Movie Review #660
Studio: Dovemead Limited – Film Export A.G. – International Film Production
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Richard Donner. Produced by Pierre Spengler. Created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster. Story by Mario Puzo. Screenplay by Mario Puzo and David Newman and Leslie Newman & Robert Benton. Additional uncredited writer: Tom Mankiewicz.
Rated PG by the MPAA – mild violence, infrequent and mild sexual content, profanity. Runs 2 hours, 23 minutes (2000 restoration runs 2 hours, 31 minutes). Premiered in Washington, D.C. on December 10, 1978. Royal European Charity premiere in the UK on December 13, 1978. Limited release in New York City, New York on December 11, 1978; in Boston, Massachusetts on December 13, 1978; and in Los Angeles, California on December 14, 1978. Wide release in the UK on December 14, 1978; and in the USA on December 15, 1978.
With Christopher Reeve as Superman / Clark Kent. Starring Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Margot Kidder, Jack O’Halloran, Valerie Perrine, Maria Schell, Terence Stamp, Phyllis Thaxter, Susannah York, and Jeff East.
I would forgive the set design, the obvious blue screens, and the home video look in “Superman”, even if the technical department reunited everybody who worked on the looks of “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. (And believe me, the looks aren’t that miserable at all.) “Superman” goes the distance with its campy look. It also embraces it. You don’t have to fanboy the hell out of yourself to love the opening titles, not to mention the story that follows. You could be the average six-year-old. Or you could be the average thirty-six-year-old.
“Superman” isn’t an action movie, either. The melodrama is what heightens our faith in the movie, especially when the implausible adventure arrives. Mario Puzo wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay. Evidently, his heavy work on “The Godfather” strengthens this movie: it’s an epic in the making, not a thin, fleeting comic book. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s tale comes as the rise of a hero–or, in this case, a superhero–starting from the very beginning. The movie flies by faster than a speeding bullet, and honestly, I can’t imagine the pacing being any stronger. It’s 50 minute before the “Superman” costume is used to transition from Clark Kent’s boyhood into his adulthood. 51 minutes before we see Lois Lane working at the Daily Planet. 71 minutes before we see Clark in costume, ready to save the world. A time after that, the name “Superman” is first uttered. We’re told unmistakably that Superman will return; I doubt not that when he does, we’ll begin to see the fall of this hero.
The “Superman” story is one of the most transcendent pieces ever written. This reimagination, from director Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon”, “The Omen”), was a prototypical effort in the superhero genre. Three and a half decades later, it definitely has competitors. Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy being the universally decided cream of the crop. Though even its imperfections, “Superman” has yet to be topped, in its representation of the genre. Knowing that the movie remains fresh, comic booky, and fun (even in the über, über impossible ending), I doubt it’ll lose that power.