Sunday, June 2, 2013
SUPERMAN: The Retrospective - Part I: SUPERMAN (1978)
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty
They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way.
With a quote like that, you just kind of know the greatness and legend that comes with Superman. A movie that kept the big, epic movie fantasy precedent of going to the theater alive after Star Wars the year prior. Superman is a movie with some historic production troubles that are a fascinating point of research for any film fan and can be almost as entertaining as the film itself. I'm not here to give you a detailed rundown of it all, but I highly recommend taking the time to watch a documentary or read about it.
For all intents and purposes, Superman was produced by a couple of guys who had no clue what they were doing when it came to making a movie. When acquiring the rights, they just went with whatever was popular or prestigious at the time, no matter if it was right for the film or not. Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather to write Superman? Also hot off The Godfather, Marlon Brando was plucked. Then The French Connection's Gene Hackman. Cheap director? Let's get that guy who did the recently popular The Omen. Who will play Superman? How about Robert Redford or Al Pacino?!?!?! It just sounds bad when its on paper. But most turned down or didn't want the role of the last son of Krypton.
Superman is just a big, breathtaking and "aw inducing" film, especially in the time it was released. The effects were state of the art. They told you "You will believe a man can fly" and certainly, they held up to their word. I never saw the film in theaters (born in '82), but I can confidently say that theatrically, this was akin to seeing Star Wars, Jurassic Park or more recently Avatar (in IMAX 3D) in a cinema for the first time. Just fully immersing yourself into a world that is beyond imagination, feeling genuine, real and a form of escapism in its finest form.
Christopher Reeve gives the ultimate performance, playing Clark Kent and Kal-El as two entirely separate people. Its amazing how he pulls this off. His speech, his stature, his mannerisms, it unbelievable. Its not just a guy in tights and a cape, its a full on performance. This may be taken for granted nowadays, but he really is fantastic in this role. Its a big reason as to why its his image we think of when it comes to Superman, even moreso than a drawing. Hackman's Luthor is far more fun than i think he was on paper. He's not the traditional Lex Luthor from my memories (normally a wealthy business man, not undergournd), but it works. He's just as diabolical. His scheme brings very much the comic book element to light. He's having a lot of fun and it really elevates the cast. While Margot Kidder doesn't have any posters hanging up on any boys walls, she is just fine in her role. Kidder's Lane brings absolute credibility to her as a the no-holds bar star reporter. She's good and it works quite well. The only issue taken is, what would Superman see in this girl? I could see what she would see in him, but the other way...eh...I guess we take our preconceived comic book notions in with us on that one.
Superman wow'd audiences then and I believe still will today. Prior to the film, it was just a kid's thing. Comic books, TV shows, movie serials, toys. Superman brought everything to a whole new level. It set the ground for making it ok to produce big budget comic book films. It paved the way for everything. Its the grandaddy of all of them. And I didn't even mention how awesome the opening credits and that score is! Its one of the best comic book movies of all time and once you see it, you'll never forget it and hopefully want to revisit it again....
...and my feelings and thoughts on Superman end right there.
Now, I pose a question for my younger viewers that may have seen Superman. How do you really feel about this movie on your own. Not just respecting it and saying it was good because all us old fogies have been stroking it for years. This is a long movie. It takes its dear sweet time. It doesn't go "pow pow pow". We spend an hour on the origin story and don't see Superman take flight for an hour. Its villain's scheme its a bit slapsticky and some things aren't fully explained (where'd you get the Kryptonite, Lex?). Do you think Superman is overrated int today's day and age? While I enjoy this movie and will celebrate it, I have a hard time seeing today's audiences and the modern generation falling in love with this film. While the effects aren't bad and most hold up, its not state of the art anymore (not even close), the film is a patient 70s film that takes its time, and then has that controversial ending. Does it still work? That's not a question I can answer, and I'd truly like to know. Please leave your thoughts below! Thanks!
Next: SUPERMAN II
Scott Mendelson joke: Post Superman II, General Zod opens a store selling fresh bread. Every day his employees are instructed "KNEED BEFORE ZOD! KNEEEEEED!"