I’ve decided to go back and watch a bunch of movies based on comic books. No real reason, just something I thought would be fun. This time it was the 1978 movie Superman.
IMDb Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes critics: 93%
Rotten Tomatoes audience: 86%
My Rating: 6/10
This movie is one where nostalgia seems to skew perception. Richard Donner’s Superman is a fine movie, and a classic in the genre. It did some groundbreaking things, but that doesn’t automatically make it a great movie. It’s a good movie, but not a great one.
I was talking about this movie with my dad recently, since he had also just watched it. One thing that we both noticed was that it’s almost campy, and is much more similar to the 1966 Batman movie with Adam West than it is to any of the current DC movies. There are parts of the movie that are ridiculous (Superman ‘drilling’ into Lex’s lair), even cringe worthy (Lois Lane’s weird internal monologue during the flying scene). Lex Luthor is also baffling. He’s a self proclaimed genius who obviously has plenty of financial resources, but only keeps two assistants, one betrays him, and the other is a complete buffoon. I also couldn’t figure out how he determined that the meteorite in Addis Ababa would harm Superman. It just seemed like lazy writing. Speaking of lazy writing, there are a lot of inconsistencies in the movie, like how it takes Superman a few minutes to catch up to a missile, but can then fly around the Earth multiple times in a few seconds, or how Clark Kent’s business clothes just disappear at one point.
The music in the movie is fantastic, though a little overwhelming at times. The visual effects are dated, and some of them just look bad, but nothing that’s unforgivable, especially since the film is so old. Yet, despite all the problems with the movie, it’s still good, and that’s impressive. I think the main reason that it’s still a good movie is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, unlike the attempted reboot, Superman Returns. Rather than trying to make Superman a realistic character in a realistic world, Richard Donner embraced the ridiculousness of the character and ran with it. Christopher Reeves seemed like he was having a lot of fun with the character, and he’s a solid actor, especially when playing Clark Kent. Margot Kidder is a little shrill and helpless at times, but she’s still the best Lois Lane on the big screen. Gene Hackman is great as Lex Luthor, but he’s great because he’s so over the top silly.
I understand why so many people love this movie, and why it’s considered a classic. It definitely has its flaws, but it also has a certain charm that so many comic book movies are missing. Even though I didn’t rate it particularly high, this is a movie I’ll be able to watch over and over again, and that says a lot.