Reviews: Superman

The how-to of origin movies

Looking back, we're lucky Superman: The Movie is as decent as it is. The studio wanted Robert Redford; Donner hired a nobody soap actor. The studio wanted camp; Donner wanted seriousness. A balance was struck. Superman was a lot more popular back then, with numerous TV shows, radio shows, etc., and thus the script doesn't waste time introducing our characters. We freaking know who Perry White is. You could very easily see the Daily Planet scenes picking up where George Reeves series left off.

Cleverly, they used the fall of Krypton as a sequel hook for Superman II. This is so brilliant, every superhero movie now copies it.

I'll come right out and say I don't get Margot Kidder. Lois has always been a straw feminist (give or take a Teri Hatcher), but Kidder really is nails-on-a-chalk-board annoying. We don't even get a hint as to why Clark is attracted to shallow loser. I guess he's into domineering women, like Prince Charles.

I'm not wild about Jeff East, either. The wig is bad enough, but what's with explaining Pa Kent's death for the slow audience? "All these powers! And yet I can't stop heart attacks!" Yeah, way to spoil a nuanced death scene. You dork.

Gene Hackman is a riot as Luthor. It's a little weird how Luthor is public enemy no. 1 considering he only has two bozos working for him. The film implies that the police aren't aware of how tiny Luthor's operation actually is. Hackman is ultimately not very intimidating, just a silver-tongued con artist who can talk his way out of any situation — and secretly enjoys Superman's company, even as he's trying to kill him. Spacey tried to 'deconstruct' the character, which is so pointless and self-defeating that the movie imploded. Yeah, in real life, Hackman's Luthor would be a pathetic grifter who would plumb any depths — even plowing old, rich widows — to make a buck. Who in the blue frosty hell would want to watch that?

For the most part, though, Superman is a fast, fun movie with some layers to it. And some funny one-liners. "And don't call me sugar."