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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.23%
Just Average: 6.31%
Pretty Crappy: 1.8%
Sucks: 2.7%

4 reviews, 87 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Not quite perfect, but mistaking it as such is easy and forgivable."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: "Superman" has received a lot of attention as a franchise over the past few years, with a popular TV show, a new movie finally being shot after spending about a decade in development hell, and a best-selling novelist writing one of the comic books (with superstar artist Jim Lee on another). With the star of this adaptation suffering and dying nobly, there has been a strong sentiment, both implied and outright stated, that this movie and its first sequel are not only the best adaptation of Superman ever made, but the best that ever CAN be made, and that all other versions are either pointless or must make some effort to pay homage to it.

Now, Superman is a fantastic movie. Only a few other comic book adaptations are in the same class as it. But to hear that Bryan Singer is considering the incorporation of unused footage from this movie in his forthcoming Super-movie, or tying the new film's continuity to Richard Donner's version is, I think, going overboard. The 1978 Superman is a classic, but it's not perfect. Singer, and anyone else considering adapting the character, should take note of everything this movie gets right - along with the few things it gets wrong.

And it gets a lot right. Christopher Reeve, for instance. Superman is an icon, and it's a fine line between capturing an icon and caricaturing him. Superman is harder than most, because he has to be earnest and dedicated to doing right without seeming naive. Even more important than how much Reeve resembles a Curt Swam drawing or how well he fills out his suit is how sincere he seems as Superman. He makes the character confident without being arrogant, and you can see why people would trust this alien visitor instead of being afraid. I'm less fond of his Clark Kent, but there's one scene that makes me put it aside - when Clark straightens out his posture just outside of Lois's earshot and demonstrates for the audience how, yes, this flimsiest of all secret identities might work.

Donner and the gaggle of writers who worked on the script also hit just the right notes in making Superman and the real world fit together. In the comics, the world is so full of magical and science-fictional things that a super-strong alien who can pass for human doesn't seem so unlikely, but in our world he would cause incredible upheaval when he revealed himself. So the world we see in Superman is given a slight nudge, simplified a little. It's not really the world the audience lives in, but it's close enough that we can fool ourselves into thinking it is. Luthor's grandiose plan wouldn't work in the real world (can you imagine security around a nuclear missile being that lax?), but in the movie, okay.

The fantastic elements are also handled very well. We occasionally see a few strings holding Superman up, and the design of Krypton is perhaps more abstract than would be done today. It's a good example of the filmmakers knowing exactly what their effects are capable of, and knowing how to not so much embrace the limitations, but recognize them, and build something that works well enough stylistically that we don't notice the seams so much.

That said, there are areas I hope other adaptations improve upon. The two most important supporting characters in the mythology, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), could be done better. I'll freely admit that most of my impressions of Lois and Lex come from comics published after 1986 (go down to your local comic shop and ask them about the "Crisis" and the "Byrne reboot" if that date is not significant). I'm used to a Lois Lane who isn't so easily made to look like a fool, and a Lex Luthor who wouldn't tolerate underlings as dim as Otis (Ned Beatty) and Miss Tessmacher (Valerie Perrine). Maybe they make perfect sense to my dad and grandparents, but I do feel that these two important characters should be as clearly formidable in their own ways as Superman himself.

And, of course, the script has a couple of things that, had they appeared in an actual comic book, the fans would have ripped to shreds. Like, how is Lex going to know that Kryptonite would weaken Superman rather than making him stronger before he tested it? Or that whole making the Earth spin backwards to reverse time thing. I don't think the latter would fly today, although it's just goofy enough to look back on as quaint, now.

Still, these are the quibbles of someone with a $40/week comic book habit, and let's be frank: There are probably more people alive today who have seen this movie than there are who have ever read a comic book featuring Superman. So, perhaps, that makes this version of the character more "right" than the one featured in a half-dozen or so comics a month. I can say the character(s) have evolved and it makes more sense for Lois to know Clark's secret identity and Luthor to be a billionaire industrialist and newer productions should try to incorporate that, but that's not what Superman is for people - this movie is. Heck, this version of the story is so pervasive that Marlon Brando's silly idea of the S-symbol having come from Krypton has made it into the mythology.

I'm quibbling. Even if I find parts dodgy, I think it's a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its (visible) parts. That's just superhero fans for you - we nitpick because we love. And when it comes right down to it, I love this movie.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2443&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/13/05 21:41:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.
DC Characters: For more in the DC Characters series, click here.
Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

2/20/17 morris campbell overlong but solid 4 stars
12/10/12 Linda A classic, best fantasy movie of the 70s. 5 stars
6/20/10 Sarah Webster This is a classsic. The people who call this boring are idiots. Not enough explosions? 5 stars
2/07/10 art THIS WAS overrated!,super 2 WAS MUCH BETTER! 1 stars
10/20/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
7/06/08 art ONLY FOR FANS OF THE COMIC BOOK 1 stars
6/20/08 David V Very cheesy and over-rated. 3 stars
3/01/08 Pamela White Super movie 5 stars
1/11/08 Eric Best ever 5 stars
1/05/08 Shailesh Palande Tittle Music is mind blowing 5 stars
11/22/07 Ernesto Catalan The comic hero adaptation to beat. Spidey was close, but no cigar! 5 stars
10/07/07 mr.mike Superman Returns made me appreciate Reeve and the movie more 4 stars
10/01/07 Andrew Kercher Reeve is definitive Superman; this is best. Believable Kent alias. Kidder is great Lois. 5 stars
3/20/07 dude Superman Returns was better 4 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega Superman is the greatest. Proves that he's better than Spidey. 4 stars
1/05/07 David Cohen Liked it 4 stars
12/25/06 johnnyfog Coulda used more Clark Kent. And SOMEONE get rid of the S-shaped hair PLEASE. 5 stars
11/19/06 Noel I honestly took a nap during the movie ! I know he's Superman, but PLEEAAASSSEEE!!!!! 1 stars
10/21/06 David Pollastrini great! 5 stars
10/19/06 MP Bartley Opening credit music is the BEST ever...film is uneven though. 4 stars
7/18/06 Michael First great comicbook film. Best Luthor film. Watch it with Batman, trust me. 5 stars
7/10/06 Dez Awesome!! 5 stars
6/05/06 drydock54321 great film, other than the time reversal- too easy 5 stars
5/13/06 K. Pearlman Except for the campiness of Luthor, this was a great movie! 5 stars
5/13/06 Joel Whelan The film is so special to me. An outlet and a source of inspiration. 5 stars
3/27/06 Chris Bordeman Puts the I-can-barely-remember X-Files movie to shame. 5 stars
3/24/06 Dethbyhashi You Will Believe a Man Can Fly!!! 5 stars
12/28/05 tony Great film! I could spend years on telling everybody how good it was! 5 stars
12/26/05 Ronin Very entertaining. Recommended. 4 stars
10/20/05 rachel amazing film 5 stars
8/29/05 ES Reeves made superman, though the film is geared more directly at teens than adults 4 stars
7/18/05 Brandy Harrington One of the best comic book films ever. I can't wait for Superman Returns! 5 stars
7/13/05 Ronald Newbold This should be the model for all successful comic book adaptations 5 stars
7/05/05 shannon huard superman ,the godfather of comic book movies 5 stars
6/23/05 azpinoy One of my favorites of all time! 5 stars
6/21/05 Carolyn Rathburn I enjoyed this movie, I felt Chris Reeves did a good job as the man of steel. 5 stars
5/10/05 Indrid Cold Solidly done, but misses classic status by quite a bit. 3 stars
4/14/05 Raymond Montoya the first the best.. reeves is great. 4 stars
3/25/05 Denise Great 5 stars
3/22/05 Suzanne Butler Excellent movie 5 stars
3/15/05 Chris Stephens Great movie for it's time. 5 stars
2/24/05 brett creswell perfection 5 stars
1/19/05 Laurian Diaconescu Reeve can't ever be replaced, I won't even go see the new sequel they plan to release soon. 5 stars
1/16/05 t-1000 first 30 minutes or so is BOOOOOOOOOOOORING 4 stars
10/25/04 Evan Best of the series by far 5 stars
9/03/04 T.B. A another best movie 4 stars
7/28/04 American Slasher Goddess Awesome comic book adapation, Hackman is great as Lex Luther. 5 stars
4/20/04 Daveman It's sad that such a well made film has dated so badly. 4 stars
3/03/04 Víctor Ayala Christopher Reeve is Superman for me!, He's awesome in that character, he was made for it!! 5 stars
12/06/03 john it's phenomenal! 5 stars
6/15/03 Jon Lyrik This is a Supermovie! 5 stars
5/22/03 SAURABH SHARMA An Epic movie 5 stars
5/03/03 Allen Wilkerson This is why I love going to the movies! 5 stars
3/21/03 Jack Sommersby Choppy, uneven adventure only sporadically thrills. The cast, though, is spot-on. 2 stars
2/19/03 Dave Rivals Batman and Spiderman as the best of the superhero movies. 4 stars
11/24/02 Bizop Spectacular movie, great performance by Gene Hackman, and nice foreshadowing to the sequel 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Fun then, but awful effects sink it now 3 stars
9/04/02 Justin Cool! 5 stars
9/02/02 B.Roopkumar All time great movie 5 stars
8/15/02 Shaun a fun popcorn movie 4 stars
7/11/02 kmk awesome movie well made wb try to top this/ batman vs superman movie in 2004 well see!!!! 5 stars
5/13/02 T^im Great flick, best comic book adapt ever 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver a fine film...keep an eye out for all the Marlboro placements. 3 stars
11/21/01 anju thaper old time classic 5 stars
11/03/01 Shams Huque Best Comic Book Adaptation Ever. An Epic. 5 stars
9/27/01 Andrew Carden Boring Film, Overloaded With Special Effects. 3 stars
9/23/01 Larry Smith "He's Lex Luthor the greatest criminal mind of the century." 5 stars
9/08/01 Butterbean The second Superman beats this one, but this established Reeve as THE Superman! 4 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk Cool take on famed DC comic book hero. Reeve is great as Superman. 5 stars
8/06/01 Mr. Hat Lex Luthor is really really evil and slapstick funny at the same time..... 3 stars
7/28/01 Turtle This is one of those rare comic book films that are actually BETTER than the comics. 5 stars
7/27/01 Henry Ginsberg A bit corny ,but entertaining non the less . 4 stars
7/13/01 Dana Shelley Just plain fun! 5 stars
5/30/01 aka satan When the earthquake comes, I wanna be in Otisville. 4 stars
5/25/01 Edward Shandis it should be called HANDI-MAN 4 stars
5/08/01 y2mckay Still fun, even after 20 years. John Williams' score was inspired. 4 stars
3/23/01 Alex I want to fly now 5 stars
1/31/01 Big Isil Christopher Reeves cant die, man, hes Superman! Applaud after seeing for the first time 5 stars
1/20/01 fifu it may be weird but you have to like it 4 stars
1/07/01 R.W. Welch Catches the spirit of the comic strip almost exactly, much better than the sequels. 5 stars
1/01/01 Terry A classic film. Everything about it is superb! 5 stars
12/27/00 Turtle Eat your heart out, Batman! 5 stars
10/13/00 Jed A perfectly alright movie that is as good as the original batman movie. 4 stars
1/24/00 Cheezman An above-average film with very few imperfections. 4 stars
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  15-Dec-1978 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Nov-2006



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