Complete Superman Collection, the - Reeve Is Superman
| When I was a child there was little more magical to me than the idea of a man flying. When I saw Christopher Reeve in the first Superman film, this became who Superman was to me and will always be.
Richard Donner got all the details right when he made Superman the Movie. He told Superman’s story the way I always felt is should be told. He truly caught the spirit of the Man of Steel.
I love that Donner takes the time to tell the story. He makes Clark’s growing up believable and his relationships real. He allows Superman to appear to the world dramatically and then gives us, and that world, time to soak his presence in. All the while that the world is dealing with Superman, he’s dealing with the world and their reaction to him. What is the roll of a Superman? What are his obligations, rights and responsibilities? Adventure, comedy, romance. Superman the Movie has everything wrapped up in a big blue, red and yellow package.
Look at Reeve in this film. He is big and powerful but vulnerable and human. He desperately wants Lois to love him for who he is and not the costume he wears or the power he wields. He desperately wishes he could have saved his father but despite all he could do it was beyond his power. He struggles with the expectations of a world that sees only his glory and not his humanity. He wants love but knows it’s too dangerous to pursue. He embodies the idea of the ultimate man and the struggle that comes with that. His ideal-hood is not his strength but his heart.
There are so many aspects of Superman’s story that speak to me. There is the idea of being looked up to yet feeling so imperfect. The desire to be all that everyone expects and feeling like you aren’t any of that. The struggle to be ethical and make the rights choices despite the power to be selfish. The idea that family is who loves us and takes care of us and not necessarily where we come from. There is also the sin of arrogance and pride that doom an entire civilization.
The movie wouldn’t be half as good without Gene Hackman’s rollicking performance as Lex Luther. There are many visions of this character (the mad scientist, the evil corporate billionaire, the petty criminal) and they are all equally compelling, yet there is something so joyful in Hackman’s Luther that you can’t help but love. He is at once a goof and a true menace. Okay, for a criminal genius he surrounds himself with too many idiots, but I love the way the very presence of a Superman is offensive to him and his commitment to bringing Supes down.
The consequences of the existence of a Superman are explored even further in Superman 2. Like X2 and Spider-Man 2 it seems that the story telling can really begin when the origin recap is over. The world deals with this kind of power and its implications and Clark deals with his own issues when faced with other Kryptonians who have not had the benefit of the kind of upbringing he enjoyed.
These films all came at a time when special effects were going through a true coming of age and they still look beautiful. Despite the advantages of the CGI age, these films hold up. Superman really does fly.
Also, the characters get to develop a great deal further. Lex’s evil festers, the relationship between Lois and Clark is explored. There is that beautifully filmed scene in the road side diner where Clark must come to grips with his humanity. The film asks us what makes a hero and poses some interesting conclusions.
Unfortunately, like with many other super-hero franchises, the third film is where things start to go wrong. Richard Pryor just has no place in these movies and gives one of his least funny performances ever in Superman 3. Superman 4 the Quest for Peace is all just a big mess, poorly written and even more poorly performed. While both films are based on good ideas, both veer terribly off course.
However 3 and 4 have moments that make them worth reviewing for true fans. The dark/light split of Superman in 3 that culminates in a battle between “Clark” and the (dare I say?) Bizzaro Superman, is fascinating and shows Reeves’ range as an actor. The Clark/Superman double date in 4 is a treat and the debate he wages over his role as “saviour” is interesting if poorly played.
Still, this set is all about 1 & 2. These are the ultimate super-hero films and they have not yet been topped. I know a man can’t fly. I know that spinning the earth backwards on its axis doesn’t turn back time. I know that wearing glasses doesn’t hide your identity. But none of this matters. There is hope in the world and it is symbolised by men like Christopher Reeve and Superman.