Retrospective: SUPERMAN Rewind: Looking Back At The Past 5 SUPERMAN Movies | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Retrospective: SUPERMAN Rewind: Looking Back At The Past 5 SUPERMAN Movies




In conjunction with tomorrow's hugely-anticipated release of Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, MAN OF STEEL, let's take a look at the previous five SUPERMAN movies right below:

SUPERMAN (1978)


WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

The movie depicts Superman's (Christopher Reeve) origin, beginning from his infancy as Kal-El in Planet Krypton to his youthful years in the rural town of Smallville at which he is found by Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter). The Kents named him Clark and raise him as their own son. After Jonathan died of heart attack when Clark is 18 years old, he is summoned to the Fortress of Solitude somewhere deep at the Arctic. From there, he learns the truth about his biological father from a vision of Jor-El (Marlon Brando). He soon learns about his powers as well as his responsibilities to protect mankind on Planet Earth. He subsequently leaves the Fortress of Solitude with a superhero costume and heads over to Metropolis to become a reporter at the Daily Planet. Soon he gets to know his fellow colleague, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) at which they slowly fall for each other. Clark, who is eventually being nicknamed as "Superman" after being interviewed by Lois Lane for an article, soon finds himself battling against a criminal genius named Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman).

WHAT WORKS IN THE MOVIE

Then-newcomer Christopher Reeve is perfectly cast as the unsophisticated and naive Clark Kent and the wholesome all-American superhero Superman. Gene Hackman's wicked portrayal as Lex Luthor is top-notch as well, while Margot Kidder is wonderful as Lois Lane. 

Up to that time, the visual effects are quite remarkable (which earned an Oscar for Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects). The climactic finale is simply unforgettable, especially the one involves the earthquake sequence. Not to forget also is John Williams' soaring theme that forever cemented as one of the most iconic scores ever composed in the movie history.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN THE MOVIE

Richard Donner's direction is uneven. The screenplay is heavy-handed, while the movie is quite sluggish to get to the point.

THE VERDICT

Although SUPERMAN has its share of flaws, it remains one of the best superhero movies of all time.

SUPERMAN II (1980)


WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

In this sequel, three Kryptonian criminals General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran) are sentenced by Jor-El (Marlon Brando) to exile into the Phantom Zone right before Planet Krypton suffered from destruction. However, the three Kryptonian criminals manage to break free from the Phantom Zone and subsequently end up on the Planet Earth. They begin to create chaos, and ultimately it was up to Superman (Christopher Reeve) to save the world... again.

WHAT WORKS IN THE MOVIE

Likewise, the returning cast (Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder) are all top-notch. But this sequel is mostly remembered for Terence Stamp's iconic performance as the heartless General Zod. With improved special effects, the movie hits full button with the unforgettable climactic battle between Superman and the three Kryptonian criminals at the heart of Metropolis.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN THE MOVIE

Like the first SUPERMAN movie, this sequel still suffers from overlong and sometimes sluggish plot.

THE VERDICT

Highly regarded by critics and fans as one of the best superhero movie sequels of all time, SUPERMAN II is a worthwhile companion to the superior SUPERMAN (1978).

SUPERMAN III (1983)


WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

This time, Superman (Christopher Reeve) faces an unlikely new adversary in the form of a criminally insane super-computer genius named August "Gus" Gorman (Richard Pryor), who is spearheaded by an evil CEO named Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn). Webster recruits Gorman to help him in his schemes to rule the world financially by utilizing his state-of-the-art computer technology.

WHAT WORKS IN THE MOVIE

The opening scene is quite ambitious and unique for a SUPERMAN movie -- with Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL-style tracking shot -- depicting an unlikely scene of comical event happened at the same time. Christopher Reeve is typically engaging as Superman/Clark Kent. Here, he is especially notable in the scene at which he becomes a mentally-confused person who has to battle within his good and bad inner self. As the super-computer genius Gorman, Richard Pryor delivers a terrific sense of bumbling humor that mostly steals the show from Christopher Reeve.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN THE MOVIE

A LOT! After the successful outcomes of SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980), it's rather shocking to see that this third installment has reduced into an action comedy where comedy is surprisingly put into heavy emphasis. Nevertheless, the result is so laughably bad until it simply becomes a self-parody. Clocking at 123 minutes, the movie is awfully overlong as well. The action is less engaging and even too comical for its own good -- especially the one involving Superman battles against a lively super computer! As the evil CEO Webster, Robert Vaughn fails to match the same level of sardonic performance immortalized by Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor (who is sorely missing here!).

THE VERDICT

SUPERMAN III is a huge disappointment, and definitely a few steps back from the first two movies.

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987) 


WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

In this fourth and last installment of SUPERMAN movie franchise, Superman (Christopher Reeve) has once again battling against his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who breaks out of the prison with the help of his nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer). Things get worse when Lex and Lenny steal a strand of Superman's hair from a museum, and create a new super-human nicknamed as Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow).

WHAT WORKS IN THE MOVIE

Clocking at a mere 89 minutes, it's a good thing that SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE moves fast enough to keep the most undemanding fans and viewers occupied. This time around, there are lots of action especially the one involving the titanic battle between Superman and Nuclear Man.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN THE MOVIE

The plot, which is co-written by Christopher Reeve himself, is unfortunately too simple-minded that caters more for younger audiences. Even though the action are aplenty, the same cannot be said with its cheap-looking special effects because of its tight budget. Even the returning cast are mostly a pale shadow of themselves.

THE VERDICT

After the huge disappointment of SUPERMAN III, SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE does improves a little. But a minor improvement isn't enough to justify this as a worthwhile entertainment.

SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)


WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

A sequel of sorts to both SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980), SUPERMAN RETURNS stars newcomer Brandon Routh as Superman/Clark Kent who returns to Earth after a five-year absence. He discovers that his love interest Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on with her life, while his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is now plotting a huge scheme that will destroy the world.

WHAT WORKS IN THE MOVIE

Director Bryan Singer does quite a commendable job for paying tribute to the iconic movies of SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN II. Newcomer Brandon Routh, who bears the resemblance of Christopher Reeve, delivers a surprisingly soulful performance as Superman/Clark Kent. The rest of the supporting cast including Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, are all spot-on. Special effects are ace, while the action is just as exciting -- especially the most memorable moment involving the mid-air rescue of a space shuttle and airplane.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN THE MOVIE

At times, Singer made a mistake of emphasizing too much on the melodramatic side of the story. Clocking at a whopping 154 minutes (!) long, SUPERMAN RETURNS feels sluggish in places and even more obvious because the movie is also noticeably lack of action.

THE VERDICT

Despite some of its flaws, it's a relief that SUPERMAN RETURNS is a mile better than SUPERMAN III (1983) and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987) -- two embarrassingly bad efforts that killed the SUPERMAN movie franchise at the first place.

So there you go. After SUPERMAN RETURNS failed to take off at the box office, will MAN OF STEEL delivers at the box office? And succeed to please both fans and critics as well? Stay tuned for MAN OF STEEL review coming soon!

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