deserve a second chance...You said that if I helped you get out of prison, you'd take care of me. And you have. You've shown me pleasures that I've never felt. That's why you deserve everything. I love you, Lex Luthor." As he departed, he threw his toupee to other expectant but disappointed heirs and family members in the hallway: "You can keep that...The rest is mine."
At Martha Kent's (Eva Marie Saint) Kansas farmhouse late one evening, she was doing dishes in the kitchen sink, as the camera panned over the old-fashioned house where Clark had grown up - with a SCRABBLE board from a just-finished game with her neighbor Ben Hubbard (James Karen). The entire contents of the house shook, and the radio was filled with static, as she noticed a bright light and fiery crash outside. She drove a pickup truck to a flaming crater - where her almost-unconscious grown son Clark (Brandon Routh) collapsed into her arms, as she tenderly spoke: "Oh, Clark, Oh, my boy."Among other things, Luthor had inherited the estate's yacht (named The Gertrude which was piloted by henchman Stanford (Kal Penn)) and was navigating through rough seas to Superman's Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic, accompanied by his moll girlfriend Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) in the ship's vast library, and other "creepy friends" from prison, including one thug who continually was video-taping the blindly-arrogant criminal for posterity. (Luthor described himself: "Even a man of my vast talents is worth less inside than a carton of cigarettes and a sharp piece of metal in your pocket"). Luthor then related the Prometheus myth to Kitty - the tale was similar to his own ambitious yet frustrated quest for "power" and the control of technology: "Prometheus was a god who stole the power of fire from the other gods and gave control of it to mortals. In essence, he gave us technology. He gave us power...You see, whoever controls technology controls the world. The Roman Empire ruled the world because they built roads. The British Empire ruled the world because they built ships. America, the atom bomb, and so on and so forth. I just want what Prometheus wanted." He then covetously accused Superman of being a god: "Gods are selfish beings who fly around in little red capes and don't share their power with mankind....No, I don't wanna be a god. I just wanna bring fire to the people. And I want my cut."
At the Fortress of Solitude, the group took the yacht's helicopter and entered the abandoned crystalline structure, where Kitty exclaimed: "Wow!" Another asked: "Was this his house?" Luthor (who had been there before in an earlier film, Superman II (1980)) described it as a "monument to a long-dead and extremely powerful civilization. This is where he learned who he was. This is where he came for guidance." He stretched his palms over the crystal console, removed one of the oblong diamond-shaped crystals, and then replaced it in the console to activate one of the memory banks. They listened to the voice of Jor-El, Superman's deceased father, stating that his son was the only survivor of Krypton. Embedded in the crystals was the "total accumulation of all literature and scientific fact from dozens of other worlds spanning the 28 known galaxies." Posing as Jor-El's son, Luthor requested to learn the secrets of the universe: "Tell me everything, starting with crystals."
Clark Kent awoke in his farm bedroom, walked to a fencepost, and experienced flashbacks of himself as a young 15 year-old boy (Stephen Bender) discovering his flying superpower - joyously racing and leaping through rows of corn, jumping onto the top of a silo, and catapulting himself uncontrollably into a weathervane and into his farm's barn - and suspending himself in mid-air before hitting the ground. Returning to the present, Clark hurled a baseball for his pet dog in a game of catch, but it disappeared in the sky. Later as Clark was watching news reports of continued violence and war on Earth, he assured his mother that he had buried the space capsule. She chided him for leaving for five years: "If your father was alive, he never would have let you go. I almost gave up hope." She asked if he found what he was looking for -- he said he was unable to find his homeland's planet or any survivors of Krypton after its "distant remains" had been discovered by astronomers: "That place was a graveyard. I'm all that's left." She provided some optimism, and prophetic foreshadowing: "The universe is a big place. And you don't know who's out there. And even if you are the last, you're not alone."
Resuming his job at the Daily Planet in Metropolis (and looking for an apartment in the city) after an absence of five years (although no one suspected the remarkable time congruence with Superman's absence), Clark was welcomed back by old friend - the newspaper's photographer Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington), and gruff, cynical editor-in-chief Perry White (Frank Langella), characteristically barking orders. In the office, he learned that fellow reporter and ex-love interest Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) was covering a live story - she was a passenger on a US Air Force 777 jumbo jet with the Genesis space shuttle piggybacking on top for an inaugural test flight launch. He saw a plaque that she was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for an editorial entitled: "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." She had become a "mommy," and had a son (out of wedlock) named Jason White (Tristan Lake Leabu), was in a "prolonged engagement" with Perry White's nephew Richard White (James Marsden), and was touchy about questions of marriage. She had obviously moved on. Jimmy and Clark went to have a few beers - at the start of their work day - where they discussed with the bartender Bo (Jack Larson, who portrayed Jimmy Olsen in 102 episodes of the TV show Adventures of Superman from 1952-1958) how Clark had been doing some "soul-searching," and had seen llamas. Bo asked Clark: "Must be tough coming back...to work." Clark lamented the fact that some things had changed that he wasn't expecting, although Jimmy confided that Lois was "still in love with you-know-who."
Meanwhile, Luthor and his gang returned to his mansion, where he boasted about his fiendish plan to grow a "new world" with a crystal: "I was busy unlocking the secrets of one of the most advanced civilizations in the universe...You see, unlike our clunky, Earth-bound forms of construction, the technology on Krypton, Superman's home world, was based on manipulating the growth of crystals...To the primitive mind, any sufficiently-advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. But imagine: cities, vehicles, weapons, entire continents - all grown. To think that one could create a new world with such a simple little object. It's like a seed. And all it needs is water." After a small portion of one of the crystals was cut off, Stanford dropped it into a pool of water within Luthor's model version of the cityscape (with moving trains). Kitty quipped sarcastically: "Wow. That's really something, Lex. It's freaking Gone with the Wind." Suddenly, the lights went out, and the pool glowed and bubbled. One side-effect was a massive blackout that occurred on the East Coast - during Luthor's experimental test (in miniature) to grow land in the ocean off the coastline. The power outage immediately interfered with the space shuttle flight test - but then the power recycled back up and everything appeared okay. However, Luthor's model displayed destruction from powerful shaking when the ground split open, trains were derailed and plastic human figures were hurt, buildings toppled, and a scale model of Mount Rushmore crumbled.
When the launch was scrubbed, the abortion of the booster ignition failed, the shuttle's couplings holding it to the jumbo jet wouldn't disengage due to jamming and a malfunctioning misfire, and a remote override also failed. When the plane's on-board PR spokesperson Bobbie-Faye (Peta Wilson) comically assured everyone: "And if you're lucky, you may hear the faint pop of the sonic boom," the attached orbital shuttle's engines fired and blasted the rear tail rudder of the plane, and sent the spokesperson careening into the aisle. Oxygen masks deployed as Lois unhooked her seat belt to help the downed spokesperson - but found herself thrown about the interior of the endangered cabin during the mid-air emergency. When Clark heard the TV news report in the bar, he unhesitatingly raced to pull open his shirt and reveal his Superman costume while on-the-run in the city street. The firing of a second ignition booster further threatened the flaming craft as they were propelled toward space. An "unidentified bogey" - Superman - was spotted on radar as he flew into action to save the aircraft. He used his Heat-vision to disengage the shuttle's supports, then lifted up the shuttle and carried it off to send it on its way into space, while leaving the jumbo jet still imperiled - spinning out of control and crashing. He flew to its rescue by stabilizing the plane, snapping off one of its wings (before the second wing detached itself), and safely brought it to a gentle landing on the infield diamond of a baseball stadium by holding onto the nose of the plane - the crowd pointed to the impending disaster and then cheered his daring save. He removed the plane's door, and asked the shaken passengers: "Is everyone all right?" "I hope this experience hasn't put any of you off flying. Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel." He glanced at a stunned Lois Lane - who stood up - and he asked her specifically: "Are you OK?" As he flew away, greeted by cheers for his long-awaited advent, Lois fainted. At the same time, Luthor calmly surveyed the destruction wrought on his model cityscape, created by one small shard of crystal.
Perry White assembled and ordered each division of his staff to completely concentrate on Superman's return -- photos, columns, articles. He asked about the politics of the Man of Steel: "Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?" The willful, determined Lois insisted on working on another story - the "catastrophic" blackout event, but was reprimanded by Perry: "This goes for everyone. The story isn't the blackout, it's Superman." He told her: "Three things sell papers: tragedy, sex, and Superman. People are sick of tragedy, we know you can't write worth a damn about sex." As Clark listened to their office conversation with his sensitive hearing, he met her young asthmatic son Jason - who had wandered off into the busy press area when her yuppie fiancee Richard arrived and kissed her. Clark was miffed to learn from the boy that Lois, as her old friend before Jason was born, had "never mentioned" his existence. When the self-absorbed, brittle Lois found Jason with Clark, they shared an awkward half-hug and kiss. The "fragile" boy was taking vitamins, eyedrops, albuterol, and Poly-Vi-Flor, but Lois insisted: "He's gonna grow up to be big and strong like his dad." After prompting Lois, Clark met Lois' fiancee Richard, who was introduced (to Clark's indifference) as the International section's assistant editor and a pilot, while Lois insensitively and simply described Clark as: "Well, he's Clark." Disobedient, Lois was determined to ignore Perry's orders, break the rules and check out the blackout, while using Richard's influence to shield her (although he admitted: "That woman will always be a mystery to me").
The Daily Planet's headlines proclaimed: "THE MAN OF STEEL IS BACK! Superman Appears From Nowhere to Save Shuttle From Destruction." Luthor's next plan was to visit the Metropolis Museum of Natural History and steal a chunk of Kryptonite from the new Meteorite and Gem Exhibit. He commanded his thugs, who were outside unloading a metal crate (containing a missile launcher) from a van (marked with bullet holes), to "modify it, and attach it to the stern" of the yacht (although the instructions were in Russian). Clark suggested that Lois and he catch up over lunch, when she complained about her simmering anger over her broken relationship with Superman: "Have you ever met someone and it's like you are from totally different worlds, but you shared such a strong connection that you knew you were destined to be with each other? And then he just takes off without explaining why or without even saying goodbye. Sounds cheesy, I know." Clark attempted to rationalize Superman's behavior as she hailed a taxi: "Maybe it was hard to say goodbye because he had to go and he wanted to say goodbye, but maybe it was too difficult for him." She responded bitterly and mockingly: "Difficult? What's so difficult about it? 'Goodbye.' It's easy. What's so hard about saying goodbye?" He whistled for a taxi, and one stopped instantly: "Wow! Thanks" she exclaimed, and then asked to be taken to her residence at 312 Riverside Drive.
Superman swooped through the canyons between Metropolis' skyscrapers, flew past the Daily Planet globe atop the building, and descended to Lois' luxurious waterfront home (with a seaplane parked nearby) in view of the Metropolis skyline, where he used his X-ray vision to spy upon her family life - he saw Jason playing an electronic piano keyboard (foreshadowing). She told her allergic son, after ordering Chinese food for the family: "Only steamed chicken and snow peas for you." A disgruntled Richard mentioned that Lois had been "acting differently," and asked her to recall her article: "I Spent the Night With Superman" that she had written "a long time ago." She downplayed its significance when he pressed the point: "Were you in love with him?" She hesitated, and then answered with a lie: "No." Hurt by Lois' cruelty and indifference, Superman flew off, and recalled the words of Jor-El: "Even though you've been raised as a human being, you are not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son." Above planet Earth, Superman listened to the sirens, bells, and alarms that were simultaneously calling to him. He sped to the scene of a federal bank robbery, where one of the thieves commandeered a gigantic machine gun on a roof-top. The Man of Steel blocked bullets from the gun (richoceting off his chest) to protect two security guards - one CGI bullet bounced off Superman's eyeball.
In another area of Metropolis, at the Museum of Natural History just before closing time, Luthor (wearing a wig disguise) and his gang entered to steal a chunk of green-glowing Kryptonite (originally found in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) identified by spectrum-vision in a display case, while well-dressed Kitty (wearing pearls) created a diversion street-side in a vehicle without brakes. [The crime was again prefaced and signaled by a power outage, a recurring theme.] Superman saved the hysterical Kitty by catching the careening car, and when she jumped into his arms, he flew her to a hospital to treatment, where she was smitten: "Would you like to get a cup of coffee, sometime?" - but he politely declined her devious request. To keep preoccupied, Superman performed more miraculous rescues, interventions and saves on every continent -- a man's suicidal fall from a building, a deli robbery, a house fire in Paris, etc. -- all were broadcast on TV and watched by an amused Clark. Perry talked more strategy with his reporters about possible stories, and eventually assigned Lois to interview Superman -- her specialty (although she complained: "I've done Superman. Covered him, you know what I mean") -- while Clark would investigate the blackout. Clark apologized to Lois, fearing that their required duties would possibly damage their "relationship" - a word-choice that she contemptuously questioned. She told Richard (who arrived with Jason) about her new assignment: "Perry - he just shoved Superman back into my life." The boy suffered another asthma attack, and appeared to recognize that Clark was Superman in disguise.
[Back on the ship, Kitty slapped Luthor for actually cutting the brakes on her car rather than pretending - he explained his motivation: "A man can always tell when a woman is pretending, especially Superman." Later, when the Coast Guard was issuing small-craft advisories due to harsh weather, waves and high winds along the northeast coast, Luthor pocketed a knife-shaped piece of kryptonite.]
The group worked late at the Daily Planet office researching their stories, as Lois described to Richard information about Superman's powers, his weakness to Kryptonite and his size - and they both momentarily noticed physical similarities between Clark and Superman. When Lois went to the open-air rooftop to sneak a smoke, she was startled when Superman blew out her lighter's flame, cautioned her about smoking, and then offered himself for an interview - to explain why and where he had disappeared for so long. He told her about his search for Krypton: "I had to see for myself." She sarcastically mentioned: "Well, you're back and everyone seems to be pretty happy about it!" He challenged her Pulitzer Prize-winning article that criticized his importance and was written when he was absent and couldn't defend himself. She was still resentful, unhappy with Superman for not saying goodbye and for leaving without explanation (as Clark suggested, it was too "unbearable"), and was refusing to accept him back: "How could you leave us like that? I moved on. So did the rest of us. That's why I wrote it. The world doesn't need a savior. And neither do I." To answer her, he patiently proposed to show her something - another flight in his arms: "Will you come with me?" He took her up into the air - she slipped out of her high-heeled suede shoes and stood barefoot on his dark red boots - to show her unique views of the city (beyond what pilot Richard could show her), and to tell her: "I hear everything." He said that he heard people crying for a savior every day, and then apologized for leaving her. After flying by her house, he gently landed her back on the office's rooftop, where they brushed their lips together and almost kissed - although she paused and noted: "Richard's a good man. And you've been gone a long time." As he left, he reminded her: "I'm always around. Good night, Lois." When she returned to her family, they were eating tofu and veggie wraps, and she lied about being on the roof just for fresh air.
In the next scene, Lois turned in a new article to Perry White entitled: "Superman Returns" -- when he mentioned her Pulitzer Prize to be awarded that evening: "the biggest night of your life." She recognized the contradiction in the award - that it was for her other article "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman," although the recent news headlines all told an opposing story. Perry advised: "Pulitzer Prizes are like Academy Awards. Nobody remembers what you got one for. It's just that you got one." At that moment, Superman was entering his Fortress of Solitude, where he was dismayed to find the crystals missing from the console - pilfered by Luthor. Lois was investigating the power blackout on her own, and learned that the first site of the power grid failure was at the Vanderworth residence location across the river - Luthor's mansion! Immersed in her work, she had forgotten to pick up her boy Jason at school, around 3:15 pm. Afterwards, she drove to the Vanderworth residence with him and both trespassed onto Luthor's yacht parked at the dock. The sight of Luthor's wigs in his bedroom's dressing room somehow tipped her off - and she was confronted by the bathrobed villain brushing his teeth in the hallway as the ship launched. Soon after, Luthor further explained how his double life sentence had been bypassed - Superman had missed his court date to testify against him. The evil criminal refused to turn the boat around and suggested Lois interview him during their cruise, since they had "time to kill." Luthor revealed his scheme, on a giant map, to use one of the stolen Kryptonian crystals from the Fortress of Solitude to grow a huge landmass - an "entirely new continent" in the North Atlantic that would eventually usurp and destroy North America and put it underwater. He stressed that he couldn't be challenged: "I'll have advanced alien technology thousands of years beyond what anyone could throw at me. Bring it on!" Billions of people would die as a result - "This is front-page news." And as Luthor brandished a carved cylinder of Kryptonite, he threatened: "Mind over muscle," and then asked: "Who is that boy's father?" He was unsure that Lois' answer: "Richard" was truthful, and held the Kryptonite close to the boy's face as a test - but there was no adverse effect.
When they approached their coordinates position of 40 degrees North, and 73 degrees West, Luthor inserted one crystal inside the Kryptonite cylinder before it was placed in a Russian missile launcher and rocketed into the ocean. (Another blackout signaled the crime.) The landmass began to be created underwater, as Kitty noted fearfully: "Lex, this isn't like the train set." Meanwhile at the Daily Planet, Richard and Clark - searching for the missing Lois - cracked her computer with the password 'Superman.' Young Jason played four-handed Chopsticks on a large Steinway piano in the yacht with thug Brutus (David Fabrizio) (marked by a clown-head tattoo on the back of his bald head), and during Lois' tense escape attempt (she faxed their coordinates to her office), Jason suffered an asthmatic attack - and to protect his mother from a beating, shoved the piano at Brutus and killed him - illustrating Jason's powers as Superman's son!? When Richard saw the fax in the office, he hurried to fly his seaplane to rescue Lois and Jason, while Superman attempted to minimize the effects of the destructive landmass growth (tremors) threatening Metropolis and its people. He saved a man in mid-air, caught a massive sign, used his Heat-vision to disintegrate falling glass, prevented a gas pipeline fire, and rescued Perry White from being crushed by the falling Daily Planet globe.
Meanwhile, Luthor left the yacht and helicoptered to the newly-formed crystal landmass, while Richard arrived by seaplane at the yacht and rescued Lois and Jason who were locked in the ship's pantry. One of the growing crystal peaks pierced the hull of The Gertrude, lifted the ship high out of the water and impaled it there. When the yacht broke in half and began sinking, the three were imperiled by rising water in the sinking ship, and Lois was hit on the head and knocked unconscious by a closing hatch. To the rescue, Superman raised the entire vessel out of the water, opened the hatch door, and brought the threesome to the seaplane. He pointed the aircraft in the "right direction" for take-off toward Metropolis, and then flew off to find Luthor on the dark, desolate "alien" landmass. He found Luthor - dressed in a white trenchcoat - greeting him: "See anything familiar?" Sweating, Superman already felt the weakening effects of the landmass, laced with Kryptonite. (Lois convinced Richard to turn around from his flight path toward Metropolis, and return to rescue Superman, urging: "He'll die.") Luthor and his henchmen harshly beat up Superman with repeated punches and kicks, and held his head underwater, although the superhero protested: "I'm still Superman!" - they left him lying in muddy water. Luthor stabbed Superman twice in the side with his sharp shard of Kryptonite, taunted: "Now, fly!", raised his arms to the side, and let the decimated superhero fall off a cliff into the ocean to drown: "So long, Superman." Jason was the first to spot Superman in the water - and after the seaplane landed, Lois jumped in and brought him to the plane. Their aircraft struggled again to take off as Lois extracted the Kryptonite shard from Superman's side with pliers. After a few moments of recovery, the revived superhero stood up and vowed to again face Luthor: "I have to go back." As he flew upward, the healing rays of the sun strengthened Superman, and he returned to battle Luthor, causing tremors on the land mass and forcing Luthor and his gang to flee in their helicopter (Kitty, who was sympathetic to the loss of life, tossed the remaining crystals away, to Luthor's dismay). Superman burrowed into the ocean floor and from there lifted the entire landmass out of the ocean (shielding himself with the outer bedrock) and into the upper atmosphere, as pieces of it crumbled and exposed the Kryptonite underneath. After tossing the gigantic island away into space, self-sacrificing Superman fell backwards to Earth, with arms extended in a Christ-like pose, and landed in Central Park. He was transported to a trauma center of a hospital, where another splinter of Kryptonite was removed from a second wound, and then was reported in critical condition - unconscious and unresponsive - dead.
Thousands of visitors surrounded the hospital to pay their respects. Lois and Jason visited Superman's hospital room, where she whispered to him: "I wanted to tell you..." and then kissed him on the lips. Jason also ran up to Superman's side and kissed him on the forehead before they left the room. (His Earth mother Martha Kent, looking like the Virgin Mary, was within the awaiting crowd, but not allowed to enter.) Luthor and Kitty were stranded on a tropical island with only coconuts to eat after their helicopter ran out of fuel. And then suddenly, Superman's hospital bed was empty - he had awakened and flown off. Lois, with one tear falling, was at her computer struggling with writer's block about her next article, "Why the World Needs Superman." The superhero was touchingly at the bedside of sleeping Jason, where he spoke: "You will be different." He then recited Jor-El's speech: "Sometimes, you will feel like an outcast. But you'll never be alone. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son." He then talked to Lois on her front lawn (without blowing out her cigarette lighter this time) -- she asked: "I - Will we see you? Around?", and he reassured her: "I'm always around. Good night, Lois." The film ended in typical fashion - Superman flew over the nighttime city and then into a low orbit around Earth, where he kept vigilant watch on the world.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
With a production budget of $209 million, and box-office gross receipts of $200 million (domestic) and $391 million (worldwide).
This film was a reboot (or pseudo-sequel) of the original Christopher Reeve series of films in the 70s and 80s (after 19 years, since 1987). It was also a continuation of the first two films in the original series -- ignoring installments III and IV. It was some time after the events of the first two films, about five years, during which time Superman had literally been forgotten.
The next film was a reboot also, an expensive blockbuster titled Man of Steel (2013), directed by Zack Snyder - on the 75th anniversary of the DC Comics hero (from 1938). After the lukewarm reception for WB's previous rebooted film Superman Returns (2006), it was imperative that the film rejuvenate and revamp the series. The modernized role of Superman was played by Henry Cavill, while Amy Adams took on the character of Lois Lane, and Russell Crowe took the role of Superman's (Kal-El) father Jor-El (played earlier by Marlon Brando). The Kents (a Kansas farm couple) were portrayed by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, and Daily Planet boss Perry White was played by Laurence Fishburne.
Nominated for one Academy Award: Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
Nominated for one Razzie Award: Worst Supporting Actress (Kate Bosworth).
The film was dedicated "with love and respect" to Christopher Reeve (and his late wife, Dana) who died in 2004 after years of paralysis resulting from a horseback-riding accident.
Young Clark Kent
(Tristan Lake Leabu)
(Eva Marie Saint)
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