“I’m here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.”
The infant son of a scientist (Marlon Brandon) from the dying planet of Krypton is sent to Earth, where he is adopted by the childless Kents (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter) and grows into a misunderstood teen (Jeff East). When young Clark grows up (played by Christopher Reeve), he moves to the bustling city of Metropolis, where he becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet and falls for a co-worker named Lois Lane (Margot Kidder); meanwhile, his alter-ego Superman fights to protect the world against scheming criminal Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who is plotting to destroy California’s coastline.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “wonderful surprise… blockbuster” likely “wouldn’t have worked at all if unknown Christopher Reeve” — possessing “the handsome, square-jawed face of a classic movie hero” — hadn’t been “the ideal choice to play the most famous comic-book hero” in American history, a man “as honest, kind, loyal, dependable, and moral as he looks”. Superman is indeed an “epic film”, one which takes its time relating the story of Superman’s background. First we see his origins on the planet Krypton, where his father Jor-El (infamously played by a wildly overpaid Marlon Brando) and mother Lara (Susannah York) reluctantly prepare to send baby Kal-El to Earth in an attempt to save his life. Next we see vignettes from his childhood and adolescence with the kindly Kents (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter — both perfectly cast), and we watch his “coming-of-age” as he heads north to learn about his destiny as a superhero on Earth.
Once Superman (now played by Reeve) arrives in Metropolis, the meat of the story begins, as we’re introduced to both the film’s villain (Gene Hackman) and Reeve’s love interest, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder, who Peary argues is “also perfectly cast” — though many fans seem to disagree). Like Peary, I’m not fond of the “broad comedy involving Luthor and his cohorts” (Ned Beatty as Luthor’s right-hand man Otis is particularly annoying), but agree that the rest of the film “smoothly mixes myth, lyricism…, comedy (mostly deadpan), science fiction, romance, suspense, and tragedy.” Reeve was (sadly) never better than here in his first, most iconic role; he has great fun embodying both sides of Superman’s personality, and makes for a genuinely empathetic superhero. His scenes with Lane are surprisingly romantic, with their nighttime flight over New York City a particular highlight of the film (indeed, the special effects — while a tad “old fashioned” — are just as fun now as they once were). Film fanatics will likely be pleasantly surprised when they revisit this must-see blockbuster, which set the standard for future superhero flicks.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Christopher Reeve as Superman
- Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
- Superman’s nighttime flight with Lois
- Striking set designs
- Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter as Clark’s Earthly parents
- Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor
- Superman’s many heroic feats throughout the film
- Oscar-winning special effects
- Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography
- Humorous dialogue: [Lex Luthor] “We all have our little faults; mine’s in California.”
- John Williams’ memorable score
Yes, as a genuine blockbuster classic.