I need a "How to write an adequate review for the movie of your life" type of guide, some sort of impartial direction before I attempt to sit down and put together something about Superman: The Movie. I guess I will just try and be my silly self, dear reader, (as opposed to a puny attempt to be an objective reviewer with the tone of a pro; one I can/will never be) so that I could pay a fitting tribute to this timeless comic adaptation. Still, I know that I will heavily edit this in the days, months, perhaps years to come, never feeling completely satisfied with the outcome. I simply hope this piece of rant ends up as something that I can turn back and read no matter how old I am -- just like this movie keeps calling me regardless of my age.
It was the beginning of the 80s and the VCR era had hit Turkey alongside the rest of the world. We started off with the Betamax and then had two. I remember that somewhere in my adolescence, I was awarded with a Phillips TV/VCR (a VHS) combo exclusively for my room to have my private movie collection. These were the 90s and before VHS got some (if any) popularity, a shiny little format named CDs were introduced.
Anyway, back then when I was just a kid, my dad was highly addicted to his VCR. He rent movies/foreign series like no tomorrow and the fact that one of his close friends owned a video store definitely helped him to never run short of fresh material. I owe my English to those days and my constant exposure to this language through the things that he watched (with Turkish subtitles, of course).
It was an ordinary Friday night when my dad picked me up from my Granny's and took me to the video store with him. I guess I was either 4 or 5 years old and was wondering whether I could sweet talk my dad into renting a cartoon. While he was going through the movies, his friend leaned forward from behind the counter and asked, "So Anirul, do you like movies?"
"I do" I said, "but I don't watch a lot of movies because if I watch a lot of movies I will wear glasses and if I wear glasses, I won't be pretty." Random chuckles were heard before the friend asked,
"Well well. So when you watch movies, what kind of movies do you watch?"
Ooo it was my lucky day, it seemed. The opportunity I was looking for just fell into my lap, "I like cartoons where there are magical flying horses (that's My Little Pony) and I like heroes who can lift mountains like He-Man does."
"What if I told you that I have a new movie here about a man who flies?", he winked at my dad and turned back to me.
"Men can't fly", I snapped "We don't have wings. Swans (this knowledge comes thanks to the anime of Swan Lake which imbued the beauty of Japanese cartoons to my tender imagination at an early age) and butterflies (innate knowledge that simply comes by being a girl) have wings."
"Well if you don't believe me, watch and see for yourself."
That night, after we had dinner, my dad inserted the tape into the VCR and left me alone in his study. I remember watching the opening titles in awe and had my first crush (on Christopher Reeve as Superman) then and there. Years afterwards, I shed genuine tears when he had that horse accident and was left paralyzed. I went on to follow his life, adored his being an embodiment of hope and couldn't believe my eyes/ears when his days came to an end. I was one of those who believed that he was going to make it. Miraculously, as if he was the Superman, he was going to get up and walk to prove once again to the world that we can believe in the impossible. I still keep him in my prayers to this day not only because of the things he has come to represent but also because he lit a candle in my heart that night as Superman and caused me to leave my window ajar when I went to bed for years to come, hoping that with a soft knock on my window, a Superman would come to fly me away from this world.
As for the movie, it is a turning point which led the way for many other comic book characters to have big budget movies. Alien, Star Wars Episode IV and Superman The Movie are the Sci-Fi Trinity of the 70s with their innovative special effects that make them everlasting. Watching these movies in the 21st century when the CGI is soaring high is still a bliss for they still have a definite impact on their audiences.
You probably know the story --The planet Krypton explodes and its sole survivor, a baby Kal-El who is sent to Earth in a rocket, is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent. He is raised in a small town called, well, Smallville just like everybody else but as he grows up, he notices that he is different than others. Thus, he sets out on a journey to seek his identity and finds out that he is The Last Son of Krypton. Having extraordinary abilities like flight, heat vision and all that jazz, he swears to protect this planet that he calls home and everyone/everything else that happen to be on it. Soon, he arrives at Metropolis, starts working in a newspaper, disguised as a clumsy reporter to protect his identity but dons his cape to be the most iconic superheroes of all times when it's time to save the day. You probably have heard about the trivia as well - Marlon Brando demands an astronomical salary for like 10 minutes of screen time and the growing tension between the producers Salkinds and the director Richard Donner which led to Donner's stepping out of Superman II.
What is truly great about Superman (apart from Christopher Reeve's nailing performance) is that it develops slowly but surely into a breathtaking story of a spectacular man against a voracious genius all the while taking things lightly just like a good ol' comic book (after all, it starts by a hand turning the pages of a comic book and stopping at the logo of Daily Planet which blends into the famous opening credits and the unforgettable march of John Williams as it goes dum / dum-dada/ dum-dada dum-dada...) where heroes didn't randomly die (and come back) or weren't entangled in their personal problems. Bad guy came and challenged the good guy. The good guy defeated the bad guy or the bad guy ran away. Those were the days superheroes fueled hope during hard times. Although we lived in a world where many a bad guys won, superheroes represented our subconscious will that wanted good to prevail.
Superman The Movie not only fulfills that desire but also does justice to the legend of Superman by keeping its runtime long enough to elaborate on different stages of Kal-El's life. First the Krypton, then Smallville and finally Metropolis where he first emerges as Superman. The big bad of the movie is none other than the infamous Lex Luthor who is planning to destroy California and rise Costa Del Lex from its ashes. Of course, our hero's problematic relationship with Lois Lane both as Clark Kent and Superman is also there to give the movie a romantic (and humorous) edge.
Who can forget the famous sequence where Superman takes Lois Lane on a flight over Metropolis and she thinks of the following, hoping he could hear what she thinks?:
Can you read my mind ?
Do you know what it is you do to me ?
I don't know who you are,
Just a friend from another star.
Here I am like a kid out of school,
Holding hands with a god or a fool
Will you look at me quivering
Like a little girl shivering.
You can see right through me.
Can you read my mind ?
Can you picture the things I'm thinking of ?
Wondering why you are
All the wonderful things you are.
You can fly you belong to the sky,
You and I could belong to each other.
If you need a friend,
I'm the one to fly to.
If you need to be loved,
Here I am.
Read my mind...
Superman The Movie is a must see for every kid and everyone who is kid at heart. It is a colorful circus, a marvelous adventure, a naïve romance, a good laugh here and there and 151 minutes of non-stop entertainment.
It is the movie that still makes me look into the night sky and ponder.
The movie that made me believe a man can fly...