Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Superman the Movie (Richard Donner, 1978)

Say what you will, but for my money Superman the Movie and Superman II are the best comic book hero adaptations committed to film. Scoff if you must, call me names, question my sanity, I care not. Well, I do actually, so let me explain.

First, this is the only super hero movie that makes me cry, consistently at the same part. I am just getting that out of the way. When Lois Lane's car finally stalls, and she is about to die, the water works start warming up. Yeah, I did not warn "spoiler" but it is a 30+ year-old film. The movie has a lot of heart, and can be emotional. There are some cheesy parts in that regard, but it is not forced.

Next, the cast. Christopher Reeve is more Superman than Superman was. This is my Superman. He is not a douche bag and he is not out-of-touch. He is conflicted about his role and how to best use his immense power. When he finally "comes out of the closet" so to speak, he does it right. It starts with the obligatory Lois Lane life saving, then he kind of says, "ah hell, I already have the suit on" and goes about catching criminals. The supporting cast is equally wonderful. Margot Kidder is a perfect Lois Lane; a tough New York girl (Metropolis, that is) who knows how to get things done. The villains are a stellar cast of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Ned Beatty as Otis (Luthor's bumbling right hand) and Valerie Perrine as Miss Tessmacher. Rather than going hardcore with Luthor, they decide to let him and his gang be the comic relief. This sounds like a terrible idea, but works out beautifully. This is not the Batman television show humor, but close at times. Hackman is as good as he has ever been, which is pretty damn good, with beautiful comedic chops.

Now, the version I just rewatched was, I believe, the Donner director's cut which has a great deal more opening material than I remember from my childhood. It gets a little too long for my taste, as they unfortunately delve briefly into the Superman as Christ theme that kept me away from the recent adaptations. There is a reason most directors are not editors. Editing is an art of its own. Let the Krypton portion go by. The movie really starts once the young Kal El is on Earth.

This is streaming on Netflix now, and I heartily recommend you see it if you have not. Even if you do not like Superman as a character (I typically do not) this may give you another perspective. It is a beautifully put together film and hold up well after 30 years.


T. Roger Thomas said...

I do enjoy a good movie on Netflix. In fact, I would like to see a whole blog of Netflix recommendations.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I bet there is one out there :-)

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