Nearly two weeks ago I posted about how I was going to have to dedicate myself to watching movies at least three times a week if Film Quest 2018 was going to reach my goal of 100. And although I’ve kept on the pace, I did take a special detour that I’ll remember for years.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of superheroes. specifically Superman and Spider-man. I got to enjoy all six of the Spider-man films in the theater, as well as Superman Returns, Man Of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League. And yes, I’m such a fan of Superman that I did, in fact, enjoy the much maligned Superman films mentioned in that list.
But none of them were my favorite Superman movie, which hit theaters before I was born.
Countless times growing up, I enjoyed the 1978 version of Superman from Richard Donner, starring the man who perfectly embodied the last son of Krypton. As both Clark Kent and The Man Of Steel, Christopher Reeve has yet to be matched. And on November 25th, 2018, I finally got to go to the movie theater and see the movie which made me believe man could fly on the big screen.
As if the experience weren’t memorable enough, I got to share the experience with my son who was experiencing the film for the first time – in any format.
He didn’t love the movie, which I understand because it has quite a bit of character development and slower parts he can’t appreciate yet at his age, especially given the vast difference in visual effects from movies in 2018. Donner’s classic holds up well, but its visuals understandably fall short in comparison with films which benefit from the 40 years of advancements in the field – some of which helped considerably by this film.
Having not watched the movie in a few years, I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. Perhaps having held up better than I had remembered.
Watching Christopher Reeve give a performance with such attention to detail that he made it believable that a simple pair of glasses would keep people from recognizing that a reporter from the Daily Planet is actually Superman. Sure, the hairstyle makes a bit of a difference, but a prime example of how Reeve used his body language and speech to differentiate between his two personas is in the scene where he visits Lois as Clark shortly after having flown her around Metropolis as Superman. At first he stands tall and removes his glasses, seemingly ready to reveal his secret identity to his co-worker. When he thinks better of it as she comes back from the other room, he puts his glasses back on, hunches over a little bit, cowers back slightly, and removes all sense of confidence from his voice. It’s a stark contrast from how he effectively flirted with Lois during their interview not 20 minutes prior. Whether he was catching a helicopter with one hand, helping a cat stuck in a tree, or pulling Lois’ car out of an earthquake-caused chasm and ripping the door off of it, he seemed just as completely natural in that role as he did explaining to Lois that he fainted when they were getting mugged or fumbling over his words as he tried to talk to Lois after work.
It’s absolutely no surprise that there were quite a few great moments with Gene Hackman portraying Lex Luthor, whether it was his one-liner quips, or unveiling his plan for the Crime Of The Century to Superman while manipulating him towards the end of getting him to unveil the Kryptonite himself, or standing confidently in the prison yard facing the Warden and certain imprisonment.
Otis was funnier than I remember, probably because I’m old enough to understand his dialogue and was completely focused on the film with no phone calls or distractions from people not watching the film with me. And Valerie Perrine as Miss Tessmacher? I appreciated her far more than when I was a kid, partially because I have a libido now, but also because she’s a well-written character. She’s a great henchwoman for Lex Luthor and serves as a great way to provide exposition in ways that Otis doesn’t, because she’s not played as a complete idiot like he is, and because she questions him a bit.
I hadn’t remembered just how much of a force of momentum Margot Kidder was as Lois Lane. I remembered her getting into trouble a couple times and needing saving, but I hadn’t fully remembered how much energy and moxie she displayed. She’s not going to let herself get mugged at gunpoint without at least trying to fight back. During her exclusive interview with Superman, she not only tries to get lots of information out of him, but she very blatantly flirts with him, essentially inviting him to see what she looked like in her underwear. When her editor announces that the new reporter joining their staff is going to be on the city beat with her, she gets territorial and pushes back.
The scenes on Krypton were about four times as long as I remembered them being, and although the sets were anything but elaborate, it was clear that quite a bit of thought went into the scenes that set the stage perfectly for showing what Superman’s ancestors were like. The confidence and integrity shown by his father really served to establish that those traits were passed along to his son through genetics and the 12-year span in the Fortress of Solitude. We also get a strong understanding of Zod’s intense resolve, his reason for holding Jor-El accountable for his imprisonment, and the frantic despair he exhibited once remanded to the Phantom Zone.
I hope the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II gets a theatrical release a year from now. After hearing about the controversy surrounding the disagreements that lead to the producers removing Richard Donner midway through production of Donner’s sequel, I tracked down a copy of the Donner Cut when it was released, and it’s a much better version than what was originally released.
My rating: 92 out of 100