A Movie A Week:

Article from Issue #023

"Superman: The Movie" Movie Review

3.0/5 Stars

[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]

There's a lot of cliché opening lines I could use for the movie review this week but that's a testament to the iconic nature of the titular character. Every red-blooded American knows The Man of Steel just as well as any other franchise and, though he may not be in his prime, he's a timeless symbol of good values (which may be the reason for his lesser popularity today). Luckily, when the opportunity came along to produce the 1978 movie, all of this was preserved and the first real superhero movie was born.

Superman: The Movie poster art

When the writers of Superman: The Movie wanted to bring the superhero subgenre into the mainstream, they knew they would have to take the origin story seriously to give it a sense of realism. The best option? Get Marlon Brando to play Superman's father, Jor-El. A good amount of screentime is given to the destruction of Superman's home world of Krypton as well as his teenage years as Clark Kent on Earth. It's roughly 50 minutes in (depending on which cut you're watching) before Christopher Reeve makes his first caped appearance in the Fortress of Solitude where he learns about his powers and responsibilities of being the sole survivor of his species. These are immportant lessons that will soon be used to prevent the entire west coast from sinking into the ocean.

Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) has bought up lots of worthless desert land east of the San Andreas Fault with the intention of making it the new west coast by bombing the fault line. Millions of people are thankful that Superman just happens to have recently made himself known to the world by preventing mostly petty crimes. While trying to maintain a mild-mannered life as a reporter for the Daily Planet and pining for his co-worker Lois Lane, Clark Kent must now worry about redirecting two nuclear missiles as his alter ego: Superman. With his super strength, speed, and the ability of flight, this normally wouldn't be a problem. But Lex Luthor has learned of and obtained his only weakness, Kryptonite.

Yes, the movie is just as cheesy as it sounds. I guess the art of making kids movies that older audiences can enjoy has greatly improved over time but every single joke is cringeworthy and accompanied by "stooge music". At least it's John Williams stooge music we're hearing. This is somewhat of a non-issue considering Superman: The Movie is based on a comic book but it just feels off after spending the first hour or so dealing with such a serious plot. Or maybe it's that first hour that should have been left out. When Superman finally does take to the skies (he spends a lot of time cruising through the air to show off the special effects) the movie picks up a bit.

The last act, though it reaches a new level of cheesy that has to be seen to be believed, is really what the second act is missing out on. It's as if most of the actual action was saved for the rest of the series and this first installment serves as merely a teaser. The odd story structure is likely due to it being filmed simultaneously with 'Superman II' and they really should be seen together. The miniatures work and special effects are great and hold up surprisingly well even if the rest of the movie isn't as fortunate. That's why I give Superman: The Movie:

3.0/5 Stars

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What movie would you like to see John review next week? Your suggestions are always welcome at: john@cineweekly.com

- John Holliday -
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