I watched all the Christopher Reeve movies over the weekend and something about his take on the character doesn't sit well with me. Too handsome, too much of a boy scout and too much of an ideal in general. My favorites right now are Dean Cain and Henry Cavill. Their versions of Superman are more humanized and real.
But that's the thing. Superman is
an ideal. That's how he was presented from the beginning. That's the crux of the matter How do you humanize and "flesh out" an ideal that's in stark contrast to Batman and all the other dark and conflicted bunch of superheroes? What's wrong with being a hero?
Taking it as a given that Superman I and II were much better than III and IV and judging from the first two movies alone, the "boy scoutness" of Superman's character and those too good to be true lines of his are precisely why I think Reeve was so outstanding in the part and casts such a long shadow. Very few actors could deliver those boy scout lines and not seem a fool or without sacrificing masculinity. Reeve was ridiculously handsome, no doubt, but he never had that namby pamby teen heart throb quality. Masculine in the purest sense.
Also, I was spoiled by the Richard Donner cut of Superman II that had the Brando scenes. When Kal-El is telling ghost Jor El in the fortress that he's willing to give up saving humanity for Lois, he isn't exuding boy scout altruism in that scene. He asks, "Haven't I given enough?" He's tired at that point and wants what "everyone else has."
I wish the Salkinds hadn't pushed Donner out because they were so keen to cut Brando and his salary out of Superman II. The finished film by Lester was very good, but the Donner cut is better. It's a shame. Reeve and Brando together were great, even if Jor El wasn't in the fortress of solitude in the flesh.
Reeve did have one or two times where he tried to modernize the character
"Peter pan flys with kids"
Peter Pan flew with children, Lois, in a fairy tale. Supes could have lured a nun out of the convent with the way Reeve delivered that line. Naughty.
Score for Reeve.
Also a great moment. Then again, Reeve made an excellent amoral, villanous character in the Bostonians and in Street Smart with Morgan Freeman. Oh, and in Deathtrap with Michael Caine. God, I loved that movie.
The only actor to have kissed Caine on the lips on film.