Director: Richard Donner.
Story by: Mario Puzo.
Screenplay by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton & Tom Mankiewicz (uncredited).
Release Date: 1978.
Runtime: 188 min (Extended TV Cut).
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama.
Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Margot Kidder, and many more!
Budget: $55,000,000 (estimated).
Gross USA: $134,451,603.
Cumulative Wordlwide Gross: $300,451,603.
My Overall Rating:
You can’t help but wonder what makes Superman the iconic hero we all know and refer to in our lives. Is it the way he flies? The way he stands? The costume he wears? The forehead curl? For some, he is Christopher Reeve and no one else, an actor who knew how to embody the klutz and jittery journalist but also the impressive and stage-stealing Superman. His full-hearted performance as the Man of Steel has paved the way to numerous movies that explored the classic superhero’s world and one can only feel reverence for his depiction of this God that shines hope on the lives of people. It was now time for me to revisit the first installment in the Superman series that I was lucky enough to view as kid on television. On top of the theatrical cut (143 minutes) that I couldn’t watch in theaters (I was born yet), a special edition cut known as the director’s cut (151 minutes) was later released as well as an extended TV cut (188 minutes) that I had now decided to revisit to discover all the countless scenes (useful or not) that were shot for one of the most iconic Superman movies of all time.
What is Superman (1978) about? The story follows Clark Kent, a little boy from the planet Krypton who crash landed right into the lives of Jonathan and Martha Kent. As he grows up to become a reporter at the Daily Planet in Metropolis, he also embraces his powers to become the mysteriously heroic Superman. However, the obstacles he faces doesn’t limit themselves to him having to learn the ropes to living among humans while hiding his superpowers, but to also make difficult decisions implicating countless lives. To make matter worse, the criminal mastermind Lex Luthor refuses to allow such a person to bask in glory, glory he dreams to obtain for himself only, and looks to put into play an evil plan that will rid the world of this Superman but also to rise in fame and success through the destruction of land. It is thus up to the Big Blue Boy Scout to find a way to save the innocent lives that are bound to be casualties due to Lex Luthor’s twisted mind.
I grew up identifying Christopher Reeve as Superman. His charisma is unrivaled. His smile is hopeful. His core values are honorable. What director Richard Donner achieves with this movie is a complete, engrossing, and tactfully-told origin story that fully depicts Superman’s lore, from the destruction of Krypton to his reveal to the world as the Man of Steel. This cinematic journey follows Clark Kent/Superman’s growth, allowing viewers to vicariously experience his dilemmas and grievances as an extraterrestrial being who only physically looks like humans. Throughout the story, viewers are given the opportunity to watch Clark Kent/Superman learn about his place in this world, the boundaries he must impose on himself, and the purpose of his existence among humans. Although he is challenged on various levels (whether it’s his emotional resilience, his control over feelings of vanity or his superpower limitations), the movie serves as a baptism, an opportunity to establish the extent of one of the world’s greatest heroes’ abilities, especially when pushed to his limits, his place on Earth, as well as his moral and ethical stance.
While Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent/Superman is perfection, the rest of the cast also largely contribute to the success of this movie by offering an original Golden Age depiction of their respective characters. We have Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane who captures the inquisitive and seduced journalist who inadvertently gives Superman countless opportunities to be a superhero but to also discover love. We also have Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor who offers viewers an alluring depiction of one of the greatest criminal mastermind of all time. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by some of the most quirky and odd simpletons (yes, I’m especially looking at Ned Beatty’s Otis) who offer comic relief, however, inviting you to wonder how such a villain could even hang around people like those. I’m guessing it exponentially distorts his God complex. Who wouldn’t stick around such crowds in that case? Anyhow, it is with these central characters that director Richard Donner beautifully establishes Superman on the big screen.
It should be noted that with this extended TV cut, the company released it to the public with the sole purpose to make more money for every additional minute aired. It clearly doesn’t reflect director Richard Donner’s vision of the movie. This can be easily noticed throughout the movie, making several sequences awkwardly overdrawn and often completely inefficient in terms of story-telling and pace. Nonetheless, what truly allows this movie to exceed expectations and capture the audience’s attention is its ground-breaking visuals (probably more difficult to appreciate with today’s advanced cinematic technology but still holds its ground) and masterpiece score by John Williams. The truly perfect synchronization between visuals and score allow several scenes to become iconic, always leaving an emotional and unforgettable impression on the audience. If anything, it would be near impossible to finish this movie without the seminal Superman main theme in your head.
Superman (1978) is a classic and beloved origin story for the Man of Steel charmingly delivered through an unparalleled performance by Christopher Reeve, a striking and ethereal score by John Williams, and a passionate direction by Richard Donner.