I’m a Superman fan. My dad got me hooked on Superman when I was a child and I’d watch the Superfriends ever Saturday morning as I’d eat my Fruit Loops or Frosted Flakes (hey…it was the late 70’s and early 80’s so sugar was in!). I’d run around the neighborhood in my Superman “S” shirt with a red towel as my cape and pretend to fly and save the day. I remember watching the black and white TV show staring George Reeves and laughing when the bad guys would throw their gun at him when it ran out of bullets. Heck, growing up when I did, I Love Lucy was always on Fox 5 from DC and how could you not like the episode with Superman when he saves Lucy from the building ledge. Best line of the episode was Superman to Ricky after saving Lucy from her recent hair-brain scheme, “…and they call me Superman.” Even then Superman was larger then life and could do no wrong.
Then in 1978 what is now considered the grandaddy of all super hero movies was released – Superman: The Motion Picture – and we saw what a director with a vision could do in making Superman fly. He rescued Lois, fought Lex Luthor, and if you’ve seen the Director’s Cut of the movie he went through a gauntlet that tested his durability against fire, ice, and lots of bullets. This was the movie that showed us what Krypton could be like, how Jor-El and Lara sent Kal-El to Earth where he was found by the Kents – John and Martha. We got a movie that for YEARS became the cornerstone of what a Super Hero movie should be.
Then in 1980 a Richard Lester directed Superman II was released (with some footage that had been shot by Richard Donner as this was to be a continued sequel to the original – do a wiki search for the history on that one). Superman got to fight the general that brought down the destruction of Krypton – Zod. Terrance Stamp put his mark on a lesser-known villain and made him an icon. The last act really showed us a Superman that was in a toe-to-toe battle with three villains that all have the same powers and strength as him….they just don’t have the control or training that he learned while growing up on Earth.
Lastly we have three movies that kept the franchise going and had little to do with Superman and more to do with marketing and branding. I’m skipping the Richard Prior and Quest for Peace movies to focus on Superman Returns right now. This was to be the big return of Superman to the big screen. Bryan Singer was brought in to direct and his track record at the time was near perfect with his take on Marvel Comic’s X-Men and the incredible X-Men and X2. So what happened with what would become a big mess of a movie? He stayed too close to his love of the original in trying to mimic the tone and feel of Superman: The Motion Picture but bring into a modern world. He brought Richard Donner in as a consultant, cast Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor with Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and Brandon Routh who did a great job of channeling Christopher Reeves’ performance as Clark Kent/Superman. Again, staying too close to the original and almost being a pseudo-remake of that source material. Yet he made Superman a real dick in terms of his relationship with Lois. Superman would never leave and not say good-bye or tell Lois what was going on. He’d never stalk Lois and get jealous that she moved on while he moved away. And don’t even get me started on “the kid” plot! But I will give Singer credit in that he made changes to how we see Superman use his abilities, with X-Ray Vision being used not to see through things but to cut the layer away to see. The airplane sequence is some of the best use of Superman and the John Williams/John Ottman score in the entire movie. The threat, the challenge, the heroics are all there. And there were some great almost-there-but-not-quite-yet-Superman moments like when he was shattering the falling glass with his heat vision while flying back to the ground. The only thing missing is an original plot and Superman fighting someone let alone being in the same scene with the villain prior to the last act. Oh, and the ending that just couldn’t figure out where to end made a long film seem longer to the point that you just wanted it to end and end soon so you can go home and re-watch Superman: The Motion Picture or Superman II and wash away the bad taste that Superman Returns became.
Here we are in 2013 and Zach Snyder, the man that brought us 300 and Watchmen, was tapped to recreate Superman for a new generation. Man of Steel by far is not a perfect movie but overall it delivers what we’ve been waiting for since 1980 – a movie with Superman doing all the Superman-like things we’ve been waiting to see him do. Check after the break for the full breakdown as I do another edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Geeky.