Superman: The Movie - Synopsis/Review/CritiqueThe following is a Synopsis, Review and Critique of the 1978 "Superman: The Movie".
Superman: The Movie
Warner Brothers 1978
Written by Mario Puzo
Directed by Richard Donner
Produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind
|Lex Luthor...||Gene Hackman|
|Superman-Clark Kent...||Christopher Reeve|
|Jonathan Kent...||Glenn Ford|
|Lois Lane...||Margot Kidder|
|Perry White...||Jackie Cooper|
|Jimmy Olsen...||Marc McClure|
|Eve Tessmacher...||Valerie Perrine|
|General Zod...||Terrance Stamp|
|Martha Kent...||Phyllis Thaxter|
by Wallace Harrington (email@example.com)
A movie marquee curtain opens and a black-and-white film flickers to life on the screen. A young hand opens a copy of ACTION comics, dated June 1938. As he turns the pages, a boy reads from the text.
"In the decade of the 1930's, even the great city of Metropolis was not spared the ravages of the worldwide depression. In the times of fear and confusion, the job of informing the public was the responsibility of the Daily Planet, a great metropolitan newspaper, whose reputation for clarity and truth had become a symbol of hope for the city of Metropolis."
The film focuses on the final panel of the page, a drawing of the Daily Planet building, and fades into the actual building. The camera pans up to the moon, then into space, passing a giant red sun and the planet Krypton. Krypton is crystalline, prismatic, appearing brilliant white. The camera now focuses on the planet. We see the alien architecture, composed of crystalline shapes, and then a dome, which opens to show a white haired man, dressed all in white, wearing an "S" enclosed by a pentagram on his chest.
[Filming these early sequences were slowed somewhat by Marlon Brando's acting method. He claimed that he was "less encumbered" when he could read the lines, rather than memorizing them. He insisted that all of his lines be written on cue cards. These card were then taped to the frame of the camera or a wheeled dolly and rolled just far enough in front of him to permit free movement.]
"This is no fantasy. No careless product of wild imagination.... These are matters of undeniable fact."
With those words, Jor-El asks the viewer to suspend disbelief, to accept Mario Puzo's version of the Superman story. This is a somewhat familiar story, yet somehow different from the classic "Superman", containing many parallels of the Judeo-Christian story of the Messiah.
As the first scene unfolds, Jor-El reads the charges of the insidious plot of General Zod, his companion Ursa and their evil associate Non, to orchestrate a military coup placing Zod as the absolute ruler of Krypton. Krypton had evolved to a near utopian society, and the thought of a "Supreme Ruler" was considered an act of insurrection. One by one, the council declares the trio guilty. Left as the only remaining council member to vote, Zod implores Jor-El to reconsider.
"The vote must be unanimous, Jor-El. You are a voice of reason in the council, as you would be in my regime, second only to me."
Turning his back on Zod, Jor-El illuminates a crystal, signifying his guilty vote, and walks away. Enraged, Zod curses Jor-El.
"You will bow down before me, Jor-El. Both you, and then one day, your heirs!"
In a flash of light, Zod, Ursa and Non are projected into the Phantom Zone, here a mirror-like prism that holds their bodily essences, which slowly heads out into cold, dark space. Only their screams of sorrow can be heard as the crystal disappears into the distance.
Still, the council has other business to deal with. Jor-El not only prosecuted of Zod, but also delivers a stern warning to the council that seismic disturbances within the planet are harbingers of the ultimate destruction of Krypton and tells them that the planet needs to prepare for worldwide evacuation. Fearing the unknown, the council warns Jor-El that his theories are unproven, and that, should he spread these rumors, he, too, will be held for insurrection. Jor-El swears that he will not say a word, and that neither he, nor his wife, Lara, will attempt to leave the planet. However, Jor-El did not make that same promise for his small son, Kal-El, and the scoffed prophet of Krypton decides to send his only son to earth.
Lara carries the infant to Jor-El's laboratory. In the civilized way of Krypton, she asks why Jor-El would send their child to such a backward planet as earth. They are a thousand years behind us, implores Lara. He will need that advantage to survive counters Jor-El. His denser Molecular structure will make him stronger than they are, he will have abilities far beyond theirs, and he will look like one of them. But, he will never be like one of them, replies Lara, sadly.
However, the decision is made. Jor-El places the infant in the star-shaped capsule, as well as a green crystal containing all of the amassed knowledge of Krypton. Jor-El tells his son:
"You will travel far, my little, Kal-El, but we will never leave you, even in the face of our deaths. The richness of out love will be yours. All that I have, all that I have learned, all that I feel, these and more I bequeath you. You will carry me inside you all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own. I 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. This is all I can send you, Kal-El."
Jor-El and Lara launch the ship and watch as it lifts off high above the surface of Krypton just as a new set of tremors hit the planet. The quakes crumble the buildings, eventually fracturing the planet itself into bits.
Safe inside the capsule, the young Kal-El is taught, through Jor-El's voice, about Krypton (which Kal-El seemingly forgets once he reaches Earth). It takes over two years to complete that journey which ends, almost by luck, in a wheat field outside the small Kansas town of Smallville.
Swerving to avoid the screaming meteor, which plows into the field beside them, John and Martha Kent find that they have a flat tire. Looking into the field, the couple sees the burning wreckage of a capsule, half-buried in a crater. As they approach to investigate, the young Kal-El (Aaron Smolinski) emerges, naked and unhurt, from the wreckage. The boy simply smiles and extends his arms to the couple, an open expression of affection.
As John begins to repair the flat tire, Martha warns him not to over-exert himself and damage his already weak heart. In the same breath, she asks John if they might keep the young boy, much as a child might ask to keep a newfound puppy. "Martha Clark Kent, where did you get such an idea?" asks Jonathan. Martha says, "We can say he's the orphaned child of a cousin in North Dakota." Just then, the truck collapses off of the tire jack. Frustrated, Jonathan looks at the wheel as slowly the infant lifts the truck over his head, and again smiles warmly at Jonathan.
Time passes and we see a teen-age Clark, who is the frustrated equipment manager of the Smallville High football team. [The actor chosen to play the teenaged Clark, Jeff East, is a perfect fit for the roll looking like a young Christopher Reeve.] As Lara had predicted, Clark may look human, but he never would be. And like most teenagers, fitting in was paramount in his adolescent life. When Lana Lang (Diane Sherry) invites him to join the group to listen to records, he can hardly contain himself. But Brad, the captain of the football team, reminds Clark that he has equipment to clean up. As they drive away, Clark's frustration surfaces and he angrily punts a football far into the distance.
After taking care of the equipment, young Clark has some fun racing a train. On the train are two other Superman alumni: Kirk Alyn, who had played Superman in two Columbia Pictures serials in 1948 (Superman) and 1950 (Atom Man vs. Superman), and Noel Neill, who had played Lois Lane in both of those Columbia serials as well as in the Superman television series from 1953-57. In this film, they play a young Lois Lane's parents who ignore her when she points out the train window at the boy speeding by.
With characteristic playfulness, Clark whizzes past the train and leaps across its path with a loud, Yahoo, and speeds down the road to his house trailed by a cloud of dust. He reaches his house just as Biff, Lana and the gang drive by in their car. "How did you get here so fast," asks Lana. "I ran," says Clark with a grin.
As the kids drive off in amazement, Jonathan Kent approaches his smirking son. "Been showing off again, haven't you?" he asks. But, Clark asks, "Is it showing off, to do what I am capable of?" Clark describes his frustration at having to sit on the sideline, cleaning equipment when he could be the star, scoring touchdowns. Jonathan places his arm around Clark and says, "Son, you are here for a reason. I don't know what reason. But I do know it was not to score touchdowns."
Reassured by his father, Clark challenges Jonathan to a race to the barn. But as Jonathan starts up the hill he is stricken with a heart attack and collapses on the path. Clark, for all his powers and abilities can only watch as his second father, the only father he really knew, dies. The death of Jonathan Kent marks a turning point in Clark's life. When Clark turns eighteen, as recorded in earth years, the green crystal sent along by Jor-El to teach him calls Clark to make another journey, a pilgrimage, to learn who he is and why he is here.
Among the deserted wastes of the frozen north, Clark sees the aurora borealis and throws the green crystal. A crystalline building rises up from the glaciers. Upon entering the new structure, Clark finds the green crystal, and placing it in the appropriate place on a crystalline control panel, a vision of Jor-El appears before him in this Fortress of Solitude.
The spectral projection of Jor-El takes Clark on a twelve-year sojourn, breaking the bonds of time and space. On this journey, Kal-El learns not only the facts of Kryptonian life, but also Kryptonian philosophy. Jor-El emphasizes that "It is forbidden to interfere with earth's history." Instead, he must serve as a beacon, a leader for humanity. Jor-El explains,
"They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason, I have sent them you: my only son."
As the godly countenance of Jor-El fades a familiar figure stands before us dressed in blue, red and yellow. No longer is this a boy, but a thirty-year-old man, mature, wise, and confident with the knowledge of why he is here and what he has to do. Effortlessly, silently, the figure, amazingly powerful yet graceful, lifts off and flies directly at us, sweeping away at only the last minute. It is time to begin.
The Daily Planet, as seen by young photographer Jimmy Olsen, fades in and out of focus, perhaps like his attention span. Fluttering from the ambitious city beat reporter Lois Lane, to Editor-in-chief Perry White and finally to Clark Kent we get both blurry and crisp images of the Planet newsroom. Kent is introduced as the new reporter for the Planet who Perry describes as, "a reporter that not only has a snappy prose style, but is the fastest typist I have ever seen."
[Christopher Reeve looked as if he had stepped directly off of the pages of a Curt Swan-Murphy Anderson drawn Superman page. Six feet four inches tall, weighing 225 pounds, Reeve worked out with David Prowse (of Darth Vader fame) for months to develop the muscular frame to carry off his portrayal of Superman. Still, it was Reeve's portrayal of Clark that truly carried the picture. Reeve slicked down his hair, rounded his shoulders, stooped his height, and raised his voice to more appropriately play the mild-mannered reporter. It was this portrayal that made it plausible that this high-voiced man who kept adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose could walk among men without anyone suspecting that, when he stood tall, he was, indeed, the Man of Steel.]
Clark Kent is smitten with Lois Lane immediately. As timid and meek as Clark Kent is, Lois is brash and bold. While Clark walks Lois home after his first day at the Planet, a mugger draws a gun on the couple and forces them into an alley. Clark tries to talk the mugger out of taking Lois' purse. When he refuses, Lois tries to outwit the robber, first dropping the purse then kicking him. As he falls, his gun goes off and Clark sweeps up the bullet, pretending to faint. Lois, of course, is amazed that Clark would faint in that situation. But, picking up his hat, Clark looks at the audience, smiles, and drops the bullet into the trash.
We are introduced to Lex Luthor (brilliantly played by Gene Hackman) through his dimwitted henchman, Otis. Unaware that he is being followed, Otis leads two Metropolis' PD detectives through Grand Central Station, down into the train tunnels and to Luthor's lair 200 feet beneath the city streets. Our first view of the satanic Luthor is him using the piston driven door to his lair to push one of the detectives in front of an oncoming train. Luthor's only other partner in crime is Miss Eve Tessmacher, who, while somewhat frustrated at living 200 feet below the streets of Metropolis, enjoys the exciting life style, that Luthor provides.
Superman performs his first public heroics the next night. Lois is taking a helicopter to Metropolis airport to meet Air Force One and interview the President. She has summarily dismissed Clark, who walks dejectedly out of the office. As the helicopter prepares to take off, gusty winds lift a ground cable, which becomes caught on one of the helicopter's skids. The helicopter powers up, but cannot gain altitude and spins out of control smashing through the rooftop waiting room and crashing on the edge of the Planet building.
Clark blithely emerges from the building, notices people screaming and pointing at the roof. This is strange considering that a man with "super-hearing" would certainly have heard a helicopter crashing into the roof above him. At his feet, Clark sees Lois' hat then looks up. Lois has tried to escape the helicopter by climbing over the unconcious pilot, but her movements have shifted the helicopter's precarious position. As the chopper teeters, the passenger door opens and Lois falls out, hanging only by the seat belt. Now Clark sees that Lois is in trouble and looks around for a place to change into Superman.
In homage to 40's comics, he passes a phone booth; Clark's look is priceless. Then he sees what he needs. Ripping open his shirt, for the first time revealing the family crest, the S in a pentagram that Jor-El wore on Krypton, he races into a revolving door emerging as Superman, and leaps up, up and away to save Lois who has just lost her grip and falls as spectators point and scream. A blue streak catches her in mid-air. "I've got you, miss," says the polite superhero. "You've got me!" screams Lois. "But who's got you?"
Superman slowly ascends toward the Planet roof, when the helicopter slips from its precarious perch and falls toward them. Lois screams as Superman casually catches the helicopter with his free hand and continues upward. Slowly, softly, Superman alights to put the helicopter safely on the pad. For once, it is Lois who is speechless. "I hope that this won't put you off flying, miss. Statistically, it's still the safest way of traveling," Superman tells an open mouthed Lois.
Never missing the opportunity for an angle, Lois asks, "Who are you?" In a calm, serene voice, Superman says simply, "A friend." Silently lifting off, Superman flies away and Lois faints.
In the course of the evening, Superman catches a cat-burglar trying to scale the side of a building, captures three robbers that had eluded a police chase, saves the President aboard Air Force One when lightening strikes the wing, and rescues a scared kitten stuck in a tree for a small girl. Quite a first night, all the while making references to writers and artists that had worked on the comics: Officer Mooney - Jim Mooney, Desk Sergeant Giordano - Dick Giordano, Murphy's Bar - Murphy Anderson, Gil in the newsroom - Gil Kane.
[The original trailer for this movie claimed, "You will believe a man can fly". And that is true. For its time, the flying effects were spectacular, and actually seemed to improve as the film moved forward. These flights were choreographed like a ballet with graceful, sweeping movements.]
Headlines of newspapers around the world reported on the amazing man that could fly. Perry tells his reporters that he wants Superman to be linked to the Planet; they need to find out everything they can about him. "Does he have a girlfriend?" Perry asks Lois. "Who's his favorite ball team, Kent?" Perry asks. Clark begins to tell him as Perry moves on. But, it is Lois who finds a slip of paper from the "Friend" to meet her at her apartment at 8, and she decides that she will get the first interview.
Dressed in a blue chiffon evening gown, Lois fears that Superman has stood her up and dejectedly plops down at her table. But, when Superman arrives, she becomes quite flirtatious. During the interview, Superman tells Lois where he is from, what powers he has, and that lead can block his x-ray vision. These facts are good copy, and later become useful ammunition for the ever-plotting Luthor.
"Why are you?" asks Lois. A curious question. But the new man of steel tells her that he has come to protect truth, justice and the American way. Lois is incredulous. "Lois," he says, "I never lie." To determine how fast he can fly, Superman suggests, "Why don't we find out?" Lifting Lois, they fly out over the city. This scene starts out charming, with panoramic views of the harbor and Lois learning to fly (a scene which would later be copied in Lois & Clark). However, it quickly becomes out of place and turns into the most disturbing thing about the whole movie when Lois begins reciting "Can You Read My Mind", a ridiculous poem showing how infatuated she is with Superman.
When they return to Lois' apartment, they realize that they hadn't timed the flight so she still didn't know how fast this stranger could fly. With a confusion typical of any first date, when neither wants to leave, Kal-El flies off with a polite, "Good night." Lois, giddy as a schoolgirl says, "What a super man.... Superman!" And with that, Lois has named the new hero.
Within seconds of the "super-man" having flown off, Clark appears at Lois' door to go out for a hamburger. Lois is still quite confused by the last few minutes. As she leaves to get her coat, Clark is pleased with her reaction; and in that room stands the most implausible love triangle ever contrived. In a moment of resolve, Clark takes off his glasses, stands up straight and calls to Lois, about to tell her right then that he is Superman. But good sense returns and he quickly reverts to his Clark Kent persona.
Back in Luthor's lair, all have read Lois's interview and each is impressed with different parts of the story. While Eve Tessmacher is taken with Superman's size, and honesty, Luthor has already calculated Krypton's position and predicted that radioactive fragments of the planet - Kryptonite - might have landed on earth. He picks up a copy of National Geographic and show his accomplices a photo of a native of Addis Ababa holding a green rock: Kryptonite.
More than that, Luthor hatches his most daring plot. He will direct two military missiles to strike a stress-point in the San Andreas Fault sending much of California into the sea. To accomplish this, he hijacks an Army missile on its way to a secret testing ground. Faking a car crash, a scantily clad Miss Tessmacher distracts the escort team, lead by Larry Hagman (of Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie fame). While the soldiers are trying to revitalize her, Otis climbs onto the missile trailer and reprograms the launch code, but he enters the wrong launch vectors. Luthor manages to stop a second Navy missile convoy over a bridge by blocking its way with an 18-wheeler. While he and Otis are arguing with the naval commander, Miss Tessmacher sneaks onto the trailer and reprograms the missile's launch codes.
Meanwhile, Lois has been sent to interview the head of an Indian nation that has just sold a conglomerate a large portion of desert land at incredible prices, and Jimmy has been sent out to get pictures.
Perry calls Clark into his office to give him a pep talk. As Clark listens to Perry ramble on about his career and how to pursue a story, a sharp, piercing whistle audible to only one person standing on two legs cuts the air. On the carrier wave, Luthor begins to taunt Superman telling him that he has hidden a canister of propane-lithium compound and will release it into the water of Metropolis. With Perry still lecturing, Clark backs out of the office, edges over to an open window (on a skyscraper?) and eases himself out of the window changing into Superman.
From this point on, the special effects are exemplary. Superman circles the city following the sound wave to Luthor. Landing on the street above Luthor's lair, Superman starts spinning at super-speed and bores through the street. As Superman makes his way towards Luthor's hideout, he is put through a number of indurance tests.... bullets, fire and ice. Superman passes with flying colors. "I think he's coming, Mr. Luthor" says Otis as we see the steel door buckle, then fall into the office. "Where's the gas pellet, Luthor?" "Somewhere deep... in my mind," says Luthor. "What kind of twisted mind gets its pleasure by thinking about the murder of millions of innocent people?" asks Superman. "No, the pleasure is in doing it," replies Luthor coldly.
Luthor feels that Superman is one of the few that could appreciate the scope of his plan and shows how he plans to use two nuclear missiles to strike a stress point on the San Andreas Fault resulting in the western coast of California sinking into the ocean. That would turn the desert land he had just purchased into coastal property, making Luthor a very wealthy man. Asked if this is another plot in the back of his mind, Luthor says, "No, it's happening now," and the two missiles launch, quickly veering onto their programmed course. Sitting in the Army control chair is John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff Claven on Cheers. The Army missile Otis had erroneously reprogrammed heads east while the Navy missile heads west, towards the fault.
Superman is enraged by Luthor's bravado and acts to destroy the missiles. Using his x-ray vision, Superman scans the rooms and sees that Luthor is sitting on a lead box. Assuming that is where Luthor has hidden the missile destruct device, Superman throws Luthor aside. "Don't open that", Luthor says. The box does not hold a destruct device, but contains Kryptonite Luthor stole in Addis Ababa. The Kryptonite immediately weakens Superman. Luthor casually walks over to Superman and wraps the Kryptonite-necklace around his neck. "You knew that I would be the banker when it came time to cash in your chips, Superman," says Luthor, giving him a shove into the swimming pool.
As Luthor walks out, Miss Tessmacher asks where the second missile is heading. "Hackensack, New Jersey," says Luthor. "But Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack." Luthor looks at his watch and shakes his head.
[In the water, the cape and boots became heavy and dragged Christopher Reeve under water during filming. If you look carefully at this scene, you will see a floatation device under Superman's cape which kept Reeve's head above the water.]
Superman calls to Miss Tessmacher for help. She tells Superman that she'll help him only if he saves her mother first. "I know that you'll do it if you say so because you never lie." Agreeing, Tessmacher jumps into the water, pulling Superman to the side of the pool. She looks at the Kryptonite necklace, ponders a second, kisses Superman, then lifts off the Kryptonite managing to throw it directly into the lead piped sewer of Metropolis. As the Mary Magdalene to Superman's Christ figure, Eve Tessmacher asks, "Why can't I ever get it on with the good guys?"
Superman launches himself up and through the roof. The sequence in which Superman chases the Army missile is truly brilliant. Superman flies parallel to the missile to avoid its detection systems, then slips behind it. Straining against the missile's exhaust, he reaches then finally grabs the missile, pushing it up and out into space.
However, the Navy missile has reached its target. The nuclear blast on the San Andreas Fault produces the huge earthquake Luthor had anticipated, and within seconds bridges sway, train tracks collapse and large dams crack. One-by-one, Superman resolves each catastrophe: he stops a school bus from falling, allows a train to pass over his back, and prevents a flood when a dam breaks.
By watching a movie like Superman, you acknowledge that this is a comic book character and that much of what happens will be implausible, and often just impossible. However, the most implausible plot flaw to resolve is the next scene. Lois Lane had been interviewing one of the Indian chiefs who had sold large tracts of desert to Lex Luthor. On her return, an earthquake hits, exploding a gas station. Just when she thinks the worst is over, a sinkhole opens engulfing Lois' car and burying her. After Superman saves Jimmy from falling from the ruptured dam, he hears Lois muffled screams and speeds to her. When he arrives, he finds the buried car, pulls it from the sinkhole and finds Lois's dead, suffocated body. He is too late. Once again, with all of his powers and all of his abilities, someone close to him has died.
Her body lays at his feet. With a primal scream, Superman takes off flying high above the earth. The voice of Jor-El booms out, "It is forbidden to interfere in the history of mankind." "Son, you were put here for a reason" speaks Jonathan Kent. Then Clark's own voice, "I had all of these powers and couldn't do anything". There is a pause, as if wrestling with these words, and then he acts. Superman begins spinning around the earth in a east to west direction turning back time. The viewers see the flood receding, the dam reassembling, and Lois's car reappearing from the sinkhole. After starting the planet back into its original orbit, Superman lands behind Lois' car, opens the door, looking so relieved that she is sitting there alive.
If it wasn't enough to accept that reversing the spin of the planet would turn back time, regardless of the physical stresses on earth itself, Superman makes a huge error. When time resumed, it began after the missile had already hit. Even in comics, when time resumes it continues to follow the same path. With Superman standing there moon-eyed over Lois, the bus crashes into the bay, the train falls into the crevasse, the dam bursts and the town is submerged by the flood. But, that did not happen in the movie.
After saving Lois, and making sure that she and Jimmy are safe, Superman takes off to complete one final task. As he leaves, Lois notices that Clark is never there when Superman is. "No, that's the silliest thing," she ends. "I think he likes you." says Jimmy. "Clark, well..." "No," and Jimmy nods up to Superman. "Oh, well Superman likes everybody, Jimmy" says Lois dismissing Jimmy, but hoping that is true.
Among a jumble of spotlights, Superman lands in the courtyard of Metropolis prison, carrying Luthor and Otis by the scruff of their jackets. Luthor, promises that there is no jail that can hold him, while the police lead him to an awaiting jail cell. The warden thanks Superman, but the ever-gracious Man of Steel says, "No, warden, we're all in this together."
Above the clouds, Superman flies over the earth keeping watch. In a graceful sweep, he flies into our line of sight. Like the infant Kal-El, this Superman simply looks at us and gives a warm smile. We may not see him, but we know that he will always be there, watching over us.
Superman: The Movie ran 2 hr 43 min in its original theatrical version. For the video release the film was edited to 2 hr 23 min and condensed at high speed to fit a 2 hr cassette. The ABC-TV/CTV-TV 1982 versions added additional unused footage to expand the movie to 3 hr 3 min, while KCOP in Los Angeles expanded it further to 3 hrs 8 min in 1994.
Wallace Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Close your eyes and turn on the theme song. Try to imagine what's going on and see if you agree with me. John William's wonderful theme song of Superman starts out with a feeling that you're far away in space. As it grows in volume, it builds up to a powerful crescendo that reminds me of the exploding Krypton. This is followed by what sounds like, and gives me an image of, the birth of Kal-El. The music seems to guide me through his many accomplishments. As he grows up, the pace is quickened and the sound grows louder until he becomes Superman, at which point the main part of the theme is played. The music actually makes it sound like Superman is flying, going higher and higher. It goes back at this point and repeats itself, sounding better than the first time. Then, it starts to go down to a softer side, that sounds like it might be Superman's meeting with Lois on her apartment terrace. After this, the song builds itself up again, recycling itself over and over again until it starts getting faster and more triumphant. Suddenly, I feel like Superman's going to come out of the speakers and collide with me as the powerful crescendo booms even louder this time.
If you did as I suggested and listened to the song with your eyes closed, letting your mind open up to the theme, you might have heard what I've heard: a story inside a song. As usual with John Williams, who also composed the Star Wars and Indiana Jones theme songs, his themes are always powerful and hard to get out of your mind because they're so catchy and wonderfully done.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The special effects in "Superman" seemed to get better and better as the movie progressed. At the beginning of the movie, scenes like Clark racing the train looked pretty simple and not all that great. However, once Superman appeared, the effects were astonishing. The part where Superman saves Lois and catches the helicopter and then gracefully lands on top of the Daily Planet building is amazing. A few examples of the really good special effects were: the flying scenes, Superman invading Luthor's lair, and the chase after the warhead, which was superb!
Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman
Rating: 5 out of 5
There could not have been a better choice for the Man of Steel. None of the other "Supermen" have ever been as good as Christopher Reeve. When Mr. Reeve put on the famous blue, red and yellow suit he looked exactly like the Last Son of Krypton, almost like he had walked right out of the comic book.
His Clark Kent performance was superb! The way he could slouch down and make a quivering, higher voice when he was Kent and then straighten his back and speak much deeper as Superman, was a trick that no other Superman actor has done as effectively. One could actually believe that Clark Kent and Superman were two different people with these changes and the addition of the large glasses and the hair parted differently.
Throughout all four movies there was always a beautiful performance by Reeve. His weakness to Kryptonite, his exciting fight with the Phantom Zone criminals, his battle against himself and his always popular smile to the viewer as he flew around the Earth, at the end of each movie. I'm convinced that what made the Superman movies "really good," was him. I believe that the reason I own three of the four Superman movies is because, even if the story wasn't very good, it had the "real" Superman in it and I could never refuse a chance to watch Superman in action.
Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
Rating: 3 out of 5
One of the less wiser casting decisions for the movie was for the role of Lois. Compared to Noel Neill, Phyllis Coates and Teri Hatcher, Margot Kidder is a distant fourth. Her constantly scratchy voice that gets worse in each of the movies, almost hurts your ears when you hear it. No wonder Superman can always hear her when she's in trouble! Another thing was the constant "run into trouble and then scream for help". She hardly ever defended herself like the other Lois' and wasn't very intelligent or sneaky like the Lois Lane every Superman fan is familiar with. The constant formula was to tell Clark to "grab the bull by the horns and do something", yet she goes out, just gets herself in trouble and then expects Superman to come along and save her. When the earthquake was coming in the first movie, why didn't she get out of her car? And then she blames Superman when he gets there. I mean, what does Supes see in her? She's just annoying and always in the way.
Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor
Rating: 5 out of 5
A wonderful performance for the great Lex Luthor! Gene Hackman's cruel and intelligent Lex Luthor matches what we saw in the original Superman comics. His jokes and sneakiness are always fun and his constant partnership with his idiotic henchman Otis is very entertaining. His deals with the Phantom Zone criminals, his Kryptonite trick he plays on Superman and his defeat at the hands of the Man of Steel is worth watching.
Rating: 3 out of 5
The problem with this story was a plot hole. A major plot hole. The scene where Superman turns back time ruins the whole movie. It was going so well and then this had to happen. Superman turns back time to save Lois and then goes back to Earth and saves her. One problem. Time should continue in its regular flow. The dam should burst again, the school bus should almost fall off the Golden Gate bridge, and the train should be missing railroad in front of it. So Supes goes and saves Lois and while he does this, the school bus goes over the side, the train crashes and the water from the dam covers most of California while killing Jimmy Olsen, who falls off. All this to save a badly played Lois? Of course this doesn't happen, which makes it extremely bizarre.
One other thing bothered me. We have this amazing origin of Superman and all of a sudden it stops. After he flies with Lois, she immediately goes away to California, Superman is no big deal any more and we move on to the Lex Luthor part of the story. They should have made this flow better. Instead, it stops and then resumes, but on a different course. Just like time, at the end of the movie.
Okay, maybe an "Average" rating isn't fair, but these two things really took away from the movie. Other than that, though, the origin was done very well and the dialogue in the movie was priceless.
Closeness to the Comics
Rating: 4 out of 5
The movie followed the (first series) comic books pretty well. It had Lex Luthor who is not rich, but instead always hiding out and coming up with some sinister plot, it had Superman being kind and friendly and kept the costume like it was in the comics. The story was a typical Superman story from the first series comic books, except the time anomaly and it gave Superman the same powers that he has in the comics.
Many of the things in this movie were later used in the second series of comic books. Examples are: the creation of the Fortress of Solitude (pretty close), the messages from Jor-El and the attitude of Lois Lane.
The Whole Experience/Superman
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It was undoubtedly the best of all of the Superman movies, but it lacked a good ending. The story really hurt itself when it came up with the "time-turning-backwards" idea. The acting, for the most part, was good and the soundtrack was wonderful. The special effects were enjoyable. It is certainly a movie to pick up and watch if you haven't seen it. It's also the type of movie that you can watch more than one time and still enjoy it.