|SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978)|
|"There's a strong streak of good in you, Superman. But then nobody's perfect... almost nobody."|
|Time: 151 mins.|
Genre: Action/Romance/Drama/Super Hero
Won Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects. Nominations for Best Film Editing, Original Score and Sound.
I remember seeing this movie as a teenager and just being blown away...with boredom and love for the hunky Christopher Reeve. I wasn't horribly bored, it just took awhile to get going is all. Even though it didn't blow my socks off, I've always had fond memories of watching SUPERMAN. I've only recently seen it all the way through again, almost two decades later (sigh) and I have to say I was enthralled by the experience. Though not as cutting edge in the effects department as some of today's sci-fi treats, this movie has something most of them do not a heart. If you've read enough of my reviews, you know this is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to movies. The ones created with care and purpose, whether to just make you laugh or to import a message, are the films that stand the test of time no matter how lame the visuals become. SUPERMAN makes an impression that flickers across your mind for days afterwards. Movies just weren't made from comic book heroes in the 70s. This could have been something horribly campy, like the last 2 BATMAN movies, but instead it tells a wonderful story about a man who decides to use his powers to help mankind...and impress the ladies.
The film opens, after a rousing opening sequence that showcases the beauty and excitement of John Williams' score, on the planet Krypton with the sentencing of three criminals (who will show up in the second movie) by Jor-El (Brando), one of the planet's leading scientists. He goes from esteemed leader to rebel outsider within days due to his opinion of Krypton's fate. Jor-El is convinced the planet is going to explode, but the other elders refuse to believe him, unwilling to evacuate and start anew. With his fate sealed, he constructs a space ship to save the life of his baby son by taking him to Earth, a civilization far behind their own but one where he will be able to fit in. Sort of. Due to environmental differences Kal-El will be faster, stronger and impervious to pain. When he crash lands in the middle of a Kansas wheat field, the Kents, a childless couple, see him as a gift from God, raising this unique boy with unusual powers as their own. His adoptive parents give him unconditional love, trying to instill in him respect for his powers and how they affect others. Clark knows nothing of his true origins until his 18th birthday when Jor-El's crystal calls to him to begin his training.
After 12 years of study with Jor-El in his fortress of solitude, Clark Kent (Reeve) emerges as a powerful man ready to offer his gifts to the world. He begins his new life in Metropolis as a reporter for the Daily Planet. Clark Kent is a sweet, unassuming geek, who falls instantly head over heels for the brash, opinionated Lois Lane (Kidder). Try as he might to impress her, Clark is just not her type. Well, at least this side of him. When Lois's life becomes endangered, Clark emerges as Superman to save her, bringing his secret to the surface. After rescuing Lois, and performing other feats of justice, he is overwhelmed by the feelings of joy and pride his actions awake in him. Jor-El cautions him to take matters slowly and to never interfere with human history. His actions are good, but if he's not careful to guard his secret identity he will be endlessly plagued by people wanting his help, as well as give his enemies information that can hurt him. To quell the mystery surrounding his appearance, he agrees to give an exclusive interview to his "favorite" reporter. Lois is like a schoolgirl, full of excitement at the prospect of meeting the man of steel. She gets a lesson in flying she won't soon forget.
Meanwhile, a major disaster is brewing on the horizon. Lex Luther (Hackman), a criminal mastermind, is about to perpetrate the crime of the century. The arrival of Superman on the scene, thrills him and gives him cause to worry. He's not about to let his scheme be destroyed by some hulky do-gooder, so he devises a plan to capture Superman and render him powerless. By threatening the lives of everyone in Metropolis, Luther lures Superman into his lair, only to reveal a plan even more devastating to humanity. It looks like Luther is going to win, but he underestimated Superman's appeal to the ladies. In a cruel twist of fate, Superman is able to stop Luther's plan, but loses someone dear to him in the process. In one of the most implausible endings of all time, he takes matters into his own hands and changes past to correct his future. This is an epic film told with intelligence, depth, excitement and joy. It may have it's hokey moments, but the scale and story will sweep you off your feet.
Apparently, the filmmakers looked high and low for an actor that could carry of the physicality and geniuness of Superman. This film works only because of the talent of its cast, especially that of Christopher Reeve. His strength, charm, intelligence and heart make Superman a believable character, which without would have doomed this film from the first frame. One look into those blue eyes and you're a goner. Not many man are able to pull off wearing tights and a cape. His attitude makes it a non-issue. Of course, the casting of Brando and Hackman was just as crucial. Both lend a sense of quality and seriousness to the proceedings that makes you sit up and take notice, even though Hackman's Lex Luthor delivers most of the film's comic moments. He is brilliant as the evil mastermind with an obsession for real estate. Margot Kidder is also great as the vibrant and unstoppable Lois Lane. Much like Superman, she has two distinct sides of her personality, the fearless one she shows Clark and the weak-in-the-knees side she exhibits in front of Superman. She's strong when he's weak and vice versa, creating an intriguing and palpable chemistry between them.
Along with the wonderful acting, which has its hokey moments, is the fantastic production design and special effects. The filmmakers create three distinct locations in space and time that are visually stunning and a big part of why this film is still compelling decades later. Most of the flying effects are outstanding and believable despite the fact that you know they're using wires. However, the sequence where Superman takes Lois on an aerial tour of the city begins with a touch of excitement and romance and then quickly degrades into the ridiculous by overlaying the moment with voice over of Lois's secret thoughts. This dialogue is like a love-sick 8th graders poem. For a film that was trying to avoid being campy, they crossed the line here. The film also jumps around a great deal from plot line to plot line which takes away from some of the character development. Though the basic story is fun and inventive it makes some leaps that require you to just go with the flow and not ask any questions, especially towards the end like how Lex Luthor figures out what will stop Superman and how Superman saves Lois's life.
These are issues you could debate for hours and could be potential flaws, but in the grand scheme of things they don't really matter. This is a class A production that brings a beloved hero and his adventures to life. There's something for everyone in this sci-fi flick. If you've never seen this film, I feel sorry for you. It has a quality that continues to capture the heart and imagination long after it's original release. It may seem too light and cerebral in the light of more recent comic book adaptations, but it's a better movie than those because it dares to make its' hero real.