Superman (1978)

Article 2795 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2009
Posting Date: 4-8-2009
Directed by Richard Donner
Featuring Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve
Country: UK / USA

The last surviving resident of the planet Krypton is a child sent to Earth by his father. On earth he has superpowers, and becomes a hero known as Superman. He must pit his wits against a supervillain named Lex Luthor, who is intent on causing California to slide into the ocean.

As the first big-budget superhero movie, it is no doubt beloved by fans. Though I consider it watchable enough, I have strong reservations. The movie has something of a split personality; the first half of the movie deals with his mythic origins, and it is mostly stiff, pompous and humorless; only Glenn Ford manages to lift things up a bit by adding a much needed touch of humanity to the proceedings. The second half of the movie has far too much humor in it; everyone seems to be playing it for laughs. No, I don’t object to Christopher Reeve turning the role of Clark Kent into a clumsy buffoon (quite frankly, this is my favorite aspect of Reeve’s performance, as it keeps the character from falling into blandness as well as providing a sharp contrast between Kent and Superman). But my heart did sink to see Lex Luthor played for laughs (a fault I attribute to the script rather than Gene Hackman’s performance, as I think he simply played it the way it was written to the hilt). It only starts taking itself seriously again during the special-effects laden climax, which unfortunately relies on giving Superman the power to turn back time, thereby straining credibility way too far for my taste. Yet, for all that, the movie is entertaining enough; I just wish this cinematic meal hadn’t ended up feeling like so many empty calories. My favorite moment: Superman rescues a cat caught in a tree.


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