Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ten Statements About....SUPERMAN THE MOVIE (Donner Cut) (1978)

"Please don't start reciting poetry, Lois, or I swear I will
drop you right now."
"Wait! Who are you?"
"A friend."

1) I know there are some people who goof on Marlon Brando's Jor-El. I am not one of them. The genius of Brando's performance is how he approaches Jor-El with a grace and quiet that is extremely similar to Christopher Reeve's performance as Superman. This creates a definite sense of continuity between the two, so that even though they look nothing alike, we believe they're related. This is especially evident in the scenes with Superman consulting the computerized version of his father in the Fortress that were added in this version.

2) You know, Gene Hackman dismissively arranging for detectives to be run over by trains, or tricking Superman through massive misdirection into opening a box full of Kryptonite is pretty damn effective. It's just that so much of his time as Lex Luthor is spent in comedy sequences bullying Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine and acting overall like the world's most egotistical real estate con man as opposed to behaving like a credible threat. That being said...

Because nothing says evil mastermind than a bad toupee
and a comedy henchman in a straw boater....

3) I have a modicum of affection for Perrine's Ms. Techmacher (and not for the reasons you most of you have for her, so rein it in). Much like Superman III's Loreli, there's obviously more going on in Ms. Techmacher's head than Luthor cares to recognize, and it's to Perrine's credit that much of this is conveyed through her physical acting and verbal choices. And I like the fact that it's Techmacher who allows Superman to escape--not because she's genuinely a good person, because her motivations for doing so are selfish, but because there's something about Supes that moves her to action.

4) It's curious how this film doesn't really disguise that Metropolis is New York playing dress up...and yet manages to create a sense of it as a place all its own (unlike in the hideous Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, where the film was too lazy to cover up posters and other indicators of the film's New York location)..

5) I really liked how the sequence of scenes I call 'Supes' Big Night Out,' beginning with the heliocopter rescue and going through his saving Air Force One, slakes our thirst for super-heroics by giving us a number of cool super-tricks (I especially like his inteaction with the cat burglar), quotable lines and reactions. By the time that set of scenes is over, we get a real sense of Superman's powers and of his 'public face' that we carry with us for the rest of the film.

6) I still contend that Margot Kidder is not a really good Lois Lane overall, but I can certainly see why she was cast as Lois. Not only does she have a good sort of awkward chemistry between Kidder and Reeve, she has a good sense of comic timing that makes what could have been wince-worthy scenes actually flow well, especially the interview scene. However....

"I am a bagel in a briefcase...I am a bagel in a briefcase..."
7) Did Donner really think that Lois' monologue/song-turned-into-a-poem (and as risible as this was, imagine how it would have been as the Salkinds intended it to be, as a full-blown disco song sung by Kidder) needed to stay in the film? I'm thoroughly into the flying sequence, can certainly understand what's going through these two people's head through their physicality and expressions...and then the chilling words 'Can you read my mind?' kills the mood dead.

8) What is it about super-hero movies and newspaper editors? While I have great love for Lane Smith's version on Lois And Clark, Jackie Cooper's Perry White is a joy to watch. Seeing him go through these great monologues in front of his employees is nothing less than entertaining.

9) One of the many truly brilliant things about Christopher Reeve is how, much like Brando's Jor-El, his voice remains level and calm while also conveying a number of emotions. Not only does it put him in sharp contrast with everyone around him, setting him apart from the rest of the cast, but it makes that one inarticulate roar of rage when he finds Lois dead truly heart-breaking.

10) Another truly brilliant thing? It's been said before, but Reeve makes Clark and Supes truly different characters--and you can see how he transforms himself literally in front of the camera so effortlessly that you can one hundred precent believe that everyone around him buys them as different people.

Overall...unapologetic about what it was, this is an essential film for students and fans of super-hero movies, a near-perfect machine that just ticks along never faltering for a second.

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