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Overall Rating
4.46

Awesome63.96%
Worth A Look: 25.23%
Average: 6.31%
Pretty Bad: 1.8%
Total Crap: 2.7%

4 reviews, 87 user ratings


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Superman
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by Brian McKay

"Over 20 years later, the Man of Steel lives on!"
5 stars

Every once in a while you'll be flipping channels or meandering through the aisles of the local videorama, and you will stumble upon a film that takes you back to your childhood - and the child-like wonder that accompanied it. After 2 decades, as well as numerous (inferior) sequels and re-makes, the original Superman is back in a deluxe DVD edition.

Well, okay, maybe this wasn't the ORIGINAL one, but certainly no other version of the legend has had such a lasting impact as this one. Nor has any other telling of the tale been as through and ambitious as that put forth by Director Richard Donner and Story writer Mario Puzo. Add to that the utterly inspired (and inspiring) score by John Williams, and you have a dose of that good old movie magic. Even the opening credits manage to raise your adrenaline levels, as the Superman symbol soars through space across the screen and Williams' opening theme perfectly builds to a masterful crescendo. It will make you want to stand up from your couch, throw a red blanket around your shoulders, and soar out of the nearest window. Of course, LSD will make you want to do that, too.

The film begins on Superman's home world of Krypton, a dazzling planet dotted by crystalline cities which, combined again with Williams' incredible theme music, seem to present an image of heaven itself. A super-race of highly advanced beings, the Kryptonians’ only weakness is their pride, as the infant Superman's father, Jor-el points out. It is that pride that leads them to ignore Jor-el's warnings that the planet is doomed by an impending supernova. In a last ditch effort to save his son, as well as some remnant of his race, he sends his infant son Kal-el to the planet Earth in a deep space probe. Marlon Brando, in the role of Jor-el, gives one of his best performances. His role is the stuff of Hollywood legend, since he was paid 4 million dollars for about 10 minutes on film (the same amount he was going to get for half that time in “Scary Movie 2”, before he dropped out of the shoot due to illness – or maybe he just found a shred of his dignity). But despite his exorbitant fee and minimal screen time, his performance as Jor-el is no less worthy.

The probe crashes in a farmer’s field in the early 1950’s, to be discovered by the Kents, with Glen Ford in the role of Pa Kent. Though he seems to have even less screen time than Brando, his role as the young Superman's adoptive father and moral example is no less pivotal to the story. Superman's childhood and most of his teen years are completely skipped over, however, Jeff East gives an excellent portrayal of the teen Clark Kent, who is only beginning to discover the real extent of his powers.

Most of the supporting cast equally distinguish themselves. Gene Hackman creates a charming and amusing villain in Lex Luthor, and while Margot Kidder's portrayal of Lois Lane is a bit forced and grating at times, she still shines with a kind of charm, and it is always fun to watch her slip from the tough-as-nails reporter to the flustered schoolgirl every time the Man of Steel hits the scene. If you still don't like her performance, watch the "Lois Lane screen tests" in the special features section of the DVD, which includes tryouts by various prominent actresses of the day. After watching them, I think you'll agree that the filmmakers made the right casting choice.

But of course, the person we will remember the most is Christopher Reeve as Superman, and this is the way he should be remembered. It was certainly his greatest role, and although he overplayed the nerdy and fumbling Clark Kent, and his Superman sometimes pauses to deliver silly platitudes, he does so with an air of wry amusement. He may act like a goody two-shoes, but mostly he just seems to be having a good time showing off, and damn it, why shouldn't he? He's Superman, after all. If I could fly, you can bet your ass I'd be showing off too. This is confirmed in a brief but enjoyable restored scene in which, after saving Lois Lane and the President, as well as foiling several crimes, Superman flies back to his Fortress of Solitude to discuss it with his "Father", or rather, the persona of Jor-el which has been preserved in memory crystals and sent to earth with the infant Kal-el, so that he could benefit from Jor-el's knowledge and wisdom. He admonishes his son that, while it is natural to enjoy being able to show off his powers, he must learn to be humble and keep his vanity in check.

It is surprising how little moments of restored footage such as this one seem to breathe much more life into the characters, giving them a depth not seen in their previous cinematic incarnation. And while the film is a tale of the power of good, it is ultimately a tribute to the power of love. It is love that makes Superman more vulnerable than even kryptonite, love that makes him betray his Kryptonian father's admonition to "never interfere with human history", and love that makes him truly human.

Though it is nearly an hour into the film before Superman finally makes his first heroic and world-stunning appearance, it is well worth the wait. The action gets more and more exciting, rivaling anything that today's action counterparts, like "The Mummy Returns" can dish out. The effects, though antiquated by today's overblown CGI standards, are still impressive and manage to maintain their looks and grace in their old age. As Lex Luthor launches a diabolical plan involving hijacked twin nuclear missiles, the subsequent chase, followed by Superman's efforts to save an Earthquake-ravaged California, are breathtaking even by today's standards.

Like the superhero of title, the film itself is not without its weaknesses. In trying to keep in touch with its vintage comic book roots, it can be a tad cornball at times, and occasionally gets bogged down by what I call the "golly gee-whiz" syndrome. Yet it does so in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, retaining enough adult sophistication and genuine drama to keep it from lapsing into a mere kiddy show or a parody of the source material. In fact, the film has several surprisingly mature nuances. If, like me, you hadn't seen this film since you were a kid, then you will be in a much better position to fully enjoy the subtleties of the film now. (i.e, Lois Lane, in her rooftop interview of Superman asks "How big are you . . . er, I mean . . . how TALL are you". I obviously missed that as a kid, because it had me rolling with laughter this time around.

Despite a few loose threads in the cape and tights, The Man of Steel remains quite intact and appropriately larger than life. It is therefore fitting that this film has been re-mastered and re-released in collector's two-sided DVD format. The sound and picture quality are excellent, wiping away the tarnish of age and making the film shine again. Some of the many features include the aforementioned restored footage (about 10-15 minutes worth), a few additional deleted scenes (which, I thought, should have been restored into the film as well), commentary by director Richard Donner, the Lois Lane screen tests, specials on the making and origins of the film, and a music-only track (well worth the price of the DVD alone).

If you haven't seen this movie since you were a kid, and you want to feel like a kid again, rent it now. If you've never seen it at all, then the release of this DVD has taken away your last excuse. You will still believe a man can fly.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2443&reviewer=258
originally posted: 05/24/01 20:45:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.
DC Characters: For more in the DC Characters series, click here.
Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell overlong but solid 4 stars
12/11/12 Linda A classic, best fantasy movie of the 70s. 5 stars
6/21/10 Sarah Webster This is a classsic. The people who call this boring are idiots. Not enough explosions? 5 stars
2/28/10 PAUL SHORTT LONG BUT ENTERTAINING 3 stars
2/08/10 art THIS WAS overrated!,super 2 WAS MUCH BETTER! 1 stars
10/21/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
7/07/08 art ONLY FOR FANS OF THE COMIC BOOK 1 stars
6/21/08 David V Very cheesy and over-rated. 3 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White Super movie 5 stars
1/12/08 Eric Best ever 5 stars
1/05/08 Shailesh Palande Tittle Music is mind blowing 5 stars
11/22/07 Ernesto Catalan The comic hero adaptation to beat. Spidey was close, but no cigar! 5 stars
10/08/07 mr.mike Superman Returns made me appreciate Reeve and the movie more 4 stars
10/01/07 Andrew Kercher Reeve is definitive Superman; this is best. Believable Kent alias. Kidder is great Lois. 5 stars
3/21/07 dude Superman Returns was better 4 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega Superman is the greatest. Proves that he's better than Spidey. 4 stars
1/06/07 David Cohen Liked it 4 stars
12/26/06 johnnyfog Coulda used more Clark Kent. And SOMEONE get rid of the S-shaped hair PLEASE. 5 stars
11/20/06 Noel I honestly took a nap during the movie ! I know he's Superman, but PLEEAAASSSEEE!!!!! 1 stars
10/22/06 David Pollastrini great! 5 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley Opening credit music is the BEST ever...film is uneven though. 4 stars
7/19/06 Michael First great comicbook film. Best Luthor film. Watch it with Batman, trust me. 5 stars
7/11/06 Dez Awesome!! 5 stars
6/05/06 drydock54321 great film, other than the time reversal- too easy 5 stars
5/14/06 K. Pearlman Except for the campiness of Luthor, this was a great movie! 5 stars
5/13/06 Joel Whelan The film is so special to me. An outlet and a source of inspiration. 5 stars
3/28/06 Chris Bordeman Puts the I-can-barely-remember X-Files movie to shame. 5 stars
3/24/06 Dethbyhashi You Will Believe a Man Can Fly!!! 5 stars
12/29/05 tony Great film! I could spend years on telling everybody how good it was! 5 stars
12/27/05 Ronin Very entertaining. Recommended. 4 stars
10/21/05 rachel amazing film 5 stars
8/29/05 ES Reeves made superman, though the film is geared more directly at teens than adults 4 stars
7/19/05 Brandy Harrington One of the best comic book films ever. I can't wait for Superman Returns! 5 stars
7/14/05 Ronald Newbold This should be the model for all successful comic book adaptations 5 stars
7/05/05 shannon huard superman ,the godfather of comic book movies 5 stars
6/23/05 azpinoy One of my favorites of all time! 5 stars
6/22/05 Carolyn Rathburn I enjoyed this movie, I felt Chris Reeves did a good job as the man of steel. 5 stars
5/11/05 Indrid Cold Solidly done, but misses classic status by quite a bit. 3 stars
4/15/05 Raymond Montoya the first the best.. reeves is great. 4 stars
3/26/05 Denise Great 5 stars
3/23/05 Suzanne Butler Excellent movie 5 stars
3/16/05 Chris Stephens Great movie for it's time. 5 stars
2/24/05 brett creswell perfection 5 stars
1/20/05 Laurian Diaconescu Reeve can't ever be replaced, I won't even go see the new sequel they plan to release soon. 5 stars
1/17/05 t-1000 first 30 minutes or so is BOOOOOOOOOOOORING 4 stars
10/25/04 Evan Best of the series by far 5 stars
9/04/04 T.B. A another best movie 4 stars
7/29/04 American Slasher Goddess Awesome comic book adapation, Hackman is great as Lex Luther. 5 stars
4/21/04 Daveman It's sad that such a well made film has dated so badly. 4 stars
3/04/04 Víctor Ayala Christopher Reeve is Superman for me!, He's awesome in that character, he was made for it!! 5 stars
12/07/03 john it's phenomenal! 5 stars
6/16/03 Jon Lyrik This is a Supermovie! 5 stars
5/23/03 SAURABH SHARMA An Epic movie 5 stars
5/03/03 Allen Wilkerson This is why I love going to the movies! 5 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Choppy, uneven adventure only sporadically thrills. The cast, though, is spot-on. 2 stars
2/20/03 Dave Rivals Batman and Spiderman as the best of the superhero movies. 4 stars
11/25/02 Bizop Spectacular movie, great performance by Gene Hackman, and nice foreshadowing to the sequel 5 stars
11/21/02 CHAD TRUE THIS FILM HAS MORE CLASS AND GRACE THAN ALL OF THE OTHER SUPERHEROE FILMS COMBINED 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Fun then, but awful effects sink it now 3 stars
9/05/02 Justin Cool! 5 stars
9/02/02 B.Roopkumar All time great movie 5 stars
8/16/02 Shaun a fun popcorn movie 4 stars
7/31/02 KMG NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: REEVE WAS SUPERMAN! 5 stars
7/12/02 kmk awesome movie well made wb try to top this/ batman vs superman movie in 2004 well see!!!! 5 stars
5/13/02 T^im Great flick, best comic book adapt ever 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver a fine film...keep an eye out for all the Marlboro placements. 3 stars
11/22/01 anju thaper old time classic 5 stars
11/04/01 Shams Huque Best Comic Book Adaptation Ever. An Epic. 5 stars
9/28/01 Andrew Carden Boring Film, Overloaded With Special Effects. 3 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith "He's Lex Luthor the greatest criminal mind of the century." 5 stars
9/09/01 Butterbean The second Superman beats this one, but this established Reeve as THE Superman! 4 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Cool take on famed DC comic book hero. Reeve is great as Superman. 5 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat Lex Luthor is really really evil and slapstick funny at the same time..... 3 stars
7/29/01 Turtle This is one of those rare comic book films that are actually BETTER than the comics. 5 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg A bit corny ,but entertaining non the less . 4 stars
7/14/01 Dana Shelley Just plain fun! 5 stars
5/31/01 aka satan When the earthquake comes, I wanna be in Otisville. 4 stars
5/26/01 Edward Shandis it should be called HANDI-MAN 4 stars
5/09/01 y2mckay Still fun, even after 20 years. John Williams' score was inspired. 4 stars
3/24/01 Alex I want to fly now 5 stars
2/01/01 Big Isil Christopher Reeves cant die, man, hes Superman! Applaud after seeing for the first time 5 stars
1/21/01 fifu it may be weird but you have to like it 4 stars
1/07/01 R.W. Welch Catches the spirit of the comic strip almost exactly, much better than the sequels. 5 stars
1/02/01 Terry A classic film. Everything about it is superb! 5 stars
12/27/00 Turtle Eat your heart out, Batman! 5 stars
10/14/00 Jed A perfectly alright movie that is as good as the original batman movie. 4 stars
1/24/00 Cheezman An above-average film with very few imperfections. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Dec-1978 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Nov-2006

UK
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