One of my earliest movie memories is watching "Superman" and as such I maybe a bit biased but not only is it one of my favourite super hero movies but also one of my favourite movies. Of course the 1978 "Superman" is not everyone's cup of tea, it mixes comedy with super hero antics as well as a dose of mythology but it is a well crafted, fun movie. Not only does it give us the history to Superman it takes us through his growing up and introduces us to all the major characters before then giving us a bit of super hero story without ever feeling disjointed. But what is so good is that it may be over 35 years old but "Superman" is still as good as ever and so is Christopher Reeve as Superman.
With the planet Krypton on the verge of destruction Jor-El (Marlon Brando - The Missouri Breaks) sends his baby son Kal-El (Christopher Reeve - Village of the Damned) to earth where he is discovered in a field by Ma & Pa Kent (Phyllis Thaxter and Glenn Ford) who bring up the baby having named him him Clark. As Clark grows up he learns of his amazing super human abilities and when he becomes old enough he heads to Metropolis where he becomes a reporter for the Daily Planet. Whilst he goes unnoticed he takes on the alter ego of Superman helping to keep the streets clean of crime. Meanwhile, master criminal Lex Luther (Gene Hackman - Young Frankenstein) has a plan to make the East coast his own but he will have to keep Superman at bay if he is going to succeed.
One of the most impressive things about "Superman" is that it packs so much in. Within the first 30 minutes we have been introduced to Jor-El and the troubles on planet Krypton, the young Superman being discovered having fallen to earth by Ma & Pa Kent as well as his super human abilities which he has to keep in check whilst growing up. That is a lot of back story yet it never feels rushed and lays the way for further storylines as we also watch General Zod getting banished from Krypton.
But after a solid intro which gives us the mythology and history of Superman we then get the introductions to all the major characters. We learn about Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, his feelings towards journalist Lois Lane and then there are the bad guys in Lex Luther and his incompetent henchman Otis. And there are more as we are immersed into this word and the offices of the Daily Planet where we meet Jimmy Olsen and Perry White.
Then on top of this, having delivered us an introduction we then get some out and out super hero action as Lex Luther puts his plans into action to own the East coast of America and Superman flying into action to foil him. In lesser hands all of this could have come across as being disjointed, as two movies crashing together into one but Richard Donner merges them beautifully so they over lap and interweave. In means that whilst "Superman" is nearly 2 and a half hours long it doesn't feel it as it smoothly develops from one thing to the next laying the way to a sequel.
What helps it all work is that it has light hearted moments, scenes which have comedy flowing through out them be it a clever bit of amusing dialogue or some visual slapstick. This element of comedy may not appeal to those who like their super heroes to be dark and brooding but for me it makes "Superman" fun and entertaining. Plus the comedy is often mixed in with action and whilst technology has moved on the special effects laden action still works. Watching Superman save Lois from a falling helicopter where she utters "you've got me? Who's got you?" is just a brilliant mix of fun and excitement. And that excitement comes totally out when we have Superman taking on Lex Luther during the final section of movie.
Of course a big reason why "Superman" works is the perfect casting most notably that of Christopher Reeve as Superman. He just looks the part and is so capable of delivering the various required elements, the comedy, the handsome hero and so on. But Reeve is not alone as all the cast in "Superman" are perfect from Margot Kidder as Lois Lane through to Gene Hackman as Lex Luther. Even the smallest of parts such as Phyllis Thaxter and Glenn Ford as Ma and Pa Kent are just spot on as they are believable as Clark's traditional and hard working parents.
What this all boils down to is that "Superman" some 35 years after it was released is still not only a great super hero movie but also a great movie. For a movie which is over 35 years old it hasn't dated too much and still provides so much entertainment as it takes us through the various sections of the "Superman" story.