Monday, March 19, 2012

Superman - First among sequels

It's time for another film marathon after last year's Planet of the Apes challenge. In anticipation of next year's Man of Steel I picked up the Superman box set dirt cheap and jumped back to 1978. Superman directed by Richard Donner and written by (amongst others) Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton and Tom Mankiewicz.

This was a monster of a film at the time. A huge budget, an enormous star cast and a team of powerhouse producers and writers. And it runs to 143 minutes. There's a lot of back story to get through, in fact there is quite a bit of Man before we get to the Super. It is 50 minutes until we see the costume briefly, and another 15 before the helicopter rescue scene.

Christopher Reeve is as good as you remember him. He makes a great Superman and his Clark Kent is still funny. I never really liked Margot Kidder's Lois Lane and the decision to have her smoke seems strange even for 1978. Equally odd is playing Lex Luthor and his accomplices for laughs. The movie Luthors have always been more comic than menacing. It's interesting that the new version has dropped him as a villain, maybe films just can't get him right.

Of course there is a lot of dodgy science in the movie, most notably in the turn back the clock finale. There's always the problem of finding a big enough challenge for Superman. And why is Lex Luthor always obsessed with real estate? To be frank these problems and the mass of money and talent thrown at the screen in an over-long film do diminish the impact, but the late lamented Christopher Reeve makes up for it. Plus Valerie Perrine as Miss Teschmacher is phwoar!

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