Superman: The Movie

tn_supermanSUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (not to be confused with Superman: The Imitation Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread) is an important movie. It was the first big comic book super hero picture, and an early entry in the world of post-STAR WARS blockbusters that shaped today’s generation of filmatists. By casting Marlon Brando as Joe L. Superman (plus  Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Glenn Ford as Pa Kent), director Richard (LETHAL WEAPON) Donner set the precedent, still in place today, that big respected actors in supporting roles can add credibility to a super hero picture. And by casting only-one-movie-under-his-belt Christopher Reeve as Kal L. “Clark Kent” Superman he showed that sometimes a fresh face is better than a familiar veteran to play an iconic character. That later worked for Wolverine (whose first movie was executive produced by Donner), Thor and two subsequent Supermen. (Other actors who were supposedly on the producers’ wish list: Al Pacino, James Caan, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman and [why not?] Muhammad Ali. Any one of those would’ve automatically been a completely different movie.)

mp_supermanOne thing this movie had that hasn’t really continued in the genre is a serious lineup of heavy hitter screenwriters. The script is credited to Mario Puzo (novelist of THE GODFATHER of course), David and Leslie Newman (David wrote BONNIE AND CLYDE) and Robert Benton (also BONNIE AND CLYDE). Credited as “creative consultant” (but actually he rewrote the script) is Tom Mankiewicz (CITIZEN KANE [okay, that’s a lie, his uncle wrote CITIZEN KANE, he’s the guy that did MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED]). It should be noted that David Newman and Robert Benton probly got the job because they wrote the campy 1966 Broadway musical It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman. And more importantly that David Newman went on to write Michael Jackson’s MOONWALKER.

Together Donner and all those people gave SUPERMAN a light, old-timey feel that influenced alot of comic book pictures through the ’80s and ’90s, movies that felt a loyalty to the eras their characters were created in instead of a need to reinvent them for the modern age. It mostly takes place in the present (1978) but starts out seeming to say it’s 1939, showing the first Superman comic book cover and using ’30s cars in the Clark Kent childhood-in-Smallville scenes. By the time you realize it’s the ’70s it doesn’t matter because it’s still a screwball comedy about love between spunky big city newspaper reporters.

The movie begins on the space planet of Krypton. In this version you gotta thank the Lord that the fuckin place blew up because jesus christ Kal does not want to grow up in a shithole like that. You think Smallville is a boring place to be on a Friday night, try this barren planet like the moon that just has one chunk of rock in the middle where Kryptonians are dug in like an ant colony. I bet everything closes before 6 pm there too. There are some background civilians around but we mainly see the council members, dry old grouchy grey haired guys in glowing white cloaks (I like this TRON-like visual effect).

Superman’s dad is cool though, he has white hair with a well-maintained curl and sometimes wears a striking black outfit with the ‘S’ logo on the chest. But the poor guy spends all his time sentencing criminals or standing around in white anti-septic chambers having his ideas ridiculed by his wet blanket colleagues. His apartment isn’t much homier. I bet he gets sick of staring at god damn crystals everywhere he goes. If Krypton didn’t blow up I bet Kal would’ve grown up to rebel against this gloomy dystopia.

You remember what happens instead: as a baby he rockets to Earth, where mom and dad may have expected him to fend for himself and eat human meat, but instead he is welcomed and adopted by the Kents of Smallville. Come to think of it, compared to dead ass Krypton the Kansas cornfields must be a lush fantasy world like Pandora. He grows up on a farm, finds out he’s real strong and can run fast and fly, learns of his heritage. He gets a fancy crystal that speaks to him as his dad, carves out a snow cave for him and gives him his famous costume. Then he becomes a celebrity by flying around the city of Metropolis using his strength to rescue people and carry various criminals to the police. (I kind of doubt any of them were convicted considering the circumstances of their arrests, but good effort anyway Superman.)

The biggest thread I guess is his relationship with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder from BLACK CHRISTMAS), a drama queen reporter he meets at the Daily Planet newspaper and has a crush on. She doesn’t respect him for some reason. I’m just guessing here, but it may have something to do with him being a dull, socially awkward and clumsy doofus, or at least pretending to be whenever he’s around her. But when she sees him as Superman, not recognizing him as the same guy (I just tell myself Clark is so boring she doesn’t pay attention to what he looks like), she goes all gooey. He rescues her from a helicopter crash (good first date), then comes to her apartment so she can interview him/unprofessionally attempt to seduce him. (“The Bat-Signal is not a beeper.”)

This is the heart of the movie, really. Kind of a little two person play about a long conversation, a human being curious about an alien and the alien being excited to be able to talk about himself to a girl who usually ignores him. And then he picks her up and flies her around the city (and New York, unless there’s another Statue of Liberty in Metropolis). It’s a romantic night under the stars, but also there’s this intimacy of him holding her and having her safety under his control, and this PETER PAN exhilaration of experiencing the dream of being able to fly. And of course it’s also kind of a love-making metaphor, but a very innocent one. In fact, I predict the next Superman reboot will redo this but with a 24 year old Lois who reacts orgasmically to her first flight.

That reminds me, is that a dirty joke when he sees that her panties are pink and says “I like pink”? I mean I know it’s flirtatious but did they intend the double meaning to that? There are children watching, Superman. Don’t talk about you love pussy. Keep it clean buddy.

Also there’s a good gag where he flies off the balcony and instantly appears at the door as Clark, arriving for a date with Lois. When she’s in the other room he takes his glasses off and is about to reveal himself to her, but then pusses out. Earlier there was a perfect line delivery of Lois seeming to call Superman “Clark” but it turns out she’s just pausing after his name in a sentence about him.

This is the best stuff in the movie, and even Lois (who to be frankly honest I find a little obnoxious at times) is kinda charming when she’s smitten.

But then we get to the part where he has to fight a super villain. Hackman is obviously good at playing menacing, but that’s not what this character is about. This Lex Luthor is more like a villain from the old Batman TV show. He lives in a nicely furnished abandoned train station where he plots evil schemes and talks down to his two bumbling sidekicks (Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine). The trio has a whole tangent where they ambush a military convoy to change the targeting on a missile, all played for chuckles. Lex decides he’s Superman’s enemy and also decides that a particular meteor he could steal came from Superman’s home planet and therefore it would have radiation that would be the only thing that could kill Superman (simple science, obviously) so he does this as part of his plan to explode the missile along the San Andreas fault and cause an earthquake that will break off half of California and make the desert land that he bought more valuable.

I’ll say this about the climax: the effects are pretty cool. I know they don’t hold up to modern standards, but it’s still pretty impressive the way they make him fly around. There are some shots where they must’ve just done a Peter Pan type rig on a soundstage, no green screening, and those look amazing.

Also it kinda goes without saying but the theme song by John Williams is excellent. They knew it, too, so they have the credits flying over stars with the theme song at the beginning and the end of the movie. I’m glad they didn’t revive it for MAN OF STEEL, but I do wish they would resurrect the concept of catchy theme songs. It seems insane to me that with all of the comic book movie stars of the last decade not a one of the motherfuckers has a catchy theme song. That tradition died when Danny Elfman stopped doing all the comic book movies. Hans Zimmer’s scores for THE DARK KNIGHT and MAN OF STEEL come the closest but they’re taking more of a building atmospheric approach than a traditional theme song. But you can’t tell me Captain America wouldn’t benefit from a memorable tune.

Anyway, you guys know I’m not some wet behind the ears knucklehead who can’t appreciate those old corny movies. But to be frankly honest this one doesn’t really do it for me anymore. I remember it seeming great in the ’70s and ’80s and I have described some of its charms here, but for me it doesn’t hold up like the classics of its era or hold a candle to the best super hero movies of the following decades. I wonder if maybe me and Richard Donner are descended from rival tribes or something, because I always seem to have this lukewarm reaction to his movies that are considered classics. Last time I watched THE GOONIES I wanted to lock those awful kids in a basement, and it was only last year that I learned to fully appreciate the LETHAL WEAPON series.

I understand that SUPERMAN was breaking new ground by adapting this sort of material, but to me alot of those classic Superman conventions just seem corny now. For example, I know it’s the tradition, but I just hate watching Clark Kent pretend (?) to be a dork. He’s too over-the-top to be relatable and it’s not funny or anything, it’s just annoying. (Compare this to the fake Bruce Wayne persona in Nolan’s BATMANs. He gets laughs, has some dramatic showdowns, then disappears.)

And it really loses me at the climax where Lois dies so Superman gets really mad and flies into space and his flying causes the Earth to spin backwards and therefore it makes time go backwards (or something) so Lois is still alive and then I don’t think he rescues her per se but she just doesn’t die this time so everything is okay. I can’t believe they got away with that. To think that this is considered an untouchable classic by an entire generation outraged that Indiana Jones could survive being near a bomb blast by going inside a lead-lined refrigerator… oh well. It doesn’t work for me, anyway, due to a combination of “what the hell kind of logic is this that the earth spinning backwards effects time?” and “how is there gonna be any tension when the dude can just make up a ridiculous new godlike ability at any time?”

(Or was the backwards earth rotation a byproduct of the time travel and not the cause? He’s usually pretty laid back, but when he gets angry he travels back in time? I don’t know.)

Part of it is a matter of tone. They can do things that would never work in MAN OF STEEL because the latter is trying to depict a more grounded reality with less winky winky nudge nudge type cutesy shit. But for my tastes this kind of goofball approach has been improved on in less popular movies of the years since. THE PHANTOM and THE LONE RANGER for example play with old fashioned aw shucks heroism and movie serial swashbucklery but to me they actually make it funny instead of just cute because “it’s like a comic book!” SUPERMAN has jokes throughout but I can’t think of one that actually made me laugh.

I understand I’m in the minority on that. This guy at moviefone thinks SUPERMAN is “Still the Greatest Superhero Film of All Time.” According to my research most people don’t rank it at the top, but they tend to at least have it in the top 10. Empire has it at #2 on their list of the best comic book movies of all time (behind X-MEN 2). Going by Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomato ratings it’s #3 (behind THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN). IGN and comicbookmovie.com also have it at #3. Newsarama has it at #5. Forbes has it at #6. I don’ think it would be in my top 20. There are too many BLADEs and PUNISHERs and some good Batmans and BARBARELLA and if you’re gonna bring A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and LONE WOLF AND CUB into this I get more of a kick from any one of those than the ol’ American icon here.

Maybe that’s why I seem to be more open to MAN OF STEEL than most people, or even the weird fatherhood stuff in SUPERMAN RETURNS. I just think the character was sorely in need of a new approach, and should not be beholden to having the same qualities as the old version.

Speaking of which, I looked it up and saw that this weekend is the big Comics Con over in San Diego, California. That means there’ll probly be more news or photos or something from the new Superman and His Pal Batman picture that Zack Snyder is making. And if so that means another round of the thing where all the movie sights and their commenters smarmily dismiss it and talk about how this Superman doesn’t rescue people and caused the deaths of thousands of people and all that shit, and I’ll want to debate them again and get all frustrated. Before you forget about ’70s Superman and get into that in the comments here please know you can let me have it on my heavily illustrated rebuttal to that interpretation of MAN OF STEEL, coming soon. Apologies in advance.

Stay super you guys

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 at 9:35 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “Superman: The Movie”

  1. I have attempted to fund your illustrated rebuttal on kickstarter but it was not available. So instead I just threw $40 into the breeze.

    I pray it finds its way to you, Vern.

  2. Glad you finally reviewed this one Vern, even though you didn’t like it as much as I did. I re-watched the old Christopher Reeve ones in preparation for Man of Steel last summer, and I still prefer the good-natured innocent charm of these, despite the flaws. It had just the right amount of whimsy and wonder but also enough seriousness and pathos to keep you invested. That amazing score doesn’t hurt either of course. My ladyfriend liked this one alot up until the end, since Luther’s scheme is pretty rushed (I think he doesn’t show up until more than an hour in) and the climax is a bit anticlimactic, but oh well – viewed as the first half of a long movie with Superman II (which I hope you review), this one is an excellent start but I can see why people are disappointed in it now.

    Note: Back when Bradley Cooper was heavily rumored to be Lex Luthor for Man of Steel 2, I was seriously hoping for Jennifer Lawrence as Miss Teschmacher and Zach Galifinakis for Otis. Those are two really bizarre characters to be in a huge summer comic book movie, and I have to respect Singer’s attempt to put in a Teschmacher-like character in Superman Returns even though it didn’t really work.

  3. Excellent. I’ve disliked this movie since day one. “Day one” was probably, like, a random September Saturday circa 1991 when this came on tv and bored me for most of 2 hours. Sorry SUPERMAN Superfans, your beloved movie is ugly and stupid. I’ve checked out several of the DC comics’ stories in the past few years, usually by finding an excuse to hover in the “Graphic Novels” section of Barnes & Nobles for an hour while my ladyfriend gets a manicure around the corner, and yeah those funny papers’ arcs are way better, more engaging, more entertaining, more forgivable or understandable when they rely on absurd pseudo-sci-fi, and just plain prettier. More & better explosions, too.

    Weird sidenote: My stuffy college English honors degree-track advisor & Senior thesis mentor (and head of my university’s English Department) (and often an expert-witness in legal proceedings that needed him to give or parse precise interpretations of difficult legal/academic texts) once told us in class that he regarded Christopher Reeve as Superman to be the ultimate embodiment of manliness. One minute we were talking about Hemingway and Henry James, and the next minute our white-haired, usually very stern & unapproachable professor was gushing about SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE like he was Harry Knowles’s long-lost much older twin brother.

    So don’t take my opinion about this lousy movie too seriously. I’m a shitty young grasshopper.

  4. I appreciate the influence this film has more than I enjoy it. I know a lot of people find this part boring, but my favorite section of the film is the Smallville stretch. It’s part of the narrative that’s been most successfully reproduced by other superhero films, in my opinion.

    But it is a weird film, and it’s tonally all over the place. I’m surprised Vern didn’t mention the part where Luthor is hijacking a nuclear missile. Miss Teschmacher pretends to be knocked unconscious in the middle of the road in order to stall the missile convoy, and the military commander very clearly suggests that he is going to molest her. It’s an incredibly disturbing moment in the film, but they’re trying to be funny. (It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie, so forgive any minor inaccuracies).

    As a kid, I found all of these Christopher Reeves Superman films creepy. There’s something about their loose grasp on physics and reality that made me feel sick. Even as a child, I just couldn’t wrap my head around Superman’s ability to turn back time. Also, the fact that just by holding Superman’s hand, Lois is able to fly weirded me out. There didn’t seem to be any internal logic to the movie’s world, and for whatever reason this made me feel kind of queasy. In my film education, I think the Reeves Superman films were preparing me for watching David Lynch movies many years later.

  5. He’s not making the earth spin backwards, he’s travelling faster than the speed of light, making him travel back in time which is visualized by us seeing the earth spinning backwards.

    Though like everyone else I though he was making the earth spin backwards the first time I saw it too, it took me a rewatch to figure out what he’s really doing.

  6. If one or some of you nerds with drawing talent that I don’t possess would like to produce a cartoon or photoshop depiction of what Muhammad Ali would look like as Cal L. Kent, I’d enjoy looking at that.

    Please do not try to pass off as originals the shot of Cassius Clay dancing before Sonny Liston’s corner or the shot of Ali hovering over Liston’s fallen corpus and tell us that’s really Superman who landed that last flourish.

  7. I do still like this one. I recognize that it’s more of a nostalgia thing than it holds up, but I can’t help but like it. Although, I do cringe at some parts, like the romantic deep thoughts Lois has while flying around with Superman.

    Thanks, Badseed, for clearing up the time travel bit. I’ve seen the movie many, many times and always thought he made the world spin backwards, turning back time. It’s still a silly resolution, but there you go.

    Even with any cringing or silliness, I still think Reeves acted the shit out of it. When Lois turns away from Clark and you see his jaw tighten up and his spine straighten, catching a glimpse of Superman, only to have it deflate away when Lois turns back around and you see Clark again – just brilliant.

  8. Rbatty – Oh yeah, I did forget to mention the pervy military guy! This is why I need to take better notes.

  9. Badseed – If he traveled faster than the speed of light, wouldn’t he go into the future, not the past?

  10. It’s always weird when you talk about this stuff Vern because you act as if you are this tiny minority rebelling against the evil nerd empire, but you won this fight ages ago. DC Comics has been backpedalling from its corny, silver age past ever since WATCHMEN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. The comics where superheroes are grim assholes constantly yelling at each other (e.g. New 52 JLA) tend to be their bestselling comics by a wide margin. You’ve got popular grim and gritty videogames like INJUSTICE and the ARKHAM series. This is the direction of DC comics now, for better or worse. It’s not my preferred take, but I can deal. It’s cool that they’re trying to distance themselves from the Marvel movies, and those press pics of Sad Batman and Sad Superman are funnier than anything in IRON MAN.

  11. Zeke: According to the theory of special relativity, as you approach speed of light your inertial frame of reference changes and time actually moves more slowly for you than for a stationary observer. This “time dilation” effect means that if you were to travel at the speed of light time would essentially stop for you, so people like to theorise that if you were to go faster than that then you would go back in time. Of course, it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light, let alone faster, because as you approach that limit your mass increases to infinity and so does the energy requires to move you.

  12. Right, I was was thinking about traveling up to the speed of light, not faster. I suppose that makes sense. Oh, and the heat vision thing too, totally plausible.

  13. Huge respect for still valiantly defending Crystal Skull even all these years later, Vern.

    I definitely love this movie for the goofy, earnest, campy cartoon that it is. But I in general prefer more reality and serious drama in movies like this. So I liked Man of Steel a lot, but it has some hardcore writing problems that only became apparent with multiple viewings. I honestly like Superman Returns best of all the Supes films. Something about that one feels so poignant and emotional. Man of Steel, in contrast, pretty much appeals to my animal brain that likes big, epic-scale, crazy-ass superhuman fist-fights.

  14. For me the entire travel-back-in-time gag is sold by the look on Christopher Reeve’s face right before he takes off. He looks down at dead Lois and the perfectly sells the idea that he can do whatever the fuck he wants because he’s Superman and y’all need to recognize.

  15. Ben (the other one)

    July 24th, 2014 at 12:53 am

    It’s goofy, but I think he DOES reverse the rotation of the earth. That’s why he flies around the earth one way to turn back time, and then flies around the earth the other way to set time forward again. I think those of you who are saying that it’s merely his flight at light speed that sends him back in time (and the reverse rotation of the earth is just an illusory effect from Superman’s point of view), are wrong. If just flying at light speed is enough for him to travel through time, why fly in one direction around the planet to go into the past and the opposite direction to go forward? Why fly around the planet at all?

    Anyway, this movie has warts but I still like it. Chris Reeve is one of the all time best feats of superhero casting, and that score can give you goosebumps in the movie’s big moments. I don’t think it still has a valid claim to being the “greatest” or “best” of all superhero movies, but I tell you what, I think it IS better than a lot of them, including all of the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies, most of the X-Men movies (except X2 and First Class), Spidey 3 and possibly even Spidey 1, Iron Man 2 and 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 1, and both solo Hulk movies.

  16. The Original Paul

    July 24th, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Ok, I could write quite a bit about this one. So I will.

    Firstly: the first half of this movie is, no joke, a damn masterpiece. I can’t find a single fault in it. I think they absolutely nail the tone of the movie, Lois and Clark’s relationship, etc.

    And as much as I hate quoting the single worst, most self-indulgent scene in the history of moviemaking (I refer, of course, to that scene in “Kill Bill v.2”), it does summarise exactly what Clark being a bit of a prat works for me. Clark isn’t Kal-El, he’s Kal-El’s approximation of what it’s like to be a human being.

    And then there’s Margot Kidder as Lois. I’ve watched this film six or seven times and I keep spotting more about her performance that just “gets” me every time I see it. I love how she’s introduced asking some guys: “Anybody know how to spell massacre?” or something like that. Honestly that might be one of the best character introductions in movie history – it just tells us everything we need to know about her.

    So the introduction of Superman, the origin story, the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, everything – it just works. And then we get to the bad guys; and at that point, to quote my review of “Django Unchained”, “everything turns to shit”.

    I’ve never liked Gene Hackman as an actor, ever. Even in his good films – and he’s been in some classics – he does very little for me. But boy, is he awful in this. I think that trying to make Lex Luthor “funny” was a giant mistake to begin with – he should’ve added some weight to the film, provided a suitable antagonist for Superman – but the absolute worst mistake they made was casting Hackman in the part. (Heck, the best move they made in the sequel was pretty much reducing his role to an extended cameo in it.)

    I mean, this is the kind of line that Luthor gets: “You know how the number 200 is relevant to both of us? It’s your weight and my IQ.” Hackman reads it off as though he’s reading a shopping list or something. His delivery is far too fast so we never get a chance to appreciate the joke, and his tone is completely flat. Lex gets several lines like this, and they’re all wasted because Hackman’s delivery of them doesn’t let us enjoy them.

    Why the hell does the world’s greatest criminal live in a sewer? With two morons? How could he possibly know about kryptonite? How could he possibly know about Superman being able to only stop ONE warhead at the end, when even Superman himself has no idea just how powerful he can be at that point? And doesn’t the whole “warhead” thing miss the whole point of Superman being without limits? And if he can fly fast enough to REVERSE TIME, doesn’t that make the whole “racing warheads” thing look a little redundant?

    To me it seems fairly self-evident that the drama of a character without limits is seeing what he does with his Godlike power. How will he choose to use it? What ethical dilemmas will he face? How will he keep himself from dismissing humanity as “beneath him”? What makes him so protective of human life, when on the face of it, humans would mean no more to him than ants would to humans? That’s the source of drama.

    Instead they ignore this completely, and artificially “impose” limits on Superman, which they go ahead and break later on for the sake of restoring Lois Lane to life. So there isn’t even any consistency there.

    I will add that that scene of Superman finding that Lois is dead, despite how silly the run-up to it is, just “gets” me every time. A magnificent moment from Reeve there.

    And the scoring is just fantastic. I’m not a fan of big bombastic orchestral scores, but this is how to do ’em properly.

    So that, in my opinion, is the original “Superman” movie. It’s one half of a great movie. The other half… I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t like all the scenes that Hackman’s not in. Kidder and Reeve just do such a great job of selling it. I just wish that they’d gone for a more serious tone when the antagonist came along.

  17. Neil deGrasse Tyson said something along the lines of ‘When Superman reverses time to save Lois, the forward momentum caused by inversing the rotation of the Earth would throw people 100s of metres into the air resulting in the biggest mass genocide in history.’ He explained it much better of course.

    I watched Superman for the first time this year and felt it fell way short of Back To The Future, Star Wars, Indiana Jones etc. Definitely a nostalgic love for a lot of people rather than a bona fide classic.

  18. Vern, will you review Richard Donner’s version of Superman II? I think it’s a much better film than the first and a film that stills holds up today and should be the one with the appraisal, not the first that, althought I kinda like, its too goofy.

  19. I went through a phase where I kept trying to hate this film. I would always just think about things I didn’t like or echo many other nerds issue with the film and say that it has not aged well. Then I watch it again and fall in love with it all over again, obvious flaws and all. I have since resided that even though its parts are better than the whole I still really dig this film. I cannot deny a good third or (way) more of the film just doesn’t work. and I am being overly forgiving on it due to nostalgia which kind of depresses me for the following reasons:

    Friends ask me why I keep reading Devin Faraci’s articles & comments and Nick Robinson’s comments when I usually don’t agree and they feel they are obviously trolling. I do agree with them more often than not and think they are good writers and I do appreciate their break downs of nerd culture and how nerds are married to nostalgia. I bring this point up because I kind of feel bad about my enjoyment of Superman because I can’t help but feel I fall into the trap that they both complain about the most which is basically ‘Just because you liked it when you were kid does not make it good.’ I whole-heartily agree with that statement and many other things they say negatively about nerd-culture which is why I try to downplay my inherent nerdiness and kind of hate that part of myself due to that part of me (so I must give much respect to Griff for being an out and proud anime fan, I go out of my way to not advertise that I watch some anime, Griff is way more secure than I am).

  20. Guys, Kal-El loves Humanity. He thought he WAS human for 18 years of his life (in this movie’s universe). So when people agree with the Kill Bill “Clark thinks we’re weaklings” stuff, it depresses me! The Donner Clark fakes being a bumbler and a buffoon purely to distract from the fact that he’s superhuman. It’s plain obfuscation and not some damning indictment of the human race.

  21. Raúl Calvo – The Donner Cut is just as silly as the Lester Cut IMO but for completely different reasons. Mind you I do enjoy both but both movies also steer too much towards the end of the spectrum to really connect with me as a truly worthy sequel. Similar to SUPERMAN RETURNS and MAN OF STEEL. The middleground between both could’ve been the ideal SUPERMAN II.

    Personally I’m looking forward to the reviews for SUPERMAN III and IV. Was always curious what Vern thought about those with one featuring Richard Pryor quite heavily and the other being a Cannon film.

  22. CrustaceanLove – “The comics where superheroes are grim assholes constantly yelling at each other (e.g. New 52 JLA)”

    One story dude. One arc. And it was the one where they were all still unseasoned at that. So it’s not like them being distrustful of each other and even immature since most of them are in their early 20s (late teens in Wonder Woman’s case) isn’t out of place.

    I’m sorry it just annoys me how people love to paint this comic series with one brush just because they had issue with the very first arc. How about getting a feel for the rest of the series before making that conclusion? maybe you don’t read comic books anymore or never did and that’s cool too but it’s a very narrow minded outlook on something you may not be very familiar with.

    The rest of the series has presented the League with the respect and reverence for each other people would expect. The Throne of Atlantis arc shows that in fine form. Right now it’s also one of the best comic books around every single month especially after Captain Cold and Lex Luthor joined the cast.

  23. This movie remains one of my favorites. I prefer a “goofy” movie that loves its main characters than a “serious” one that is embarassed by it’s subject matter.

  24. The Original... Paul

    July 24th, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Luminuz – I don’t think he was ever meaning it to be “damning”. I think in the movie especially it was an affectionate pastiche of what he considered human beings to be – well-meaning but a bit blunderful.

    Sorry for the off-topic remark here, but I’ve just had a cathartic vent in the forums at what is only the second movie I’ve ever walked out of the cinema to get away from (the first one being “Bad Boys 2”. That should tell you a lot about my reaction to this new one.) The movie? Richard Linklater’s critically-acclaimed masterpiece, “Boyhood”. Filmed over twelve years. Written, I’m guessing, in twelve minutes, by some guy with a bottle of whisky in one hand and a copy of “Movie cliches for dummies” in the other. Scored by the same guy using material taken some random Internet list entitled “Bad pop hits, made worse by constant overplay”. A lot of people did like this movie, so if any of them wants to take me on, go to the forums. I’m spoiling for a fight after this one.

    That’s all… feel free to continue your Superman-related comments.

  25. Don’t want to get too much into Superman II since I hope Vern plans on reviewing the rest of this franchise, but yeah, Broddie is right – a supercut of Lester’s and Donner’s versions would have been the perfect comic book movie. Lester’s has some huge problems, don’t get me wrong, and Donner’s does have some undeniably superior scenes. But Donner’s isn’t just overrated, it simply isn’t a real movie – it’s just this mishmash of deleted scenes and outtakes that barely coheres as a whole if you haven’t seen Lester’s version, and two of the biggest changes (Lois jumping out of the window right at the beginning and Lois SHOOTING Clark(!!) don’t work as well as the Lester versions and honestly feel out of character. Not to mention the whole fact that it just has the same ending as Superman 1 (and yes, I know why they re-used that ending but that doesn’t make the film any better on it’s own).

  26. Crustacean – I don’t think I’m fighting against a nerd empire (although there is one). I think to both nerds and the general public this is considered a classic and it is much better regarded than the two digital age incarnations. Do you disagree?

    Also, as I mentioned in the review and in many other reviews over the years I love a good goofy movie as much as a grim one. Or a good balance. I know you have issues with the way I write about comic book movies but you make me sound like a dumbass who wanted this to be “gritty,” whatever that is. (And for the record I don’t consider MAN OF STEEL to be very gritty so I have a hard time with that debate. It’s a very different approach but they’re not total opposites.)

    Everybody – I do intend to review the rest of them, but I haven’t started watching them yet so it’s gonna take a while.

  27. If you plan to review all of them then I for one can not wait for your review of Superman and the Mole Men.

  28. Dear Vern, Captain America had a cool theme by Alan Silvestri (http://youtu.be/srnxYb-hbK8) but on the sequel they hired one of Zimmer’s guys and it was terrible.

  29. You´re right on the theme song thing. Elfman really was the last one who was able to compose a catchy, heroic sounding tune
    (Elfman´s theme for Burton´s BATMAN is the only tune besides SUPERMAN that stayed in my ears for all those years) but since Zimmer hit his HONK-HORN-Button everything sounds just as horny as his INCEPTION honk (it seems that they put it in every trailer for every single action/superhero/thriller kinda movie since…) Everything else sounds like a (here in germany we call it) big “Pathos”-Party with drunken fiddlers in every corner.

  30. I always liked it but never revered it, after all I had starwars and such which far more captured my young imagination.

    Superman is from a time you didn’t really need to explain how, just why. These days of world building and intricate mythology superman’s powers best fit into those of some supernatural god rather than an alien experiencing the benefits of the suns rays etc…

    I think the movie has “heart” and as an iconic image Revee is indelible. It has an old time feel but at the time was very modern effects. I think for many geeks the second movie is the more memorable one. Certainly for me it is. Mostly because superman has a much more equal match in his enemies.

    I recall a “Fatman on Batman” episode (Kevin Smith’s batman podcast) where they did some superman action and interviewed a gent who did archiving for the director. He got access to the original script drafts and such and the first two movies were originally part of the same story arch and there were a lot of other little details. It was deemed too much material for one movie though.

  31. neal2zod- I’d agree that the Donner cut has some great moments buried in a project that simply didn’t work; the time travel gaffe at the end is so glaring it pretty much cancels out any goodwill the “film” earned up to that point. I remember suspecting that it didn’t reach its full potential because they were trying to use as little Lester footage as possible, which seems petty to me, although I guess I’ve never had a gazillion dollar film project taken away from me. Still, the Donner Cut just shows that what’s done is done.

    I also hate that Lester seems to be known on the internet purely as the guy that ruined the SUPERMAN franchise. I think Schumacher gets kind of a bum deal, but not compared to Lester. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, THE BED-SITTING ROOM, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, ROBIN AND MARIA; none of these are personal favourites, but as far as mainstream cinema from the last 50 years go, the guy matters, arguably far more than Donner.

  32. When I first discovered comics as a pre-teen in the early ’70s I sampled as many as my parents were willing to buy and even then it was obvious that DC was lame and Marvel ruled. Superman was a ridiculous uninteresting character so when the movie hit the theaters I had no interest even in “you’ll believe a man can fly”. (I later did come to enjoy DC on a certain level because of TEEN TITANS and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS but could justify it because the creators, writers and artists were all Marvel refugees lol)

    I didn’t get around to catching this or it’s first sequel until my bulk VHS copying phase in college and while it’s not boring it’s just meh, fitting to the character. There’s definitely some love in the filmatism and performances but the engagement is spotty and even worse on subsequent viewings. That so many sites rank it high in the superhero film pantheon is surprising. If someone were to engage me in a discussion of comic books on film it wouldn’t even be on my radar.

    I don’t know how you can make that kind of statement Pacman2.0 as Donner’s films (particularly the first two LETHAL WEAPONs and SCROOGED) continue to be mainstays and influential decades after release and will continue to be while Lester doesn’t have a single film I would even consider seeking out much less one the masses could stumble upon in cable rotation.

  33. clubside – That’s funny to read considering that Superman saw some his best stories during the 70’s and some of his worst after CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. That just shows how easily tastes could vary cause I was never much of a Marvel guy.

  34. This movie BTW has grown on me more throughout the years.

    As a kid the only Superman movie I could really sit through on a regular basis was IV. Just something about breakdancing Jon Cryer and super long nails guy used to really crack me up and keep me entertained. Now of course I see what a clusterfuck of awful that movie is but as a kid seeing Superman fighting nuclear guy in space was way more entertaining to me than Superman drowning because Lex Luthor put a kryptonite necklace on him.

    As a Superman comic fan I have always had my issues with it. I hated sterile and bland Krypton with all of it’s boring residents. Way lamer than the kick ass adventurous scientists we would see cruising crimson jungles and exploring new wonders throughout Krypton in comics that existed before this movie even entered production. In that sense MAN OF STEEL came closer to what I wanted to see from Krypton on film. At least in terms of spirit because visually I found Snyder’s Krypton as bland as Donner’s with all it’s boring muted colors and grungy gothic armors.

    Then of course we have the issue of Lex being treated as a joke when even again in the comics of that time he was a more intimidating and genuinely believable villain. Despite his cheesy “Superboy made me bald” origin. He had a lot of pathos and a lot of Shakesperean elements that were completely dismissed by the people who made this movie.

    Hell even in the 70’s Clark was never as much of a tool as Donner and Reeve made him. At all. That really used to grind my gears but I’ve gotten over it. With that said George Reeves is actually still to me the most definitive Clark Kent to date when it comes to media. It was the most accurate interpretation. Only Dean Cain came close. I’m interested to see how Cavill handles the duality in BATMAN MEETS SUPERMAN AND THE WOLFMAN.

    With that said I really have learned to love this movie more and more as the years have gone by. When I view it in the context of being a movie created in an era where there were no legit superhero movies around and accept it for what it is it still stands pretty tall. But it’s not just because of all the pioneering it did for Hollywood’s current favorite subgenre that I really feel it resonates more with me as an adult than it did as a kid. I’m also a lot more open to interpretations of these characters now than I was as a kid or younger teen.

    So all the elements that offended me as a Superman comic book fan growing up don’t really irk me as much anymore thanks to maturity blessing me with a much more open mind. In the end they do function pretty well within the context of this movie and just like how I could accept a vampire Batman vs. Dracula story or Superman as a commie and enjoy it because it was treated with respect to the core fundamentals of the characters, thought and good execution in the comic book medium.

    I mean despite my sheer hatred for crystal sterile Krypton with all it’s lame ass citizens I still get why it is an iconic piece of 70’s cinema. Despite how goofy and vaudeville like I find Donner’s Lex to be Hackman still does genuinely entertain me with his performance. His mannerisms and quips are simply gold. What I’m trying to say is that despite it’s flaws this movie has a lot of genuine heart and soul that you just don’t find in big budget movies anymore especially a lot of comic book based ones and for that reason alone it strikes a greater chord with me than something like THE AVENGERS ever could do.

  35. Oh and ROBIN AND MARIAN and THE THREE MUSKETEERS were always good movies to me. I do agree with Pacman2.0 that it’s pretty stupid how people just like to remember guys like Lester or Schumacher for not really getting their favorite men in tights. Like that changes the fact that FALLING DOWN was a great movie or that THE LOST BOYS is still entertaining as fuck to this day; and these ignorant boobs are supposed to be movie fans? no wonder most people consider movie buffs to be jokes. They talk out of their ass way too much with the pretense that they’re experts just because they know what the editing process is.

  36. Superman: The Movie is definitely a strange beast. The movie is really all over the place. On the one hand, you have a great score and a great performance by Reeves. On the other hand, you have the pervy military guy, which may be one of the most baffling scenes in a major blockbuster. My favorite Superman film is still probably Superman Returns. I thought Singer did something unique with the themes of the source material, and his homage to Donner was both fascinating and infuriating. Man of Steel also had its moments. I didn’t hate it like much of the internet, even if I didn’t love it.

    But there hasn’t been a truly great Superman film. I think there’s something about his character that works better in the comics than in film. People always say that Superman is a terrible character because he’s too powerful. That might be somewhat true, but I think his powers are less of a problem in the comic books, because part of the character’s appeal is seeing unique uses for his powers. Superhero movies, however, depend a lot more on action, and if you’re hero can keep on taking hits, then it kind of deflates any tension. At least that’s a possible explanation. I do wonder how they’re going to incorporate Batman into the world established in Man of Steel. Superman’s so powerful in that film that I just can’t imagine a regular human going toe to toe with him.

  37. Oh, and as far as Schumacher and Lester go, I think Schumacher’s reputation has taken a bigger hit. Lester at least has A Hard Day’s Night, which was pretty inventive and helped usher in the visual language of music videos. Hell, it was just reissued on Criterion. Schumacher seems to have disappeared. According to IMDB he did that Trespass film where Nicholas Cage stars in a film that was probably written for Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson. After that he did a couple of episodes of House of Cards (which, in his defense, is a pretty good looking show, even if it is also really, really dumb).

  38. I dunno Vern, the camp light-hearted tone for me in contrast to most genre offerings over the last decade or so is what makes it hold up for me personally. I mean its like from that same decade you had those Roger Moore 007 films which were campy and openly comic book-ish (for better or for worse). The sort of films that in the era of SKYFALL you can’t imagine really coming back anytime soon.

    Same with DANGER: DIABOLIK! and BARBERELLA from the 1960s, comic book films that in some ways might arguably be more “adult” than recent genre offerings if not in content but in inspirations/ambitions behind them. Then again some of the early reviews for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (which Vern I still have a feeling (but not hooked on it) that you’ll find too goofy) might indicate that maybe the Nolanized “grounded” realistic treatment is quickling becoming passe? I don’t know.

    As for the Clark Kent/dork shit that you hate Vern, you really didn’t like that fucking great scene at Lois’ apartment where Reeve effortless goes from Kent to Superman to Kent in one take and really play like two different men with the same face? That’s great acting right there. In some regards in retrospect, he probably should’ve been up for an acting Oscar.

    Also I enjoy the whole old Hollywood feel of the movie up to Metropolis, like instead of treating the concept as a joke Donner looked back at big budget epics like GONE WITH THE WIND and Bible movies and thought I want to do that, but with an alien with an absurd costume.

    I think history is repeating ourselves. I remember when BATMAN BEGINS came out, whenever somebody bitched at it, others online pissed on them as being unable to get over Tim Burton’s Batman-era. I wonder if we’re having a similar re-adjustment period but with Superman? (Its funny but for a movie crucified back in the day by critics and nerds, BATMAN RETURNS has aged well and yeah I think it kicks MOS in the balls if you ask me. Does MOS give us penguins strapped with missles?)

  39. As for Hackman’s Luthor, you can knock certain things (like how can he a formidable adversary with such stupid henchmen as Mr. Majestyk has pointed out) but generally I will defend that performance and appearance in the story in this way: He fills the same role as Robert Downey Jr. does in THE AVENGERS. Think about it. Every other character plays their characters straight but then you have Hackman/RDJ who basically bring the snark into the party. They ridicule other characters. (Contrast RDJ mocking Captain America’s costume with Coulson nerding over it.) They are probably the smartest guy in the room, and remind others constantly of this little fact. And at the very least, both actors are very entertaining in that purpose. Of course Pepper Potts and Rhodey aren’t morons, so maybe Tony Stark has that one up on Luthor?

    Plus Vern, I can’t believe you didn’t mention Luthor’s swank hideout. An abandoned NYC train terminal, probably one of my favorite movie sets ever constructed. What kid (or adult playing kid at heart) doesn’t love the idea of having their own swimming pool in their house?

    RBatty024 – Lester also made other good films like ROBIN & MARIAN and HELP!, etc.. SUPERMAN 3 is a piece of shit, but when he dies he’ll mostly remembered for A HARD DAY’S NIGHT which is one of the best films of the 1960s. Someday Vern should review that. I know he’s not a Beatles fan like I am, but would love to hear his thoughts on that. (Or MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR especially, or what happens when drugged out rock stars make a movie on their own.)

    I mean honestly if you’re doing a Film 101 course trying to get folks hooked into classic cinema, AHDN is a very nice entry film. Still very funny and the soundtrack is still great. (The band’s first all-original album incidentally, no covers.)

  40. Way off topic, but I like the Dwayne Johnson casting for SHAZAM! if indeed he’s playing that part. In theory I can see him pulling off a boy who can transform magically into a Superman-ish adult superhero, but keep his childish personality. If you ask me I was honestly rooting more for Terry Crews to get the gig, but the Rock is a good #2 pick.

    Just don’t gritty that shit up. Mr. Goyer, its ok to have talking tigers wear business suits.

  41. RRA – I’m pretty positive he’s playing Black Adam. If he’s not announced in that role by Saturday I’ll be legitimately shocked. Actually that reminds me. All of these news sites and even so called DC Comics fans all jumped to the conclusion that he’s playing Captain Marvel. When the same description he gave could apply exactly to Black Adam which is also a character he’s been publicly interested in for many years now. Some geeks they are lol.

  42. flyingguillotine

    July 24th, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I love watching Lois Lane die by drowning in gravel. I’m a big fan of deaths in which it’s such an unlikely situation that it takes the character a while to even realize they’re in danger. (See also: the guy who gets his foot stuck in the river in THE GREY, and the opening beats of the bug pit sequence in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG).

    Plus, her character is the embodiment of the awful “brash New York woman” caricature, so if it take a ton of loose rocks to drown out her shrieking and hee-hawing, then so be it.

    Also: I would say this film benefits from its proximity to an older era of sci-fi. The entire sequence of Clark trekking up to the North Pole, throwing the crystal, watching a city grow from it… All of it feels really dreamlike, like something I’d see replicated on the cover of a paperback I’d find on a box at a garage sale. I think Donner is going for an almost 2001 sensibility in those beats, if you get my drift.

    The helicopter rescue is also really rousing. William’s score blows that whole scene into epic proportions, and I like the patient, step-by-step editing and momentum build.

  43. RRA – Oh and I don’t think Goyer has jack shit to do with the Shazam movie. Even if he did though he did co-write some of the best Captain Marvel and Black Adam characterizations of the last 15 years with Geoff Johns during their JSA run so unlike Superman & even Batman (sorry trilogy fans but I only really liked TDK) I think he’d be a good fit in this case.

  44. flyingguillotine – “The helicopter rescue is also really rousing. William’s score blows that whole scene into epic proportions, and I like the patient, step-by-step editing and momentum build.”

    We also get the best line in the movie during that sequence. “Say Jim that’s a baaaad outfit!” and one of it’s funniest moments (Clark realizing that there aren’t any phone booths around when he reaches the payphone).

  45. Broddie – Well I think he would be a good CM too, don’t you?

    Honestly I have no problem with Geoff Johns. True I have no interest in an Aquaman movie which through him we’ll probably, which apparently we’ll get instead of New Gods or anything worth salt.

    That said, I am fan of ARROW and its pulpy storytelling. People bitch about the dialogue and costumes, but my god what energy! And if the leaked FLASH pilot is any indication, we’ve got another winner. While I have little to no interest in BVS beyond the obvious “Batman and superman together in the flesh!” element, I have hope that SHAZAM! could rock because conceptually I always thought there was money to be made there.

    Or basically outside of Zack Snyder’s zone, I have hope.

  46. RRA – Yeah I always felt that DC IPs actually have some of the most interesting premises when it comes to making some fresh superhero movies. Shazam is a prime example of that. I mean we all wore towels as kids pretending we could fly. What better the kid in all of us then a movie where the ultimate wish fulfillment (a kid becoming a superhero) becomes realty? if done properly that concept alone could print money.

    I wouldn’t mind Johnson as CM. Not my first choice but I could deal with it. He definitely has the range to pull off being a big kid IMO because he is a kid at heart in interviews and everything he does outside of wrestling and movies. Hell even in wrestling he’s very playful and childlike at his best. What I would mind is the white geeks on websites complaining about CM now being a black samoan. Same with the black geeks potentially bitching about Black Adam if a white man is cast in that role to contrast Johnson.

  47. Jesus Christ I mean to type “What better way to appeal to the kid in all of us then a movie where the ultimate wish fulfillment (a kid becoming a superhero) becomes reality?”

    I think it’s time for me to get some rest.

  48. I can’t get into ARROW. I really tried but it just feels too SMALLVILLE for my taste. THE FLASH on the other hand looked very appealing to me in the 5 minute trailer so I could definitely get jiggy with that shit (I’ll watch the pilot when it officially airs).

  49. As I do defend this film, to me the media representation of Superman that always comes to my mind in preference was the 1990s animated series. A fun program, able to balance the more Silver Age elements (i.e. “wonderfully goofy”) like Bizarro but also serious adversaries like Darkseid. What did you think of that Broddie?

  50. Brodddie – racist nerds reminds me that quite frankly I think most of them are bitchy about the upcoming FANTASTIC FOUR reboot just because Johnny Storm will be played by a black actor. (A good actor who happens to be black, but tell that to the nerds.)

    Or dear lord look at the outrage over the female Thor and Falcon-becoming-Captain America recently in the books. First off, we’ev had women (cough Storm) who held Mjonir before. 2nd, several dudes have been Cap. Why not his long-time sidekick take a shot in the cap and shield finally? Makes sense to me.

    You know way off topic but that FF reboot, I’m rooting for it because its an underdog in the nerd world. Almost everybody has declared it a failure before we get a trailer or even a fucking still. Not sure if I think it’ll be good or not honestly, but it can’t be worse than those Alba films right? Or that Roger Corman never-released film?

  51. Jesus man, I’m adjusted to the talking space raccoon and now you’re telling me there’s gonna be one where a kid turns into The Rock. Give me a chance to at least catch my bearings for a minute before you start throwin this shit at me.

  52. RBatty – I meant to respond to you earlier but forgot. You raised some really good points about Superman in media. There definitely hasn’t been a truly great Superman film. I think we’re getting closer but yeah still not quite there yet. It’s funny how people always claim Superman is too powerful because ironically what always appealed to me about the character is his humanity.

    I’ve always found Superman easy to relate to because at the end of the day he has anxieties and doubts just like we do. This includes Silver Age Superman which people always joke about just sneezing away planets and juggling quasars while being a Superdick but in reality had more depth than the marvelized post-crisis Superman my generation of comic book readers grew up with.

    The inherent problem with Superman in media though is that nobody sees that because they never took the time to get to know Superman. They just dismissed it. Me? though I grew up reading Batman, X-Men, Spider-Man like everybody else I’ve also always had room on my pull list for Superman. I like my Punishers and Daredevils as much as the next guy. To me those were the Marvel books with the most allure but at the same time I enjoy reading about a good nature optimist cause I could relate to that without ever having been a saint in my life.

    Superman is about hope and realizing the best in humanity. Clark Kent exists because the Kents found this alien and took him in as one of their own. He was raised within a tribe of altruistic and wise people. If he hadn’t landed in Smallville who knows what kind of madness could’ve became of it. Many stories have explored that. This is why Superman loves Clark Kent and cherishes that. It was the gift he received from his adopted planet. It was the blessing that made him realize that though he may be able to move mountains at a whim abusing that is not in the best interest of the many.

    He learned to be selfless and it adds a lot of layers to his character because on top of having to deal with isolation (because he can’t ever share his secret identity) he has to deal with being lonely (because the Kents are usually dead like in The New 52). Yet even among all that he never betrays what the Kents stood for that lives through him. He remains strong through all obstacles and learns from every experience and it’s why ironically though he’s an alien he also represents the best of what we all could be if we just cared a little more about our fellow brothers and lived more humbly.

    Unfortunately a lot of people in Hollywood hell scratch that nobody in Hollywood outside of Timm and Dini & Brad Bird do not understand that. All they see is the fundamentals. In order to create the best Superman stories you must understand why he’s such a super man in the first place. It’s more than just the powers.

    The funny thing is people in the comic book medium are no better. They have been just as dismissive of Superman as the general public so they don’t truly get the character either. All they see is “man this guy could do everything; he’s perfect.” they forget that he was raised as a human and had a lot of pressure in his life growing up because of his abilities.

    For example wanting to play sports as a kid in order to bond with other kids and actually network like a regular person but not really being allowed to. He only had 2 close friends growing up and everybody else was an acquaintance at best. No kid wants that growing up they want to have a clique and fit in especially if they’re an only child. That shit wasn’t just invented for MAN OF STEEL or SMALLVILLE that was taken from the comic books.

    The truth is I could name about only 10 comic book writers I could think of in Superman’s damn near 80 years that actually understood what Superman is all about. That’s not including Jerry Siegel to be even more fair and even with that in mind it’s actually pretty sad. Ironically Mark Millar creator of violently over the top and misogynistic gems like WANTED and KICK-ASS is one of those guys.

    Until more people do their research with Superman. At least read trades from all eras and understand the underlying factor that really connects them all together despite great narrative and aesthetic differences. Until more writers really understand why he connects with millions on such a dare I say philosophical and inspirational level we won’t see many really exceptional Superman stories in movies, TV or comic books.

  53. Vern – It might be that The Rock would fight a kid that turns into a superhero. Don’t worry the character he will likely play is a complete fucking badass. He’s the son of Rhamses II but with super powers and a morally gray outlook on the world. Works just as well as an antihero with lots of great badass juxtaposition at that which is something I don’t think we’ve seen in superhero movies yet.

    This of course depends on what is said at the comic con on saturday but I’m almost 99% sure The Rock would be playing Black Adam. It’s kind of a role that he has unofficially lobbied for for many years. I don’t see him taking a role in Shazam if it’s not that role TBH.

  54. RRA – Plus Isaiah Bradley. It’s not like there’s no precedent.

    Simon Kinberg raised some red flags with his comments about this new FF. The one that bugged me the most was describing them as a “dysfunctional family” talk about not understanding their dynamic. FF is the most functional family in all of comics and was since the beginning word to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. More THE INCREDIBLES and less SHAMELESS or ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. On top of that he also said they will deal with their powers as if they were learning to deal with disabilities. For one thing his wording was offensive as fuck and even more importantly goes against every fucking character not named The Thing. I also didn’t like CHRONICLE.

    With that said you’re right it can’t be any worse than what Tim Story or Roger Corman did. If it has a decent trailer I might even check it out I don’t know. I love the Fantastic Four. Outside of Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Inhumans, Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Punisher, Silver Surfer Hulk and the X-Men it’s the only Marvel property I ever really gravitated towards. Two of those properties were spin offs of FF that’s how fucking dope FF when done right could be.

    The Avengers trinity had some seriously wack solo books most especially Iron Man when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. I could only think of like one run each for Thor and Cap that I liked outside of silver age stuff. Those other characters meant a lot more to me and even being the big FF fan that I am I’m not offended in anyway by this new movie. Just very indifferent about it.

    Then again even though I didn’t like Tim Story’s first movie at all I did find his second one kinda interesting when I saw it on cable TV. Seriously RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER is much better as an FF movie than the original, cloud Galactus and all. If the new one could reach that level of entertainment with more polish and a better overall execution while still managing to do it’s own thing. Well I’d wager that it could be a winner. I won’t just dismiss it because it is not the FF movie that I would make. These nerds need to get a fucking grip.

    Superman TAS is something I was always conflicted on. It’s a decent adaptation of the post-crisis DC Superman. I think it works very well that way. The thing is while I enjoy that Superman it’s my least favorite interpretation. I like a more brash, confident go getting and intuitive Superman who just happens to be overtly powerful than a pouty farmboy with half the power set. So Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, post-Infinite Crisis and New 52 is more my ideal Superman.

    I think it’s more challenging and in the end more rewarding for the writer and his audience to find ways to create a believable conflict for a guy who could fly in space at the speed of light. Whether it’s a physical conflict or an emotional and introspective one. This is why I like the Jerry Siegels, Elliot S. Maggins, Grant Morrisons, Kurt Busieks, Mark Waids and even Geoff Johns of the world when it comes to writing Superman. Those guys know how to do that masterfully and it takes serious skill because we see how often Superman writers fail and fuck up with that concept.

    Whereas to me it’s lazier and easier to coast with something like a Marvelized Superman and to me that’s when he stops being Superman. This is why the Superman portion of the show LOIS & CLARK sucked for me as a kid. But I still watched cause I enjoyed the Clark Kent and Lois Lane bits and it had a very awesome Lex Luthor. Leagues better than Hackman or Spacey anyway but still not quite Rosenbaum.

    Superman is about no limits and imagination while still delivering a message of surviving through hardships and pressing on without ever quitting. Not about making the hero a mama’s boy that has to visit his family at the farm every now and then and is pussy whooped by his news reporter wife/girlfriend.

    Brainiac isn’t a supercomputer from Krypton. He’s a corrupt super scientist from a very advanced intelligent race who one day decided to be a dick and destroy his planet while taking all their knowledge. Only to go cruising in a giant ship around the galaxy afterwards doing the same to other planets. To me that’s more imaginative then the contrived “and he had a tie to Krypton and Kal-El because Jor-El created him”. No he had a tie to Krypton because he bottled the city of Kandor and then destroyed the planet.

    Don’t get me started on their version of Darkseid. Totally goes against everything Kirby conceived him to be. One of my least favorite interpretations ever is DCAU Darkseid. I know you claim to want to see a NEW GODS movie but I rather they don’t even go there cause I don’t trust anybody with those characters anymore.

    Hell it’s bad enough that only less than 20 people in the entire comic book industry get Superman. Even less get the NEW GODS. Geoff Johns is definitely not one of them; but Grant Morrison is. FINAL CRISIS has one of the greatest interpretations of Darkseid ever. That’s what he is; a threat to the universe that is so almighty we just see his avatars and never the real dude because he exists in a plane beyond our level of comprehension. Not some Thanos clone. People forget that Thanos is the ripoff and it should never be the other way around.

    So yeah to me Superman TAS was a good effort but it still wasn’t quite it. It is superior to the movies though. So yeah it’s the best video media interpretation to date.

  55. Broddie – I completely agree with your take on Superman, but I think you’re way too harsh on Superman: TAS. I actually think they presented a Superman (and Clark for that matter) who’s a little cocky, even if he’s still the big blue boy scout. I really liked this interpretation. It’s been a while since I’ve popped in my DVDs of TAS, but I also remember really enjoying their version of Lois who is a tricky character to get right. She’s still a brash city girl, but she’s also pretty funny. I think visually they did a great job of approximating the kind of futuristic optimism inherent in the character (both the Batman and Superman animated series were superb at telling their stories visually). I don’t think Superman TAS is the final word on the character of Superman, but I thought it was one of the better, if not the best, adaptation in film or television.

  56. Since we’re on the subject of Superman, this is certainly worth noting:


    Perhaps not the woulda-been BEST Superman movie ever, but surely the most unusual.

  57. Are we sure Ali wasn’t just being considered to play HIMSELF?

    “And if so that means another round of the thing where all the movie sights and their commenters smarmily dismiss it and talk about how this Superman doesn’t rescue people and caused the deaths of thousands of people and all that shit, and I’ll want to debate them again and get all frustrated. ”
    I feel your pain, Vern. I’m exactly the same way. It’s almost like a trigger for me. There’s good people out there, though, they’re just smothered by all the dissenters.
    That said, I would suggest that MAN OF STEEL featuring a scene where Superman sinks into a pile of human skulls perhaps contributes to it being called gritty.

    I second David Balls’ comment about CAPTAIN AMERICA having a catchy tune. Two, actually if you include the showtune as well as the credits theme which is reprised subtly in the AVENGERS score(I like the AVENGERS main theme too, though I know it’s not really “catchy”).

    My overall thought on SUPERMAN THE MOTION PICTURE is that I appreciate it more than I really LIKE it. It’s well crafted, got a great cast and the whole first half revolving around Krypton and Smallville and the Fortress is the strongest portion. Then it gets really campy when he actually becomes superman. Reeve is fantastic in the role, and his earnestness works (you can interpret his attitude as Superman as him deliberately being as non-threatening as possible to put people at ease around this godlike being), but making everything else around him as goofy as it was just sinks it, and their take on Luthor just feels like a waste of Hackman’s talents.

  58. I tend to group SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE with STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND – the era of fun, optimistic fantasy movies blowing away the doldrums of the cynical 70s – rather than with newer movies that have nothing in common with it other than the fact that they too are based on comic book superheroes.

    There are some movies that – whatever liberties they take with their source material – are so beloved as classics in their own right that any subsequent attempts at a more “faithful” re-adaptation are gonna face an uphill battle in terms of general public acceptance. The Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN movies (at least the first two) have that same status, as do the Boris Karloff version of FRANKENSTEIN, the 1930s WIZARD OF OZ, and the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka. Which is why the Reeve films cast a longer shadow over later film versions of the character than, say, Adam West ever has over the BATMAN movies.

    I’m actually kind of surprised by the hate/criticism toward the film in this talkback. I have always loved SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II (theatrical version – I still need to check out the Donner cut). But the thing I love most about SI and SII is maybe something you guys seem to hate about them – the way they switch between treating the material seriously/melodramatically and treating it as irreverent comedy. I love how they will throttle up the action and drama and thrilling music, and then cut to a light-hearted joke, and then get right back on the horse and continue with the excitement.

    SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE’s helicopter sequence is probably my all-time favorite movie scene. After an hour or so of GODZILLA 2014-style buildup, and the movie is screaming THIS IS IT, THIS IS THE MOMENT WHEN SUPERMAN FINALLY ARRIVES AND SAVES THE DAY, we get a pregnant pause … and then that little joke with the phone booth. And then BUT THERE’S STILL DANGER! WAIT FOR IT – YES! IT’S SUPERMAN!

    I also love Hackman’s Luthor. I think he’s hilarious – both his dialogue and his delivery. The scene where Luthor inflicts the kryptonite on Superman has that same balance for me – Reeve’s acting, and the spooky music, tells us that this this is very seriously bad, and yet Luthor’s joking during the same scene is genuinely funny to me.

    And I never found that to be a clash, even as a kid. To me it’s like having a melody and a harmony. Modern superhero movies either are completely gloom-and-doom serious, with occasional gallows humor if you’re lucky (like MAN of STEEL and the Nolan BATMANs) or are rat-a-tat snarky from beginning to end (like a lot of the Marvel movies). Either can work, but I think it takes a lot of grace and confidence to balance earnestness and irreverence the way Donner and Lester did. I guess you guys disagree.

    I think the key to understanding SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is to remember that its tagline was “You’ll believe a man can fly.” As every book, article or documentary about STAR WARS pedantically reminds us, the major movies of the Vietnam/Watergate era were often grim and realistic, and the kind of special effects we take for granted today just weren’t around back then, largely because there weren’t the kind of escapist films that needed them. So making Superman fly before the audience’s eyes was actually a huge breakthrough on multiple levels. The whole tone of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is contrasting Reeve’s calm, confident, charming, deadpan Superman (and Clark Kent) with the curmudgeonly 70s cynicism of Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and pretty much every back-talking bit-part character in the movie. The movie expects us to accept and relate to both sides – and again, that combination of the innocent and the jaded works for me.

    Maybe the issue is that you guys really cherish the Dirty Harry/Charles Bronson-era 70s aesthetic that this movie is choosing to comically subvert. Maybe that’s what it comes down to. Which is fine. It just means that the movie’s not on your wavelength.

  59. I liked it as a kid and still kind of find it charming as an adult, corny as it is.

    Broddie, I personally like the DCAU Darkseid mainly because of Michael Ironside’s awesome vocal work. The producers admitted they really didn’t really know what the “Anti-Life Equation”, which is evident in the finale of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED when it’s this glowing thing Lex Luthor brings back. Grant Morrison definitely did have a better handle it in THE FINAL CRISIS as basically something Darkseid needed to eliminate the free will from all living beings and have them under his control. The DCAU might not be Jack Kirby’s interpretation but it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay better than the Darkseid in the 1980’s SUPER FRIENDS cartoon, which is where I first saw him. His whole goal throughout that show was to kidnap Wonder Woman and force her to marry him!

  60. Speaking of super hero movies, I just saw Lucy. And I kind of loved it.

    The trailers for this movie make it look like the sci-fi premise is just an excuse to set up crazy action scenes with Scarlett Johansson using super powers. I figured they’d pay lip service to the sci-fi aspect in the first 15 minutes and then forget about it and just go for the zero-gravity karate and chase scenes with lots of cars flipping over. And while you definitely get a lot of that in the movie (the car chase in particular had some pretty great stunts) it turns out that they were serious about the sci-fi side of it.

    Yes, it’s silly that they use the “humans only use 10% of their brain” trope, but it’s not quite as stupid as the trailers make it seem. The drug she ingests increases her capacity for knowledge and for thought and….. well, for everything. But the percentage thing is just there as a narrative device to let the audience know how far her abilities have improved and what potential she is unlocking. And they could have just stopped at “she has telekinesis and mind-reading powers” and that would have been enough for most action movies. But I love that this movie takes it much further than that and really explores the philosophical implications of what might happen if humans could exponentially increase their capacity for thought. It goes off in some directions I really didn’t expect and culminates in a far out ending that I’m pretty sure will piss most people off, but I loved it.

    And I just want to say how much I appreciate a movie that doesn’t imply that science only leads to evil shit and humans shouldn’t be tampering in God’s domain, etc. I love a movie that’s actually hopeful about the future and about humanity. More optimism in my movies, please! I’m getting so tired of naive cynicism. To quote Lucy:

    “Knowledge doesn’t cause chaos. Only ignorance does.”

    Welcome back Luc Besson!

  61. As a repeated defender of SUPERMAN RETURNS, I think it may be the strongest Supes movie (seriously, the plane rescue is just bone chillingly exciting emotional). But for me the best Superman movie is the final trailer for MAN OF STEEL. It’s short, but captures everything vital and it even has a great bit of music.

  62. This movie was likely the first one I saw, so the layers of nostalgia are pretty deep when I revisit it. I think the two elements that really stand out are obviously Reeve’s performance and John Williams’ score. They hold the movie together more than anything else.

    When I rewatch the movie these days, the third section falls apart for me. The clash between campy hijinks and serious elements don’t mesh well. Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty are funny, but they feel like they belong in a Burt Reynolds comedy. Even if Luthor’s plan worked and California was destroyed, wouldn’t the government seize Luthor’s desert property due to extreme circumstances? I don’t think a court of law would honor Luthor’s claims since millions are now at the bottom of the ocean.

    It doesn’t work for me how Donner and Mankiewicz devote so much time to making the first parts of the movie so serious (The Shakespearean aspects of Krypton and Norman Rockwellesque Smallville) but then decide to go the campy route when Superman needs a legitimate threat. Donner/Mankiewicz felt since this was a comic book property, they wanted to make sure the kids wouldn’t be scared. I just find this odd because the movie has these very dark moments. I remember as a child being stunned witnessing all the falling bodies as Krypton is deteriorating. In his first scene, Luthor has a cop die a horrible death. Lois’ death scene is pretty uncomfortable and terrifying to watch even by today’s standards. The jokes about domestic abuse are so bizarre and makes you think the movie was catering to the wife beater demographic. When Luthor calls Superman and lures him to his lair, there’s a menacing quality I wished the character maintained throughout the movie. George Lucas obviously made Star Wars for children, but had the good sense to know we had to believe Darth Vader and Tarkin were credible threats to the heroes. Luthor and his crew are too clownish to hold up for anyone beyond the age of four. Donner/Mankiewicz or the Salkinds dropped the ball because they didn’t really understand the property and/or underestimated the intelligence of the audiences. I’m not revisiting this movie as an adult wishing for a deep 70’s character study. I can watch A New Hope and believe the world Lucas is creating throughout the running time.

    Superman The Movie still holds an important place in the history of comic book movie adaptations. A number of scenes still work for me especially Superman saving Lois for the first time and even their night flight sequence is still charming. The movie just goes downhill for me when we see that fat man walking down the street munching on that carmel apple.

    Looking forward to your review on Part 2.

  63. First official picture of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman:
    Looks great and a very reasonable adaptation.

  64. I kind of like the Xenafied aspect of the costume. I’ve never much liked Wonder Woman’s strangely patriotic American colors. I was kind of hoping for a lest delicate looking actress, but who knows, maybe Gal Gadot will surprise me.

  65. I think she’ll look fine, but I’m just worried about when she speaks. I wasn’t too impressed with Gadot’s acting ability (or english-speaking ability, for that matter) in the Fast and Furious movies.

  66. One good thing about the movie is that a generation grew up knowing Ned Beatty first as Otis. A bumbling dim-witted henchman is probably may not be much but it’s a lot better than being immediately thought of as the guy in tighty whities who gets raped by hillbillies in DELIVERANCE!

  67. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtZXgfdauBY

    The first 5 seconds may well have replaced the John Williams theme if Ali was cast.

  68. This film is all over the place, but I still love it. It feels less like watching a movie and more like watching magic. I think that all of the early blockbusters have that same feeling, and it just can’t be replicated.

    I’m of the generation that was scarred to discover Ned Beatty’s fate in DELIVERANCE. The whole time I was like “Noooo, not Mr. Otis!” It was something I did not want to see.

    However, I feel that my heart was healed when I saw Valerie Perrine get topless in SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. That was something that I DID want to see.

  69. RJ_MacReady – I’m fine with the costume. Unlike the Internet, I’m even willing to trust the Gadot casting. I mean regardless of what one thought of MOS, the casting was good. (It’s why I’ve not bitched about Lex Luthor being played by Eissenberg.)

    Its just the same problem that keeps me from getting a nerd boner over the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS-ish imagery or the new batsuit or whatever: Its the same director who did MOS, and that just sucks away my enthusiasm.

    Off-topic, but I’ve noticed something crazy is when I talk to people online about BVS, alot of them keep mentioning about how Goyer is on his way out and Ben Affleck’s writer rewrote BVS and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE movie. They keep saying that those 2 will “guide” Snyder with the non-action scenes. And I’m talking about folks who liked MOS and are eagerly anticipating BVS.

    Don’t these folks realize that when they shit like that that they make it sound like they’re indirectly infering (whether intentionally or not, perhaps the latter?) that they agree with Snyder’s detractors? That’s the impression I’m getting whenever people write this stuff. Whether conciously they are hoping for the best, or subconciously they have buyer’s remorse? I don’t understand it. If one liked MOS, why worry about BVS or argue that the director will be “guided”?

    Vern’s not worried about BVS I’m sure. Internet, you shouldn’t worry either.

  70. This is still a great movie, even if it’s a total mishmash. But I’m not sure there was another way to do it, and I blame one crucial element of the Superman iconography: the glasses.

    Bear with me. The first hour or so of the movie is pretty much perfect. The tone is stately and regal on Krypton to match the Shakespearean melodrama at work as a doomed man of science sends his one son off to an uncertain future. We move to earth, and the tone becomes autumnal and comparatively naturalistic to play off the disconnect between this incredible alien creature and the idealized, prosaic environment he is raised in. In these two segments, we see the dual nature of Superman: Clark and Kal, the farmboy and the alien. It is moving and dramatic and bittersweet.

    Then we move to Metropolis for a story about how the world’s greatest reporter can’t recognize the man she loves when he puts glasses on. This is not high fantasy. This is broad farce. The tone complies.

    What choice did Donner have? How could he make this absurdity upon which the source material was founded believable? By making Clark Kent a caricature. Making him so preposterous that no one would believe that such a milquetoast clown could ever truly be Superman, even if they look exactly alike. Once you do that, once you turn your main character into a cartoon, the rest of the movie must follow. It has become a comedy, and it only turns back at the very end, when Superman reacts with rage and defiance to the death of his love. He bends time and space to his will, and the story returns to its high fantasy roots for just a moment.

    I like all this stuff. It’s a mixtape movie, a grab bag of different approaches to the character. Hackman is pretty much the opposite of the way I would handle Luthor, but it’s an entertaining performance in a vacuum. Lois is annoying but she’s also endearingly idiosyncratic in a way that the two colorless and dull modern interpretations were not. And I think Reeves is phenomenal in the dual role. It’s a real physical transformation done mostly with posture and body language. And if ever proof were needed that he is the best Superman, look at how comfortable he looks sitting at Lois’ table in that ridiculous outfit. Anyone can look regal floating in midair with a CGI cape blowing majestically against a color-corrected sunset, but try it sitting with your legs crossed at a piece of cheap patio furniture. The man had a grace and poise that no other actor in the role can compete with.

    So it’s a movie that has to serve a lot of masters, and I think it serves them well, if not always coherently. We know better ways to do this kind of thing now, but Donner was working without a road map. He did what the material demanded, like any good journeyman would.

  71. Mr. Majestyk – “Hackman is pretty much the opposite of the way I would handle Luthor, but it’s an entertaining performance in a vacuum.”

    In the immortal words of Vanilla Ice from COOL AS ICE; “Yep yep.”

    I like the design of Wonder Woman’s attire. Also like that Gadot has noticeably put more meat on her bones. Now she’s starting to really look good. My only issue is the muted colors which is also an issue I had with MOS.

    I would appreciate something a bit more vibrant especially now that Snyder went back to his old cinematographer who works well with a dynamic color palate. I’ve already seen photoshop doctorings with the more traditional WW colors applied to the live action costume and it makes it pop and stand out so much more.

    That’s the one thing I do prefer from the Marvel approach. Their movies really embrace the use of primary colors and gives them a more whimsical and magical feel while also making them much more visually stimulating than your average blockbuster today filled with greys, blacks, burgandy, browns and pee colored tints.

  72. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 28th, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE feels fresher today than it did when I was a kid (late 80s-early 90s) because as superhero movies have recently become (arguably) the most dominant aspect of the blockbuster idiom, their conventions have become calcified. SUPERMAN stands apart from that crowd; it doesn’t seem particularly concerned with what teenage boys will find to be badass or cool, for one. The most exciting things in the movie are watching Superman save people – the innocence of that idea is extremely appealing to me, that just seeing an impossibly strong person saving people in fantastical ways is perfectly great and thrilling on its own – and watching his dynamic with Lois Lane take shape. I can definitely see how this version of Lois could be too much at times (It’s a crying shame Stockard Channing didn’t get the part, as she auditioned for it and was awesome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWGv799MR_k), but the core idea behind their relationship – that the only match for this god-like space alien is a brassy, cosmopolitan, quick-witted reporter – is irresistible, and the movie really gets that.

    Christopher Reeves is so striking to watch and overall enjoyable, he’s the engine that drives the movie. His largeness, his gentle confidence, his fine featured male beauty… he’s a fascinating presence and he encapsulates all that’s romantic and comforting about Superman, but he still has energy and a wry wit that lets him escape the dull squareness that can make the character a trap in unimaginative hands – all that heroic conviction can be oppressive if it’s not modulated well. There aren’t terribly many romantic heroes in today’s cinema, and they’re often not nearly as appealing as this one. So again: passage of time, new freshness.

    And there’s a mythic power to the filmmaking, especially the Smallville scenes, that is still really striking. That stuff feels 100% timeless today. The Metropolis scenes feel more dated visually, and occasionally in content. I agree that Hackman’s Luthor and his comedic henchmen aren’t very good. It’s a shame because Hackman definitely had the presence and gravitas to pull off a serious, intimidating Luthor. The film gets flabby the more it concentrates on his scheme, which I barely remember vs. how easily I bring to mind the expressive and witty scenes between Superman and Lois.

    Is it a great film? I dunno, probably not. It doesn’t tell a great story, but it does feature a well drawn version of the character and understands what makes him appealing. When it’s “on” it’s stunning and powerful in a way I don’t get from any other superhero movie.

    Vern, you may find Pauline Kael’s pan of the film compelling. Her criticisms bring to mind a lot of today’s blockbusters, contrary to my insisting that it’s a refreshing break from them: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1979/01/01/the-package

    RBatty024 – I love how you talk about the film’s queasy-making internal logic. That just makes me like it even more.

    Paul – I have to say that your comments on Gene Hackman are shocking to me. You don’t even like him in UNFORGIVEN??

    RRA – GONE WITH THE WIND strikes me as a really apt comparison, since the appeal of both films lies in the mythic images and rapport between male and female leads. And it’s not an approach you ever really saw again with a superhero movie, just like we probably won’t see someone try to make a Mann-ish crime epic in superhero dressing as Nolan did with THE DARK KNIGHT.

    Curt – You make some great points and now I want to watch the first two Supes movies again through your lens.

  73. At the start of his review Vern mentions some of the stars of the 70’s that were on the producers wish list, and who would have made a completely different movie. I wonder what kind of movie it would have been if they had gone with the actor Vern doesn’t mention, but who was tested; Charles “Motherfucking” Bronson!

  74. “I like pink…but I hate quiche.”

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