Superman (1978) & Superman II (1980)

Posted by on Dec 30, 2011 in Comics & Superheroes | 0 comments


Disclaimer: The wholesome love story has some surprising sexual references (not to mention Valerie Perrine’s cleavage).

This ridiculously high-budget blockbuster with a star-studded cast and revolutionary special effects not only highlighted one of America’s most beloved icons, but also was the impetus for an entire sub-genre of films that have never been more prevalent than today. Though movie, television, and radio studios had adapted comic books before, Superman soared Warner Brothers to a box-office high (beating Giant) showing just how powerful The Man of Steel (and other comic book heroes) really are.

The film starts with Faster-superman3Than-a-Speeding-Bullet-Man’s father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) warning the elders of Krypton (including Trevor Howard) that the planet will explode. After they ignore his warnings, Jor-El decides to send his infant son to Earth, where his dense molecular structure and their sub-par technology will make him Superhuman-Man.

Not-a-Bird-and-Not-a-Plane-Man, now about 4 years old, lands in a Midwest town called Smallville. After some years, his adoptive father (Glenn Ford) dies, making the boy feel powerless until he discovers the reason he’s on Earth. Fast forward a few decades and The Boy Who Could Fly is now Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), a nerdy journalist for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Soon after, he meets Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and has to deal with twisted real estate genius Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his bumbling sidekicks Otis (Ned Beatty) and Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). From there, hell, you know the drill.

The original film comes off as a little strange since it realizes its own ridiculousness and thrives on making fun of itself (the journalism parts are especially over-the-top). Coupled with the second installment, these films play as excellent romantic comedies as well as mindless action flicks. Both of which children will certainly enjoy for scenes in which Spandex-Clad-Man reverses the Earth’s spin, saves a plummeting helicopter, rescues Air Force One, patches up the San Andreas Fault, and, of course, catches the always-in-distress Lois Lane at the last second.

During casting, almost every bigSUPERMAN2 actor in Hollywood nearly became S-Chest-Man until they decided on rookie actor Reeve, who did a fantabulous job. John Williams did the Star Wars-esque music, The Godfather’s Mario Puzo did the story, and Richard Donner/Richard Lester directed each respective installment. And, in case you didn’t know, Brando received almost $4 million and a percentage of the grosses for his 12 minutes on screen.

The real draw to the film was the rear projection sequences in which Fighting-for-the-American-Way-Man flies, which earned a special achievement Oscar and still look decent today. These first two adaptations are the best (and the second may even be better), while the three other sequels and two TV shows aren’t quite as spectacular.

Now, there are dozens of multi-million dollar comic book and graphic novel movies out there. A few of those flicks are better than Superman, but all of them are arguably around because of it. (Note: Pass on the awful Superman Return (2006) and hold your breath for Zac Snyder’s upcoming reboot Man of Steel.)

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