The first Superman movie was probably the thing that introduced me to Superman when I was a child, I didn’t pay proper attention back then so it didn’t impress me. Now to see what I think as an adult with full attention.
Superman – It starts with the banishing of characters and the destruction of Krypton. Superman is sent to Earth and we see him at various stages of growing up until finally we get to Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. Clark Kent is a blabbering, nervous wreck who seems like he could be anything more until we see him secretly catch a bullet, then casually use his x-ray vision. He goes around saving people and stopping criminals, then takes Lois Lane out for a flight which is a surprisingly beautiful scene. The film’s focus is on Superman, we briefly meet other characters like Lex Luthor but he doesn’t do anything until the last forty-five minutes of this two-hour-seventeen film. Lex is clever enough to realise he can’t beat Superman, his plan doesn’t even involve the hero, he just makes sure he can hinder him long enough for it to work. Lex even wins… for a bit. The acting, story, character relationships and even the theme tune are just fantastic. The only thing that really disappointed me was the suit changes that happened in mid air and in a revolving door. I’ve sat through a lot of superhero films but this is the first one that blew my mind, probably because the formula was so different to what we get these days.
Superman 2 – The second Superman movie that uses a loose end from the first movie. Banished prisoners are locked in a square that can only be destroyed by a nuclear explosion which is exactly what Superman accidentally hits it with. General Zod and his allies are these prisoners, now set free near Earth having gained all of Superman’s abilities plus telekinetic power and finger lasers. While Zod is invading, Superman is having his identity figured out by Lois Lane so ends up too distracted to do anything. Lex Luthor escapes prison and tries to make a deal with Zod but in the end Superman finds a way to beat all these foes. I enjoyed the narrative of this film but think a few elements of it were too forced, like Superman’s mother knowing how Zod’s prison would be destroyed or there being a machine to humanise Kryptonians, it just doesn’t feel like it’s natural to the film. I know it’s an old movie and they didn’t have much computer help with effects but the combat looks terrible. Overall a good film but nothing near the first.
Superman 3 – Richard Pryor’s movie about a guy named Gus who’s good with computers. Superman is a fairly minor character in this one, seemingly relegated to being a subplot where he meets a girl he knew from school, gets given some dodgy kryptonite and has to fight himself on whether he’s good or bad. Gus however seems to be the main focus, he works out a get rich quick scheme and gains the attention of a mega rich man that has him manipulate the world for financial gain. Pryor is funny and it makes for an alright movie but he should have just had his own separate thing where he played Gus because without the rubbish Superman plot this could have been a fun comedy, and without Gus it could have been a more fleshed out dark side of Superman movie. This to me was the worst of the four films although it did have potential to be better in many ways.
Superman 4 The Quest For Peace – The movie makers must have realised they made a mistake with the last film because in this one Lex Luthor’s back and this time he’s out to destroy Superman. Lex and his criminal cohort decide nukes are the next big thing and as Superman throws nukes into the sun, Luthor is working on a solar powered super weapon called Nuclear Man who has Superman’s DNA. The acting and dialogue for Lex Luthor is spot on, he’s got a new assistant so that’s a bit worse and Nuclear Man is a terrible character. Reeve does a great job as both Clark Kent and Superman in his performance, particularly in the ridiculous double date scene which got a giggle out of me for the sheer absurdity. Lois Lane is confusing as she sometimes knows Superman’s identity, then seems to know nothing and it isn’t clear if this is just for show. I think I liked this film more than Superman 2, the combat still looks terrible and the last half hour with Nuclear Man isn’t good (by this point in the 80s they could do better) but the humour and acting through the rest of it was great.
These versions of Lex Luthor and Superman are perfect for each other, enemies with enough respect for one another to be able to talk, yet always trying to outsmart one another.
The suit changes from Kent’s day wear to the Superman suit never look good. Sometimes he rips his shirt, others he doesn’t but his clothes mostly just vanish for no reason which just looks bad.