Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You'll Believe a Man Can Fly

Karen: Since we've been reviewing John Byrne's Man of Steel mini, how about thoughts on one of its inspirations, Superman: The Movie?


dbutler16 said...

While I think the first movie overall was very well done, and certainly as a 10 year old I thought it was great, I didn’t like the ending. Even as a 10 year old I thought it fairly bogus that Superman could fly around the earth fast enough to cause it to rotate backwards, and that that would actually cause time to go backwards. Besides, if have can do that, what’s to stop him from doing that every time something doesn’t go his way? Also, I’m not too fond of Lex Luthor as a villain in general, though he and his sidekick did provide some nice comedy here, and Lex’s plan was certainly devilish, as I would expect from Lex. I thought Christopher Reeve was an excellent Superman. A good physical fit with that boyish innocence I would expect from the Silver & Bronze Age Man of Steel. A bit different from George Reeves, who seemed like more of a strong, avuncular type, likely to offer you some firm but kindly advice, whereas I could picture Christopher Reeve’s Superman actually saying “Gee whiz”. By the way, Marlon Brando made huge money for that cameo. Must be nice.

I liked Superman II much better, largely because I liked the villains better. Regarding the relatively recent Richard Donner cut of Superman II, while I think that the first 80% of the movie is better than the theatrical release, I really hate the fact that he went back to the same bogus “go back in time” ending as in the first movie. So, overall, I’ll take the original theatrical release of Superman II over the Donner cut.

Then there is the soundtrack. Always inspiring, even when not watching the movie. Good ol’ John Williams!! He’s offered me many hours of listening pleasure.

david_b said...

The first movie suceeded in it's intentions, in my case..: It made me (temporarily..) a fan of Superman. It had a light, splendid approach, having heard various stories about script and directoral changes in pre-production. The end result was very entertaining, and carried a nice buoyancy of humor and comic-bookish charm (ie, the time changing ending...).

Both Hackman and Brando gave it it's much needed 'gravitas' in terms of big budget names. Margot was a pleasing, strong choice for Lois. The Williams theme was perfectly in-line with the other big budget themes either he (Star Wars) or Larson (Galactica) presented.., grand marches all around (Trek-TMP included..).

I view the first two films as I do with the only other franchise at the time (Star Wars..). The first film accomplishes the more novel approach of introducing all the characters (both did fine..), then the 2nd movie actually gets down to business and tells a story (again, both did flawlessly..). I enjoyed both I and II for different, yet equally-standing reasons, both succeeding entirely per my procedural franchise steps, outlined above.

Stepping into George's shoes was very daunting to say the least, to have an audience accept the embodiedment of a legendary character not really reimaged since the '50s show, but Christopher presented a very competent balance of straight-forward wisdom, with sufficient vulnerability to keep him entirely believable.

dbutler16, I wasn't aware Donner changed the ending of II. That's disappointing.

Edo Bosnar said...

Although Superman's not my favorite character, I like the first movie, because despite that weird 'changing history' end (I totally agree with dbutler16 about that), it seemed to hit all the right notes, and really made you believe a man could fly. I watched it again rather recently on TV, and I have to say, the effects actually stand the test of time pretty well.
The second one is a different story for me; I know most people prefer it because of the cool villains - and they were pretty cool - but I just couldn't get over how poorly it dealt with the Clark/Lois romance. First, unless you dwell on the physics of Superman's biology a la Larry Niven, no really good explanation is provided for Superman having to give up his powers just so he could be with Lois - other than the fact that the story needed Superman to be powerless while the Negative Zone villains went on a rampage. Second, there's just something so cruel about Superman giving Lois amnesia at the end.

dbutler16 said...

David_b, as you may or may not know, Richard Donner left Superman II about halfway (or maybe more) through filming in 1982 and Richard Lester took over the reins. In 2006, a "Richard Donner cut" was released, which had Donner's original vision for the movie had he finished the original in 1982. Most of the changes (such as more Marlon Brando air time) are improvements, but I really hate the ending.

Anonymous said...

The music is great. Jaws makes you think ‘shark’, but Superman actually literally says ‘Su-per-man’.

I agree about the ending. Firstly, it’s just silly to turn back time, but secondly, why would flying backwards round the earth turn back time? I mean...what??

Whilst I find it a bit slow & ponderous and the plot’s a bit creaky, I think the script is very under-appreciated. There are some tremendous lines of dialogue (you can probably all join with these):

you've got me? Who's got you?
I never drink when I fly.

Superman: You really shouldn't smoke, you know.
Lois Lane: Don't tell me. Lung cancer, right?
Superman: Well, not yet, thank goodness.

Superman: Yes. I'm here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.
Lois Lane: You're gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country!

Miss Teschmacher, some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.

It's open, come in. My attorney will be in touch with you about the damage to the door. Otis, take the gentleman's cape.

Superman: Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks? By planning the death of innocent people?
Lex Luthor: No, by causing the death of innocent people.

Lex Luthor: Miss Teschmacher, when I was six years old, my father said to me...
Miss Teschmacher: "Get out!"

whichever one of you gets it on him... is going to wind up with the single most important interview since... God talked to Moses!

We all have our little faults. Mine's in California.

Doesn't it give you kind of a, a, a... shudder... of electricity through you to be in the same room with me?

If any human being were going to perpetrate such a fantastic hoax, it would've been me!

And, of course......



david_b said...

Richard, killer lines indeed.. Thanks for the wonderful reminder.

Hackman really gave those lines much-needed gusto and cunning; you can tell he was really enjoying himself playing a larger-than-life villain, much like what Nicholson did for Joker in 'Batman' a decade later..

dbutler16, thanks for the info. I may have known that at some point long ago, but had forgotten it this morning.

humanbelly said...

The idiotic ending ruined the film for me. I know I'm usually more diplomatic than that, but anything else would be untrue. I was indeed enjoying it quite a lot-- very well cast, terrific score, snappy fun script, a surprisingly apt performance from a guy whose main qualification would seem to have been that he looked like just like Superman-- but the ending goes so far beyond the limits of willful suspension of disbelief (even for a comic book film; even at that time) that it effectively pushes the whole thing under the bus. . . or onto the rocks. . . or into the iceberg, or something.

I have rarely been so angry at a film.

Oh, might I add that there was some spectacular cinematography, though? One particular shot out in Kansas, with an impossibly blue, cloud-dappled sky spreading out across a broad farmland and prairie vista--- even before I was conscious of such things, I thought to myself, that's about the most beautiful shot I've ever seen. . .


Unknown said...

Wow, do I love the first two Superman films. I agree with the criticism about the lame turning-back-time ending. Also, the dam model was incredibly inept, especially considering how amazing the rest of the effects were. But, Superman had me so won over up 'till then, that I just rolled with it.

I can stil remember seeing it on opening day at noon at the Cinema 70 in Monterey (which really showed it on 70mm film. It looked stunning).

The scene where Superman catches Lois and the helicopter still makes me tear up a little to this day. It's one of those perfect sequences that encapsulates everything that Superman is.

The performances and dialogue are great. Melding that naturalistic 70's style of acting with the world of Superman actually worked. I really bought Superman in the real world. Sure, Hackman chewed some scenery, but it was entertaining scenery-chewing.

I'm looking forward to the next Superman movie, after seeing the trailer. But I have to wonder, is there any point in casting anyone as Superman after Christopher Reeve? He was perfect.

It's amazing that brain can generate enough power to keep those legs moving. spite of those catlike reflexes.

That's a baaaad outfit. Whoo!

Haven't I told you to stop telling lies?

James Chatterton

Garett said...

Great casting for Superman, Lois, Perry White, Luthor. Great music. I much prefer the fun Hackman has as Luthor to the uptight version by Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns.

I prefer Superman 2 as I think it moves along at a faster clip. I also watched the Donner version, and while more Brando is good, there were some terrible jokes like the toilet joke in the Fortress of Solitude, where we hear a flushing sound like some hammy sitcom. Also I missed the Eiffel tower scene at the beginning--it's totally missing from the Donner version! I think that's a cool scene when he lifts the elevator right through the top of the tower and into space.

As for the ending, I figure that he's not making the Earth spin backwards, he's traveling back through time by flying faster and faster. That would make the Earth APPEAR to spin backwards from his perspective. It's like Flash running on his treadmill, but circling the earth instead. Makes more sense than zooming out into space in a straight line.

Also it is an affecting ending--seeing Lois die by getting buried is disturbing, and Superman's powerful emotional response is gripping dramatically. Perhaps they're suggesting that the movie Superman can't ordinarily travel through time, but in this one powerful moment, exceeds his usual abilities because of his love for Lois?

Glenn Ford was great as Clark's dad. Quick scene:

J.A. Morris said...

Like others here, I think 'Superman II' is a better film than 'Superman'.

Even at age 7, I felt like the film was a bit draggy in spots and I didn't care for the ending either. Part of my problem was that it was hard for me to think of Luthor as anything but the bald guy in lavender & green.

Here's a funny clip from SNL featuring Reeve's "audition" for Superman:||||

And speaking of John Williams, the "Superman" theme always makes me think of this song:

humanbelly said...

Boy, I could totally chomp into a whole side-thread on John Williams-!


Graham said...

I enjoyed both movies for the most part, but the ending of the first and the bit in the second where Supes lost his powers for love weren't highlights. But a lot of times those things happened in the Superman comic books stories, so I guess I didn't worry over it too much. He was not one of my favorites back then either. I might have bought 15-20 Superman and Action Comics combined during my collecting days.

Roygbiv666 said...

Ditto most of the above - lame ending.

The movie is really overlong - do we really need to see Krypton and Smallville in any more detail than a quick montage sequence? Although, this was really the first "real" superhero movie. Then again, the Batman TV series never needed an origin story ... and it was successful.

At the time (I was 8), I was dissappointed that the Kryptonians didn't dress like the way Curt Swan drew them. In retrospect, it was probably a good decision.

Karen said...

I was part of the generation who grew up with George Reeves in reruns. I thought of Superman as a fatherly figure. It was a bit jarring to see this young, 'newbie' Superman. But Christopher Reeve quickly won me over, and now, he seems like the perfect Superman. In fact, I go so far as to say his portrayal of the Man of Steel is one of the best realized versions of a super-hero to hit the big screen. I would agree with most of you about the movie's flaws though. And if I never see Lex Luthor in a film again, I'll be just fine.

Anonymous said...

To this day, Christopher Reeve is THE gold standard when it comes to actors in the Superman role. To me, he is the definitive Superman on the silver screen.

I guess that's why they chose a relatively unknown actor like Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. Chris was also a new face when he got the role. It's hard to believe that the producers weren't too keen on him when he first auditioned for the role (too skinny?).

The first movie was good, introducing the Man of Steel to a new generation of viewers. The second one with the three fugitives from the Phantom zone was OK too; I've never seen the 3rd and 4th movies, but from what I've heard they were terrible.

Even though I'm more of a Marvel nut, I certainly hope the upcoming Man of Steel movie is a hit. Batman aside, DC really needs a hit movie badly. Maybe they should send some spies over to Joss Whedon's camp!

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I have to agree with one poster who said Superman II was better. It had super villians that were worthy adversaries! The whole time travel thing with Superman changing the rotation of the earth to save Lois was false to me. The scenes with the dam bursting were all models that looked phoney. II was much better. If you forget the Donner version, which I couldn't afford to buy anyway, the original II was better.

You can pretty much forget III with Richard Pryor and IV was just bad low budget film making. They were good if you like Superman as a comedy. However the character deserved a lot more than the other sequels had to offer. They put the character in a universe that didn't take the genre seriously. The director and writers didn't care about the story making sense or paying respect to the legend of Superman. They made him into a clown in III and IV.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen (and Mike from T&T): you are so right about Christopher Reeve - he was the best casting choice ever for a super-hero feature. Seriously, did any of the guys cast to play Batman really evoke the guy we know from the comics? (Personally, I still think Michael Keaton did the best job, but he's far from ideal.) Same with Spider-man - I find myself preferring Nicholas Hammond to these more recent guys. I think the only choices that come close to the genius of Reeve as Superman are Chris Evans as Cap and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man - although in the latter case, I think if Tom Selleck were about 20-30 years younger, he would have been the perfect live-action Tony Stark...

Anonymous said...

I remember walking out of the theater from Superman with an overwhelming emotional feeling, and a greater sense of things. One of those times where one steps out of the routine of reality, and really appreciates the moment and being alive.

With that said, I want to say something that came to my mind.

I understand how Superman felt with the death of this great love. I recently lost a very special lady who had a soul connection with me. She was not your average person, it's like she had a greater power that filled her being. She'd been through and seen a lot in her life. She had a drive, and a hope for life that a lot of us seem to be bereft of.

I somehow was drawn to her 9 years past. You will know when something miraculous happens- and the thing that flowed between us was of some greater force than the mundane world. In her later years though, she had suffered with increasing illness made worse from things that were supposed to cure her. It is not easy to deal with someone like this at times, and to keep one's empathy, and patience always open. Even when they are loved by you like a gift of God was laid at your feet. The material world, and one's own limitations get in the way.

I did not have a proper relationship as one might think would happen having such a special bond. We drifted apart at times, and the times got longer in duration. Always my friend- in the REAL sense of the word FRIEND-- I never stopped loving her, and even with distance I remembered this spark of energy that surged between us in the beginning.

After division and argument between us for a good period of time, and me almost deciding it should be let go- something came about for us to remember the true care we held for the WE that the two of us had created. We started talking as the good friends we had been able to, and we planned to get together after a long time of not seeing the other, and make dinner together.

This never came about. I called her the next evening and it was not her that picked up the phone, but a male voice. For a moment, I wondered why I heard this voice, and not hers. Then I realized it was one of her brothers. What he said next was unimaginable to me: Adam- buddy-- Tiffany's gone.

At first I could not comprehend, and thought it was some horrible joke. It was true- her life had passed on.

I've not ever felt so utterly helpless; especially having felt the most powerful thing I had ever known with a magickal woman who was NO mere woman. And, I tried- and still try- to comprehend why the one my spirit connected to would have gone from me. If you had known some of the occurences I felt with her that were beyond our day to day mundane experiences- you would understand my words can not even match the magnitude of what I shared.

So, I know this goes off quite a bit from the basic commentary about this portrayal of Superman in the movies. The thing is- I completely understand what it must have felt like for him at this point in the film. If I could, I would fly around the Earth with all my might to bend the fabric of time, and bring my Tiffany back. The opportunity for our Indian food dinner together, to look her in the eyes after not seeing them for several months- the pretty blue ones, to enjoy the vitality that emanated from her like the source of creation itself, to appreciate her intelligent mind, and to feel the kiss that was like someone had searched the treasures of the world to find the most precious artifact, and put it in my hands- I can no longer do this.

I still believe that she is here. Being in a material body, it's difficult to understand, but I feel that she exists in a different form. I have felt something at times. If anything, my connection to her reinforces that she would not be gone.

Hope you'll understand what I have put forth here. I see the intense anguish and pain Superman would feel. I have been feeling it- no super powers can make it better. As impossible as Superman moving back time seems- imagine how impossible this is to truly accept.


William said...

You will believe that a movie can faithfully translate a comic book character to the big screen and people will go see it. Millions and millions of people.

The original Superman (and Superman 2) are the best argument I can think of against all the changes movie producers make to comic book properties these days so that "regular" people can stomach them. Christopher Reeves wore an exact replica of the comic book Superman costume, and I didn't hear anyone complaining that it looked stupid at the time. He had all of his comic book powers and supporting cast, and Lex Luthor came up with an over-the-top, comic book plot to blow up California with nukes. And audiences loved it. I believe that people want to see the characters they grew up with faithfully brought to life on the big screen. Not some watered down, leather/rubber clad version of them.

For all the praise Singer got for the X-Men movies, his decision to make them look like a yuppie motorcycle gang was horrendous. The characters were barely recognizable as their comic counterparts. After watching the movie with my father, I casually mentioned that the X-Men comic it was based on, and he said "That was based on a comic book? I thought it was just a movie." So, there you have it, Singer managed eradicate everything that made the X-Men feel like comic book characters. Instead of creating the cool comic-to-screen experience most people would have wanted, he made just another action movie with characters that happened to have super powers. Then he took his scalpel and went to work on the Superman franchise.

If Hollywood would make comic book movies that were more like the comic books they are inspired by (like the original Superman did), then I think they'd find that comic book people and "regular" people would still go see them. In fact, the most comic faithful movie yet, The Avengers, was the most successful one to date.

Roygbiv666 said...

"You will believe that a movie can faithfully translate a comic book character to the big screen and people will go see it. Millions and millions of people.

The original Superman (and Superman 2) are the best argument I can think of against all the changes movie producers make to comic book properties these days so that "regular" people can stomach them. Christopher Reeves wore an exact replica of the comic book Superman costume, and I didn't hear anyone complaining that it looked stupid at the time ... Not some watered down, leather/rubber clad version of them."

Agreed. Ditto (almost) on the fan film, Batman: Dead End

Garett said...

Adam, thanks for sharing your story. All the best to you.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your kind comment. I just felt compelled to say something since she is so important to me. I pretty well feel at a loss for what I can do; I know the least I can do is say something to give honor to her and what we shared.

I want to add, anyone who reads this- I mentioned she suffered from illness; she had a number of things happen to her over the years in which I knew her. One of the major sources of her problems originally stemmed from LUPUS.

I am an artist myself, and am trying to save money in order to be able to cast a statue for her in the future. I also plan on contributing to Lupus investigation; right now, I am primarily wanting to save money so I can create this monument to her.

I'd like to ask that anyone who might feel inclined to do so, please donate to some cause that actually seems like it may be making a difference towards some health condition like this- perhaps even specifically Lupus. Lupus probably needs some effort put into it, as it is a very elusive and unpredictable illness.

Again, Garett- I really appreciate your consideration, and the good wish. Take care as well.


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