Superman 1 & 2 Box Set
May 8, 2003
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Superman and he’s here on DVD in one glorious set.
In these heady times when heroes are needed, America’s greatest hero of them all steps up to the plate and smacks a home run for Uncle Sam. The man of steel is as much a part of American culture as baseball, apple pie and the Fourth of July weekend. Plus he represents the best comic to film adaptation of all time. X-Men fans take heed.
The general premise to Superman, as if you didn’t know, is that a baby named Cal El is sent from the planet Krypton to Earth by his father Jor El. Krypton is dying, and its intellectually advanced inhabitants won’t accept that fact so they order Jor El (Marlon Brando) to refrain from causing panic by not attempting to leave. In an act of selflessness Jor El sends his only son to Earth to help guide its and protect its inhabitants.
The metaphor of the Christian faith is an intentional one.
Naturally his dense molecular structure gives him super powers, fast, strong and almost invulnerable. These super powers however can’t prevent him from acting a klutz whenever he wears his disguise, a pair of $7.00 wide rimmed spectacles. This is actually where half the film’s enjoyment comes in, the fact that Superman is clumsy, can’t open a jar of pickles and blushes when talking to women. This kind of subtlety was lost on Dean Cain in the Superman TV series.
Superman graduates from high school with the highest touch down scoring record in history and heads for the big city of Metropolis to become a reporter. It’s from this point on the film really gets going with his Clark Kent persona bumbling his way through every Buster Keaton set piece, and his Superman alter ego cleaning up the streets of crime.
Gene Hackman is superb as Lex Luthor, who’s so criminally insane and pseudo intellectual the he just can’t understand why he surrounds himself with such nitwits, a feeling I often have here at EB (just kidding) His master plan to sink California into the Pacific puts Superman through his paces and the fate of Lois Lane forces him to question his most serious of teachings – he cannot interfere in Human history.
What’s a superhero to do?
Superman II sees the return of the three super villains imprisoned by Jor El at the beginning of Superman. Naturally they have the same abilities as Superman, except that they are bent on world domination. Surely Superman will save the day, except that he’s in a world of his own having admitted his feelings to Lois. Sacrificing his powers for a life of mortality, the three super villains led by General Zod (Terrance Stamp) are free to rule earth.
What the world needs now is for the old Superman to fly into Metropolis and ask this General Zod to ‘step out side’. Thankfully that’s exactly what he does, superb stuff.
The first question that might be asked about this double pack release is why aren’t parts three and four included? I could cynically say that it’s because they’re not really any good, but the truth is a far more measured reason. When the Superman films were originally made these first two movies were shot simultaneously. This made Superman II a true continuation of the story rather that a cheap profit seeking sequel, something which happens all too often in film.
This is why Superman II represents one of those rare occasions where the sequel eclipses the original. Other such examples of the ‘part II’ casting shadows over its predecessor are Aliens, Godfather part II and The Empire Strikes Back.
One of the documentaries on this DVD begins with a relatively unknown actor introducing himself as the host: “Hi, I’m Mark McClure”. I expected him to go on by adding “You may remember me from such DVD documentaries as ‘On the set with the portly one’ and ‘look ma, no stings’. Unfortunately this classic Simpsons reference wasn’t used, and the actor in question actually played Jimmy Olson.
This DVD also features screen tests for the parts of Superman and Lois Lane. It seems that every actress in Hollywood between the ages of 18 and 28 auditioned for Lois Lane, and they’re all here on this DVD. It’s interesting from a film making point of view to see how they all interact differently with Christopher Reeve, and how he responds to them in turn. Margot Kidder eventually got the part, and you can see why. She plays the role with a touch of cynicism and mischievously responds to Christopher’s holier than thou golden boy routine.
There is even an interview with Christopher Reeve as he is now. For those who don’t know Christopher was the victim of a tragic riding accident several years ago and paralysed from the neck down. Since his accident he has become a real life Superman working tirelessly to raise money for charity and to defy the doctors who say he will never walk again. Superman director Joel Silver says of Christopher “He convinced me once that man could fly, he will walk again”.
Christopher says that he was honoured to play the role of Superman and regarded himself as being custodian of the red cape that had been passed down by previous Superman actors. The irony is of course that everyone who has played the role of Superman has had tragedy befall them.
Here’s a little know in-joke for you. One of the deleted scenes from the film, restored to this DVD, sees a young Lois Lane riding on a train with her parents. A teenage Clark Kent runs alongside the train and then leaps in front of it. Lois’ father in this scene is played by Kirk Alyn, who starred as Superman himself in the 1948 TV series of Superman.
I have not enjoyed watching a DVD as much as this in a long time, it’s fantastic for those who remember it first time around and an eye opener for those who are new to the man of steel. This is a great DVD that I recommend be the top of anyone’s shopping list and it was a pleasure to review, I can honestly find no floors with it.