Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * · ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )
Every superhero or comic book based movie should use Superman the Movie as a model. Superman was one of the original, and still one of the best, super hero movies of it's time and still today because it followed one basic rule. It kept it simple. By keeping the plot and story simple the writer of the movie, Mario Puzo of all people, was able to spend the film time where it was able to do the best job. Rather than introduce characters quickly and then force the audience into a detailed and twisted plot line, we get some great detail of the characters and some excellent interaction between these characters. Superman got it right.
"This is no fantasy" states Jor-El in the first line of the movie as the camera finishes it's voyage over the immense and detailed surface of Krypton. Out steps Marlin Brandau in an excellent costume, a full black robe with the white S crest we have become so familiar with. For the first 30 minutes of the movie we are given a vision of life on Krypton with no frame of reference, no narration, no background. It is wonderful. Rather than some tedious summary or an outsider that must be constantly guided through the society and it's technology, we are forced to use our imagination or die. Some have a difficult time in such a situation but only because they are out of practice. Many times movie studios add in a reference point into science fiction stories, like the controversial narration in Blade Runner, but this is only an attempt to help those who cannot be helped. Movies should focus on the visuals and let the viewers minds build the story. When our young Superman throws his only remaining relic into the snow of the north pole, a great fortress of solitude is built. No explanation, just visuals. Great columns blast from the nice below forming a tiny Krypton that teaches Superman about himself for years before he is released upon the city of Metropolis.
The early years of Superman on earth are given a lot of well deserved screen time. We get to wonder at the powers our hero is given just as he wonders. One of the best scenes in the movie is a dialog between Clark and his father, Henry, who explains in a very fatherly way that the powers given to Superman were meant for a greater purpose. It would seem that spending his first years as a farm hand and school loser gave Superman just the right amount of humility to truly be a hero. One can only imagine what he would have turned out like coming from the North Shore of Chicago.
Unfortunately at the midway point the movie takes an ugly dive. Our hero seems to spend most of his time saving Lois Lane (three times!) from herself. Clark Kent is overdone to the point of becoming almost unbelievable and Lois is just plain annoying. Lex Luthor is portrayed as more of a joke than as a truly sinister villain with an idiot servant and a girlfriend who is just waiting for the chance to turn him in.
The story stays relatively simple except for a huge violation of time travel. I am refining a new movie rule on time travel but some movies like Terminator, 12 monkeys and Time Bandits actually get it right so one can't simply ban all time travel movies, though God knows many deserve it. Aside from this pretty big plot hole, the story exists more as a side piece to introduce the characters, as it should.
The DVD of Superman is definitely worth owning if you are a fan of the movie. The picture is a 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced transfer with a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It includes a very interesting directors commentary with the director and the producer that has a lot of insight into the making of the movie in a time before computers controlled entertainment. This DVD definitely deserves the title "Collecters Edition".
Superman is one of those movies that proves to me that I had good taste even 15 years ago. While the things I liked in it have changed, it is a perfect example that a movie for kids can take itself seriously. Simply by not treating the audience like idiots, the film took a well known story and turned it into something wonderful. If they had kept it up throughout the picture it would have been perfect.