Believe it or not, there was a time when there wasn’t a deluge of superhero films. When the only fix you could get of a display of superpowers defeating evil were in the pages of comic books.
And then, in 1978, a film came along that made us all believe that a man could fly.
Richard Donner’s film was to be the template and the catalyst for all films featuring comic heroes following it. You can guarantee that the likes of James Gunn and Zack Snyder would have seen this seminal film as children, and it would have planted the seed of what was to come.
When his home planet of Krypton is destroyed, a young child escapes in a spaceship, with the help of his parents, which is sent across a number of galaxies before landing on its final destination – Earth.
There the child is discovered by a couple, the Kent’s, who decide to take the child in as their own. It doesn’t take them long to learn that the child they have adopted is very special, developing superhuman abilities.
Now a young man and Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) is living in the city known as Metropolis, where he gets a job as a reporter on the newspaper The Daily Planet, alongside fellow reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). It’s during his time here that his alter ego comes out, a person with extraordinary superpowers, who is soon appropriately nicknamed Superman.
His antics of putting petty criminals behind bars and protecting the citizens of the city catches the eye of the notorious criminal mind Lex Luther (Gene Hackman), who decides that this new superhero is a threat to his operations, and so must be dealt with. But does he have what it takes to take down this new superhero?
To celebrate its 45th anniversary, the original Superman is being dusted down and flying back onto our screens. It’s a rare opportunity to witness what could be described as the daddy of them all, and seeing the original big screen Superman at his best.
And unbelievably, Richard Donner’s film still holds up today. Firstly there’s the story that was developed by none other than Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather book. He also had a hand in the screenplay, which still manages to sparkle after all this time, with a strong balance of humour and action, with characters that are comic book-like and not overly cartoony.
To reinforce this more mature approach, Donner got on board some serious thesps, which included Terrance Stamp, Trevor Howard, Susannah York, Glenn Ford, Ned Beatty, Gene Hackman, and of course Marlon Brando.
It would also make a household name out of its young star Reeve, who became synonymous with the iconic role, and went to play him a further three times.
Up until this point the film was the most expensive film ever made at $55 million dollars, and it’s all on the screen. Even today the special effects in the film are still impressive, and even the flying sequences have aged well.
They are married incredibly with John Williams’ superb score, with the main Superman theme still remaining one of the most recognised of all time – along with all the others that the Genius Williams has created.
Although not getting a cinematic release, there is also an extended cut out there, which was made for television, which was essentially the original cut of the theatrical release, reinstating many of those lost scenes to give it a considerably longer running time of three hours and eight minutes. It is available on digital formats now, and is certainly worth viewing if you’ve never caught it before.
Donner’s film was an impressive achievement at the time, and still remains so to this day. In fact it could be described as the perfect superhero origin story put to celluloid, almost defining how it should be done.
It is a film that after all this time, is still pure cinema magic, bringing to life one of the most adored comic book heroes ever, and watching him fly for the very first time is bound to still put a big smile on your face.
At 45 years old, it still remains iconic, a classic, that imbued a sense of awe and wonder in its young audience, when walking out of the cinema, truly believing that a man could fly.