There are more superhero films than germs in my pants (scientific fact). Many say they’re done with it, the genre has been stretched to its breaking point, etc, etc. But let’s go back in time, to an era where you couldn’t catch a superhero every other movie theatre screen. Welcome to the 1970s.
Outside of comics, the ‘70s were very much a barren land for superhero content. Sure, you had your ‘60s Batman show and film, your Incredible Hulk show, and old serialised movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s. But nobody took their property seriously. For the most part, studios never gave the characters the respect and depth they deserved – and definitely nowhere near the amount given to characters in non-superhero media.
That was until Richard Donner (who at this time was known for The Omen) directed Superman. The film that finally gave superheroes the respect they deserved. (Well, at least until the sequels started taking that respect away, but that’s a story for another day).
Anyway, what does the OG Superman film do well? Well, for one thing, its lead. You can keep your Henry Cavils and your Brandon Rouths (remember him? Yeah, me neither). Christopher Reeves is Superman. He’s just so charming in both the roles of Superman and Clark that you just can’t help but love him.
Speaking of good acting, that’s something you can say about all of the actors. Two worth noting are Lex (played by Gene Hackman) and Otis (played by the late Ned Beatly). I adore their Laurel and Hardy-esque chemistry. I could happily watch a film focused on these two for hours.
The effects too aren’t bad either. Sure, not all of the effects have aged well, but considering this in a decade when computers could do nothing more than beep and take up a whole field, it certainly is impressive. Also, John Williams… What more do I need to say?
As for negatives, let’s get to the elephant in the room: the ending. The infamous ending, that you most likely know even if you’ve never seen this film before. For those that still aren’t aware (and without giving too much away) Superman flies across the world, so fast, that he reverses time to prevent something from happening (I know that sounds vague, but it’s for the superhero-amateurs who don’t know about this).
This ending has been beaten to dust by the internet already, so let’s move on. I think a few scenes do feel a bit like padding here and there, especially near the beginning. When I was watching this, I kept thinking, “Yes, filmmakers. I see we’re flying through the solar system like Clark, but at the same time GET ON WITH IT!”
Overall, Superman is a good film. Far from perfect, but considering it’s the first proper superhero film, it’s good. It’s just a shame that we never really got another Superman film of this quality again. The producers screwed over two, and three is just an unfunny comedy. The fourth entry was, surprisingly, decent but very cheaply put together. Returns… happened and the Synder stuff was alright but still nowhere near the OG.