Superman: The Movie – A Masterpiece 40 Years Later

“All those things I can do. All those powers..and I couldn’t even save him”

Clark Kent

In 1978, a film made audiences believe a man could fly. 40 years later, in 2018, Superman: The Movie continues to make audiences believe. 

Superman: The Movie, directed by Richard Donner, and starring the late Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, is one of the most iconic films of cinema. The film was hailed by contemporaries of the time as one of the greatest technical achievements thus far. The film exploded at the box office and introduced the world to Superman in a way like never before. Prior to this; Superman was commonly seen on television through live-action serials and animation. In the comics, Superman was in the middle of his Silver Age era, campy, silly and full of outrageous stories. Superman: The Movie took the character in a much more serious direction. In today’s fandom, while the film might seem lighter than the modern superhero move, it is important to realize that for the time, the film was considered dark. It was darker than the comics running alongside it, more serious than the tv shows before it and took Superman on in a more mythological level. 


Looking Back at The Godfather of Superhero Films

With the 40th anniversary of the film, Superman: The Movie once again flies on the big screen. As someone who was born in 1994, I never got a chance to see this film on the big screen. While I’ve seen countless times as a kid on VHS and as an adult on DVD, there is an extra level of magic in seeing the film on the big screen as intended. The film has been fully remastered from the visuals to the score and was all personally looked over by Donner himself. Because of this, the film looks more beautiful than ever and hearing the John Williams theme remastered was one of the highlights of the experience. 

Superman: The Movie tells the origin story of Kal-El as he gets launched from the dying planet of Krypton. The tale of finding yourself is prevalent in the film as Clark grows up feeling different from everyone around him, eventually venturing off to find his place after the death of Jonathan Kent. Eventually, he finds a piece of his planet and reconnects with his Kryptonian culture with the help of his father, Jor-El. All of this leads to Clark eventually taking on the mantle of Superman and the rest of his history. The story is classic and has been told in multiple ways, mediums and formats, but the basic story remains the same. The story of self-discovery, the story of sacrifice.


The Brilliance of Christopher Reeve

Superman: The Movie contributed a lot to the Superman mythology. The businessman Lex Luthor, the stressed dual personalities of Clark and Superman, the culture of Krypton and the costume designs all reverberated to the comics and eventually led Superman out of the Silver Age and into the modern age. The strongest aspect of this film is the casting. Christopher Reeve IS Superman. The literal personification of Superman is represented in Reeve as a person and as a hero as he perfectly slips into the role of one of the most important characters of all time. The legacy of Reeve is unmatched and continues to have a presence today. Interviews of Reeve show how much he appreciated Superman as a character and knew how serious the material needed to be treated. Margot Kidder plays a terrific, strong, and determined Lois Lane. An ace reporter and wiser than Clark in many aspects, she is the guiding light of the story and guiding light for Clark in having a true connection to the people of Earth. 

40 years later, Superman: The Movie remains iconic. The masterpiece still has influence in the medium today. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has more in common with this film than many pundits would see. The film has a similar core message and is an amalgamation of Superman & Superman II. I’d like to think of Man of Steel as a spiritual successor to Superman: The Movie. Kevin Fiege has also admitted that the fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Superman: The Movie. Similarly, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is influenced by Donner’s Superman in countless ways and beautifully honored the film. It is safe to say the legacy of Superman: The Movie will only continue to improve with time and will always stand as the Godfather of all superhero films.