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The distant planet Krypton, after stopping an attack
By Ursa, Non, and Zod, confines all three (but they’ll be back).
But scientist Jor-El still feels that Krypton’s on the brink
Of imminent destruction, which nobody else will think.
As Krypton starts to crumble, he sends out his infant son,
And once the world explodes, the young Kal-El’s the only one.
He flies throughout the stars before crash landing on our sphere
And is adopted by the Kents, who know he’s not from here.
“Clark” grows and calls the earth his home, the Kents his mom and dad,
But tries to hide the speed and strength that he has always had.
When Jonathan, his wise old father, passes from this earth,
Clark finds the hidden secret of his otherworldly birth.
He leaves with one green crystal for the Arctic, strangely led,
And throws it to create a giant fortress there instead.
Recordings of Jor-El reveal the secrets he will master,
The reason for his powers which he’ll use to stop disaster.
Years later, at the Daily Planet Clark Kent is employed,
Now acting timid; any danger he’s quick to avoid.
Though he’s a hero, strong reporter Lois Lane can’t tell
And thinks him geeky when he faints and says the old word “swell.”
A helicopter accident puts Lois Lane in danger
Until she then is rescued by a blue-and-red-clad stranger.
He flies around Metropolis, performing decent deeds,
Preventing crimes and helping citizens with all their needs.
Intent on learning more of him, Lane gets an interview
With enigmatic Superman, and one free night flight too.
Her articles and news reports attract the veiled attention
Of evil mastermind Lex Luthor, who drips condescension.
He formulates a wicked scheme to redirect two bombs
And sink the California coast without the slightest qualms.
He steals a foreign meteor that glows with greenish light,
Attracting Superman to cripple him with Kryptonite.
Though Superman is rescued and stops one bomb, he’s too late;
The other causes earthquakes, sealing California’s fate.
Our hero still saves buses, towns, and fault lines too, although
He cannot save poor Lois Lane from landslides even so.
Heartsick with grief, he breaks a rule, reversing our Earth’s time,
To bring back Lois and prevent the worst of Luthor’s crime.
He drops off Luthor at a jail, and flies ‘twixt Earth and space,
The ever-faithful guardian of all the human race.

The first modern superhero movie, Superman was a really big deal when it was released in 1978, pulling out big name stars like Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman and charging big bucks for product placement. (I hope it was worth it, Cheerios.) Watching it thirty-six years later, the special effects are still effective, quite deserving of the Special Achievement Award they received, and John Williams’ magnificent score remains as iconic as it was then. Anyone who can compose for Jane Eyre and Superman and make them both synonymous with the film is a master composer.

As I said in my Superman II post, Christopher Reeve is Superman, and I have yet to see anyone who can wear the red cape as well as he could. Gene Hackman introduces Lex Luthor with the perfect blend of villainy and charisma. (Villains are always more menacing when you see their hands first, right?) Margot Kidder also does well as Lois Lane, and I like the little quirks the filmmakers added to her character, like her constantly misspelling of words. Embracing the role of Daily Planet chief Perry White, Jackie Cooper acts as an entertaining forerunner to J. Jonah Jameson of the Spider-Man films.

The film does have some faults other than the San Andreas one. Some scenes go on much too long, such as the rather boring opening credits, the construction of his Fortress of Solitude, and his flight with Lois Lane. Since they still had Williams’ memorable score, it’s not as bad as Star Trek: The Motion Picture in that regard, but these scenes make the film longer than it needed to be. Also, Lex Luthor makes some astounding leaps of reasoning to deduce that a particular meteorite in Africa came from Superman’s home planet, and “it stands to reason” that it must be deadly for the man of steel. It’s a good hypothesis, but there’s nothing to back it up. Likewise, the final scene where Superman reverses Earth’s rotation to reverse time is perhaps the least scientific portrayal of time travel ever put on film. Again, I don’t see how he knew his actions would have the desired effect when they could just as easily have caused more earthquakes or something worse.

It’s not a perfect superhero film, but as one of the first comic book blockbusters, it’s an incredibly influential one for the genre, aiming for gravitas while also retaining some campy charm. The recent Man of Steel had plenty of the gravitas and much more eye-popping effects, but it lacked the charm. Superman Returns was unsuccessful at both for me.Though Marvel has taken over superhero films for the most part, DC had a strong start with Superman, and it still makes audiences “believe a man can fly.”

Best line: (Superman, during his interview with Lois) “I’m here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.” [I didn’t like how Superman Returns ruined that line.]   (Lois) “You’re gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country!”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 9
Watchability: 7
TOTAL: 41 out of 60

Next: #204 – Peter Pan (to complete my trilogy of films with people flying around)

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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