Modern blockbuster cinema came of age with the release of three huge science fiction/fantasy extravaganzas in the late 1970s. In 1978 Superman
was the last of these, a gigantic hit unfairly overshadowed by Star Wars
(1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
(1977). Christopher Reeve is completely convincing as both Superman and mild-mannered alter ego Clarke Kent, sparking real chemistry with Margot Kidder's fellow reporter Lois Lane. Very much a film of two halves, the opening tells the origin of Superman from the apocalyptic fate of Krypton to his nostalgically rendered boyhood in the mid-West. After a wonderful sequence introducing the Fortress of Solitude the film changes gear as the adult Clarke Kent arrives in Metropolis and Superman battles arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). Though the tone becomes lighter and introduces comedy, Superman
succeeds because Donner plays the titular character straight. From Marlon Brando's heavyweight cameo to the surprisingly wrenching finale, Superman
unfolds as an epic modern myth, a spiritual fable for a secular age and a fantastic entertainment for the young at heart. With breathtaking production design, still special effects, gorgeous cinematography, thrilling set-pieces, wit, romance and John Williams' extraordinarily rich music score, Superman
has the power to make you believe a man can fly.
On the DVD: Superman is presented in an extended director's cut which adds eight minutes to the theatrical original. The restored material is so artfully integrated many viewers may not even notice, but it would have been nice to at least have the opportunity to watch the original via seamless branching. The sound has been remixed into extraordinarily powerful Dolby Digital 5.1--the superb main title sequence is worth the price alone--and the anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image is, except for some unavoidably grainy effects shots, pristine. The commentary by Richard Donner and writer Tom Mankiewicz reveals more about the background than all but the most dedicated fan will ever need to know, while film music aficionados will revel in the opportunity to listen to John Williams' score isolated in Dolby Digital 5.1. On the second side of the disc are a eight alternate John Williams music cues, a selection of deleted scenes and the screen tests of a variety of would-be Lois Lanes, introduced and with optional commentary by casting director Lynn Stalmaster. These are fascinating, and show how right for the part Margot Kidder really was. A DVD-ROM only feature presents the storyboards plus various Web features, while the real highlight is a 90-minute documentary divided into three sections covering pre-production, filming and special effects. The picture quality on all the extras is very good indeed. An enthralling package, DVD doesn't get much better than this. --Gary S Dalkin
A box-office smash, an Academy Award winner* and a fan favorite since it first flew into theatres in December 1978, Superman: The Movie assembles a cast and creative contingent as only a big movie can. At its heart (just as in three sequels) is Christopher Reeve's intelligent, affectionate portrayal of a most human Man of Steel. Watching Superman again isn't just like being a kid again. It's better. The movie's legacy soared even higher when director Richard Donner revisited this beloved adventure22 years later and integrated eight minutes into the film. Enjoy more footage of the Krypton Council, a glimpse of stars of prior Superman incar nations, more of Jor-El underscoring his son's purpose on Earth andan extended sequence inside Lex Luthor's gauntlet of doom. Reeve, Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Gene Hackman (Luthor) and Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) give indelible performances that fuel the film's aura of legend. Looks like a swell night for flying. Why not come along?