Cert: PG Runtime: 143 mins Director: Richard Donner Cast: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Terence Stamp, Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando
All those things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn’t even save him
With the Man Of Steel coming out this week, I thought we could go back to 1978. For me this is the only good Superman movie that currently exists. I love reading comic books, but as a lover of DC I hate Superman. For me I find him boring and to perfect, but with Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan joining forces I am slightly looking forward to this re make. So anyway 1978, Unable to convince the ruling council of Krypton that their world will destroy itself soon, scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) takes drastic measures to preserve the Kryptonian race: He sends his infant son Kal-El to Earth. There, gaining great powers under Earth’s yellow sun, he will become a champion of truth and justice. Raised by the Kents, an elderly farm couple, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) learns that his abilities must be used for good. The adult Clark travels to Metropolis, where he becomes a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet…and a caped wonder whose amazing feats stun the city: Superman! Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), the world’s greatest criminal mind, is plotting the greatest real estate swindle of all time. Can’t even the Man of Steel stop this nefarious scheme?Director Richard Donner and writer Tom Mankiewicz were simply overflowing with passion for Superman, and treating him as an American myth resulted in this amazing labor of love.
The opening shots of the comic book opening with the child’s voice over were such an inspired touch, and then we see the the awesome opening credits as John Williams’s score sets the perfect mood of grandeur and wonder befitting the greatest of all superheroes. The segment on Krypton may look fake by today’s standards but considering the resources they had at the time it was an outstanding achievement and just as easy to appreciate now. Much has been made of the symbolism of Jor-El as God sending his only son to Earth, and I feel that lends the film an extra level of majesty.The segment in Smallville was just as compelling in its own way (according to Mankiewicz, they were very deliberately trying to make this movie like 3 different films). The film was differing from the comic book substantially, doing away with the whole concept of Superboy and showing Clark Kent as an confused awkward adolescent not knowing who he is or where he came from, or having completely grasped what his powers are or why he was put on Earth. I actually wanted to see more of this part because it’s so fascinating, but the idea is being explored beautifully right now in Smallville. The part where the tragedy occurs and Clark realizes he must leave is so poignant it made me want to cry.Then in the fortress of solitude, we are back to the grandeur of the Krypton segment, and the film continued to leave me in awe at how many levels it worked on.In Metropolis things get much lighter and faster, but no less exciting.
The early segments watching Superman save people are great, and the romance with Lois Lane is really nice (although the not-very-charming and too-old Margot Kidder is the movie’s only flaw in my book). That especially goes for the flying part, with its very touching voice over expressing Lois’s love for Superman. Gene Hackman is perfect as the hilariously evil Lex Luthor, and the whole final segment with Superman foiling his plot is consistently thrilling. The ending of the movie has drawn a lot of criticism, but I personally found it very moving watching Superman think so strongly with his heart. And who’s to say you can’t do what he did-is there anyone who can fly and has his strength that can prove that? The montage of voices from earlier in the film made it a very powerful moment.Whatever virtues the film may have, by far its greatest is Christopher Reeve. He nails the role so perfectly it amazes me that they were able to find such a person. Superman is a perfect boy scout, and the role could have been incredibly corny, but Reeve, by coming across as both so innocent and so charming, makes it virtually impossible NOT to be won over by him. And he also is perfect in the equally challenging role of Clark Kent. As portrayed by Reeve Clark was not just the bland alter ego of the exciting Superman, but rather someone who was hilarious and immensely likeable and charismatic despite being the biggest nerd you will ever find. For his incredible effort, Reeve can take the satisfaction of knowing that he helped make a film that remains a major classic.