Film (1978). Dovemead/International Film Production. Directed by Richard Donner. Written by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, with Tom Mankiewicz as "creative consultant"; based on a story by Puzo. Starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Marlon Brando. 143 minutes. Colour.
Superman's visit to the wide screen was long delayed, but lavishly appointed when it did come. Screen rights to the most famous of Superheroes had been bought by father-and-son producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. They made Superman, the sequels Superman II (1980) and Superman III (1983) and the spin-off Supergirl (1984), with diminishing box-office returns, after which the rights were resold to Golan and Globus of Cannon Films, who made Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
Expensive difficulties, largely to do with the flying scenes, delayed Superman, whose special effects vary from mostly excellent to occasionally awful. On the whole the end product is a triumph (it was awarded a Hugo), confidently walking the tightrope (though it stumbles once or twice) between playing it romantically straight and putting its tongue in its cheek, and much assisted by intelligent performances from Reeve, who plays Superman as a kind of Innocent Abroad, and Kidder, as a Lois Lane whose passion for Superman appears as touchingly erotic. Indeed the Caped Crusader's career is given a resonance with other great US myths, especially his Midwest boyhood, luminously photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth as though in homage to the paintings of Norman Rockwell. Part of the film's success, oddly, may be that it is UK-made, so that its USA is given an attractively foreign, story-book quality. The plot involves arch-villain Lex Luthor (Hackman) threatening to nuke the San Andreas fault, thus sinking West California and making a fortune out of real estate in what will be the new West Coast. [PN]
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