Warner Bros. has just released a great, new DVD edition of 'Superman: The Movie', starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty and Marlon Brando. Directed by Richard Donner, the film has always been a standard for all of the superhero comic book films. However, the DVD edition is simply luminous. The print is beautiful, the sound great. Donner has also added footage to the film which only serves to make the experience even better. A great movie to watch at home.
Just before his planet blows up, a young boy is sent to Earth by his father, Jor-El (Marlon Brando). On Earth, he is adopted by an older Kansas couple. He realizes that he has strange powers and shortly after his father's death, sets off to the North Pole. There, he creates the Fortress of Solitude and learns about his past and how he can affect the future. Finally, the adult Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) sets off to Metropolis and gets a job at the Daily Planet. He is attracted to the brash city beat reporter, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Soon enough, the citizens of Metropolis need the help of Superman and Lane sets out to get an interview. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is also closely watching the developments and formulating a plan.
'Superman' is a remarkably accomplished film. It is a film about a superhero, based on a comic book, in which the story is given more priority. Imagine that. In the new DVD edition, Donner has added some significant scenes set on Krypton and also enhanced the scenes set in Kansas. Watching the film again, I was struck by how realistic the scenes set on Krypton were. As CGI was not in use at the time the film was made, the filmmakers had to create worlds and special effects the old fashioned way. After Jor-El finishes his interrogation, the roof of the building moves away to allow for the convicts to be taken away. How was this done? With miniatures. And it is completely believable.
When Clark arrives in Kansas, he lives with an elderly couple on their farm. Donner and company perfectly capture the sun dappled brilliance of the countryside. Set in the 50s, everything is completely believable. Donner has added some scenes to further enhance the relationship between Clark and his mother. The landscapes are really beautiful and give the film an epic quality.
When Clark arrives in Metropolis, the city scape is jarring. From a life of relative quiet and solitude, he is thrust into a large, loud, huge city. It is also a great reflection on how the times have changed.
Upon his arrival in Metropolis, the entire film gets a little surreal, also reflecting life in the big city. Things get a little more cartoonish, but when someone is plotting to blow up California, things are expected to get a little broad.
The actors in each of the segments also reflect the type of life in each. Brando brings a quiet authority to the role of Jor-El. He is a larger than life figure, played by a cinematic icon.
Glenn Ford plays Clark's dad in Kansas. Could they have picked a better actor? As he walks around the farm, he just looks as though he belongs.
Christopher Reeve is really perfect as Clark Kent/ Superman. He brings a gangly, goofy sort of nerdish quality to Kent and a matinee idol quality to Superman. He is also remarkably restrained, making the roles all that more believable, a quality that he was able to retain for 'II', but lost, in a big way for 'III' and 'IV'.
Margot Kidder is the embodiment of Lois Lane. She is perfect in the role, brash and confident.
Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor is also a standard that is perhaps only rivaled by Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker in 'Batman'. Super intelligent, yet homicidal, Hackman makes the character believable, again without the histrionics so often involved with this sort of character.
'Superman' is not a perfect film. The 'I Can Fly' segment still induces groans to this day. It brings the film to a dead stop. Also, some of the flying sequences, while great for the time they were produced, are a little dated today.
'Superman' is the type of film that parents could take their kids to and enjoy with them.