Netflix Instant Pick: Superman: The Movie

Every week we recommend a movie we love that is available via Netflix instant view, the greatest thing ever created! Enjoy!

With the summer we’ve been having, I can certainly understand people feeling fatigue over comic book movies, but this one is still the king of them all. Superman: The Movie, released in 1977, had a long history in development, at least as far back as 1973, and reportedly $2 million was spent on flying tests alone. Mario Puzo wrote a draft of a script for Superman and Superman II, both campy and overwrought. Both scripts coming in together at over 500 pages (which would make both films be about four hours each). Spielberg was considered as director, but was unavailable. The task fell to Richard Donner, just coming off the success of The Omen.  Brando had to be persuaded to join the production, and Gene Hackman finally signed on. The search for a Superman lasted three years, and they finally went with an unknown, Christopher Reeve. Filming for both films lasted 19 months.

But none of that matters. The wonderfulness of the film outshines any of that behind-the-scenes drama. What makes Superman: The Movie such an amazing film is that it is able to convey ridiculous science fiction concepts, godlike characters, and a healthy Americana with a sense of seriousness, fun, and heart.

The film doesn’t follow a three act structure so much as it is divided into three sections: Krypton, Smallville, and Metropolis. The initial section on Superman’s home of Krypton shows his parents’ life and the destruction of the planet, sending their son to Earth. The Krypton sequence pulls no punches in terms of easing the audience into the mythology, dropping the audience into the densest part of the film, and relying on Marlon Brando’s charisma as Superman’s father, Jor-El, to capture the audience.

The film then picks up with Superman’s childhood as Clark Kent, in Smallville, Kansas. The setting in rural Kansas is completely opposite that of Krypton, and here Clark is raised by his farmer poster parents, Jonathan and Martha. The film does everything to evoke the 1950s here, like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Seeing both aspects of Superman’s birthright back to back really sets up everything else in the film as he comes to take on a dual identity. Superman descends godlike, from Krypton, but it is Clark Kent, from Smallville, Kansas, that tempers him and provides the heart of the story.

The third section, Metropolis (and California) shows Clark Kent’s arrival and the beginning of his career at The Daily Planet, meeting Lois Lane. It is also here that Superman begins his public career, and reveals himself to the world. A love triangle between Clark, Lois, and Superman develops. Gene Hackman shows up as Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, with a diabolic real estate grab. Superman shows his superheroics, and faces off with Luthor in a battle of wits and strength, and ultimately must choose which of his fathers to follow, Jor-El, or Jonathan.

I can’t say enough about this movie, as it’s one of my favorites, and still stands as the greatest superhero movie of all time. Really, I could probably write several thousand words on this film, from the acting, to the effects, to the Christ imagery, etc. But I’ll spare you (for now!).

The performances are delightful, and the movie is about something greater than just a good action scene. John Williams also delivers one of the best scores of his career, and hearing the title gives me goosebumps every time. It’s a grand movie, and one of the few real American epics. Superman is our Thor, Hercules, or Gilgamesh, and this film roots him just as much in Kansas as Krypton. As close to a perfect fantasy film as you could ask for.

Watch it now!