|Look Ma, no wires|
Easy. Give him two ridiculously iconic fathers and get Mario Puzo to write the screenplay. OK, so maybe most of Puzo's story was ditched by Donner and Mankiewisz but he's still got the writing credit. It helps that it's 1977 and Kubrick has long opened up special effects use and George Lucas is making space age fairytales popular. Warner Bros and Richard Donner set out to film Superman and Superman II at the same time. Quite a show of confidence seeing that this is the first of the blockbuster superhero films; a bold gamble on an unknown quantity as the superhero genre didn't even exist. It seems production was far from plain sailing from the script rewrite to Brando's diva turn and demands, not to mention having to actually cast Superman at three different ages. Was Christopher Walken really offered the role? Burt Reynolds too? Nowadays it's hard to see anyone other than Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel.
It all comes together and becomes the perfect introduction. We begin on Krypton, the deep space leg of Bowie's Isolar tour. Krypton is a barren place and essentially a background space for Brando to fill. Brando's Jor-El is a scientist, a leader and a genius. Jor-El's hubris is displayed in his dispute
|Do not put that up your bum. A & E will bever believe you.|
Kal-El hurtles through space and absorbs history, a subtle nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey and a slight confirmation of L Ron Hubbard's belief in engrams. Not much happens in Smallville till Kal-El crashes at the feet of father number two: Glenn Ford.
|Best. Dad. Ever.|
It's about time we saw some scenes of mild peril. Supes has gotten into his red pants and Clark Kent has become a klutz and inexplicably landed a job in
To the fore Luthor duly emerges. With a plan that wouldn't have been out of place in a 70s Bond film Luthor wants to make a killing on Californian real estate with the handy use of a nuclear missile. It's a scheme Max Zorin would be proud of but there's just one problem: Superman. And so comes the cinematic establishment of a classic superhero subplot: Kill The Bat. For any super-villains scheme to succeed he must first kill the superhero of the piece. Sure, we've seen Bond strapped to laser targeted tables and penned in with alligators but a superhero has to have one specific weakness that can be exposed. The Martian Manhunter isn't too keen on fire and The Green Lantern is famously adverse to yellow (yes, the colour) but Superman is OK as his weakness blew up in space. Kryptonite is gone. Or is it? Of course it isn't and Luthor has got some.
Events are coming to a head, Lois is bombing along a California road, Superman is having a bath and Luthor's plan is getting close. All the while The Liability Formerly Known As Jimmy Olsen is having a walk by a dam. If Gene Hackman hadn't have been cast as Lex Luthor none of this would've worked as it is we can suspend our disbelief right up until the cheat.
Yep, Superman, the walking, talking pillar of truth, justice and the American Way cheats. Faced with an impossible choice we are asked to accept the greatest example of deus ex machina ever. The system restore approach to this story's end sticks in your throat and actually goes some way to lessening our hero. Shouldn't a real hero be prepared to make sacrifice for the greater good?
Despite the fractured production and the unsatisfactory ending Superman is wonderful. The introduction of our hero and his backstory, love interest and main antagonist are concise and brilliantly efficient. The decision to simultaneously film the sequel means a franchise's worth of characters are established along with their motives. This is an absolute masterstroke and so much better than Marvel's Easter Egg approach in recent years. Warner Bros took a gamble and their decision to go big and bold paid off.
Dust yourself down as it only gets better. Better on Planet Houston.