September 17, 2015

Rating the motion picture history of Superman

It is just under six months now until the anticipated superhero movie, Batman vs Superman hits theaters! While Marvel is at the height of its movie success right now, DC have a considerable amount of catching up to do. But they will be making movie history soon when the two most well known of DC characters will be on the big screen together in one motion picture. And it is expected that the film, which will also feature Wonder Woman and Aquaman, will be a hit!

There have been various incarnations of Superman throughout the years, even on television. But the ‘Man of Steel’ has probably had his best days featuring in theatrical movies, all starting with Richard Donner’s 1978 epic, simply titled Superman: The Movie. It hasn’t all been great for Clark Kent’s alter ego, however!

Today, we are going to try and document, from best to worst, all of Superman’s major outings and give the most appropriate rationale’s.

Superman II

Hardcore fans will know that this particular entry has a rich history behind its development process. Original director, Richard Donner was going to direct Superman: The Movie and Superman II back to back, but a dispute saw him let go from making the second movie. Richard Lester was bought in and he almost totally changed Donner’s vision. Still, the end result ended up being the best Superman movie of all, at least in the opinion of this writer and many fans. As well as Superman facing three villains, which were a dark reminder of his original home, the movie also focused on his relationship with famous fictional reporter, Lois Lane. Superman II found a way to balance the focus on both plot points and even dared to answer the question of what the world would be like without the flying hero! Superman II is a fun, emotional and at times, often dramatic ride that is almost a complete Superman movie.

Superman: The Movie

The one that started it all, this film demonstrated the dymanic range of director Richard Donner’s directing. The man has covered many genre’s including horror. Many will remember the classic The Omen, made in 1976. Well, Superman: The Movie could not have been far different! Admittedly not a comic book reader here, it has been researched that the original film is quite faithful to Superman’s comic origins. Although not the outright comedy that Superman’s third outing would be, there are various comedic elements in places which are mostly to do with Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor and his sidekick, Otis. The beginnings of Lois Lane’s and Superman’s relationship start here but it all comes off as a little too schmaltsy. That was happily rectified in the first sequel. Of course, there is also that ending that still confuses most to this day!

Man of Steel

Man of Steel isn’t the classic that we were all hoping it would turn out to be, but it is an above average action/fantasy movie. And a reasonably enjoyable Superman flick. The rugged Henry Cavill is a far better fit than the boyish Brandon Routh, but¬† Man of Steel’s final act did almost become just a little too much. Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight movies, had a hand in its production and it is easily recognised where his influences were laid. The filmmakers wanted the audience to feel Superman’s true sense of speed, but good luck to any person over the age of 65 in trying to keep up with the going on’s! Michael Shannon’s own portrayal of General Zod was quite chilling but his motivations lended the character a couple of layers, which may be peeled back further in Batman vs Superman as was hinted in the trailer! Amy Adams is a fine actress but her Lois Lane was not a patch on Margot Kidder’s Lois.

That is something that is surely cannot be disputed.

Superman IV

Yes, okay. Superman IV was a technical disaster! Even the deleted scenes, which were finally released on the special edition DVD, just seemed to make everything worse instead of making us wonder what could have been. But Christopher Reeve’s fourth and final outing is a movie that is so bad that it’s good. Gene Hackman and Reeve play it straight (somehow), which makes it all the more comical and tragic at the same time. If the direction in which Superman III took was anything to go by then perhaps this should have been expected. Stock footage of the same shot of Superman flying is used over and over, sometimes shown from different angles as if to try and hide the fact that their budget was drastically cut. Which it was. The villain, Nuclear Man, was nothing but cringe worthy and his creation bought with him nothing but a bunch of plotholes. You can see things that were not meant to be revealed, at least in the technical sense. But it won’t be said what. See if you can spot them yourself. Superman IV is a mess but it sure is a lot of campy fun!

Superman III

Superman III was awful. And not in a so bad, it’s good way. It has been stated that the studio, Warner Bros wanted to make a Superman film a comedy. Why? That just does not make sense. It’s always a risky move to turn anything that is beloved by the public into a joke. And Superman III proved so. But the third entry’s motive wasn’t just to do that. Hit stand up comedian, Richard Pryor almost had Superman III all to himself and it all becomes obvious that after thirty minutes of viewing that Pryor and Superman would not be a good mix. And it never would have been. The only scene worthy of merit, and yes there is just a solitary sequence, is the one on one dual Superman fight in the junkyard. Unfortunately that only lasts for around five minutes and then it is back to watching Richard Pryor trying to be funny while Christopher Reeve is shoved into the background again. And the plot? It does not even attempt to explain it properly. But why would it when it was too busy showing Pryor skiiing off a skyscraper….

Superman Returns

Heck knows if there was anybody that didn’t think there could ever be a worse Superman movie than the third installment before the release of Superman Returns. Well, this one broke new ground in that respect! Warner Bros made another poor decision in electing to carry on from the Christopher Reeve timeline, specifically from Superman II. In came Brandon Routh, who actually did not do too bad of a job playing the simple minded Clark Kent. But his Superman was a lot to be desired. And it wasn’t even all his fault! Interestingly, Reeve and Routh were the same age when they both wore the red cape for the first time. But poor Brandon just did not live up to looking physically like Superman. Perhaps he could have passed for being Superman’s son, which is ironic given the film’s subplot. Kevin Spacey’s performance was the best thing about this two and a half hour bore. While director Bryan Singer had the desire to tell the audience of the dynamics of Superman and Lois Lane’s relationship, it only ended up making Superman seem like a super human stalker! If you were a vulnerable female wouldn’t you find it creepy that a man, who can look through walls, was spying on you from outside your bedroom window? Well, that is what happens. And to top it all off, Superman becomes butt hurt when he finds out that Lois doesn’t have feelings for him anymore. Talk about give the movie a sombre overtone! Wouldn’t the primary audience that this movie would be directed at be children? Actually, Superman Returns is so bad that you would watch the end credits unfold feeling depressed, anyway.

About the Author

Lee Skavydis
Lee Skavydis
I am a die hard movie fan, owning over 500 movies on both DVD and Blu Ray. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week when time permits. My other hobbies include following fight sports such as boxing, travelling around, writing and editing, listening to heavy rock and cook the odd occasional recipe. I used to write for several prolific boxing websites, interviewing some of the most famous names associated with the sport around.


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