So I did it! I set a goal to watch all the Superman and Batman movies before Batman v Superman. Watching Superman movies was interesting because most of them I hadn’t seen in a long time so it was kind of like watching them fresh. I’ve never been that big of a comic book movie person and Superman was always pretty far down my list, but I do have nice memories of Christopher Reeves. When I was in high school I read his autobiography and was very moved by his personal story.
Superman is a fun character because he is so pure. He’s practically the definition of a hero because his mere existence is to help humans and spread hope. Some of the versions miss this sense of hope and some forget it in favor of ridiculous comedy. I’d say you get a little bit of everything with Superman. At his core he should be a hero.
Just like with Batman, the Superman movies have their highs, lows and mehs. And just like with Batman I am going to do it Best Shot style and pick one image from each film that summarizes my experience watching it.
My thoughts on all the Batman movies here
So here we go…
Superman: The Movie
I’ll be honest this movie didn’t hold up for me the way I thought it would. Richard Donner’s film was a trailblazer in the world of comic book movies but my problem was how long it took to get going. It takes an hour before you meet Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent/Superman and he doesn’t fly until almost the 1 1/2 hour mark. That was too slow for me.
Some of the origin story is compelling. I like Marlon Brando as Jor-El and his role as a kind of Savior character is interesting, but it just takes so long. I got bored. Now once we get to Christopher Reeves it is wonderful. He does such a good job differentiating the nerdy Clark Kent and the suave Superman.
I also felt that Margot Kidder as Lois Lane was wonderful and her and Reeves have excellent chemistry. My favorite scenes of the film was their date and the first time they fly together. I’m not the biggest fan of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. I don’t mind a silly villain but he wasn’t charming silly but just annoying. John Williams theme is of course iconic and overall it’s an entertaining film, just not quite as great as I remembered it.
This was my favorite of the Superman films I watched. I saw the Donner cut because Richard Lester took over as director and made it a lot sillier. I didn’t have time to compare the Lester version so take that for what you will.
Still I liked that this film focused on Zod, Ursa and Non coming back to have revenge on Superman for their banishment. They are strong villains but the movie wisely focuses the most on Superman and his inner struggle over saving humanity vs having a loving happy life with Lois Lane. This gives a nice emotion and Reeves is very good in these scenes. Plus, you still have the great chemistry between Kidder and Reeves.
There is a little bit of Lex Luthor but luckily it keeps it to a minimum and the violence is strong but in shorter bursts. But mostly this film is great because of the journey of Superman and Reeves strong performance.
Now we get into the bad films. In Superman 3 Richard Lester is given full control and it’s not really even ‘so bad it’s good’. For something to be that kind of guilty pleasure it has to be sincerely trying to be good but this is just a boring, lazy, stupid movie.
Right from the beginning you know they are going for total slapstick with a pratfall routine where telephone booths are toppled over. It gets worse from there.
I felt bad for Richard Pryor because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where an actor looked more intoxicated while filming. There were times you couldn’t understand what he was saying it was so slurred together. He plays a programmer who is used by a CEO to do all kinds of dastardly deeds.
Reeves is fine and there is an entertaining scene with him fighting both sides of himself- evil vs good Superman. But they remove Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and give us Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang who he has no chemistry with.
I picked this shot of Richard Pryor because it showcases the problem of the movie with him skiing down the side of a building and then landing with no injuries. It’s just so stupid.
As bad as Superman 3 is, Superman 4 is even worse. The production team famously took all the money out of the budget so everything looks horrible. Everything from the costumes, special effects, script are horrible.
I guess only good thing about it is you get Margot Kidder back as Lois Lane but it sucks that things had to go out this way for her and Reeves, who were so wonderful together. You have so many cliches with the mean boss at the Daily Planet with the daughter who has hots for Clark (Superman/Clark Kent go on a double date with Lois/Lacy for a long segment).
We get the return of Lex Luthor who creates Nuclear Man which is embarrassing. Superman gives a speech at the UN and you can’t help but cringe. Maybe some people find this ‘so bad it’s good’ but it’s hard when nobody was even trying to make something good.
Bryan Singer took a break from X-men to make his version of Superman in 2006. It’s not terrible but did we really need to see Lois as a bitter single mother? Brandon Routh is fine as Superman but he is off screen for long segments of time. It really could be called Lois Lane Movie because of the focus given her.
We get Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor who I thought was surprisingly flat in the role. He’s kind of a bully to his assistant played by Parker Posey (who cries most of the film) and not a believable foe for Superman. Maybe I just don’t like the character of Lex Luthor? We’ll see if Batman v Superman can change my mind.
It does have a nice look to it and some impressive sequences. I particularly liked a scene where Superman stops a crashing plane. I liked it visually but also because it took brains and brawn to make it happen. That was cool twist for the character. Overall not a terrible watch but a little bit dry.
It does have many homages to the Donner films and I don’t know if it quite got that balance of originality vs reboot right? It’s tricky.
Honestly it is the most divisive movie in history. I have grown weary discussing it with people, but I must own I didn’t hate it this time around. I was more ‘meh’. It’s takes Superman into a scifi direction and then adds a disaster movie component. I said while tweeting ‘it’s Superman if you combined Star Trek and San Andreas’ and I think that is accurate.
I hate the flashback structure and it’s not that the destruction exists it’s just gratuitous and repetitive. Do we need to destroy all of Smallville and then destroy building after building of Metropolis? Couldn’t the point be made more succinctly? They also screwed up Lois and Clark relationship. There is not near enough time with them together to believe their relationship or what happens/how she is used.
Michael Shannon is fine as Zod and his motivations are interesting. He is trying to save his people and I liked that. I also love Henry Cavill who is a very beautiful man. I just wish they gave us a few more moments like the kissing scene with him and Lois where he jokes about kissing an alien. It doesn’t have to be a joke but the whole movie he seems depressed.
Diane Lane is excellent as his mother but I didn’t like Kevin Costner as Pa Kent or how they wrote that character at all.
The breaking of Zod’s neck makes sense in theory but it’s at the end of one building after another and it feels gratuitous after such exhaustion.
Snyder needs to learn the art of subtlety and that sometimes less is more. This includes his Messianic imagery. This shot really captured the film for me. Cavill- great. Snyder’s excess- not so great.
What is your favorite Superman movie? Put in the comments sections and let’s talk! On to Batman v Superman.
My youtube review of Superman 1 and 2. If you feel so inclined give it a thumbs up.