Superman 1978

I assume that when many bloggers can’t decide on something they will use a poll to make the decision for them. And that’s exactly what I decided to do when I needed to decide which movie franchise I should start off the new year and this new site. And out of all of the choices, Superman won. Of course, I was already at the point where I was ready to start this project a couple weeks early, so when I was at the local video rental store and saw that they had all four of the original Christopher Reeve Superman movies in stock and ready to rent, I couldn’t resist and picked them all up to watch the week before Christmas. And I started working far enough ahead that I couldn’t wait until January first and decided to start posting these a week early.

I was awake Saturday by late morning, Jena woke up a couple hours later and came downstairs, my wife wasn’t feeling good so I decided to let her sleep and asked Jena if she wanted to watch Superman with me. She was very excited at first and right away liked the opening credits even though they’re rather dated now. “They’re flying!” she said excitedly. But her attention was gone by the first 20 minutes or so and the movie hadn’t even left Krypton at that point. I later found out that we were actually watching the extended version rather than the theatrical version. No wonder it clocked in over two hours. It only took a little over half an hour for Jena to go upstairs and play in her room. I dutifully paused the movie and we picked it up an hour or so later to finish off the rest of the movie.

Jena had several favorite parts of the movie. She loved all the cute scenes in the movie of course, like when baby Supes gets flown down to Earth. She thought it was hilarious when he was a naked little boy that the Kents found out in the field. She loved seeing Superman when he finally got in his outfit and started saving everyone in town, especially the kitten in the tree. And she liked the ending when he saved Lois Lane by flying really really fast, though even she realized that this was pretty absurd. Her exact words were “What the hell is he doing?” For most of the rest of the movie, she spent her time running around, running upstairs, or playing with her toys and talking about our “super” hamster.

As for my own thoughts on the movie, I had always thought I had seen this movie but I haven’t seen it since I was a kid. I recognized bits and pieces but I really had no memory of this movie when I started watching it, not helped by the fact that this was the extended edition. It felt like it took forever for the movie to start. It was well over an hour before the movie got past Krypton and Clark’s teenage years and into his suit flying around Metropolis and making a name for himself. There were some interesting bits in the beginning, but the setup with the Kryptonian villains going into the Phantom Zone was disappointing that it never paid off in this movie. It wasn’t until I started looking into the details of the movie when I realized that Zod was the focus of the second movie which was shot mostly alongside the first movie. In fact the missile that was launched into space was supposed to release the prisoners from the Phantom Zone, but that scene was scrapped. If this was done nowadays, that scene would have been put just after the end credits.

Once Clark put on his tights for the first time, that’s when the movie took off for me. I thought this movie handled Superman very well with a good mix of action and humor, from him taking a moment to consider changing in the phone booth, to him checking Lois’s lungs for cancer when she’s lighting up a cigarette. And the effects, while dated, are still pretty impressive for the time. I’m again surprised at this movie’s use of destroying well-known landmarks which I feel like most people credit Independence Day with popularizing. In this movie the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Hollywood sign get taken out. Of course, there were still a few things that weren’t so great after that point. Like why the heck are a bunch of girl scouts hanging out at the Hollywood sign anyway? There’s also the scene where Superman is taking Lois out on a romantic flight, and the audience can suddenly hear her thoughts about her feelings for Superman and wondering if he can read her mind. This was a really odd turn for the movie and it would have been better if the entire flight had remained in silence aside from her screaming during her brief fall. And of course being able to go back in time by flying around the Earth really fast and making it turn backwards is absolutely absurd.

There were also a few times where it was reminiscent of Superman Returns, the 2006 Bryan Singer movie that’s kind of a spiritual sequel to Superman II which is up next. It’s also one of my more recent memories of the Superman franchise along with Smallville and Lois and Clark. There’s the article “I Spent the Night With Superman”, the death of Jonathan Kent which was also echoed in Smallville, and the fact that Lex Luthor’s big scheme was all part of a Real Estate scam.

There are often arguments over which actor played the best Superman and I’m not going to get into that discussion, but I will take a look at the main characters and how they were handled in this version. Christopher Reeve was a great Superman as well as Clark Kent. He did a great job of separating their two personalities so one would never really associate the two people. Clark’s posture, manner of speaking, and clumsiness, even being outwardly cowardly during an encounter with a mugger. Lois on the other hand was handled well by Margot Kidder. It’s surprising that Lois in this movie was pretty self-sufficient, like during the mugging scene where Clark was cowardly, she was confident and aggressive. She defended herself and Clark even though it would have actually gotten her hurt in the process. I had always thought that the Lois who could kick butt when needed was a more recent development as seen in Smallville, and in the animated series. I really liked Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor as well. He was very different than many Lex’s that I’m familiar with. He still has a criminal genius to him, but it’s got a bit of bite taken out of it with his humorous portrayal both with all the wigs on hand as well as his comic relief sidekick. It never went too over the top campy or funny though there were some cases where he got really close to the line on that.

As I get to the end of my inaugural post of this blog, I do wonder how I should close things out. While I do call this a movie review blog, I am hesitant to give out star ratings or something similar. I just don’t tend to look at movies that way. I don’t look at any movie and think to myself “I liked about 80% of that movie” so there isn’t any numerical value that I feel I need to attribute to this movie. I felt it was slow in places, especially the beginning, but once it got going it really sucked me in and I had a great time watching it. I hope to have already watched the next three Christopher Reeve Superman movies by the time this is posted, but if you have any suggestions as to what I should watch next, leave it in the comments. Watch out for new posts every Sunday and Thursdays, I’m always open for suggestions on what to watch next, though I usually work a couple weeks ahead, at least until I start sliding. Until next time, this is Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.


About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 500 superhero and comic book movies in the past seven years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on December 26, 2011, in DC, Pre-80's movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. A nice little review here. If I may, I’d like to get your opinions on a few things about superhero movies in general as an ongoing thing:

    – Violence: do you feel the level of action/violence in a given movie is appropriate to the character and how heroic the character is supposed to be? Does it make the villain scary, realistic, campy, or what?

    – Heroism: Is the hero a Hero or merely a protagonist? Do they always just do the right thing or do they struggle with it?

    – Powers and Abilities: Do you feel that the hero/protagonist and villain/antagonist are smart, or just powerful?

    – Emotion: Does the movie leave you feeling good about heroism in general, or is it more gritty/realistic?

    …feel free to ignore these suggestions and just have fun, but I think these topics are good food for thought.

  2. Thanks for your comment. The violence one I’ll have to especially keep in mind. So far all the violence that we’ve watched for this site has been pretty tame and/or campy, that’s probably something that I’ll touch on when I watch some of the more realistic PG or PG-13 movies. I still haven’t decided how many of the Batman movies I’m going to watch with my daughter. I’d also like to try and get her thoughts on some of these questions but it’s hard to get a serious answer out of her. She devolves into silliness very quickly.

  3. Great section on pre-80s comics. What’s your take on Shazam/Captain Marvel? Is this an engaging character or duplicitous retelling of Superman? Captain Marvel transformed into a superhero starting by saying Shazam in 1939 from Fawcett comics and was stopped in 1953 by DC comics alleging him a copy of Superman. Shazam character was relaunched in 1972 under this new moniker and later folded into DC comics as Captain Marvel again with mixed success. I grew up watching Shazam on TV and owned several Shazam action figures. Will this hero ever see the light of day again or is he just part of the background henceforth? Great blog BTW. 😉

    • Thanks, I’m honestly not that familiar with Shazam. I’ve only briefly seen him in one of the DC animated movies. I would be curious to find the Shazam TV show, I never knew that existed. My comic book knowledge comes much more from movies and TV shows than actual comics. Thanks for stopping by!

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