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Superman: The Movie

Reviewed by: Christopher Heyn

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All Ages
Sci-Fi Action
2 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
Copyright, Warner Bros. click photos to ENLARGE

Are you tired of all the recent films based on dark or violent comic-book characters such as “Spawn”, “The Crow”, and “Batman”? Hungry for some wholesome good vs. evil storytelling featuring a moral, upstanding hero? Then run to your nearest video store and rent “Superman: The Movie”, arguably the best comic-book adaptation ever made, and a surprisingly effective film 20 years after its initial release.

“Superman: The Movie” is, as we all know, the story of Kal-El, the last survivor of the doomed planet Krypton who is sent to Earth as a baby. Discovered by Ma and Pa Kent on their way home from church, the Kents name the mysterious boy Clark and decide to raise him themselves. Eventually, Clark leaves Smallville for Metropolis, where he becomes a reporter for the Daily Planet; that is, when he’s not his alter ego Superman (Christopher Reeve), defending the innocent in the name of “truth, justice, and the American way.” Oh, and he really has a thing for the paper’s star reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), too.

Complicating matters is the evil Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, in a very funny Oscar-nominated performance), who wishes to bomb California’s San Andreas fault with two stolen nuclear missiles in order to send half the state crashing into the sea. By doing this, Luthor will have created a new West Coast in the world’s most amazing land swindle. Superman must find a way to stop him, of course, before millions of people are killed.

Boasting a star-studded cast (besides Reeve and Hackman, the film also features Marlon Brando, Glenn Ford, Ned Beatty and Terence Stamp), a witty and charming story by “Godfather” scribe Mario Puzo, and taut and exciting direction from Richard Donner, “Superman: The Movie” also has a strong moral worldview which gives the film much of its power.

Clark Kent/Superman is shown as a man that honors his parents, treats his coworkers with respect, is sexually chaste as far as romance is concerned, and genuinely cares about the welfare and safety of others. In many respects, this telling of the Superman story can be seen as an allegory of the life of Christ, although that comparison breaks down at the end when Superman disobeys his father’s commands for the sake of love. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to spend time in a world where sin has consequences, evildoers are punished, good is rewarded, and traditional moral values are seen as good and honorable.

“Superman: The Movie” is rated PG for mild comic-book violence and an offscreen death in a subway station. Luthor’s female assistant has a tendency to wear clothing that accentuates her bustline, and there are a few moments that may be scary for very young children. However, the film has no profanity, no sex, no nudity, and nothing that would make very inappropriate for family viewing. Although “Superman: The Movie” was followed by three sequels, none of them ever matched the original in storytelling or moral tone.

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Comments below:
Positive—Thirty years after Kirk Alyn flew into cinemas, a new motion picture crashed into multiplexes worldwide, and it was an immediate success. Three sequels would follow, but none of them equalled the first one in terms of sheer epic scope, moral tone, and excellence. An alternate cut of the first sequel was better received by fans of the first movie.

The name of the photoplay? SUPERMAN. Since its release forty years ago, Superman has been hailed as the definitive incarnation, cinematic and otherwise, of the Man Of Steel, and numerous motion pictures and television series” have paid homage to Superman in one way or another, the most recent being Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot, notably the early scenes of Diana in London. If you can see this masterpiece in cinemas, DO IT. This movie WAS MEANT to be viewed on the big screen, though home video works well too.

There is some violence, none of it graphic, and a few mild profanities, no blasphemy, and no sexual content. The theatrical cut of the picture clocks in at two hours twenty three minutes, the Special Edition, which is director Richard Donner’s preferred cut, adds eight minutes to the runtime, and the Extended Cut, over which Donner had no control contractually, but was entirely in the greedy producers” hands and is basically the first version of the film visually locked-down prior to being re-edited for theatrical release, runs three hours eight minutes.

Each version of the film, save the Extended Cut, is rated PG for peril, some mild sensuality, and language. The Extended Cut is Not Rated, but contains material different from the theatrical release and Special Edition.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
D, age 32 (USA)
Negative—We have been wondering if this classic movie would be appropriate for our almost 10 year old daughter, and so came to this site to read the review and recommendation. We had not seen it since we were children ourselves, so could not remember if it was problematic for family viewing. Based on the favorable review here, we did just as recommended and ran out to the nearest video store to rent it. The review stated that “the film has no profanity, no sex, no nudity, and nothing that would make it inappropriate for family viewing.” Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

True, there was no outright full nudity and no sex, and overall it is not nearly as profane as current day superhero film choices. But it must be said that there are issues of concern for families with even this classic of the genera. My husband and I have been cringing and glancing at each other as we watch this with our daughter. The film has been laced with occasional profanities and a couple of misuses of the Lord’s name. There is some sexual innuendo which may go over most children’s heads. Lex Luthor’s female assistant wears not just “clothing that accentuates her bustline” as stated in the review but SHOCKINGLY revealing clothing in one lengthy scene… we were not at all prepared for that level of immodesty. See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Shawna, age 38 (USA)