Superman is a 1978 movie directed by Richard Donner and produced by Pierre Spengler. Based on a character from the DC Comics, it pivots on Clark Kent/Superman (Christopher Reeve); the last survivor of a doomed planet called Krypton and follows his quest to fit into and fight for the human race while also being a mild-mannered newspaper reporter.
Christopher Reeve obviously doesn’t need any introduction may God rest his soul; he is one of if not the best performer to ever dawn the blue and red costume of the man of steel. One particular thing I liked about Christopher and his role in this film is the fact that he wasn’t even supposed to be in it in the first place. The parties involved in this motion-picture’s production, at first, considered him to be too slim and therefore undeserving of the part. Nevertheless, they went on to cast him anyway because there was no other like the 6 foot 4 guy and they could afford a compromise as far as his physique is concerned. I think we can all attest to the fact that the compromise proved worthwhile considering the impact that Reeve’s character had too many people who have seen this 1978 classic and understandably so; he was beyond excellent on here.
The balance that Reeve brought to his character’s contrasting personas in Clark Kent and Superman is unmatched; I liked the way he presented to us this daytime news reporter who is clumsy enough to follow Lois Lane to the women’s washrooms but at the same time an unfathomable hero who humanity looks up to for hope in the face of strife. My favourite scenes featuring Superman were the ones where he saves the day and couples his acts with some great one liners; he catches a plummeting Lois Lane in midair and says “Easy Miss, I got you!” to which Lois responds “You got me… but who’s got you?” and later on thwarts a jewelry robber climbing the side of a building by saying “Hey there, is something wrong with the elevator?”. It’s always a ‘treading on thin ice’ situation for scriptwriters to come up with iconic one liners that will fit the iconic characters they are meant for and thus this film, just like Terminator 2 with “Hasta La Vista, babe!” or Predator with “Get to the chopper!” does succeed in that respect.
Margot Kidder was great as Louis Lane; I felt she understood the ground in which her character was supposed to maneuver in as far as the story was concerned. Her version of Lois is quite convincing as a distinguished Daily Planet reporter who is good at what she does which is basically reporting, being an occasional snob to C.K and last but not least being the damsel in distress. Before Kidder’s character embarks on an airbourne ride alongside Superman plagued with awful visual effects which I will duly highlight later on, she holds an interview with the son of Krypton and it’s a scene that in my view, fleshed her out very well. I was drawn to the naivety and the awe she had in the presence of this remarkable ‘man’ and I felt how susceptible she was to the charm that Reeve’s character exhibited.
The menacing Lex Luthor is also here; the greatest criminal mind of his time as the character put it in the movie and Gene Hackman does do a fantastic job as the billionaire sadist although not entirely. I would imagine that Lex Luthor, with all the money he has, would have serious henchmen to help him execute his evil plans as opposed to an inept middle-aged man and an incompetent woman. It’s an aspect you might not have picked up on but the way I see it, Lex’s power not being portrayed through a dangerous group of people who share his goals and whom he should have otherwise been surrounded with was an act of great disservice and the screenwriters are undoubtedly to be blamed for that. On the upside, Gene pretty much nailed Lex’s egotistical dialogue; it was resounding and I was a fan of it.
The Premise, Merits and Demerits.
As disappointing as this statement I am about to put across might sound considering I am a huge Supes enthusiast, I had only seen this film twice before I saw it just recently. Three is not such a bad movie re-watch number but the fact that I have met other fans who have seen it as much as 8 times makes my stats look like child’s play.
I tend to think that people have and will always appreciate Richard Donner for giving us a more serious and well-grounded Superman contrasted with the substantially goofy and comedic accounts of the superhero in T.V shows that aired in the years before the summer of 1978 when this motion-picture was released. Donner had a great understanding of how best to display the pre-Krypton and post-Krypton story of Superman in a manner that hadn’t been done before. He understood how to portray the man of steel as a proper symbol of hope who fights for truth, justice and the American way and not just a superhero who stops crime by plucking and bending car bumpers around bad guys to immobilize them.
I adored the emotionality of the ‘send to earth’ scene and I think it’s mainly because Marlon Brando is in it. I didn’t get to see much of Brando in his stellar career but from the little I could pick up, he was an exceptinal actor especially when in his element and he is definately in his element here. He plays Jor-El; essentially the voice of reason in the ailing planet of Krypton. I found his dialogue intriguing and his character compelling because in as much as the scientistist had a position of power, his prediction of the planet’s destruction wasn’t taken seriously by the High Council. I felt for him when his prophesy eventually came to fruition and that he had to take drastic and heart-felt measures to ensure that Krypton lived on even if it was just through one being, his only son.
Another plus for me in this this movie was Clark Kent trying to find a place for himself in a world with people who look like him but most certainly can’t do what he does. He is confused as to why he is who he is and why he can’t use his abilities to get at people who are breathing down his neck; a factor which his terrestrial father in Jonathan Kent advises him against. It grows into a principle that he takes into his adulthood and I was consequently bound by that aspect to the character.
That said, I do have issues with this film and given the apparent length of this review, I prefer doing a quick rundown instead of explaining them in detail. First off, the destruction of Krypton sequence was so lethargic; I didn’t feel the loss of life that the movie was supposedly going for. The manner in which Kal-El’s space pod landed on the fields of Smallville was unrealistic. I didn’t like The Phantom Zone glass thing that General Zod and his liasions are trapped in after trial as well as the unpleasant sound effects that went along with it. I dreaded the suit-up scene in the 3rd Act where Supes jumps of a building and all of a sudden unconventionally changes into his costume. I dreaded every single shot of Superman flying and/or doing superhuman stuff except maybe for that instance where he catches a bullet intended for Lois or when he is looking through stuff.
Speaking of flying, that part involving Superman and Lois soaring through New York just threw a bunch of physics elements out the window and Kidder’s character was the biggest casualty of it. The film doesn’t care to explain to you how the man of steel gets his trademark suit, it just happens. Finally, Lois does die in this photoplay in a riveting fashion (SPOILER ALERT!!!), but the manner in which she is brought back to the land of the living by the main protagonist is, for a lack of a better term, questionable even for a Sci-Fi flick.
There’s not much I can say that I haven’t already about 1978’s Superman except for the fact that it deserved the reception it got and still gets today. Reviewing this motion-picture as a millennial is somewhat challenging because there are certain features mostly visual-effects related that I did not like. However, the movie had me in so many other aspects and even though I did not mention it, John William’s score is chief among them.