01 Reviews from the VaultIn anticipation of the upcoming Man of Steel from director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer, we decided to open the vault and review the 1978 film Superman: The Movie from director Richard Donner. For its time, it was a feat of special effects and sported a cast of actors that should have guaranteed an incredible movie. Chistopher Reeve assumed the role of Superman, as was to be expected at the time. And he starred alongside Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Glen Ford, Ned Beatty, and Terence Stamp as General Zod. The film was nominated for 3 Oscars and won a special achievement reward for visual effects. But did this film deserve the attention it received?

The film starts with Jor-El holding General Zod on trial for trying to stage a coup of Krypton’s government which results in the villain being banished to the Phantom Zone. And this is the last we see of him… for the rest of the movie… making the entire opening scene irrelevant to anything else that happens from here on out and garnering the extremely talented Terence Stamp no more than five minutes of screen time. Jor-El then holds council with other Kryptonian leaders and tries to convince them that they need to evacuate the planet. The council disagrees and informs Jor-El that if he causes civil unrest he will be banished to the phantom realm as well. When it is discovered that he is building a ship to send his son off planet, the council sends an agent to arrest him. But the movie doesn’t follow through on this plot element either and seconds after the ship takes off carrying Kal-El, Krypton blows up.

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The rest of the film is just as disheartening and disconnected. Kal-El lands on Earth and is discovered by the Kent family who name him Clark. After Pa Kent has a heart attack and dies, Clark leaves home and uses a shard from his ship to grow the Fortress of Solitude (not unlike a grow your own crystal kit, only scaled larger and in Antartica). There Marlon Brando returns to the film as a talking head for the rest of the film. Here he becomes Superman and the writers seem to forget this fact while they build his identity as a mild mannered and clumsy reporter. It isn’t until an hour and ten minutes into the film that we see Reeve as Superman in action. But after the famous scene with Lois Lane falling out of the helicopter, it’s basically just a montage of Superman stopping low level criminals until it ends with him saving Air Force One from a crash. Almost as a side note, Lex Luthor decides he’s going to hatch a plan once the movie is more than halfway over. This plan leads to amazing feats from the man of steel including lifting the San Andeas Fault back into place. Alas, it was all for naught though since all he ever had to do was fly around the Earth fast enough to cause it to spin backwards and turn back time.

Did you ever adore something as a child and then go back only to find that it wasn’t as great as you originally thought? That’s how we feel about this film. It had so much potential, but through poor scripting it became a discombobulated mess of vignettes from different areas of Kal-El’s life. The campy depiction of Lex also made him seem for of a joke than a criminal mastermind. As for the visual effects this movie won a special achievement award for, Star Wars (which came out the year before) possessed much better effects with a much better story and much better acting. Where this film did not go wrong is in the music composed by John Williams who always manages to move us. Unfortunately, we think his talents were wasted on this film as were the talents of Stamp, Hackman, Brando, Reeve, and everyone else involved. This is sad because Richard Donner has done some amazing films (The Goonies and Ladyhawke to name a couple). Our verdict, check his other films out and leave this one in the vault (though you should get the soundtrack). (for the Williams score to this film).

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