tek's rating:

Superman (PG)
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This came out in 1978, when I was three years old. I must have seen at least a bit of it sometime in the 80s, but I never really remembered anything about it. I finally watched it on DVD in 2016. There have been various edits of the movie over the years, with varying lengths. The version I watched was 151 minutes, which is somewhere in the middle. Um... I also want to say I was a bit surprised to learn that the story for this movie was written by Mario Puzo, whom I've always associated exclusively with The Godfather. But whatever, that's probably not important.

So... it starts with some kid reading a comic book, in voiceover. Then we have some opening credits. Then we see the conclusion of the trial of three revolutionaries (General Zod, Ursa, and Non) on planet Krypton. (Incidentally, the way the planet's name is pronounced by Kryptonians is different from what I'm used to hearing.) The verdict is decided by a council, most of whom are not physically present at the trial. The only one who is present is Jor-El (Marlon Brando). The entire council votes guilty, but for some reason, Zod says he'll exclusively blame Jor-El, since the vote has to be unanimous, and Jor-El was the last to vote. Which doesn't make much sense to me, but anyway, the three prisoners get sent to the Phantom Zone as punishment. Meanwhile, on an unrelated matter, Jor-El believes the planet is going to explode within the month, but no one else on the council believes that. And the forbid Jor-El from telling the public about his prediction. So, he and his wife, Lara, send their baby son, Kal-El, to Earth, to survive the destruction of Krypton. Apparently his journey takes about three years, and the whole time I guess a recording of Jor-El is instructing him, though I'm not sure the kid actually absorbed any of the knowledge that was being spoken at him.

Anyway, his little ship lands on Earth, and he's taken in by a couple in Kansas, Jonathan and Martha Kent. They immediately discover that the toddler has incredible strength, so they want to make sure no one else finds out about that, lest he be taken away from them. We then flash forward to when the boy, now called Clark Kent, is 18 years old. And he's obviously frustrated by Jonathan's insistence that he not show off any of his powers (which now include much more than just strength). But he also obviously loves and respects his adoptive parents. Then one day, Jonathan dies, which devastates Clark. Soon thereafter, he finds a crystal hidden in the barn, and presumably it tells him to go north, because that's what he does. Somewhere in the Arctic, he throws the crystal, and it creates a Fortress of Solitude for him, where he receives a recorded message from Jor-El. And he spends twelve years there, learning all his biological father has to teach him. But we don't really see that.

The story then moves to Metropolis, where Clark (now played by Christopher Reeve) gets a job at a newspaper called the Daily Planet. His coworkers include the editor, Perry White, a photographer named Jimmy Olsen, and most importantly, a fellow reporter named Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). While we know Clark has all these super powers, he plays a sort of bumbling character, to hide his true identity. (Although he has a sort of "aw shucks" sincerity that's virtually identical to that of his heroic alter ego.) Anyway... one night he ends up rescuing Lois when something goes wrong with a helicopter she's in. But he does so in a costume that's very familiar to us from the comic books, even if he hasn't got a super hero name yet. After rescuing her, he does a bunch of other super heroing, and soon becomes popular with the public, I guess. And when Perry demands his reporters get a scoop about this new hero, Clark sneaks a note to Lois, which leads to giving her an exclusive interview. And then flying her around the city. (The physics involved in that flight made no sense to me, but I'll let it slide.) After that, Lois comes up with the name "Superman" for him.

Meanwhile, there's a criminal mastermind named Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who's planning the "crime of the century." He's assisted by a buffoon named Otis (Ned Beatty) and a woman named Miss Teschmacher. And when he learns of Superman's existence, he decides it would be fun to find a way to defeat him, while pulling off his crime. After reading Lois's article about Superman, Lex figures out a way to kill him (using Kryptonite), which seemed to me like a major deductive leap, but I'll let it slide. Anyway, I don't want to reveal any more about the plot, but of course Lex nearly wins and then doesn't. However... Superman has to do something that completely defies anything remotely resembling scientific plausibility... and what the hell, I'll let it slide.

Anyway, it's a reasonably fun movie, despite requiring numerous suspensions of disbelief. Like, it's all utterly ridiculous, but hey... it was the 70s. And really, I think the movie was supposed to be funny, at least as much as it was supposed to be... whatever else it was supposed to be. And it succeeded. I do tend to prefer a bit more realism and rather more darkness in my superheroes, and in superhero movies, but that's never really been what Superman is about, in any medium. So, while he's never been my favorite superhero and his movies will never be among my favorite superhero films, it was still fun.

comic book movies

Superman * Superman II * Superman III * Supergirl * Superman IV * Superman Returns