In 1978, we could believe a man could fly — and 40 years later, we still believe that a pair of glasses is a good disguise for Superman in the hands of the right actor. The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch looks at all four of Christopher Reeve’s Superman films from 1978-1987.
The first movie is, unsurprisingly, the strongest of the four, though even there you can see the seams from the lunatic process by which it and its sequel were both written and filmed. (It doesn’t help that top-billed Marlon Brando can’t even be arsed to do anything as good as phoning in his performance; he’s a disaster, and substituting Susannah York’s Lara for him in the second film is frankly something of a relief.) The opening on Krypton is actually quite well done, even with the drag effect of Brando’s somnabulent line readings, the crystalline art direction for Krypton making Superman’s home truly alien. The Smallville scenes are brief and effective (if you’d told me before this week that Glenn Ford was only actually in two scenes as Jonathan Kent, I’d have said you were lying; he created that much of an impression that it felt like he was in it more), and while Luthor’s plan is pretty over-the-top and absurd (also, where does he get the resources to build an underground headquarters, fly around the country to alter missiles and steal Kryptonite, and so forth?), it still works, and has consequences. Superman going back in time to save Lane probably seemed like it would show the depths of their love, but mostly it just comes across as artificial suspense.