My Favorite Movies #3 – Superman



Directed by Richard Donner

Quick synopsis… Mild-mannered Clark Kent works as a reporter at the Daily Planet alongside his crush, Lois Lane, who’s in love with Superman. Clark must summon his superhero alter ego when the nefarious Lex Luthor launches a plan to take over the world.

  • Was there any doubt that this movie would be on my list?
  • I mean, if Superman II made it to number 17, this one had to be higher on the list.
  • I feel certain that there are probably a ton of people out there who have never seen this movie.
  • And I have a feeling that that ton of people are younger individuals who are only familiar with the Zach Snyder/Henry Cavill/Man of Steel version of Superman.
  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Honestly, I love Cavill’s portrayal of Superman.
  • But Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman is unparalleled.
  • So is the score by John Williams.
  • I have a DVD copy of this movie somewhere that has a track of the movie that is just Williams’ score and the visuals… no dialogue; no sound effects.
  • It’s amazing.
  • Superman‘s story is basically split into three acts: Krypton, Smallville, and Metropolis.
  • The Metropolis portion obviously takes up a bit more time than the other two pieces, but it really does feel somewhat episodic.
  • On Krypton, we are immediately introduced to Marlon Brando as Jor-El, the father of the infant who would one day be Superman.
  • I get that Brando is labeled one of the greatest actors of all time…
  • But I just don’t like the guy.
  • And I know it’s only because of all the things I’ve read and heard about how difficult he was to work with on so many movie sets.
  • For Superman, he mispronounces the planet his character lives and dies on.
  • He also refused to learn any of his lines.
  • As he is preparing to send baby Kal-El off in his space craft, he gives his son this epic speech.
  • All of the lines for that speech were hidden in the baby’s diaper.
  • Oh, but before all that, it’s fun to point out that we got the set up for the sequel before the title character was even introduced.
  • General Zod, Ursa, and Non were on trial for treason and were sentenced to an eternity in the Phantom Zone.
  • Following this trial, Jor-El meets with the ruling council to discuss the need to evacuate the planet.
  • He knows the planet is doomed, but the council is arrogant and choose not to believe him.
  • This leads to Jor-El and his wife, Lara, preparing to send their infant son to another world in order to save him from their world’s fate.
  • Little Kal-El arrives on earth, crash landing in a Kansas field.
  • He is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who take him in and raise him as their own.
  • Clark grows up and, as a teenager, is fully aware of all the amazing powers and abilities he has…
  • Though he is forced to keep them secret.
  • It’s hard for him, because he has to pretend to be a clumsy farm boy when he could be scoring touchdowns every time he got his hands on the ball.
  • But Jonathan is convinced that his adopted son is there for a reason, “and it’s not to score touchdowns.”
  • Jonathan dies of a heart attack, which is also hard for Clark to accept.
  • “All those things I can do, all those powers… and I couldn’t even save him.”
  • But that’s such an important lesson for Clark to learn.
  • Even as Superman, there is no way he can be there to save everyone all the time.
  • Soon after Jonathan’s death, a crystal that was embedded in Clark’s ship begins calling out to him.
  • He informs his mother that he has to go, taking the crystal with him to the arctic.
  • Once he approaches the North Pole, Clark tosses the crystal away, just like it was the Heart of the Ocean diamond.
  • In a matter of seconds, Superman’s Fortress of Solitude is completed.
  • Here, young Clark Kent is taught by a holographic projection of Jor-El for about a dozen years.
  • After all those years, he emerges with a familiar outfit and a familiar cape with a familiar S insignia on his chest.
  • In Metropolis, Clark gets a job working as a writer for the Daily Planet, partially because he impressed Perry White for being the fastest typist the editor had ever seen.
  • Here’s where we really get to see the genius of Christopher Reeve’s acting when it comes to the differences between Clark and Superman.
  • Christopher Reeve is acting like an invulnerable, unstoppable god among us who is acting like a nervous, bumbling, mild-mannered journalist.
  • The way he does it, it’s no wonder Lois doesn’t figure out who he really is.
  • There’s no way someone as powerful as Superman could be that big of an idiot in disguise.
  • Not to imply that Clark is actually an idiot… that’s just how so many of the people around him see him.
  • Anyway, Superman makes his debut when he saves Lois Lane after her helicopter malfunctions and she’s sent flying off the roof of the Daily Planet building.
  • Superman catches her and catches the helicopter, saving the day.
  • We’re then treated to a montage of Superman doing plenty of heroic things on his first night: getting a cat out of a tree, stopping a jewel thief, saving Air Force One from crashing in a lightning storm…
  • Perry White wants to make sure Superman is associated with their newspaper, since that’s where he basically made his introduction to the world.
  • Lois gets a note from Superman, granting her an interview.
  • But this interview is kind of a mistake, because Superman just goes and reveals too much about himself.
  • I mean, he doesn’t announce to the world that he is, in secret, mild-mannered Clark Kent.
  • But he does say where he’s really from, Krypton, and admits that his X-ray vision has trouble wherever there’s lead involved.
  • This gives the villainous Lex Luthor all he needs to effectively defeat the Man of Steel.
  • Now let’s talk about good ol’ Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) for a bit…
  • He’s got this amazing underground lair that, in spite of being beneath the city, really isn’t such a bad place.
  • I mean, he’s got a pool and a library and access to global media via television.
  • What more could anyone ask?
  • Well, Lex could…
  • He’s scheming to purchase a lot of worthless real estate east of the San Andreas fault.
  • Part of his plan is to commandeer a couple of military nukes that are scheduled for test detonation.
  • He reprograms the missiles… instead of detonating harmlessly in an unpopulated region, one would head to the middle of the San Andreas while the other flies to Hackensack, New Jersey.
  • The idea is that the nuclear bomb that detonates inside the fault would cause a massive earthquake that would leave the Pacific coast as we know it obliterated.
  • He’s trying to cause it to fall off into the ocean so that all that worthless desert property he just bought would then become the new coastline and, therefore, be worth billions.
  • Hackensack is just to keep Superman busy.
  • Except it wouldn’t keep Superman busy because if Lex’s plan really happened the way he… planned… Superman would be dead.
  • Lex read Lois’ article and learned all about Krypton and discovered a chunk of radioactive rock that originated on Krypton that would be deadly to Kryptonians.
  • He hides this Kryptonite inside a lead container and tricks Superman into thinking that’s where he’s hidden the detonator for the bombs.
  • Lex wraps the Kryptonite around Superman’s neck and tosses him into the pool where Superman would eventually just drown.
  • But Superman is saved by Ms. Tessmacher, whose mother lives in Hackensack.
  • She makes Superman promise to save her mother first before heading west.
  • Superman promises to do so, pushing the first nuke into space where it detonates harmlessly.
  • Unfortunately, he’s not fast enough to stop the detonation of the bomb that hit the San Andreas, so he is left to deal with the effects of the massive quake.
  • I gotta say, even without Superman’s involvement, there’s really not that much damage to speak of.
  • At least, not that we see…
  • Maybe the filmmakers were limited by the special effects of the day, but we really only see the Golden Gate Bridge shaking a little while a school bus loses control; Hoover Dam bursts open, which really only looks to flood one small community (based on what’s shown); and a poorly supported railroad track.
  • None of that really screams at us that the west coast is gonna break off into the Pacific.
  • After all those amazing things that Superman does, he realizes that he has failed to save Lois, who just happened to be on the west side of the country covering a story about an unknown buyer of worthless real estate.
  • She got caught up in the earthquake and a crack opened up beneath her, swallowing her car, and burying her alive.
  • Superman gets there too late and is distraught over her death.
  • Good thing he learned that lesson all those years ago about how he can’t save everyone all the time.
  • What? He decides to fly backwards around the world reversing the earth’s orbit and turning back time so he can save her?
  • So he really learned nothing from his father’s heart attack?
  • Okay, good…
  • Also, I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty sure that turning the earth backwards for a few minutes wouldn’t so much reverse time but cause a lot of catastrophic events to occur planetwide.
  • But, hey, it’s a comic book movie.
  • Superman delivers Lex Luthor and his flunky, Otis, to the state penitentiary… without trial?
  • And all is right with the world.
  • Fantastic movie… a must see…
  • Currently streaming on HBOmax if you are so subscribed.

Next week we’re down to number two! It is undoubtedly the greatest movie to come out of the Star Wars saga. Ever. Guesses?


4 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #3 – Superman

  1. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

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