With the world still struggling to come to terms with just how bad Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, we thought it would be a good idea to look back at classic Supes to see if Zack Snyder can learn anything from the 1970s. That and we had a long flight to kill.
Much like 2013’s Man of Steel, Superman is an origins story that begins on Krypton and follows Superman’s evacuation as a child to escape his planet’s destruction. It’s far quicker to get to the point, however, with his powers in evidence from the moment he crash lands on earth.
Where it parts ways with Snyder plot-wise is with its villain, going straight in with Lex Luthor, brilliantly played by Gene Hackman. Luthor plans to cause a huge explosion on the San Andreas fault to send California tumbling into the sea, increasing the value of his cheaply-acquired desert real estate.
It’s a highly entertaining film from start to finish, with memorable characters, effects that still look good and plenty of Superman performing amazing feats. In the most recent two movies, the climax has been a battle of large scale destruction, resulting in the obliteration of entire city blocks as super-characters brawl. Here the focus is less on hand-to-hand combat and more on incredible feats of strength, speed and laser eyes.
The problem with Superman, and the reason he can never work in a Dark Knight-esque ‘real world’ is the inherent cartoonyness of a lot of his powers (freeze breath, laser eyes, x-ray vision) and the fact Lois can’t identify him when he puts glasses on. Reeve is better at playing Superman/Kent differently than Henry Cavill, playing the latter as jerky and awkward. But basically if you’re going to have this absurd situation it needs to be a comic book film which doesn’t take itself too seriously since there will always be an element of ‘undercover nerd’ about it (see video).
This film perfectly balances respect for the character and his mythology with keeping it in comic book territory with a tone close to Tim Burton’s Batman films. It didn’t make me fall in love with the character of Superman, but it’s a big, fun crowd pleaser that has stood the test of time.