Superman (1978) – The first Superhero film ever

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Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Valerie Perrine, and Ned Beatty.

Directed by: Richard Donner.

Story: 

On the planet Krypton, three insurrectionists are sentenced to ‘eternal living death’ in what’s called the Phantom Zone for attempting totalitarian rebellion, much thanks to the evidence provided by the widely respected scientist Jor-El. However, he is unable to convince them that their Kryptonian sun is due to explode soon, engulfing their entire planet. In response, Jor-El sends his only infant son, Kal-El, in a spacecraft en route to Earth where exposure to a yellow sun will advance him with superpowers (as it would do for any Kryptonian life-form).

The ship crashes near an American farm town, Smallville, on Earth, where Kal-El is discovered by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, whom raise him as Clark, their own son. As a teenager, Clark’s stepfather dies and he discovers a green crystal in the ship he crashed in. The crystal compels him to travel north, in the Arctic, where it builds into a Fortress of Solitude. Inside, Clark activates a control panel which contains a message from Jor-El that explains his origins, powers, and responsibilities. Years later, as a fully grown adult and his powers fully developed, Clark has left the fortress and now works for The Daily Planet in Metropolis where he develops a romance with his reporting colleague Lois Lane. Meanwhile, he must also deal with arch-nemesis Lex Luthor whom is planning to make a fortune off of real estate by means of buying worthless desert and nuking the San Andreas Fault which will in turn destroy California, deeming Luthor’s desert as the new West Coast of the USA.

Characters: 

*Clark Kent/Superman (Christopher Reeve): The gifted son of Jor-El who was sent to Earth after the destruction of his home planet Krypton. He was further raised throughout his childhood and teenage years by Jonathan and Martha Kent in Smallville. Later he moved to Metropolis and started work at The Daily Planet as a journalist while at the same time, living a double life as Superman.

*Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman): Superman’s arch-nemesis who is equipped with wealth, knowledge, and science.

*Lois Lane (Margot Kidder): Superman’s romantic interest and co-worker.

*Jor-El (Marlon Brando): Kal-El’s father on Krypton who tries to warn the planet of its destruction.

*Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford): Clark’s father in Smallville who owns a farm.

*Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter): Clark’s mother and wife to Jonathan.

*Perry White (Jackie Cooper): Clark’s temper-tantrum boss at The Daily Planet.

*Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure): Teenage photographer at The Daily Planet and good friend/co-worker of Clark Kent.

*Eve Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine): Lex Luthor’s girlfriend.

*Otis (Ned Beatty): Lex Luthor’s bumbling nit-wit henchman.

Overall: 

For years, “Superman” has only had the old cartoons and campy black & white films from the 40s and 50s to outlet his adventures. Now, decades later, when the film industry had evolved, when special effects had evolved, the story of the son of Jor-El was able to get its proper execution on the silver screen, depicting the heroic character in a fashion like never before. This is the origin of Superman, from his infancy as Kal-El on the planet Krypton to his raising in Smallville on Earth. Later in life, he disguises himself as Clark Kent, a mild-mannered Metropolois reporter, and romances his work colleague Lois Lane. Meanwhile, he must do battle with his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, who has plans for fortune and destruction.

“Superman” led to the reemergence of the science fiction film genre and to the establishment of the superhero film genre. Richard Donner takes advantage of the most excellent Christopher Reeve and creates a loving, memorable tribute to the American pop culture icon known as Superman. Reeve is a true delight and has just the right touch of humor. The tale is an old-fashioned mixture of adventure, romance, heroes and villains, humor and wit, and big spectacle effects. If you want to know how to make a superheromovie properly, pay attention to 1978’s “Superman”.

Rating: *****

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