Thursday, May 30, 2013

#1,018. Superman (1978)

Directed By: Richard Donner

Starring: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve

Tag line: "You'll believe a man can fly"

Trivia: For his portrayal of Clark Kent, Christopher Reeve based the performance on Cary Grant's character in Bringing Up Baby

With all due respect to George Reeves, Brandon Routh, and Henry Cavill, there is only one Superman, and his name was Christopher Reeve.

Directed by Richard Donner, 1978’s Superman takes us back to the beginning, when Jor-el (Marlon Brando), certain that his home planet of Krypton was facing imminent destruction, loaded his infant son into a crystal spaceship and sent him hurtling towards Earth. There, the boy was found and adopted by John (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter), who gave him the name “Clark” (played as a teen by Jeff East), and, despite his incredible strength and agility, raised him to be a model citizen. 

Once grown, Clark (Reeve) makes his way to Metropolis, where he he is hired by Perry White (Jackie Cooper) to work as a reporter for the Daily Planet, where he shares an office with tough-as-nails journalist Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). 

Convinced he’s on earth for a reason, Clark also spends a great deal of time as his alter-ego, Superman, watching over the city to keep its citizens safe. When arch-criminal Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) unleashes his plan to destroy the U.S. West Coast, Superman springs into action, working quickly to save the lives of millions of innocent people.

Physically, Reeve, with his square jaw and clean-cut features, was the perfect Superman, yet, aside from merely looking the part, he also infused the character with the perfect blend of strength and humility. He is convincing in the action scenes (late in the movie, there’s a tremendous sequence where he saves a train that’s about to derail), and when, during his dinner date with Lois Lane, Superman tells her “I never lie”, we believe him. We even catch a glimpse of what happens when Superman is pushed to his breaking point (without going into spoilers, there’s a moment towards the end of the film where Superman lets out an angry cry, which, in all honesty, scared the shit out of me when I was a kid). 

Reeve gave a number of solid performances throughout his career. He was excellent in Sidney Lumet’s underrated 1982 movie Deathtrap and was perhaps the best thing about Somewhere in Time. But as he proves time and again throughout this 1978 film, Superman was the role he was born to play.

From start to finish, Superman is a terrific motion picture. Its rousing score is one of composer John Williams' best (not to mention my all-time favorite), and John Barry's production design is extraordinary; Krypton is wonderfully realized, an advanced civilization existing in the ice and snow, a look that’s repeated just as well later in the movie when Superman “finds” his fortress of solitude. As for the supporting players, Hackman is both menacing and hilarious as Lex Luthor, and Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane is wonderfully persistent, yet also lets her romantic side shine through whenever Superman is around. Hell, I even love the design of the film’s opening credits! 

But when I think of Superman, the image that immediately pops into my head is that of Christopher Reeve flying through the air. He made this bigger-than-life character his own, and for an entire generation, he was, and always will be, Superman.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Hi @Jamie_Dodger here.

This is the first film after Return Of The Jedi I started obsessing over and that was mainly down to me meeting my friend James back in nursery school.He adored everything about the film (and Christopher Reeve) and it rubbed off on me. I remember hours of playing Superman as little kids. The only down part for me at the time was I always had to be Lex Luthor to his Superman lol! Nice memories, unfortunately James passed away a few years ago but because of him my love for everything Superman continues and will carry on I imagine until I am telling my great grand kids that the cartoon "Superman 3000" isn't a patch on the Superman in my day.So anyway, Superman The Movie. There is no way I will ever get bored of this film.Marlon Brando has me from the moment he appears on the screen as Jor-El and condemns Zod and co to the Phantom Zone. I know at the time he got paid a stupid amount of money for his small amount of screen time but I think he is definitely worth it. The scenes with him in have always left a lasting impression with me.Christopher Reeve himself will always be my Superman. His portray of Clark Kent has is touching and he does such a good job in the first film. His Superman is the best and although in later films I think he lost his way a bit (I'll save that though for now) he shines here.One scene that sticks in my head is the one with a young Clark after Jonathan dies and he says - "All those powers. And I couldn't even save him"Chokes me up every time and funny enough doesn't feature Reeve (well, his voice is in it).Margot Kidder is stunning as Lois Lane. I've often wondered if Teri Hatcher based her Lois on Margot Kidders version from the first film? I think there are a few similarities.My favourite scene with her is the first time she meets Superman and nose dives down the side of the building after falling from the helicopter.The scene with her during the earthquake and when Superman loses it used to scare me as a child.Gene Hackman is 100% quality as Lex Luthor. I've said before he is my absolute favourite apart from maybe John Shea who even I'll admit is a close second when it comes to playing Luthor.A wonderful film.