Superman (1978)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother Special Edition)
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Overall Rating 67%
Overall Rating
Ranked #922
...out of 15,334 movies
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Connections: DC: Superman

Mild-mannered Clark Kent works as a reporter at the Daily Planet alongside his crush, Lois Lane. Clark must summon his superhero alter-ego when the nefarious Lex Luthor launches a plan to take over the world. --TMDb
Review by Chad
Added: March 30, 2012
I've never been a huge fan of Superman, the character - there, I said it. I know that he's arguably one of the most iconic superheroes of all time and all that good stuff, but personally, I just never got into the comics. Therefore, since I wasn't a fan of the character, I never checked out the movies either. However, I was in the mood for a good superhero movie tonight, so I decided to go ahead and pop in what some would say is the best superhero movie ever made. I went with the original theatrical cut for this review, not the three-hour director's cut, just so you know.

Superman: The Movie starts right at the very beginning on the planet of Krypton, where we find Superman's father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) trying convince "the council" that their planet is about to explode. Obviously, they pay no heed to his warnings, so Jor-El bundles his newborn baby up inside of a giant crystal and sends him to earth. Seconds later, the planet does indeed explode, and Superman's parents, planet, and his entire race are reduced to nothing more than specks of dust floating around in the solar system.

This child is eventually found by an older couple (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter), who bring him home and raise him as one of their own. It is immediately apparent that he isn't like the other kids, but his adopted father warns him about the dangers of showing off and letting people know about his powers. The child eventually grows up and moves to the big city, and that is where the movie really begins.

Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) is the alter-ego for Superman, and he works as a mild-mannered reporter at the local newspaper in New York. There, he starts to fall in love with fellow reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), and when Lois finds herself in danger one night, Clark ditches the disguise and springs into action to save her. Since the cat is now out of the bag about this superhero living in the city, he sets out to save other lives, right the wrongs, and fight for the American way.

Of course, every superhero has to have their super-villain counterpart, and Superman's comes to us courtesy of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his cronies Otis (Ned Beatty) and Eve (Valerie Perrine). Luthor has a plan to use a nuclear missile to blow up the San Andreas fault line, causing most of California to fall into the sea. You see, Luthor has recently bought up a bunch of inland desert, and if California disappears... well, his land will become the new beachfront property, and he'll be a billionaire! It's genius! Of course, Superman doesn't plan to let that happen, and the eventual showdown between the two is inevitable.

Superman is a light-hearted take on the superhero genre - this is just how things were done back then. This was a time when superheroes didn't have to be ultra-realistic and uber-gritty, they were just there to entertain you and make you marvel at the special effects. I enjoyed this approach and wish more filmmakers would employ it these days, but alas, that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon. What we get here is a lot of action, a lot of humor, and a couple of R-rated jokes hidden away for the adults in the audience ("How, uh, big are you?") - no social commentary, no gravelly voices, just a fun night in front of the tube.

Honestly, there were only two things that I didn't like about the storyline: the way that Luthor finds out about Superman's kryptonite weakness completely comes out of left field, and the ending is just dumb. From what I've read, this time-traveling ending was originally shot for the sequel and edited into this film when the sequel was in doubt, and it definitely shows - it leaves a lot of questions, and if you really think about it, Superman really screwed a lot of people over by setting the clock back like he did. I don't think that was intentional, so a proper ending would have made this much more of a classic than it already is.

Otherwise, this take on Superman is damned near a perfect film. Everybody is perfectly cast, with Christopher Reeve being the definitive Superman and Gene Hackman turning in a great, if a little "different", performance as Luthor. I even enjoyed the supporting cast, Margot Kidder in particular. Her chemistry with Reeve was downright perfect, and their first major conversation at her place was very enjoyable. Huge thumbs up to the casting department.

Overall, I'm giving the film a high rating and a big recommendation to anybody who may have missed it. It's an older film so the special effects aren't perfect (they still look great and have aged well, they're just not phenomenal) and I wasn't a big fan of that ending, but everything else about the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. Big thumbs up, and a 8/10.
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