Unless it’s a clothes sale. Clothes sales suck balls.
That was two years ago, by the way.
Recently I was sorting out my geek-stye and rediscovered it, still wrapped in shiny stiff-plastic stuff, and thought to myself, “welp, I’ve got nothing better to do. Better check out this badly green-screened 70’s shit, then...”
And that, dear reader, was when I fell in love.
Like I said above, I never liked Superman. He was too much of an idealist, a goody two-shoes. As an individual who was raised in a house of cynicism, he just appeared to be too good to me - far too unreal for a dude who could fly and had laser eyes and stuff. But Christopher Reeve, the script writer and the director all changed my mind on this front. From the first instant Superman was on screen, I was hooked. His costume was classic and subtle, the entire batshit morality thing was explained away by him missing the entirety of the 60’s in favour of Kryptonian school (probably making him the only Western human-being who thought like that in the 70’s), he was vastly different to Clark Kent to the point where the “glasses as a disguise” schtick actually worked, and all-round adorable and stoic whenever he was on screen. And the scene of him finally flying into a rage over Lois’s death? My god. I actually felt a tear.
After I was fucking terrified at that face.
ii. Lois Lane
I didn’t really know much about Lois Lane, other than she must have (statistically speaking) been better than Lana Lang on Smallville (only I never actually got that far because the fucking Mary-Sue of Lana actually turned me off the show), so I was genuinely curious to see how the film portrayed her. As a 1978 movie, I honestly expected her to be another Dipshit Damsel in Distress incapable of doing anything, and was pleasantly surprised when I found her to be quite a strong and likeable character. I loved her obsession with gaining the Pulitzer, the running joke of her not being able to spell for toffee (also probably not able to spell 'spell' or 'coffee'), and the transition of her feelings between Clark and Superman. It’s a shame that she was a lesser character in Superman II and practically a non-entity for the rest of the film series, but in this movie she was great and I loved her.
“How do you spell ‘awesome dudette’, guys?”
I also have to add at this point that I found her death scene really horrific. I felt genuinely uncomfortable whilst it was happening, and pretty much effing moved by Superman’s reaction.
iii. Lex Luthor
I am not going to be ashamed of this: I have a huge girl-boner (thanks, Scott) for Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. And as someone who never found Gene Hackman attractive before in any context or any way possible because damnit he's very very old, and was like 48 at the time of this movie, this is a big thing to admit. But, hotdamn. He’s obnoxiously intelligent with a cutting sense of fashion and a really great/bad taste in henchmen and such grandiose egocentrism that you can't help but be slightly attracted to him in a very metrosexual way! (Methinks the lady doth protest too much. - Ed.) I also loved the fact he saw Superman as a worthy adversary rather than simply an obstacle that had to be destroyed (even though he totally sees everyone like that), and the fact that his entire scheme was basically real estate. Yep. Real estate. Only Lex Luthor could make real estate sexy and dangerous. It was a really subtle performance from Hackman that made the character ostentatiously realistic, and is probably my second-favourite villain of all time. (The Riddler from BTAS still holds the top spot, but only because he's voiced by Lionel Luthor, so there.)
Lex Luthor's fluffy wig frowns at your shenanigans. Bitch.
iv. The Daily Planet Crew
Oh Jimmy Olsen, you’re so cute and geeky. And uh. Well, you take photos and you’re very optimistic and you have curly hair. That’s basically Jimmy Olsen, so A+ performance to you, actor person.
Oh my god, it's Doctor Who!
Perry White on the other hand, oh my god. He stole the show every time he was on screen, even if he only had one line of dialogue and Clark and Lois were also on screen and Jimmy was taking photos and there were prancing naked ladies in the background. (Okay, not really.) He was bright and explosive and full of personality. Love, love, love.
“Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sni...wait. Shit, wrong movie.”
v. The Luthor Goons
When Otis was first on screen, he confused me. ‘Is this the bad guy?’ I thought, because I hadn’t read the blurb and had no idea what my dad occasionally meant when he would yell “OKAY MISTER LUTHOR” at his PC whenever it wasn’t co-operating (shortly before throwing it in the bath). Then he tried to steal a newspaper (Otis, not my dad), knocked over a lamp and explained the dynamics of newspaper ownership with Lex and I was like, “this is the kind of henchman I’d have! Only I’d use him as a court jester.” God only knows what Lex was thinking when he hired Otis, but I’m going to go ahead and assume he wanted him around to act as an ego-boosting soundboard and occasional punching bag. Suffice to say, I was dead gutted when he was left in prison in Superman II.
“Mister Luthor, how is babby formed?”
"Why Otis, it's simple. First you get one of Superman's hairs from a museum..."
Miss Teshmacher is also a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see a female moll who banters back against her boss’s bullshit. I especially love this exchange:
Lex: When I was six years old, my father told me -
Teshmacher: Get out.
Her allegiance to Superman is described as a heel-face turn on TV Tropes, but really it built up over the whole movie (she makes comments on how attractive she finds him, begins to question Lex’s plan, and generally acts as Superman fangirl) and this left her less of a one-dimensional character than other usual supervillain support characters.
"Lois! You're home early! I uh, I...can explain?"
Huh. I always find more to say about villains than heroes. Howabout that. Have an obligatory shot of Christopher Reeve all wet and dishevelled:
Let’s be reasonable here: perving on Reeve’s Superman is kinda obligatory.
So I says to myself, okay, I says, I liked the characters, and good characters can hold up even the floppiest of plots. But did Superman have a floppy plot?
Now, I watched the Director’s Cut, so I have no idea what the regular version was like, but I found the entire arc to be enthralling. Okay, so the childhood bit was a little long (and by a little I mean a lot) and I didn’t really like teenage Clark (he left his adopted Earth mother to fend for herself and/or die, the selfish fuck) but the rest of the movie was simply fabulously structured.
As I said above, I really loved the fact that they explained away Clark’s somewhat unusual morality by having him become stuck in 1958 (reminding me of Blast from the Past in some respects), and they did this simply by stating that 12 years passed in the Fortress of Solitude, that he didn’t understand modern telephone booths, and that he also didn’t know the Metropolis Code is basically “hit other guys in case they try to steal your handbag first okay”. It was subtle and wonderfully directed, and whoever fired Richard Donner in Superman II needs to be shot.
I also like the way the film carefully skated between the gentle comic relief and the calm seriousness of the plot. It really made the character of Superman feel real, because the movie was only half taking itself seriously - only the other half was also taking itself seriously whilst having a laugh at its own expense. The pain at Superman's losing Lois can be set against scenes such as Otis moving Lex’s ladder and leaving his boss stranded on an island of bookcases, and neither would feel as though it’s clashing with the other. Heck, even the most bizarre of the comic scenes isn’t even really that comic because all of the actors involve play it with such comedic gravitas.
Superman: Shit! Did I leave the gas on?
Lex: Heh! Superman will never guess my evil plan of having him forget he left his gas on! Buh-bye, Arctic!
Lex’s “I’m going to bomb California with a nuclear bomb to create some good real estate” scheme is actually refreshing and unique as supervillain plots go, and whilst I did feel peeved at Superman’s cop-out of turning the clocks back to erase Lois’s death, I felt it was handled with significant dignity (and I was also impressed at the graphics of him turning the Earth backwards, then slightly forwards). The actual rise of Superman himself was pretty much how it would be in a comic-book reality (as opposed to real reality where the CIA would try to get hold of him to dissect him or something) and I absolutely adored Lex’s hideout...thing. What was that, anyway? It looked like an abandoned museum or something, but I guess it’s an old subway station? A...really pretty one?
So, overall then: Superman is a film everyone should see, regardless of whether they’re a comic-book fan or not. And actually, after experiencing a lull brought about by DC’s insistance of rebooting everything every time someone sneezes, I’m inspired to go and check out comic-books again, so it might just make a new fan out of me. (Albeit a Marvel/third party one. Why oh why did I sell my Hellboy comics?)
But you know what I like the most? Superman doesn't pander to its comic-book reading audience. I fully expected to hear the, "it's a bird! It's a plane! Should have gone to Specsavers." speech at some point and...I didn't. So then I expected there to be a load of Lex Luthor is bald(/stole forty cakes) joke. And...there wasn't that, either. Richard Donner was smart enough to know that the more fanatic of the audience would have been expecting these simple mistakes, so he simply didn't make them. Kudos to you, Mister Donner. And kudos to you, movie. I simply adore you.
...But needs more giant transforming cars plskthnx.
Plot 9/10. Some holes, easily filled.
Characters 10/10. Some corny, most brilliant.
Pacing Adequate. Could have used less childhood.
Total Solid 9/10 overall, or four-and-a-half stars. A must-see for all the family! (*Puke*).