Superman (1978)

Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth. Raised by kindly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, young Clark discovers the source of his superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis to fight evil. As Superman, he battles the villainous Lex Luthor, while, as novice reporter Clark Kent, he attempts to woo co-worker Lois Lane.

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Superman Takes Off On The Big Screen

10 January 2006 | by ccthemovieman-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

It’s interesting that another re-make is coming out this year. Man, time flies because I vividly remember when this movie came out and the excitement it caused. This was the first Superman anyone had ever seen with modern-day special effects, so it was pretty cool, to say the least.

It’s still very entertaining, and the more I watch this the more I’m amused with the villain (Gene Hackman as “Lex Luthor”) and the lines he delivers. He’s a funny guy. Christopher Reeve, meanwhile, was always a popular “Man Of Steel” and the special effects are still fun to watch, from the long opening scenes showing the end of the planet Kryton all the way to the ending credits. There’s a solid soundtrack to this, too.

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Personally, I didn’t care for Margot Kidder as Lois Lane but then again, Lane’s character in the 1950s TV series was a bit annoying, too. I guess it comes with her character. However, being a kid growing up with that series with all its innocence (it’s now on DVD, by the way, and worth a purchase), it was just too weird hearing Lois ask Superman what color her panties were!

Anyway, this is simply great entertainment. As a superhero, Superman has always been THE MAN. Three sequels followed this film, the second one being the best in my opinion.

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You’ll still believe a man can fly

Author: y2mckay from Bay Area, CA
12 May 2001

Every once in a while you’ll be flipping channels or meandering through the aisles of the local videorama, and you will stumble upon a film that takes you back to your childhood – and the child-like wonder that accompanied it. After 2 decades, as well as numerous (inferior) sequels and remakes, the original Superman is back.

Well, okay, maybe this wasn’t the ORIGINAL one, but certainly no other version of the legend has had such a lasting impact as this one. Nor has any other telling of the tale been as thorough and ambitious as that put forth by Director Richard Donner and Story writer Mario Puzo. Add to that the utterly inspired (and inspiring) score by John Williams, and you have a dose of that good old movie magic. Even the opening credits manage to raise your adrenaline levels, as the Superman symbol soars through space across the screen and Williams’ opening theme perfectly builds to a masterful crescendo. It will make you want to stand up from your couch and soar out of the nearest window, though I don’t recommend it if you live on anything above the first floor.

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The film begins on Superman’s home world of Krypton, a dazzling planet dotted by crystalline cities which, combined again with William’s incredible theme music, seem to present an image of heaven itself. A super-race of highly advanced beings, the Kryptonians’ only weakness is their pride, as the infant Superman’s father, Jor-el points out. It is that pride that leads them to ignore Jor-el’s warnings that the planet is doomed by an impending supernova. In a last ditch effort to save his son, as well as some remnant of his race, he sends his infant son Kal-el to the planet Earth in a deep space probe. Marlon Brando, in the role of Jor-el, gives one of his best performances. His role is the stuff of Hollywood legend, since he was paid 4 million dollars for his role of about 10 minutes, but despite his exorbitant fee and minimal screen time, his performance is no less worthy.

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The probe crashes in a farmer’s field in the early 1950’s, to be discovered by the Kents, with Glen Ford in the role of Pa Kent. Though he seems to have even less screen time than Brando, his role as the young Superman’s moral example is no less pivotal to the story. Superman’s childhood and most of his teen years are completely skipped over, however, Jeff East gives an excellent portrayal of the teen Clark Kent, who is only beginning to discover the real extent of his powers.

Most of the supporting cast equally distinguish themselves. Gene Hackman creates a charming and amusing villain in Lex Luthor, and while Margot Kidder’s portrayal of Lois Lane is a bit forced and grating at times, she still shines with a kind of charm, and it is always fun to watch her slip from the tough-as-nails reporter to the flustered schoolgirl every time the Man of Steel hits the scene. If you still don’t like her performance, watch the “Lois Lane screen tests” in the special features section of the DVD, which includes tryouts by various prominent actresses of the day. After watching them, I think you’ll agree that the filmmakers made the right casting choice.

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But of course, the person we will remember the most is Christopher Reeve as Superman, and this is the way he should be remembered. It was certainly his greatest role, and although he overplayed the nerdy and fumbling Clark Kent, and his Superman sometimes pauses to deliver silly platitudes, he does so with an air of wry amusement. He may act like a goody two-shoes, but mostly he just seems to be having a good time showing off, and damn it, why shouldn’t he? He’s Superman, after all. If I could fly, you could damn well bet I’d be showing off too. This is confirmed in a brief but enjoyable restored scene in which, after saving Lois Lane and the President, as well as foiling several crimes, Superman flies back to his Fortress of Solitude to discuss it with his “Father”, or rather, the persona of Jor-el which has been preserved in memory crystals and sent to earth with the infant Kal-el, so that he could benefit from Jor-el’s knowledge and wisdom. He admonishes his son that, while it is natural to enjoy being able to show off his powers, he must learn to be humble and keep his vanity in check.

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It is surprising how little moments of restored footage such as this one seem to breathe much more life into the characters, giving them a depth not seen in their previous cinematic incarnation. And while the film is a tale of the power of good, it is ultimately a tribute to the power of love. It is love that makes Superman more vulnerable than even kryptonite, love that makes him betray his Kryptonian father’s admonition to “never interfere with human history”, and love that makes him truly human.

Though it is nearly an hour into the film before Superman finally makes his first heroic and world-stunning appearance, it is well worth the wait. The action gets more and more exciting, rivaling anything that today’s action counterparts, like “The Mummy Returns” can dish out. The effects, though antiquated by today’s overblown CGI standards, are still impressive and manage to maintain their looks and grace in their old age. As Lex Luthor launches a diabolical plan involving hijacked twin nuclear missiles, the subsequent chase, followed by Superman’s efforts to save an Earthquake-ravaged California, are breathtaking even by today’s standards.

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Like the superhero of title, the film itself is not without its weaknesses. In trying to keep in touch with its vintage comic book roots, it can be a tad cornball at times, and occasionally gets bogged down by what I call the “golly gee-whiz” factor. Yet it does so in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, retaining enough adult sophistication and genuine drama to keep it from lapsing into a mere kiddy show or a parody of the source material. In fact, the film has several surprisingly mature nuances. If, like me, you hadn’t seen this film since you were a kid, then you will be in a much better position to fully enjoy the subtleties of the film now. (i.e, Lois Lane, in her rooftop interview of Superman asks “How big are you . . . er, I mean . .. how TALL are you”. I obviously missed that as a kid, because it had me rolling with laughter this time around.

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But despite a few loose threads in the cape and tights, The Man of Steel remains quite intact and appropriately larger than life. It is therefore fitting that this film has been re-mastered and re-released in collector’s two-sided DVD format. The sound and picture quality are excellent, wiping away the tarnish of age and making the film shine again. Some of the many features include the aforementioned restored footage (about 10-15 minutes worth), a few additional deleted scenes (which, I thought, should have been restored into the film as well), commentary by director Richard Donner, the Lois Lane screen tests, specials on the making and origins of the film, and a music-only track (well worth the price of the DVD alone).

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If you haven’t seen this movie since you were a kid, and you want to feel like a kid again, rent it now. If you’ve never seen it at all, then the release of this DVD has taken away your last excuse. You will believe a man can fly.

Christopher Reeve Will Be Missed

Author: departed07 from United States
11 October 2004

I thought I would pay tribute to one of Christopher’s Reeve’s best role ever; and that role is Superman. As many comic book fans follow, the film tells the story of Clark Kent who was born on Krypton and was transported into Earth after the planet exploded and loses his real family. As a new family finds him in the field going home, the couple take Clark as their own son and raise him.

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What the couple know about Clark is that he has a gift to do things twice as fast than any other ordinary human being; but as time goes by, Clark loses his father of a stroke and decides to take a life of his own as he works for the Metropoltian Newspaper, he meets Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and he has a crush on her, even saving the woman from being killed. Just like any comic book movie, there is always a villain; with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in a campy role along with Ned Beatty as Otis, the sycophant with no sense, these two plan to destroy the world with nuclear weapons. Christopher Reeve doesn’t get into the Superman Costume until 45 minutes into the film in which he saves Lois in one scene, busts bad guys and becomes and icon to the public. Superman is the finest comic book movie, and I only wish Christopher Reeve’s family the best.

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Filming

Principal photography began on March 28, 1977 at Pinewood Studios for Krypton scenes, budgeted as the most expensive film ever made at that point. Since Superman was being shot simultaneously with Superman II, filming lasted 19 months, until October 1978. Filming was originally scheduled to last between seven and eight months, but problems arose during production. John Barry served as production designer, while Stuart Craig and Norman Reynolds worked as art directors. Derek Meddings and Les Bowie were credited as visual effects supervisors. Stuart Freeborn was the make-up artist, while Barry, David Tomblin, John Glen, David Lane, Robert Lynn and an uncredited Peter Duffell and André de Toth directed second unit scenes. Vic Armstrong was hired as the stunt coordinator and Reeve’s stunt double; his wife Wendy Leech was Kidder’s double. Superman was also the final complete film by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, who died during post-production while working on Tess for director Roman Polanski.

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The Fortress of Solitude was constructed at Shepperton Studios and at Pinewood’s 007 Stage. Upon viewing the footage of Krypton, Warner Bros. decided to distribute in not only North America, but also in foreign countries. Due to complications and problems during filming, Warner Bros. also supplied $20 million and acquired television rights.

New York City doubled for Metropolis, while the New York Daily News Building served as the location for the offices of the Daily Planet. Brooklyn Heights was also used. Filming in New York lasted five weeks, during the time of the New York City blackout of 1977. Production moved to Alberta for scenes set in Smallville, with the cemetery scene filmed in the canyon of Beynon, Alberta, the high school football scenes at Barons, Alberta, and the Kent farm constructed at Blackie, Alberta.

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Brief filming also took place in Gallup, New Mexico, Lake Mead and Grand Central Terminal. Director Donner had tensions with the Salkinds and Spengler concerning the escalating production budget and the shooting schedule. Creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz reflected, “Donner never got a budget or a schedule. He was constantly told he was way over schedule and budget. At one point he said, ‘Why don’t you just schedule the film for the next two days, and then I’ll be nine months over?’.” Richard Lester, who worked with the Salkinds on The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, was then brought in as a temporary co-producer to mediate the relationship between Donner and the Salkinds, who by now were refusing to talk to each other. With his relationship with Spengler, Donner remarked, “At one time if I’d seen him, I would have killed him.”

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Lester was offered producing credit but refused, going uncredited for his work. Salkind felt that bringing a second director onto the set meant there would be someone ready in the event that Donner could not fulfill his directing duties. “Being there all the time meant he [Lester] could take over,” Salkind admitted. “[Donner] couldn’t make up his mind on stuff.”  On Lester, Donner reflected, “He’d been suing the Salkinds for his money on Three and Four Musketeers, which he’d never gotten. He won a lot of his lawsuits, but each time he sued the Salkinds in one country, they’d move to another, from Costa Rica to Panama to Switzerland. When I was hired, Lester told me, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t work for them. I was told not to, but I did it. Now I’m telling you not to, but you’ll probably do it and end up telling the next guy.’ Lester came in as a ‘go-between’. I didn’t trust Lester, and I told him. He said, ‘Believe me, I’m only doing it because they’re paying me the money that they owe me from the lawsuit. I’ll never come onto your set unless you ask me; I’ll never go to your dailies. If I can help you in any way, call me.”

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It was decided to stop shooting Superman II and focus on finishing Superman. Donner had already completed 75% of the sequel. The filmmakers took a risk: if Superman was a box office bomb, they would not finish Superman II. The original climax for Superman II had General Zod, Ursa and Non destroying the planet, with Superman time traveling to fix the damage.  In the original ending for Superman, the nuclear missile that Superman pushed into outer space happens to strike the Phantom Zone, freeing the three Kryptonian supervillains, The final shot was originally going to be General Zod, Non and Ursa all flying towards Earth, in an ominous sequel hook moment.[citation needed] The sequence can be seen in its entirety at the beginning of Donner’s edit of Superman II, where it was fully restored.

Donner commented, “I decided if Superman is a success, they’re going to do a sequel. If it ain’t a success, a cliffhanger ain’t gonna bring them to see Superman II.

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What a Major Disappointment- this is no masterpiece

3/10
Author: Red Death from United States
21 August 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I honestly do not get why people love this film so much. Did I even watch the same movie these guys did?

The movie starts on Krypton, a surprisingly dull set piece that looks more like something cooked up by a designer who is very rich, yet lacking in imagination. Nothing makes it really stand out as a truly alien world, making for a rather forgettable set piece.

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Once Superman arrives on Earth, we see his origin story, which doesn’t particularly stand out to me, largely due to the movie not really examining what his experience with his powers are like when he is young and can’t control him. Another point of contention is that when he is 18, he is played by an actor who doesn’t fit the look of Superman. We get to the part where he works at the daily planet, which is watchable.

The acting is decent, for the most part, I’ll give the movie that much. But I honestly feel it could have been put to better use.

Now, for the plot. My first problem with this is that the missiles Lex Luthor steals would not be transported in any state for which they would be assembled and fit to use for the safety hazards this would pose. My second problem is that even a 100 megaton yield hydrogen bomb on top of a fault line would not be enough to cause a major earthquake. If Lex Luthor was such a brilliant scientist, he should have known that. It just doesn’t make sense.

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My third problem is that Superman brings Lois Lane back from the dead by reversing time itself by going backwards around the Earth (with terrible yet unintentionally funny special effects), which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It also kills what precious little suspense was there to begin with because Superman could theoretically keep doing this whenever he felt like it. It really just felt like the writers wrote themselves into a corner and pulled something out of their asses to keep the plot going.

This movie suffers from a terminally bland character who is never endangered by anything but kryptonite, and whose only personality trait is “nice” and other slight variants. We never see any of the dilemmas a godlike alien who was the last of his species and an alien to the planet he lives on would face. Instead, we see a smiling, perfect hero who is not merely incapable of doing wrong, but incapable of being tempted. If “nice” and “perfect” are the only personality traits one has to go by, than it becomes meaningless. The smiling, easygoing hero feels forced and fake.

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I have heard that Superman being nigh invincible is interesting when he has to avoid being tempted to use his powers for selfish purposes, which would be true if he was capable of being tempted.

With poor special effects, a plot greatly weakened by holes and general lack of logic and an overdramatic score that blares out even when nothing of importance happens, I got one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood in this movie. And what frustrates me the most is that if Superman could be written so he is less one dimensional, it would be a movie worth seeing. Ultimately, though, this movie is a dull, unfulfilling exercise in wasted potential lack character development, a good plot, a good score and decent/interesting special effects. This, however, is just my opinion and you can feel free to have your own.

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