Arguably the first true cinematic comic book adaptation, Superman is a film which mostly holds up almost four decades after its original release.
Of course, one cannot forget to at least touch upon Christopher Reeve’s performance as the titular character when discussing the film. Reeve simply embodies both sides of his character so perfectly, from the sheer heroism of Superman to the awkward timidness of Kent, and it is easy to see why his performance is fondly remembered to this day. The other cast members offer entertaining, if not exactly nuanced, portrayals of their characters, with Margot Kidder as Lois Lane and Gene Hackman particularly standing out. However, the binding glue of the film is director Richard Donner. The film’s technical requirements were almost unprecedented, but Donner crafts ambitious and just marvelous effects that still hold up (relatively) well. This visual artistry even shines through in the opening sequence on Superman’s home planet Krypton, arguably the film’s weakest portion.
Being the first large scale superhero film, Superman‘s script is, though not necessarily the weakest, the most antiquated element of the film. Despite interesting themes concerning the Cold War and Superman’s Christ-like persona, the entire story and much of the dialogue has an undeniably quaint mood to it. This is both a result of technological limitations and the lack of genre conventions to build upon. Luthor’s villainous scheme is certainly preposterous and the romance between Clark & Lois is endearingly cheesy, but most of this can be forgiven due to Silver-Age tone, with one exception. Superman physically turning back time by physically spinning the Earth backwards so that he can reverse Lois’ death is a genuinely terrible resolution, especially due to contradicting a theme established earlier that Clark can’t save everyone (specifically noted after he fails to save his adopted father from a heart attack).
Overall, despite questionable narrative portions, Superman is a mostly strong adaptation that set a high bar for the countless superhero films that would be released in the coming decades.
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars