For decades, the Last Son of Krypton has appeared in non-comic book media like books, cartoons, serials, and TV shows. His popularity and standing grew thanks to the film Superman in 1978. As a franchise, the Superman films experienced ups and downs ranging from epic masterpieces to the type of garbage seen in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Having viewed the films recently these are my rankings for the Superman movies.
1. Superman (1978): This film has stood the test of time and become a genuine classic. There have been many superhero films that have come since this one, but it still holds up today in spite of its dated special effects and other drawbacks.
Superman has a sense of awe and majesty in some moments, namely, the first acts in the planet Krypton and Smallville. At times some scenes in Superman’s hometown seem taken out of a Rockwell painting. It’s these quieter moments that lend an ambience to what we are watching.
Once Superman grows up and moves to Metropolis, the movie becomes a hybrid of a romance, light comedy and adventure yarn. At these points, Superman/Clark Kent encounters colorful types like his love Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and nemesis Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who is both an amusing and devious foe.
More than an origin story about Clark Kent growing up to be Earth’s greatest superhero, Superman is a loving ode to classic Silver Age comic books. Thanks goes to director Richard Donner’s respect for the source material and Christopher Reeve’s masterful performance as Superman/Clark Kent.
2. TIE: Superman II (1981)/Man Of Steel (2013): I couldn’t decide which of the two films is greater. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they’re so different in style and execution. So determining which is better depends on the viewer’s taste and preference.
Superman II is very exciting and captivating with an engaging story. Kryptonian criminals come to Earth and create havoc while Superman, unaware of their activities, gives up his powers to be with Lois Lane. As fun as it is, Superman II unfortunately is littered with plot holes and conveniences.
For starters, how is it that Luthor gains entry into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude (some security!). How come Superman never learns about this? More importantly why is he so clueless about Zod and his cronies until after he renounces his powers? Why give up his powers? Just to dance in the sheets with Lois? Given the scope of his decision, it makes him seem kind of irresponsible and naive. Plus, the ending has an even bigger cop out than the first movie.
Still, the performances by Reeve and Kidder are stellar whenever they’re together on screen. Terrance Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran are formidable and vicious villains with Stamp’s Zod displaying a sense of regality and pompousness. You’re just itching for Superman and these super jerks to finally get into it during the film’s last act. The battle in Metropolis is fun and exciting, even if it lacks the scope and effects shown in Man Of Steel. However, at least Superman showed more concern for the innocent civilians caught up in the melee, unlike Man Of Steel.
Producer Christopher Nolan and director Zack Snyder reinvigorated the Superman franchise with the epic reboot Man Of Steel. It’s a no-expense-spared spectacular with jaw-dropping and exhausting battle scenes that finally showcase the scale of Superman’s powers.
Many elements about Superman and his mythos are updated and feel refreshing. Henry Cavill does a fine job playing Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent and echoes Reeve’s earnestness and humble nature. At the same time, Cavill makes the role his own as the role emphasizes Superman’s loneliness. We feel that he is an outcast who just wants to help out and find himself.
As Superman searches for his past heritage, General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth his small army of evil followers with the intent of capturing Superman and transforming the Earth into a new version of Krypton. Afterwards, Superman must not only contend with Zod and a mistrustful military, but with his dual heritage. There are many terrific quiet moments when he examines his humanity.
There are so many great things about the film but it has faults. Aside from common complaints about the music, the film needed tighter editing. It’s a long movie and it feels like one. Some fights seem to go on forever, leaving you wanting the whole thing to end already. Sometimes less is more as the saying goes. Continue reading