Superhero Movies (Part One)- Superman

It makes perfect sense that Superman would be the first superhero to get a (real) movie because he launched the comic book industry into what we know today. He wasn’t the only superhero to do so, but he was certainly one of the early greats.

Now, for those who are new to my posts then you may have not seen my DC vs Marvel discussion where I stated that I root for both companies to be successful.  I don’t take a side in that fight, but rather wish for cool movies from both.

For many, the best Superman to date is Superman (1978)

Superman (1978)- Lets give credit to this movie for being the first full length, non-animated superhero movie ever. I think a lot comic book fans were almost in hiding before this movie. They feared the ridicule of being a comic book fan like it was some strange thing they did so unconventional. (Tragic, people should be loved for their eccentricities especially in cases like this!) The reality was that these people were ahead of the rest. They were exposed to many different characters with great illustrators and more importantly great storytellers that entertained them.

Life can really suck sometimes, so we can’t cast entertainment to the side like it’s a waste of time. To me, it’s a way to make life more fulfilling.  Sure,I(we)  may still have a job, and the everyday struggles of anyone,but it’s nice to get lost in a different world and see a new perspective. Sometimes they can even teach or inspire us to reach for new heights, and take on new ideas. These comics were detailed fictional series filled with illustrations and I’ll never knock someone for reading them.

WAIT!   I need to be fair and say I have a bias against Superman. When I was a young boy, one of my first stories was about this alien with superpowers. Long story short, someone read it and said it was really good, but that someone had basically done it already decades before me. Because I basically ripped off Superman. (I was mighty pissed!), but DC and many others beat me to it. (That’s life)

Anyways, Superman uses a great cast of Christopher Reeve as Superman, Marlon Brando as Kor-El, and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. (What a cast!) Christopher Reeve was a good choice to play Superman.  He played the character fairly (at least in the first couple films) and was fitting of what Superman was all about.

As for Marlon Brando playing Kor-El, for one of the most respected actors of the time to play a role in a superhero film.   That was something special, Brando was established and revered.

Finally,  Gene Hackman as Luthor. We watch the film now and we see an old school version of Luthor in the film, but still one of the best versions ever.  (Personally, I think Kevin Spacey was great as Lex Luthor and maybe the best).

As for the movie itself, I must say that I respect it and what it did for superhero culture, but I’m not a huge fan of it.

.Superman has a rich backstory that details what happened to his father, Kor-El, and their planet Krypton. Before we get to the meat of the story, they explain things to the audience because they expected non-comic book fans to check out the movie (and they did). I feel this could have been handled better; it takes too long to actually get to Clark Kent/Superman things.

As I said, this movie has tremendous historical value and the cast is great. Sometimes the pacing is really much too slow.  Also, while I understand traditionally that Lois Lane is the damsel in distress type (She’s come a long way…..kinda.), it still bugs me how much she needs to be rescued by the man. (I’m a millennial, so traditional gender roles are generally outdated.)

There are also a few moments are too cheesy and surreal (even for a comic book film).I felt the movie tried to present a semi-serious version of Superman and they did a couple of actions that were simply too silly for me to let slide. (Let the purists cry foul, it’s my take, get your own.)

 

Superman is not a bad movie by any means, but it’s not my favorite superhero adaptation. It uses good acting and storytelling to take the place of the special effects ( again, for the 1970’s, the effects were decent, but Star Wars downgrades everyone).  It was popular enough to set off a whole franchise and open the door for many others to follow (enter the Batman) and many more.  Despite it’s flaws, I appreciate what this film did for superheroes. Brought them out of the shadows and into the mainstream like never before. The grandfather of the superhero genre (which now has way too many grandchildren).

I’m not devoting another post to the sequels. Instead, I speak briefly about them before.

The sequels- I didn’t enjoy the sequels to Superman. I think the first one had a lot of pressure to be good. That the studios and everyone involved really put it all together well enough to work. The following films weren’t as special.

 

Superman 2– (1980)- Christopher Reeves and Gene Hackman reprise their respected roles. These two shine in the film once again along with improved special effects. The addition of Terrence Stamp as General Zod was a fine addition.  After a more recent viewing, I enjoy this film more than previous viewings, though the humor really sinks into some ridiculousness at times. Also, the special effects are still cheese compared to today (time always win in the end….well unless you are Vandal Savage.)  It was a financial and critical success for its time and really pushed the franchise to new heights in many ways.

I actually might like this film more than the first one because the pace is smoother.  I understand there is some issues with director Richard Donner, but the film came out nicely enough. (Minus the goofy humor, one-liners, and Lois Lane in distress always.)

Superman 3- (1983)-It just falls apart here. Considering how great the first two films were by comparison. This is an absolute disaster.  Richard Pryor was a very funny man, but he did not belong in this film.  The tone, the humor, the acting, and most noticeably the writing all went downhill.  (Bad things do happen to good franchises.)

Superman IV:The  Quest for Peace (1987)- There are Superman man fans that probably still have the worst nightmares because of this horrible movie. (It’s the Batman and Robin of Superman films- they both have the same IMDB rating of 3.7) Don’t even try to watch this film, it’s worthless (and so a once proud franchise dies).

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