Many of my friends grew up with a certain film series that happened in a galaxy far, far away. This is great for them, and I’m more than a little envious of the tales they tell of visits to the cinema to see each film in the original trilogy. That’s not me though, I’m just a little bit too young to have made that same connection with Star Wars and, whilst I love those films, I’m not as emotionally connected to them as other people are.
No, for me, the film that I have the deepest fondness for is Superman: The Movie.
I don’t recall exactly when I first saw Superman: The Movie but I know it wasn’t at the cinema, it was on TV, possibly when it premiered in Britain. To this point, I had no idea who Superman was, and so that first viewing sat with my mum and dad was something very special indeed. So special that I cried when Lois succumbed to the earthquake that would have Superman screaming to the heavens.
I know that I cried because my dad never lets me forget it. “Do you remember when you first watched Superman and you cried like a baby?” he asks whenever the Man of Steel enters into a conversation. I do remember, and that scene is still very emotionally powerful to me.
The Superman bug took hold after that early small-screen showing and has been with me ever since. I had Superman: The Movie Wallpaper for many years, I would fly around with a variety of capes whenever I could and I even went to see The Quest for Peace at the cinema. This was a young boy dedicated to the cause.
A few years later whilst my teenage angst and the separation of my parents were fighting for my attention, I reconnected with Superman: The Movie. As a 13-year-old, this film now made a lot more sense to me. I could really appreciate its many facets and, whilst I didn’t make any conciseness decisions at the time, I’m pretty sure those repeated plays of that VHS tape molded my psyche into what it is today.
Christopher Reeve became an idol to me. He couldn’t have been more perfect for that role and I hung on every mannerism, every smile, every selfless act performed as both Clark Kent and Superman. To this day, no matter how many Supermen take to the screens to portray that character, my mind instantly replaces them with Reeve and his passing in 2004 was a huge blow to me.
Equally, Margot Kidder owned the role of Lois Lane so completely that I was besotted with her. Her portrayal of a reporter was perfectly adequate but it was her relationship with Superman that really taught me what it meant to love somebody. Every time the two characters found screen time together, the film lit up and both were so much better for it.
The entire cast of the film is incredible really, when you think that this was truly the first big-budget superhero movie. To this day, I believe that Marlon Brando was a poor casting decision, but Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Ned Beatty as his bumbling sidekick, Otis, was inspired. I don’t think that Hackman nailed that role in the same way that Reeve did but he was never anything less than magnificent as the villain of the piece and his interaction with Beatty and Valerie Perrine’s Eve Teschmacher is wonderful to watch.
Whilst I love the film as a whole, I usually skip the first act on repeated viewings. The early scenes on Krypton and those set in Smallville are so deeply embedded in my mind that I have little need to watch them now. I usually start watching as Clark Kent enters the Fortress of Solitude and Superman flies out. Forget his origin, what you really want to see is a Super Man, doing Super things, and from the moment the Daily Planet helicopter finds itself in trouble, you get non-stop Super thrills.
To finish, I really must mention the music. The John Williams score is obviously iconic to a great many people but to me it was more than that, it was the music that really got me interested in soundtracks as a genre. The Superman theme is a clear highlight but the themes of Krypton, Love, the Fortress and the March of the Villains are all amazing compositions and, in my opinion, are amongst Williams’ best work.
Superman: The Movie remains as a big film in my life. I don’t have the VHS tape now, replaced by shiny discs in a collectors box and as my two young boys grow up, I hope that they will both love the original outing as much I do. If not, I guess I’d settle on them enjoying the more recent Man of Steel outing.