As the year comes to a close, I find myself coming up on a week full of superhero movies. And not just any superhero, but movies featuring the man many people consider to be the first superhero, Superman. Now I remember first seeing this movie as a kind on TV and enjoyed the hell out of it. I have watched it several more times over the years whenever it would come on TV but never thought about buying it on DVD. Turns out that was a good thing as my mom ended up buying me the box set of movies for me for Christmas one year. So now it is time to go up, up, and away with today’s movie, Superman.
The plot: On the planet Krypton, Jor-El presents the evidence to the Council against General Zod, Ursa, and Non, a trio of Krptonians who attempted to overthrow the Council and rule in their stead. After being pronounced guilty, Zod asks Jor-El to join him or else he will get his vengeance on him and his heirs but Jor-El condemns them to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. Afterwards, Jor-El speaks with the council about his belief that the planet will be destroyed soon but they refuse to believe him and threaten to imprison him in the Phantom Zone if he causes a panic. Jor-El promises to keep quiet over the matters, then heads to his home, where he talks with his wife Lara about sending their son Kal-El to Earth so he will survive the planet’s destruction. Finishing construction of the crystalline life pod, Jor-El and Lara place Kal-El in the pod, as well as a crystal containing all of the known knowledge of Krypton, then sends the pod to Earth, just as the red sun expands and causes Krypton to explode. As Kal-El travels through space, Jor-El’s voice speaks to him, telling him about Earth and the differences he will face when he gets there. Kal-El’s ship crash lands in a field outside Smallville, Kansas, where a passing couple, Jonathan and Martha Kent, see the spaceship crash and think it is a meteorite. When they check the site, they found Kal-El, now a toddler, starting to climb out of the hole in the ground and Martha, who had always wanted a child of her own, pleads with Jonathan to keep the boy to raise. Jonathan starts to argue against it but as he is changing a flat tire on their truck, the jack slips and and the truck starts to fal on him but he is saved by Kal-El, who is easily lifting up the front of the truck. The Kents decide to keep the boy and raise him as their own, calling him Clark. As years pass, Clark is now a teenager and has a crush on his classmate Lana Lang, but it is an unrequited love as she is dating someone else. After racing home after school one day, he talks with Jonathan, who is working on some farm equipment, about the struggles he is facing fitting in with everyone while he has to hide all the things he can do. As the two head back up to the house, Jonathan has a heart attack and collapses to the ground, with Martha’s scream alerting Clark to what happened. After the funeral, Clark agonizes to Martha over the fact that he has all of these powers but couldn’t save Jonathan’s life. That night, Clark hears a voice calling out to him, guiding him out to the barn, where he finds a glowing green crystal in the remains of his spaceship. The next day, Clark says goodbye to Martha, telling her that he spoke with a neighbor to make sure she had someone helping her, and she tells him both her and Jonathan knew the day would come and tells him he always has a home there before the two embrace. Clark makes his way up to the North Pole, and after being guided to a particular spot, he throws the crystal out into the frozen land, where it sinks into the snow and causes a massive, crystal structure to appear. Heading inside, Clark activates some of the crystal banks and is greeted by a holographic image of Jor-El, who tells him of who he is and proceeds to teach him about his powers and responsibilities over the course of 12 years, after which Clark is shown to be wearing a blue and red suit with a red cape and the House of El family crest on his chest. Clark heads to Metropolis, where he gets a job at the Daily Planet as a reporter, meeting his editor Perry White, photographer Jimmy Olsen, and fellow reporter Lois Lane. Lois isn’t too happy about Clark being assigned to her beat, attempting to embarrass Clark in front of Perry, but Clark starts to win her over with his good natured ways. After leaving work, Clark is talking with Lois when a man attempts to mug them and Clark tries to talk the man out of it. When Lois drops her purse and kicks the man when he goes to pick it up, the mugger accidentally fires his gun and Clark quickly catches the bullet, then pretends to faint so Lois won’t think anything strange occurred. Meanwhile, two police detectives follow a man named Otis, hoping he will lead them to his boss, the notorious Lex Luthor. As they separate, one of the detectives follows Otis down to some subway tracks, where Otis heads into a secret doorway, but when the detective tries to follow, Luthor, who was watching from hidden cameras, activates the hideout’s defenses to push him away from the door and into the path of an oncoming subway car. Inside his lair, Luthor’s girlfriend, Eve Teschmacher, isn’t happy with Luthor killing the cop or their living underneath the subway but Luthor says it is all part of his plan. Some time later, Lois heads up to the roof to catch a ride via the Daily Planet’s helicopter to the airport for a story but a cable becomes ensnared in the landing struts, causing the helicopter to crash back onto the roof and dangle over the edge. Clark is leaving the building when he notices the commotion on the street as everyone is looking up at the helicopter and, seeing Lois in danger, he quickly heads into a building’s revolving door, spinning ti faster than the eye can see as he changes into his costume and flies off. As Lois falls out of the helicopter, Clark saves her, the grabs the helicopter when it falls and places them both back on the roof. As he starts to fly off, Lois asks him who he is and he tells her he is a friend, then he flies off while Lois faints on the rooftop. Clark then heads off and stops some other crimes, as well as helping get a little girl’s cat out of a tree, then rescues Air Force One when a bolt of lightning takes out one of the engines. Later, Clark heads back to the Fortress of Solitude in the arctic, where he speaks with Jor-El about what he did and Jor-El cautions him to keep his secret identity intact, otherwise people would be asking for his help 24/7 while his enemies would try to hurt him by going after his loved ones. The next day, everyone is talking about the flying stranger and Perry orders his reporters to get details on the mystery person. While Perry is talking, Lois opens a card she received, asking to meet at her place that night and she realizes it is from the stranger. That night, Lois dresses up for her interview and when Clark appears, she asks him some question while also flirting with him. During the course of the interview, Clark lets slip that he has a problem seeing through lead, and reveals that he is from the Krypton. Clark then takes Lois flying through the sky before returning her back to her apartment and flying off. After he leaves, Lois decides to call him Superman, and starts working out the idea for her story when Clark shows up, reminding her that they were supposed to go on a date. After Lois’ interview is printed, Luthor, Otis, and Teschmacher read the article and Luthor realizes he knows how to stop Superman. He shows them an article about some meteorites that were found and tells them the meteorites are from Krypton, which would be toxic to Superman now, and they could hide them in a lead cigar box so that he can’t see inside. Some time later, Luthor and Teschmacher cause a distraction in front of a military convoy carrying a nuclear missile, allowing Otis to sneak on board the truck and reprogram the missile but when he meets back up with Luthor and Teschmacher, Luthor realizes that Otis screwed up so they cause a distraction on another convoy so that Teschmacher can reprogram that missile correctly. The next day, Lois is out on assignment in the West, doing a story on a land fraud scheme as someone is buying up a lot of worthless land, with Jimmy going with her. Perry calls Clark into his office to talk to him when Clark hears a high pitched sound, followed by a message from Luthor, telling him that he will be releasing a gas that will wipe out half the population of the city. Clark quickly changes into Superman and leaves, then flies over the city and searches for Luthor’s hideout. He eventually locates it and burrows underground into the subway tunnels and heads towards Luthor’s base, easily making his way through his defenses. When he arrives at Luthor’s base, Luthor explains his plan to Superman, telling him how he bought up the land out west, then plans to detonate a 500 megaton bomb inside the fault, setting off an earthquake that would destroy the West Coast of California while making his property the new West Coast. Luthor then explains that he hijacked the military missiles and has one of them heading to the fault while the other is heading towards Hackensack, NJ. Superman looks for the device to detonate the missiles and thinks Luthor has it hidden in a lead chest but when he opens, he discovers contains a piece of Kryptonite that Luthor had stolen from a museum. Luthor then attaches the chain with the Kyptonite around Superman’s neck and throws him in his pool to drown. As he walks off, Teschmacher says her mother lives in Hackensack and asks Luthor to stop the missile but he refuses. Teschmacher goes to the pool and tells Superman she will save him if he saves her mother first before saving the West Coast and when he agrees, she dives into the pool and saves him, kissing him before removing the Kryptonite from around his neck. Superman flies off and manages to catch the missile heading for Hackensack, flying it up into space to detonate harmlessly, but while he is doing that, the second missile strikes the fault and activates an earthquake. Superman rushes there and works on repairing the damaged fault, then deals with the disasters that were caused, including fixing the Golden Gate Bridge, and stopping the flood caused by the broken Hoover Dam. While this is going on, Lois’ car falls into a crevice and she ends up suffocating from the dirt falling into her car. When Superman finds her car and drags it out, he pulls her lifeless body from the car and after holding it for a few minutes, cries out in grief and quickly flies into the air. As he is flying, he hears the voices of both Jor-El and Jonathan speaking in his head, giving him conflicting thoughts on what he should do, but Superman refuses to let someone he cares about die again. Superman begins flying around the Earth, causing it’s rotation to reverse, which causes the recent damage to the area to be as if it never happened. Once that happens, Superman flies around the Earth to restore it’s rotation back to normal then flies down to ensure that Lois is safe. After speaking with Lois and Jimmy for a few minutes, Superman flies back to grab Luthor and Otis and take them to prison, then flies off to orbit the Earth, looking for more people to help.
Superman was well received by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Superman deftly blends humor and gravitas, taking advantage of the perfectly cast Christopher Reeve to craft a loving, nostalgic tribute to an American pop culture icon.” This movie marked the first time that the “S” on Superman’s chest stood for a Kryptonian family crest, an idea, along with several other aspects, which has since been integrated into the comics and subsequent adaptations. The movie was a box office success, earning $300.2 million off of a $55 million budget.
I will admit that it has lost some of it’s appeal to me over the years but this is still a pretty good movie. The acting was good, with Christopher Reeve really turning in an iconic performance as the legendary character while Gene Hackman was almost as good as Luthor. Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Margot Kidder (Lois), and Jackie Cooper (Perry White) were also good. The story was good in regards to the origin story and Superman making his way to Metropolis, making the one change of having Superman never using his powers as Superboy and only using them when he gets to Metropolis as an adult. However, one aspect of the movie that I didn’t like, and even as a kid I knew didn’t make sense, was the whole Superman flying around the Earth and reversing it’s rotation. Even back then, I knew that what he was doing wasn’t going to be able to turn back time. That aspect aside, the rest of the story was good and very enjoyable. The special effects really were pretty good and they did a great job with the inside of the Krypton city, though the outside did look a little cheap. A good movie and one that really set the standard for all other films to follow.
Rating: 4 out of 5