How do the Christopher Reeves "Superman" movies hold up to more modern comic book movies?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Jayson1, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. doylem1

    doylem1 Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Sep 16, 2011
    The only place the Williams Superman theme would have worked if placed in the MOS movie is in the closing credits. I liked the film but lord it needed something to lift you at the end of the film as it was so bleak so not Superman.
  2. Timby


    May 28, 2001
    I find nothing bleak or depressing about Man of Steel and if the Williams March had shown up at any point I would have thought it to be a porn parody.

    Insisting that the Superman March should be in every Superman movie is, at best, clinging to nostalgia, and indulging in "NOT MY SUPERMAN" whining at worst.
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  3. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 24, 2006
    Escaped from Delta Vega
    Agreed; it was the first live action superhero adaptation to not only pay attention to the elements from the source, but respect the myths of the world the comics created, instead of a producer or director claiming the adaptation is authentic, but altering it to the point where the adaptation is more about the whims/agenda of a director or producer than making the comic come alive.

    Superman presented the near perfect version of every character and their long-established motivations; in Clark/Superman, he's not a moral beacon "just because" the plot demands it--we see how he's shaped by his Kryptonian and human parents, so his being a champion for what it right has a solid, believable source that is referenced in one way or another throughout the film.

    Every chapter of the film was so well conceived and produced (with the exception of some humor scenes), that the audience found themselves wanting to see more of Krypton, Smallville and Metropolis--all so compelling that you could feel there were more stories to be found in each location. For example, Krypton's seemingly stoic culture was countered by the defensive, intensity of Jor-El--his judgement of / standoff with Zod teased a history greater than their all too brief exchange. So few times in film history is a villain introduced and dispatched in only a few minutes, but captures the interest of the audience long after he's gone.

    It should come as no surprise why Reeve's ability to create two distinctive characters in Clark and Superman remains the jewel in the comic book adaptation crown all others are repeatedly compared to. It says much that beyond the advances FX (which some use as the default position for modern anything being "better"), his performance and appearance is as close to the comic page coming alive as an audience would ever hope for.

    Then, there's the Williams score. What soundtrack has ever defined a superhero character and genre to that level?

    While no movie is perfect, the Donner Superman (and most of his version of II) are among the best ever filmed.

    ...thanks to sleazy, eternally lowballed Cannon getting their hands on the franchise.
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  4. Aldo

    Aldo Admiral Admiral

    Jan 4, 2003
    Hyrule Castle
    I love Superman IV. By no stretch of the imagination will I argue that it's a "good" film, or even competently made, but as a fan of Cannon Films, it will always have a special place in my heart. I love the idea that in a last ditch effort to save their fledgling company they got the rights to Superman IV simply because they thought putting out a Superman movie was going to save them. Forgetting that they also needed to actually try to make a good movie.
  5. Gaith

    Gaith Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 11, 2008
    San Francisco, CA
    Disclaimer: I have not seen Superman: The Movie from start to finish in a very long time; I've only seen parts. But I'm certain that, no, it doesn't hold up, and no, it's not a good movie, either.

    I admire Reeve as Supes and Williams' score as much as the next guy, but the rest of the movie is pretty bloated and often deathly dull. The lengthy Krypton prologue is useless, and giving us a better picture of that world than Clark himself ever gets is an absurd dramatic choice that distances us from him. (For this and other reasons, I consider Smallville's pilot episode the best live-action Superman origin story by far.)

    Pauline Kael's appropriately epic-sized New Yorker review contains many great points:

    Christopher Reeve, the young actor chosen to play the lead in “Superman,” is the best reason to see the movie. He has an open-faced, deadpan style that’s just right for a windup hero. Reeve plays innocent but not dumb, and the combination of his Pop jawline and physique with his unassuming manner makes him immediately likable.

    [The John Williams score] piercing your head tells you that you should remember each name in the euphoric opening credits. That’s where the peak emotion in the film is: in the package.

    The narrative immediacy of comic strips is what has such a magical effect on kids. The plot is socked to them, with exclamation points. And we go to “Superman” hoping for that kind of disreputable energy. But it isn’t there, and you can feel the anticipatory elation in the theatre draining out .... The plotting is so hit or miss that the movie never seems to get started.

    It sticks to dumb jokes about spelling, and low-comedy scenes [with] Lex Luthor.... He’s strenuously frivolous, like a guest villain on a late-sixties “Batman” show. Most of the time, he and Beatty are doing deliberately corny material—a kiddies’ version [of] burlesque routines...

    When Superman takes his beloved up for a joyride in the sky, the cutting works against the soaring romanticism that we’re meant to feel, and, with Lois reciting Leslie Bricusse lyrics to convey her poetic emotions, even the magic of two lovers flying hand in hand over New York City is banalized. [...] Margot Kidder tries to do something with this thankless part, but she’s harsh-voiced, and comes across as nervous and jumpy; she seems all wrong in relation to Reeve, who outclasses her. He’s so gentlemanly that her lewdness makes one cringe. [We] aren’t given a clue to what our hero sees in Lois Lane.
    Two more:

    - Supes has zero character arc. He goes in the Fortress as Clark, and exits as Supes, then later plays Wimpy Clark. We never get to see the real Clark again, or Martha. We never see him grappling with the question of what it means to be a god amongst humans. (Snyder may have utterly failed to say anything coherent on the matter either, but at least he made some effort in that direction.) Nor does anyone else evolve; they just react to things. In a three-hour movie.

    - The Zod subplot is even more wildly out of place than it would have been if the plot point of Luthor's rocket freeing the trio had been kept in. And people (wrongly) say Iron Man 2 has useless franchise setup?!

    In short: I understand the movie's place as a cultural touchstone, and father to today's comic book blockbusters. But strip away the hype, nostalgia, and sentimental reverence, and one is left with a bad, ass-numbing movie with a few moments of greatness. Even a lighthearted popcorn flick should have some scenes of characters in some kind of conflict (think Luke and Han arguing over whether to seek out and rescue Leia), but Superman: The Movie contains almost none whatsoever: even when Superman and Lex finally face off, they just briefly talk at each other. The whole thing is more pageant than film, and, on a quality divided by runtime formula, it pales in comparison to Smallville's "Pilot".
  6. Smellmet

    Smellmet Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Aug 5, 2013
    The Northern Shires of England.
    I'll take clinging to nostalgia (and there's nothing wrong with that) until someone comes up with a better score for the character, which probably ain't gonna happen. I'll concede that it wouldn't be right to lift the score wholesale from the earlier movies, but to include a couple of the score's more famous motifs would have satisfied me no end, if it's good enough for 007 then it's good enough for Supes.

    "NOT MY SUPERMAN" whining? Gimme a break. I happen to enjoy Man of Steel very much thank you. :)
  7. Kirk Prime

    Kirk Prime Commander Red Shirt

    Mar 15, 2017
    I think they hold up very well, because they actually get the character of Superman right. Sure there are some dated elements, but the heart and soul is there. The second two movies sucked, we all know that, so that's not really an issue. But the first two movies were very good. Not perfect, but very good. Superman The Movie's weakness was the ending. Superman II had some weaknesses too, but the battle with Zod was amazing.

    The key about Reeve's Superman was that he was both inspirational and kind. As Zod put it, his big weakness was that he cared--about everyone. Superman would view that as a strength and it turned out it was.

    One of the biggest problems with the DCU today is that they don't understand or write Superman well. MOS and BvS were just terrible versions for me. And it's not that it can't be done. TV usually does a very good job with Superman.

    More on topic, if you ask me right now, which movie I would watch, a Reeve movie or a Cavill movie, I choose Reeve every time. It's not that I have blind loyalty to Reeve--it's just that I don't like the Cavill movies at all. Superman must inspire, not scowl.
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  8. velour

    velour Commander Red Shirt

    Sep 18, 2014
    That, he was. And when I think of inspiration, I can't help but remember the stirring message that Brando's Jor-El imparted to Kal-el in the Fortress of Solitude.

    That is one of my favorite scenes from the movie.
    "It is now time for you to rejoin your new world, and serve as collective humanity. Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you ... my only son."

    Jor-El didn't tell Kal-El to explore his own angst and darker side, as Cavill's Superman did. The speech did not celebrate or embrace cynicism, like too many recent superhero movies seem to do. It was a powerful and hopeful message. Embrace the light. It was an uplifting message, as was the movie as a whole.

    By the way, there was also a messianic, Christ like vibe at the end of his speech.
  9. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

    Sep 19, 2010
    E. coast U.S.A.
    Marlon Brando audio from Superman:The Movie(1978) was used in Routh's Superman Returns(2006). Very Christ like...
  10. Nyotarules

    Nyotarules Commodore Commodore

    Jan 20, 2016
    Superman's comic creators had Jewish roots, he was meant to be a Messianic figure - 'El' in Hebrew from Elohim meaning God
  11. Kirk Prime

    Kirk Prime Commander Red Shirt

    Mar 15, 2017
    You sure about that? Originally, he was Kal-L, not Kal-El. That came later.

    MOS was soooo problematic. Superman is not dark and brooding. Superman does not brood. He is not a reluctant hero. He's an enthusiastic one. And the people do cheer him on and embrace him. They are not cynical.

    Not only was the character of Superman butchered, but look what they did to Jonathan Kent. Jonathan was everything Superman was, except human. This was a good man, not someone who would get mad because his son saved the lives of a busload of kids from drowning.

    In the Reeve movie, Superman was told by Jonathan that he was here for a reason. In MOS, Superman was told by Jonathan to hide.

    In the Reeve movie, Jonathan's death gave Clark the lesson that as powerful as he is, he has limits. In MOS, Jonathan died because he wouldn't let Clark fetch a dog and then help him. Clark could have saved that dog without revealing his powers by the way.
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  12. dodge

    dodge Commodore Commodore

    Oct 14, 2003
    "You are my son.... but somewhere out there, you... you have another father too, who gave you another name, and he sent you here for a reason, Clark; and even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is."
    - Jonathan Kent
    (Superman, 1978)

    (actually Man of Steel, a movie in which Jonathan Kent says more than one word that's repeatedly taken out of context) :p
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  13. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

    Nov 5, 2008
    He would if he lived in a world anything like ours.
    They are in the real world.

    I love Man of Steel/Batman V Superman's take on people's perceptions of Superman. He's either a god or a monster, which is exactly how we would take him. And the weight of all that would make you a broody, miserable sod. Superman: The Movie was nice idealistic fantasy, but Man of Steel reflects more how things would actually be.
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  14. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 22, 2001
    None Given
    Actually the main issue I had with MOS is that Zod and the other TRAINED SOLDER Kryptonians should have mopped the floor with Kal-El. Why? Kal-El never learned anything about how to fight (certainly not at the level a trained/career soldier would have). In fact Pa Kent reiterated he should never fight or expose his powers in any way (and because of it Pa Kent essentially died/killed himself to PROTECT Kal-El's secret when he told Clark he would get the dog.)
  15. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

    Mar 8, 2001
    Great Britain

    I think I would take either of the first two Reeves movies as well. But I don't dislike the Cavill movies.
  16. Gaith

    Gaith Vice Admiral Admiral

    May 11, 2008
    San Francisco, CA
    1) Hey, Jonathan, how do you know it wasn't Clark's mother that sent him? Or mothers? Did you read the script?

    2) What if it's a stupid reason? What if Kryptonian culture is to randomly send their ugly babies away? What if Clark was a fantastically ugly baby by Kryptonian standards? Would finding that out really be worth a lifetime of searching?

    3) Isn't the most important thing for Clark to find his own way?

    No, it isn't. Just because Clark isn't ready to face the public eye as an alien in no way means his privacy could ever be construed as more important than the lives of a dozen kids. Just another example of MoS' Jonathan mainly saying dumb stuff that only kinda-sorta sounds meaningful (see above).

    - Clark, Zod and Co. horrifically ravage Metropolis, killing thousands of Americans, injuring thousands more, and causing billions of dollars in economic damage: no Senate hearings, apparently, given if Clark had attended some, Alfred would certainly have mentioned that as an argument in favor of not murdering him.
    - A few African villagers die in an area controlled by a warlord: Hearings! There will be Very Serious Hearings!

    ... Realism? :p
  17. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Vice Admiral Admiral

    Nov 20, 2012
    I haven't seen the film since I was a kid. But I thought it was a good film, a different less eye-candyish approach to superheroes.

    I think a lot of modern superhero films make the mistake of thinking flashier graphics = more aesthetic appeal. It's great that now the producers don't have to say no to any script idea based on not technologically being able to do it, but having busier backgrounds with lots of projectiles flying around and buildings collapsing or having the action happen too fast for the eye to track just because you can does not make the action scene look better.

    I would also agree, there are some superheroes who need to be dark and conflicted, and Superman is not one of them.
  18. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 24, 2006
    Escaped from Delta Vega
    If you have not watched it--start to finish--in your "very long time," then in all fairness, your opinion would be just as...incomplete.

    Then, there's the Pauline Kael reference--this the same woman who said of the original Star Wars:

    There's more along those lines, but to continue, while a view of one film might not have a bearing on the opinion of another, it says much that she held Star Wars & Superman--the two greatest achievements in fantasy filmmaking of the decade (and overall up to that point in history) in such contempt. I'm well aware of the other kinds of films she praised in the 1970s, so one can argue that her reviews were not divorced from bias. In the 60's, she considered Planet of the Apes "comedy," (a gross misunderstanding of social commentary or a way of shoving the film into one kind of corner) and of 2001: A Space Odyssey--

    A pattern was in beaten into place, so I find her views suspect at best.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  19. Jax

    Jax Admiral Admiral

    Jun 21, 2003
    I've never been a fan of the original Superman movie despite what I find is a very interesting opening halve to the movie. I have nothing against Reeves either, who I find does a superb job for the role of Clark/Superman though I do wish Hackman's Luthor was more serious in his statue. The film falls apart in the 2nd halve IMO with the biggest culprit being the turning the planet backwards to reverse time UTTER NONSENSE. Also if memory serves, doesn't Luthor with little evidence just guess where Krypton is and that substance from his home world would be lethal to Superman.

    The 2nd movie is much better and overall I do like it though it's not aged that well especially the combat scenes. The Richard Donner cut is way better but even then he does the turn back time thing again, how fucking lazy is that. The non Richard Donner cut has some of the most inappropriate humor ever in a film (not as bad as Transformers 2 but still bad). During the battle in the streets of Metropolis, you would think the average person might be terrified but nope, they are too busy cracking stupid jokes or half hearted comments to Zod and co.

    The other two Reeves movies are AWFUL full stop. John Williams score is of course a true classic and maybe the best part of the Reeves franchise. I do love MoS and it remains my favourite Superman movie to date.
  20. mos6507

    mos6507 Commodore Commodore

    Dec 22, 2010
    Superman The Movie is almost 40 years old. This isn't exactly a topical thread in the first place.

    "the rest of the movie is pretty bloated and often deathly dull."

    Superman: The Movie's pacing is a reflection of the times. Remember that it was written by Mario (The Godfather) Puzo. It was meant to have a David Lean like epic sweep to it. Some of the lyricism, especially the way it leans on long stretches of lush scoring where not much action is going on (like the Fortress of Solitude segment) are reminiscent of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That approach is totally foreign to anyone under 40. The closest I can think of in a modern context is a Peter Jackson movie but his excesses really do go overboard sometimes (King Kong in particular).
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017