[Film Review] Superman (1978)

Superman poster

Title: Superman
Year: 1978
Country: USA, UK
Language: English
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Director: Richard Donner
Mario Puzo
David Newman
Leslie Newman
Robert Benton
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
Music: John Williams
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder
Gene Hackman
Valerie Perrine
Marlon Brando
Ned Beatty
Jackie Cooper
Marc McClure
Jeff East
Phyllis Thaxter
Glenn Ford
Susannah York
Trevor Howard
Maria Schell
Terence Stamp
Harry Andrews
Sarah Douglas
Jack O’Halloran
Rating: 6.6/10

Superman 1978

The silver-screen debut of Man-of-Steel, from its flashy opening credits and title cards, under John Williams’ déjà-vu anthem, Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN is blatantly striving to model itself on the triumph of STAR WARS (1977), one year earlier. Bombarding with some serious name-dropping (8 Oscar winners or nominees, including, the ludicrously first-billed Brando, second-billed Hackman, Beatty, Cooper, Howard, Perrine, Stamp and York, sorry, Glenn Ford and Maria Schell, you are not in that rarefied echelon, any modern blockbuster can muster such a thespian-struck roster?), where the two true (although green as grass) leads Reeve and Kiddler are unassumingly sandwiched amongst, it does serves as a pick-me-up for a doe-eyed first-time viewer.

It is unavoidable to feel the spectacles outdated and less spectacular, since the state-of-the-art special effects of its time have inevitably and unchangeably aged with the ongoing progress in the technology field, the matte shots and miniature models look incredulously primitive to the eyes accustomed to the digital VFX, but, on a plus side, it acts as a telling remainder of how far the advancement has evolved in less than four decades. The helicopter accident is still damn good by today’s standard, the same cannot be said to the barren Krypton setting and its fluorescence-heavy aesthetics, no way this species is far more superior than earthlings, not with that thinly-built prologue.

The late Christopher Reeve, exudes an affable down-to-earthness, wonderfully embodies the dual personalities of Clark Kent and Superman, not an easy task to fool everyone considering his towering stature, which completely outstrips his successors. Kidder’s Lois Lane, is a daredevil herself, and not a priggish dame either, “can you see the colour of my underwear?”, that’s a borderline risqué line cannot pass today’s PG rating criterion. An offbeat scene where Miss Teschmacher (Perrine), pecks a little kiss on Superman before saving him from Kryptonite, seems so impromptu, but rightfully shows that a woman can have some initiative too, especially the object is Superman, in both cases, all contend that woman doesn’t have to be straightjacketed in the innocent damsel-in-distress slot or the sexed-up bimbo sidekick niche, which is very surprising to see in the first instalment of a franchise, which is notorious for being patronising to its female characters, what would go wrong from then?

The rest supporting roles are uniformly monotonous in its cartoon-ish characterisation, which is understandable, Hackman and Beatty make a golden duo nevertheless. What really comes as a shock is the setting-back-time stunt, is that rather too far-fetched even in Superman’s capacity? Or, why this very useful manoeuvre hasn’t been deployed in the revamped DC universe yet? That will allow the justice side as many opportunities as possible if they fail to restore the peace in the eleventh hour, Superman can always turn back time a little bit in a cinch, maybe that is something the upcoming Justice League movies can tap into.

Oscar 1978  Superman


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