Superman (1978) Directed by Richard Donner. With Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Marc McClure.
With the post production, CG manipulation available to directors of the digital era, it’s easy for anyone who didn’t grow up in the 1970’s to overlook Richard Donner’s original cinematic superhero adventure, Superman. With the quality of the special effects – particularly the flying sequences – being patchy at best, but still ground-breaking for the time, Superman stands and falls on its ability to engage in terms of character and story. So is it still the joyous epic it was all those years ago? Every bit.
It’s testament to the brilliance of Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the ‘Man of Steel’ that in all the years that have passed, no-one has been able to shake his grip as the definitive version of the character. While visual effects might not dazzle like they used to, the production values and ambition of the project still do. Of all the hero films to date, not a single one springs to mind that covers so much ground in such an epic and sprawling fashion. In many ways, Superman is three films in one. The Kryptonian origins, growing up in Smallville and finally adjusting to life as Superman/Clark Kent in Metropolis.
Fleshing all of this out is a spectacular cast ranging from Hollywood veteran Jackie Cooper on lively form as the editor of the Daily Planet, Perry White, to the hypnotic presence of Marlon Brando as father of Superman, Jor-El. The chemistry of the cast is clear to see and lifts every frame; no more so than in a beautifully played rooftop scene between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in which Lois Lane conducts her first exclusive interview with Superman. The pair positively shine as they verbally spar with each other in a scene that has to go down as a classic of any genre.
What truly makes Superman fly though, beyond the wires and special effects is John Williams’ utterly stunning and never bettered score. Williams’ masterful themes tell the story of Superman all on their own and provide an astonishing musical representation of a character that can never be replaced.
With so much beauty, comedy, heart and soul on display, Superman remains a truly spectacular journey of a film that defies age to sit high, if not still on top of all the superhero films ever made. 5/5