This month, the 1980s series of Superman movies are being removed from Netflix. So I decided to re-watch the original 1978 Superman picture (with Christopher Reeve), something I haven’t done in 20 years.
It does not hold up well.
It was made during the heyday of model based special effects, and they just look poorly done when viewed with expectations based on today’s CGI. Heck, they look poorly done compared to, say, the Star Wars effects of a year earlier. Watching, some of the action scenes, I get the impression that they tried to make up for poor staging and bad effects with dramatic music. At least the flying effects aren’t that terrible – the ad campaign when the movie came out said, “You’ll believe a man can fly!”Not really, but it isn’t as cringe-inducing as some of the other effects.
But that dramatic music! It is a memorable score. Even without watching it, I’m sure I could have hummed my way through John Williams’ Superman theme, as well as some of the other themes from the film.
Effects aside, it is also extremely slow. Long, pensive shots of Marlon Brando giving ponderous speeches. Or just looking grim. I happened to pause the film at about 42 minutes in and… nothing has happened yet! It’s all been setup. I’m no filmmaker, but it seems I could condense everything up to that point (he’s just about to enter his newly-build Fortress of Solitude) into about 10 minutes using Jor-El to narrate the setup, leaving an extra half hour for plot development and/or action.
Sometimes experiences from one’s childhood should really be left there. This may have been one of them.
I also happened to notice, during the opening credits, that the story and screenplay were written by Mario Puzo. I had no idea.
Unfortunately, Godfather this is not.