Superman. Hero, icon, legend, gay pride… One of the oldest and surely most beloved comic book characters ever created, The Man Of Steel has truly stood the test of time. First appearing in Action Comics #1, in the summer of 1938, it wasn’t until 40 years later that America’s first superhero would make the building-height leap to the silver screen in his first, feature length, cinematic adventure.
Opening in December of ’78, the film was met with exceptional critical acclaim and financial success; and along with Star Wars, paved the way for the special effect extravaganzas of today’s most popular genre of cinema, the Superhero Film. And it’s acclaim has held up, too. Superman: The Movie is still widely considered the best film, not only out of it’s successful 5 film series, but to many, of its entire genre. Just look how it compares over 30 years later on Rotten Tomatoes’ Fresh-O-Meter with some of its modern-day comic book cousins…
300 [60%] – BATMAN BEGINS [84%] – BLADE [55%] – DAREDEVIL [44%] – THE DARK KNIGHT [94%] – FANTASTIC FOUR [26%] – GHOST RIDER [27%] – THE INCREDIBLE HULK [66%] – IRON MAN [93%] – THE PUNISHER (2004) [29%] – ROAD TO PERDITION [82%] – SIN CITY [77%] – SPIDER-MAN [90%] – THE SPIRIT [14%] – SUPERMAN RETURNS [77%] – V FOR VENDETTA [73%] – WATCHMEN [64%] – X-MEN [80%] …
SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE – RATED 93% FRESH
It is matched only by last year’s Iron Man and rivaled only by The Dark Knight, and even then, by just a single percentage point. Now, while Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the end-all, be-all decider of the consensus’, it does cover quite a large spectrum of reviews from critics and fans a like. So, I think it is quite fair on my part to say that the general consensus is: Superman: The Movie is a good film. And, not surprisingly, I think the general consensus is…
Superman: The Movie, could quite possibly be…
THE WORST SUPERHERO MOVIE EVER
The film opens with a little kid reading a comic book in a cutesy voice, informing the audience about the importance of a building called the Daily Planet. The great metropolitan newspaper newspaper of Metropolis (really?), that took the responsibility of informing its readers with clarity and truth, and instilling hope in the citizens of the depression worn city. Then, the narration stops short as the drawing of a giant globe atop the immense Daily Planet building begins to revolve into “reality” as the camera soars past into the vast night sky and beyond to–one of the greatest credits sequences of all time. Fuck.
John Williams, lets talk about him. Best part about this movie? Yes. Genius? Definitely. Single greatest modern-day composer? I’d say so. The Superman score is without a doubt one of the finest ever produced and though it pains me to give this movie’s popularity even a shred of credence, I love it. LOVE IT.
Alright, so I’m not off to a very solid start in proving my case for how overrated and crappy this film is, but bear with me, as it’s all downhill from here. Starting the film off with something so epic and gratifying is dangerous, as what can live up to a John William’s score blaring over a journey through deep space? Other than Empire–not much. And certainly nothing that follows in this stinker. So, the music aside, lets delve in head-first to Krypton, home planet of Superman, an entire race of fashioned out of Gene Rodenberry’s wettest dreams and final resting place of Marlon Brando’s hair-piece. But first, a note…
Superman has the usual three-act structure that has been in place since celluloid was first used to film the slaughter of uppity escaped slaves, but the difference with this one is, it feels like 3 separate films. Making it feel more like watching an arc of episodes from a lackluster television show about Superman, than a movie.
So, in an act to better dissect the ass, I’ll be splitting up this essay into the three, clearly defined episodic parts.
PART ONE: IN THE BEGINNING
Superman not only began the Super-Hero genre, it also instilled the obligatory 40+ minute origin story that 99% of the audience already knows, or doesn’t care about.
A perfectly quaffed and flamboyant Marlon Brando, addresses a room of floating heads as an apparent prosecutor for the state of the unnamed city of white-domes. He delivers his case against a trio of ugly miscreants and successfully convicts them of general douche-baggery. Brando ignores their leader’s promises of power and idol threats and banishes them into a flying sheet of space glass. Sense, this makes not. The explanation for this randomness was just inserted as a precursor to the arguably more nonsensical and pointless sequel. Anyways, Brando, meanwhile, goes on to the day’s next agenda; trying to convince the council of floating heads that planet Krypt-Ten (as he calls it) is doomed to explode in an hour or some shit. Seriously. Kinda makes you wonder if Brando might have had his priorities a little mixed up in dealing with a group of criminals BEFORE trying to warn the world of it’s imminent impending doom. And speaking of things that make no sense to me, why does Brando have a giant S on his tunic?
Did they seriously think that we would not be able to figure out that this was Superman’s father?
So, long story short, Brando fails in his endeavor, but does manage to send out a single escape-pod carrying his son Kal-El along with a crystal dildo that contains all the knowledge of Kryp-Ten, into the deep reaches of space to a primitive little planet called Urth.
Flying through the outer reaches, little Supes grows into a toddler, all the while being instructed by an artificial version of his father about human morals, the facts of life, his impending powers and Einstein’s theory of relativity (as apparently our puny primitive planet was way ahead of the Kryp-Tenions on that shit). Leading me to wonder, if the people of this planet knew that ours was out there, reachable AND upon basking in our yellow sunlight would make them gods amongst men–why this trip was not made sooner, and with a full invading military force of power-hungry Kryptonians? Anyways, after a bunch of acid-trippy effects, our hero eventually crash-lands his space-pod in middle America and is rescued from an indecent exposure charge by a couple of Kents.
Not ones to ask questions (like everyone else in this film’s universe), the Kent’s adopt young Kal-El as their son and the film jumps 16 years into the future.
“Clark” as he is now called, is a total dweeb. A dork, dufus and a real L7 weenie. But, he has his father’s hair-piece and is roguishly good looking, so he attracts a goofy looking girl with a gummy smile named Lana. This may seem trivial, and it is, but I wanted to mention it, as it begins a trend for Supes in taking interest in women far below his league. More on that Lane-r (buh-dump, TtCH).
So, like most every male teenager would, Clark uses his foretold powers for showing off and scoring pussy-points. Of course, Pa Kent sees Clark’s acts of hot-shittery and this leads to a touching discussion on how showing-off is not the proper way to make people like you (even though it is). But, Clark takes the pep-talk to heart and it’s a good thing too, as Mr. Kent has a heart attack 10 seconds later, thus ending their heart-to-heart chat.
“Oh, no.”, indeed. All those powers and Clark still couldn’t prevent high cholesterol and old-age from afflicting his loved ones. Life just isn’t fair and Clark realizes as much during the funeral. After the sadness, Clark randomly decides to venture forth to the gorgeous mat painting of the Arctic Circle, taking with him Brando’s magic crystal dildo of knowledge, (that for some reason began to glow when Pa died), with him. Reaching the top-o’-the-world, Clark is inspired (I guess?) and throws the magical phallic stick into the frozen waters thus creating a giant crystal palace, that harbors within it, the giant floating head of Brando.
Brando the Head then takes Clark on a journey to “break through the bonds of [Clark’s] earthly confinement.” and “travel through time and space in the six known dimensions.” Whatever the fuck THAT means. And they proceed to fly years into the future in an after-school special through the cosmos. It takes 12 years and thus, Clark has successfully skipped past the 60’s, most likely been presumed dead by his Ma, and officially aged past his sexual prime. But, he did obtain from space, a nifty (read: gay) spandex suit and somehow managed to unlocked his powers to–well, he has a bunch more powers now. And, as this all has clearly taken too long to get to already, the filmmakers simply opt not to explain any of this. ~Sigh~
PART TWO: LOIS AND CLARK
Clark has done the impossible and transformed himself into an even bigger dufus then his teenage self. A hunky, charming, lovable dufus. And this is the cover that Supes has chosen to blend in with us silly humans. Just like David Carradine explains in KILL BILL, Superman chooses the disguise of a weak bumbling pussy, because this is how he views our race. And it’s pretty spot-on, but I still think a self-centered prick would have been a better choice for a human being. But who the fuck would want to read a comic book or see a movie about someone like that?
And, to his credit, Christopher Reeves makes for a damn fine Superman. Tall, dark and hansom, what more could you ask for? Well, a much better movie, sure, but Reeves did a pretty good job with what he had and I have to say that I liked him. Plus he fills out that spandex quite nicely. Not that I noticed or anything…
ANYways, Clark gets a job at the Daily Planet with his mad typing skills and meets this:
AHHHHHH! SAVE THE CHILDREN! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!
It’s called Lois and is played by Margot Kidder. Margot seems like the next-door lady that your Mom pretends to be friends with, but pities behind closed doors. The kind of person that always smells like menthol cigarettes and hits on you even though you’re only eight years old. So, in a way I kind of like her, but definitely not as Lois Lane. When I think of Lois, I think: Babe. Brainy, fast talker, a little self-centered sure, but defiantly: Babe. Like Script-Girl…
Yeah, now THERE’S a Lois Lane! But, you can’t pick who you fall in love with, or so that idiotic saying goes, and Margot is who Supes wants to mate with, so be it. And, naturally, trouble sticks to Lois like herpes on a rock-star’s dick and it’s Supes’ job to follow her around and heroically correct the chaos. It’s a lot like those FINAL DESTINATION movies, where death is always tweaking the circumstances to fuck with the chances of survival and Superman is the one constant always giving the finger to the grim-reaper’s plan. “Not today death, you vagabond!” Or maybe they just have her around to keep the ladies in the audience involved while their nerdy boyfriends geek out over a man in blue tights, I dunno?
So, it’s been over an hour now, and aside from the 3 second, ‘Hey, I’m back from space-camp, check out my spandex’ shot–we still have yet to see Superman be Superman. Luckily, Death is on our side and causes a cable to break and tangle itself around Lois’s helicopter. But don’t worry, (or if you’re like me–get too excited) Supes saves her.
After preventing Lois’s final destination, Superman proceeds to cruise around the city stopping criminals, saving airplanes from crashing and yes, even getting a little girl’s kitty out of a tree. Awww… Much like TRANSFORMERS, this is where the film actually gets going, an hour in. Too bad the thrill of watching him in action is so short lived, as five minutes later it’s time for more boring awkward relationship bullshit. But rather than bore you, or worse, bore myself, Lois’s role gets pretty much summed up with the flying scene, so I’ll skip ahead to that.
Superman shows up on Lois’s balcony to do an interview, gets asked questions that dance around the subject of him having a penis and Lois’s lingerie, (seriously) and ends with the couple going for a flight around the Statue of Liberty. I guess they flew all the way to New York City. Weird, as you’d think Metropolis would be quite impressive on its own, but I digress. The “Flight” scene not only buds the blossoming love these characters will share for one another, it also marks the beginning of a bunch of ridiculous horseshit. Now, while a bunch of nonsense has been happening this entire film, it was, until this sequence, all caused by alien influences, ergo: Superman, Brando’s crystal dildo and the magical alien space-glass. BUT, it is in this scene with Lois that goofy crap begins to happen with no explanation as to how it is occurring. For instance:
Anything wrong here? Now, had the filmmakers explained that when in the vicinity of Superman, gravity ceases to take effect, then I’d have little cause to be upset, but they didn’t. In fact, it is one of the few powers this Super-Schmuck does NOT posses. And nothing outside of this instance would suggest an audience assumption for that argument. So how the Hell is she floating like that!? It’s not centrifugal force, he’s not spinning her–so what the fuck? I know that most would say, “Who cares? It’s about the moment and falling in love, you asshole! Plus It’s just a special effects movie, based on a …blah blah blah” or as I call it, “The Transformers Defense”. But, fuck that, I want an explanation! This shit is inexcusably silly.
To make matters worse, Lois starts to recite terrible poetry in inner-monologue…
Can You Read My Mind?
by Lois Lane. Mrs. Fussmuckers Class, Grade 4
Can you read my mind?
Do you know what it is that you do to me?
I don’t know who you are…
Just a friend from another star.
Here I am , like a kid out of school…
Holding hands with a god–I’m a fool.
Will you look at me, quivering.
Like a little girl, shivering.
You can see right through me.
Can you read my mind?
And she’s supposed to be a Pulitzer Prize winner!?… Jesus wept.
Anyways, look–I’m totally fine with suspending disbelief on Superman himself, even the fact that people don’t recognize him ‘cuz he has glasses on, but when you start changing the physics of our world, with no explanation, what’s stopping everyone from having powers and defying gravity, huh? Not to mention these two are miles and miles above Earth, so how the Hell is she not freezing, let alone able to breathe!? If there is nothing to support the phenomenon of these manipulated physics, you might as well make the nonsense fun. Like how about having a giant pink elephant fly up to the couple and try to strangle Lois with its trunk, then Superman has to arm-wrestle the beast, mid-air, for the right to leave with Lois? That would have at least been entertaining.
Google Image Search Is Amazing…
The only other point of interest in this sequence is that after her round trip flight, Lois comes up with the name ‘Superman’ for Earth’s new hero, as she found he was just such a swell guy! I have one small problem with this. WHY THE FUCK did he have a giant S on his chest and cape BEFORE this? Is the S a family crest in this version of Superman’s story? If so, they never explain it! Sense, this makes not!
Of course this has got nothing on the finale in the WTF department, but I’ll rant on that in a bit. For now, let me finish up with Lois.
Well, in summary–she’s kind-of a cunt. A shallow, fame-seeking, self-centered cooze with fucked-up teeth. It’s hard to understand what Clark likes about her. Maybe it’s pity, or his obsession with correcting the wrongs of the world that attracts him to such a train-wreck of a human being, but I don’t see the appeal. And thus, don’t care for her character, nor their relationship. On to part three.
ENTER THE HACK-MAN
Much like all bloated 2+ hour blockbusters, the villain of the movie doesn’t come into the picture until well beyond feature length. But, at least he is played by a good actor. Ladies and gentlemen, Gene Hackman.
Planning to commit the “Crime of the Century”, The Smartest Man In The World, Lex Luthor (GH), decides to take on the Hero of the Century, to make his diabolical deed–I dunno, more diabolical or something. All around, this guy makes pretty much no sense, but at least he is fun to watch.
Luthor uses his superior brain, deductive reasoning and Lois’s sub-par poetry (“Interview”) to deduce that since Superman is from Krypton and spent 3 years getting here, some meteorites that fell in Africa should kill him with radioactivity. Sense, it makes not. But, far be it from me to question Hack-Man’s intelligence and deduction skills, the man is clearly on another level of human evolution. Not only is he correct about the radioactive rocks from Kryp-Ten, but the man hasn’t aged in over 40 fucking years. Meanwhile Eastwood looks like Margot Kidder.
Dubbing the radioactive rock, ‘Kryptonite’ in passing, Lex sets about his plan to ruin Superman’s weekend. But he won’t have to do it all alone, as he is joined by two minions, Otis (Ned ‘Squeal Like A Piggy’ Betty), a bumbling moron and Miss. Teschmacher (Valerie ‘Never Heard Of Her’ Perrine), a blond bimbo. Combined, this trio makes for an insufferable gaggle of nitwits. Think the Three Stooges, but not funny.
After some uninteresting shenanigans and off-screen museum heisting, Luthor hijacks some missile launch codes, scores some kryptonite and lures Supes to his lair–where he proceeds to poison him to death with the Kryptonite! No. Instead, Lex monologues his plans to send a missile into the San Andreas Fault, to cause a massive earthquake sending the state of California into the ocean, and thus making a new West Coast which he happens to own the land rights for!!!
Oh, but there’s more! A second missile is en route to–New Jersey…, OK? Sure. And now our hero is in a REAL pickle, because as Lex so maliciously puts it, “Even you, with your great speed, couldn’t stop both of them.” And oddly enough (because of what he does later…), Lex is right. Superman fails.
Perhaps if Superman had left at that moment to fly around and stop the destruction of California and Jersey, he would have had enough time, but for some weird reason he hangs out with a pout and looks around for the detonation device. He never finds it, but he does uncover the kryptonite. Apparently it was Luthor’s plan all along to have Superman stumble upon the rock haphazardly. What a criminal genius! And that’s not sarcastic, this asinine idea worked, that’s pretty amazing. But, instead of sticking around to make sure that the one person who would be able to foil his plans, dies. Luthor just leaves Superman in his swimming pool all pathetic and filled with human weakness.
If only Supes had an ounce of Batman’s intuition, keen detection skills or coolness, I think he could have avoided this predicament. But, alas, Supes has to rely on Miss. Teschmacher to free him. She does so willingly as it turns out her Mother lives in the very town in NJ that Lex selected to be destroyed and when she informed Lex about this (who of course chose the destination for this purpose), he just looks at his watch and shakes his head. What a dick!
Free of his radioactive bling, Superman makes for Jersey as he promised to save Miss. Teschmacher Sr. before his precious Lois. It appears he is also a (super)man of his word. Hmm, yes. It takes him a Hell of a long time to catch up to the thing, but he does and thus saves Jersey. Yay? Onto the west coast!
With odd or poorly executed editing, Superman makes it to California in less time than it took him to fly 1/10 of the distance to Jersey. Perhaps it was all the toll-booths? But, he makes it just in time to do–well, a bunch of Super stuff. Having missed the missile, he now has an opportunity to make up for his boo-boo by flying around and stopping the earth-shaking catastrophes it caused. It’s easily the best 5 or so minutes of the film.
A gas station explodes, Superman power lifts the tectonic plates of a 10 mile radius, he saves a school bus full of kids, make himself a human bridge for a train, saves a co-worker from falling to his doom and stops an exploded Hoover Dam’s unleashed water supply from drowning a small town, (I looked, but couldn’t spot the All-Spark, or Megatron in the rubble). He does all this!–but fails to rescue Lois from suffocating to death in a sinkhole. Well, you can’t win ‘em all, Clarky.
But then–in the craziest–stupidest–most nonsensical deus ex machina ending of the time (having since been dethroned by Richard Gere showing up at the end of PRETTY WOMAN to be with a whore)–Superman, in a fit of anger, flies around the world SO FAST and so MANY times–that he reverses the directional spin of the Earth, and thus turns back TIME ITSELF in order to be there to save Margot Kidder. Jesus–Titty-Fucking…
Before breaking this sequence down, lets take a look at ALL the powers of the Man of Steel…
Let’s see, well even though he has Super Strength, Super Speed, Super Dexterity, Super Agility, Super Senses, Super Intelligence, An Eidetic Memory, The Ability To Fly AND Invulnerability… he just doesn’t seem SUPER enough–hmm, well lets ROLL THE DICE AGAIN! Laser Eyesight, X-Ray Vision, Complete Control Over His Vocal Cords, Telescopic/Microscopic Vision and Freeze/Hurricane Breath. And while we’re at it, lets get rid of those pesky human-ish hindrances like eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing. And even THAT wasn’t enough cannon for the screenwriters, oh no. They also added, a weird thing where Superman can magically morph in and out of his suit AND the ability to reverse time. Holy Shit. Meanwhile, all Batman needs are his detective skills and a belt to kick Supes’ ass.
With all that crap, how does this guy EVER manage to be beaten? “Well, he has weaknesses,” you might say. OK, lets check those out.
Radioactive Rocks from his home planet and some forms of Magic. Wow. So now every time they want to put this guy in a life or death situation, it’s going to have to involve kryptonite or David Blaine. Riveting.
Alright, lets go back to the movie and Supes reversing time…
Lets start with his speed. OK, not 15 minutes before he reverses time by flying around the world, Superman was struggling to catch up to a missile. So much so, that he was unable to stop a second one from causing a devastating earthquake. But now, all-of-a-sudden, he can fly around the world in literally ¼ of a second? Where the fuck is the continuity here? Did anyone making this stop and say, “Hey, Richard!–Um, this shit doesn’t make any sense, buddy.” Maybe, but they where ignored and weren’t asked back to crew on THE GOONIES.
Next, stopping the Earth’s rotation. If this happened, everything on the face of the entire fucking planet would shoot off the ground like a fucking bullet. OK? Try finding Lois’s body amongst the billions of creatures now rocketing through deep space. Enjoy that. But, no–this doesn’t happen, because in context with FUCKING NOTHING! The laws of gravity and physics cease to exist when it makes for a neato looking scene.
Rewinding Time. Why would this be the result of reversing the Earth’s rotation? Can someone explain this thought process? Who’s idea was this and why weren’t they laughed out of the writer’s room? That would be like walking out of the hotel room backwards to negate the hour spent with a hooker so you don’t have to pay. Try explaining this logic to a pissed off pimp.
If Superman can suddenly reverse time ANY time he jolly-well feels like it, how the Hell could he possibly ever fail at anything. He couldn’t, ergo–why the fuck bother writing, reading or watching anything to do with him? And if he chooses NOT to do this again (though we know he does), how could he dare feel sad or defeated about anything? Uncle Ben once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Yeah, well in Superman’s case, “With UNDEFEATABLE, UNDISPUTED and ULTIMATE power, comes one boring ass character.” SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE’s version of Supes is now completely impervious to events. How fucking lame and over-powered is that? The only thing that might stand a chance on Movie Supes–tooth decay.
Even his name is bland. Well, he’s super–and a man–let’s call him Superman. Good-one. Fuck.
Alright, back to the movie. A funny thing happens when Supes time travels back for Lois. Nothing. Apparently the effects of Superman’s reversal of the space-time continuum, begins and ends with Lois’s car. Quite convenient that he didn’t have to go back and save all those people again isn’t? BAD WRITING.
And that’s about it. Supes collects Lex and Otis (off-screen), drops them off at prison and flies off into the credits. ~FIN~
But, as boring as the character of Superman is, the film doesn’t feel like a complete time vampire. Sure, it does run long, but it’s strangely entertaining. The main problem I have with it, is that it is so fucking stupid and nonsensical. Again, I’m willing to accept that belief must be suspended to invest in the character and have some fun, but I shouldn’t have to open a fucking hole in my head. It’s like the filmmakers said “fuck making sense, add all the floating-head, crystal-dildo, physics-nullifying, time-travel bullshit you can think of! This is SUPERMAN! And the Fans won’t care as long as there are pretty colors! ” And they were right.
So, in closing–did the usually great Richard Donner deliver the worst superhero flick ever? No. Mark Steven Johnson did that. Twice. But, it’s close. And everyone seems to agree that DAREDEVIL and GHOST RIDER are dog-shit, so it’s the unabashed love for SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE that I don’t understand and will condemn until someone out there makes a film about Superman that isn’t cheesy, boring or fucking ridiculous. And don’t say “Not, Possible”, because Bruce Wayne’s story is about dressing up as a Bat and fighting crime with a gadget belt, and THE DARK KNIGHT was a damn good movie. So, maybe someday, someone will do the character justice(league), but until then I’ll stick to a REAL Super-Man…
Yeah, Now THAT’S A God Damn Hero.