Archive for the ‘Richard Donner’ Category

Superman (1978 film)

Posted: May 10, 2014 in DC, Richard Donner, Superman


It’s difficult to look back on a movie like Superman without any sort of historical context. The box office landscape today is so shockingly different than it was back then. Because of that, any modern assessment seems too reverent while any critique from a contemporary point of view feels needlessly antiquated. Regardless of what decade you’re watching this film in, there is one word that will always stick with it: important. Superman is an incredibly important comic book movie.

Looking back at it with the assurance of hindsight, it’s hard to understand why this movie was such a gamble. Its script was handled by an incredibly well-respected writer (Mario Puzo) and a recently popular filmmaker (Richard Donner) directed a cast lead by two A-list stars (Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando). Yet, there was no formula for a blockbuster back then, since the age of the blockbuster was still so fresh and new. Star Wars had yet to be released during production and Jaws could have just as easily been a fluke than a signal to a new wave of motion picture trends.

As I type this, I realize that I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been stated a hundred times already or can’t be gleaned from a Wikipedia article. So forgive me for abandoning the earlier history lesson in an attempt to focus on what this film means to me. As a child, I had precious few comic related films to latch onto. There was the Superman series and the 60’s Batman movie (more on that in a later post, I’m sure). The 80’s Batman film came out when I was in kindergarten and was a little too adult for me for a couple of more years. So for the longest time, I had campy, funny Batman (that had a kind of “small” aesthetic) and Superman. In comparison, Superman was grand and felt like a real “movie”. It was the meaty filet mignon to the scrawny cheeseburger of Batman. I remember seeing the VHS box art, “You’ll believe a man can fly”, it promised. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t. That first flight in the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman takes off and banks in front of the camera, is a sight to behold. I’m getting chills remembering it. And THAT is why this film is important. Not because it was first or because it was a blockbuster or because it had a great cast. It’s important because it made people believe in Superman. It made him real.

 “It’s true! You will!!!”

Almost since before the first film was released, DC and Warner Bros. have struggled with successive Superman films. The sequel (which was being filmed at the same time as the first) was taken from original director Richard Donner and was shoddily cut together with new footage filmed by Richard Lester. The less said about the other two films in the franchise, the better (for now at least). And a 2006 return to Donner’s Superman universe was met with praise from critics but mostly “meh”‘s from audiences. In 2013 the Man of Steel was rebooted into a darker, grittier hero and the response was the polar opposite of last outing. So why does the original get so much right, while later installments struggle? Is it simply because it was first? I don’t know. I will leave that open for debate in the comments. And hopefully that concept can be further explored in future posts.

Needless to say, the film left its mark.

Random Thoughts

Best line: “You’ve got me! Who’s got you?!”

That whole “Can you read my mind” scene is still a little…off-putting.

Is it possible to see Superman fly and NOT hear John Williams’ theme?

I would still love to see the ending tweaked to fit in with Richard Donner’s cut of Superman 2. Maybe someday…

Well, that’s my first write up. How was it? Too technical? Not technical enough? Please let me know in the comments. I’m still finding my voice here and input is welcome. Help me make this blog SUPER! Get it? Did you get what I did there?