Hello, fellow moviegoers!
With Warner Bros and Patty Jenkins' new Wonder Woman film opening this weekend, last night I decided to rewatch the original 1978 Superman film directed by Richard Donner. Jenkins has stated in the past that the original Superman film was a big inspiration for her new Wonder Woman film (which is getting amazing reviews by the way). When I heard that, I felt like I needed to go back and watch Superman again. I haven't seen the film in probably a decade at this point, so what did I think of it now?
Well, I think I'm going to surprise a lot of people here by saying that I thought Superman was just okay. It had some really good moments in it, moments that I completely understand why they've become so iconic. However, while watching this I couldn't help but feel they were great moments in a decent movie. Superman is a historic movie that changed a lot in the grand scheme of filmmaking, and it helped to shape superhero films as we know them today, unfortunately though, it doesn't really hold up all that well forty years later.
First off, I know there are some people out there that are thinking that I'm not a big fan of this movie simply because it's not a superhero film in today's sense. Meaning, it's not an action-packed the movie with lots of explosions and super complex fight scenes. To that, I would say I that I actually love smaller movies that don't have that. One of my favorite films of all time is Birdman, which is an entirely dialogue driven film. Superman, to me, just failed to be as absolutely amazing as most people hail it to be.
Whenever I discuss older films with my father, he's always stressing to me to take them within the context of the time they came out. I always try my best to do that, but simultaneously, I don't want to use the context of the time as an excuse for a film not to be of great quality (For example, Xanadu is an absolutely awful movie). Some try and make the argument that older films simply aren't on the same level of quality as modern films. For that, I have two examples that prove the opposite. Firstly, there's the original Star Wars, which came out a year prior to Superman. Obviously, I absolutely love Star Wars, and I'm also really nostalgic about it, which may make me biased. However, the quality of the film can really be determined when you show it to somebody now who has never seen it before, which I actually did a couple weeks back. They also absolutely loved it. The second film I would like to bring up is 1932's Frankenstein. A film that despite being 85 years old, is still extremely enjoyable. In fact, I would go as far to say that I love that movie, and it's leagues better than some of the more visual effects heavy films we have today. So the point I'm trying to make here is that saying Superman came out in 1978 is not an excuse for it to be a mediocre film.
Now, I do want to make it very clear that I did enjoy Superman. I thought it was a good movie. I just believe that it is nowhere near as good as a lot of people out there claim it to be. When this movie works, it works fantastically. Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Christopher Reeves in the title role of Superman both gave stellar performances. Reeves performance is highlighted the most in the way he plays Clark Kent and Superman completely differently. Kent is more awkward and clumsy, and he just wants to be a normal guy. Superman, on the other hand, well, he's Superman. He's the definition of a hero. He's brave, selfless, and just wants to do the right thing.
However, where this film faltered a lot, for me, was in the pacing, and the villains. Firstly, the pacing in this movie is way off. It starts off strong on the planet Krypton, and even up to Kal-El on the farm living with the Kents, it was pretty solid. However, there are multiple scenes throughout this film that just really seem to drag and bring the entire film to a screeching halt. These scenes plague the film all the way to the end. Warning, the example I have to give may seem blasphemous to some people, but hey, this is just my opinion. It's a movie. That pacing issue is most evident, to me, in the now iconic flying scene with Superman and Lois. The first half of that scene is fabulous. It's really well directed, acted, and edited together. Where that scene derailed was when Lois started reciting a poem in her head for the entire audience to hear. When it started, I thought it was a little odd, but then it just kept going and it didn't stop, and in all honesty, it almost ruined the scene for me.
The second major complaint I had with the film were the villains. Gene Hackman gave a fine performance in the role of Lex Luthor, but it was the character itself that really got to me. He was just a simple, cliche, mustache-twirling villain. He didn't have any motivations except for money. His diabolical plot was really silly and over-the-top, which could work if the film's tone had called for that, but it didn't. Luthor in this film served no other purpose than to have a bad guy in the movie. He wasn't there to add anything to the movie, he wasn't there to thrill audiences, he was there to give Superman something to be mad at.
Like I stated earlier, I still enjoyed Superman. As a whole, I don't dislike it by any means. However, it does have some major flaws in it that keep it from being as amazing as everyone claims it is. The performances across the board were pretty good, particularly Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeves. The film has some really great stand-out moments, moments that I completely understand why they've become as iconic as they are. In between those moments, however, the film really sinks down and becomes mediocre at best. I'll probably end up giving this film another shot someday, but as of now, I'm not a big fan.
So what's your opinion on 1978's Superman? Does it still hold up well for you today? Let me know by commenting on this post! Also, if you enjoyed this article, share it on Facebook and Twitter. It really helps! Don't forget, I post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so check back then for more movie reviews and other miscellaneous movie thoughts!
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