Batman Vs Superman: Superman The Movie
Director: Richard Donner
Screenplay By: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton
Release Date: December 15, 1978
Run Time: 151 Minutes .
This is an incredibly silly film. Superman is impossibly good and Clark Kent is one of the biggest dorks in any film i’ve ever seen. Lex Luthor’s plan is convoluted and he and his minions are played for laughs so much it is hard to really feel like they are an actual threat. In other words: it’s Superman the way he was meant to be seen. Sure, the film still has issues, but as far as the portrayal of Superman himself, i’ll take this over the abomination that was “Man of Steel”. What made this movie so good? Lets find out.
The film starts oddly enough with General Zod and two of his lackies being tried and sentenced to the phantom zone. This could have been a really out of place bit of fan service, but knowing in advanced that this is setting up the next movie actually makes this scene pretty cool. We then go to Jor-El (Supermans real father) telling the higher-ups of Krypton that their planet will soon explode. As we all know, no one believes him, so he sends his only son to Earth as the planet explodes. Here we come to one of the things I really love about the film, and two of my bigger criticisms.
First the positive: as we watch Krypton explode people actually act like their planet is being destroyed. Comparing this again to “Man of Steel”, every time some one dies in that sequence they just stand there all stoic. Here the citizens of Krypton act with urgency, like normal people would. However, this also leads me to my first criticism. The way this was shot made it look like there was only around 20 people living on Krypton. Compare this to “Star Wars”, witch came out the previous year. The “Star Wars” feels lived in and crowded were as the whole of Krypton feels empty. I don’t know what the budget for this was, so maybe the filmmakers just couldn’t afford more extras, but it would have done the film some good in my opinion if they ponied up the extra cash. My other issue is kind of petty, granted, but…the look of all the Krypton stuff is really boring. The planet, the ship used to bring Kal-El to earth, the “Fortress of Solitude”, it all just looks boring. None of it is in the film very much, so it would be unfair to dwell on it for too long, but more could have been done.
The story picks up again as Kal-El crashed on earth after three years adrift in space. His ship crashes as two elderly people, Jonathan and Martha Kent, are driving by. The two of them quickly pick up on the fact the the young boy isn’t human and adopt his as there own son, giving him the name Clark Kent. We then shoot ahead to Clark High School years. We see him helping out with the schools football team, but as the team manager. One of the cheerleaders ask him if he’d like to go to a party with them, but her boyfriend messes up all the work he had done, forcing him to start over and thus making it to where he couldn’t attend the party. Instead of getting pissed at this, Clark decides to use his super speed to get home before the football players car can pass, showing off his powers a little. And yes, he does out sun a train in this section.
Once he gets home he and his father have a talk about why Clark is on earth. A nice talk, one filled with hope. Jonathan Kent then dies from a heart attack. And I loved that. It shows that even with all of his powers, Superman wont be able to save everyone, but by killing off papa Kent when they did, it makes Clark’s last memory with him the “you’re hear to do good” talk. Because if this, when Clark dons the Superman costume and instantly decided to do good, it makes since. Sure, he hears the recoding Jor-El made for him, but John Kent was the man who raised Clark, and his last words were “do good for people”.
We then shoot forward in time again: Clark is now around 21 years old and has just gotten a job at “The Daily Planet”. Here we meet Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, two main stays of the Superman comics. Lois is tasked with showing Clark around and we get one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
A mugger gets Lois and Clark in an ally way, and tells Lois to hand over her purse. Clark acts like a cowered while Lois forces the mugger to take his eyes off them, then kicks him in the face. His gun goes off, nearly killing Lois, but Clark catches the bullet while acting like he’s fainted. This shows us a few things: Lois is not a “damsel in distress”. While she does end up needing to be saved, she is very proactive. She may get caught, but she ends up where she wants to be. And he does take the initiative to get out of bad situations (more on that latter). But it’s how Clark is personalized that I really like. See, unlike most Superheros, Clark is an all powerful being learning what it means to be human, instead of a normal person learning how to handle god-like powers. So, the role of Clark Kent is really his disguise. And how does he blend in? By being weak. By being scared. If Clark wasn’t Superman, If they were two different people, Clark could easily fill the role of “damsel in distress”. Why do I like this so much? Because it shows how Superman sees us.
Going back to Lois not being just a “damsel in distress”, we get our first bit of Superman in this film as he trys to save here, but again, she isn’t exactly passive about it. She is in a helicopter trying to meet with the President when something goes wrong an it spirals out of control, ultimately hanging on the side of a building. While Clark goes to change, we see Lois constantly trying to climb out of the plain. She doesn’t just sit there and scream for help, she tries to save here self. She ends up falling and thus forcing Superman to save her. And how does she respond to nearly dying? By continuing to be a kick ass reporter.
It’s around now where we finally get to Lex Luthor. Hes been hiding out underground and buying up seemingly useless land. We end up finding out that his big plan is to nuke a large part of California, causing it to fall into the ocean, making the useless land he’s bought to become sea side and thus more valuable. Yeah, it’s a silly plan. And watching him put it all together is equally silly as he and his two goons are played for laughs throughout the film. How he chooses to handle Superman is kind of clever tho. He sends out two bombs heading in separate directions, forcing Superman to chose who to save and who to let die.
Of course, this is Superman we’re talking about and he manages to save everyone. He stops one bomb, but then lets the other hit the fault Luthor was aiming for. Instead of trying to stop it, Superman instead manages to hold the fault together, stopping Luthor’s plans in it’s tracks. But, due to the after shock Lois gets caught in a ditch and is crushed in a land slide. And again, while Superman does end up having to save her, she makes every effort to get out of the car before he shows up.
But now I half to talk about the ending. Lois dies and Superman, in his grief, flies around the world in the opposite direction it normally turns so fast that he spins earth around, thus turning back time so he can save Lois. This is just bad and there is no excuse for it. I think a better ending would have been to have an Doctor save her, bring things back to papa Kents death, showing that Superman may not be able to save everyone, but we’re not all helpless. Or something like that.
Like I said before, this is silly. The effects don’t hold up, every seen with Clark is like watching the Emo Peter Parker from “Spiderman 3” in terms of how dopy he is but this is a fun movie. It’s filled with life and hope and you really do owe it to yourself to watch this one. This may have been the first big budget Superhero movie, but it could still teach some of it’s modern predecessors a thing or two. Join me next time as I take a look at Tim Burton’s “Batman”.
One thing i forgot: the theme song is simply fantastic. Have a listen: