It’s hard to believe – in a world where we get so many comic book movies in any given year – that there was a time when a superhero movie was a unique property. There had been superhero properties before 1978, sure, but the fantastic elements of a comic book that couldn’t be replicated were hidden by smoke and mirrors.
And then came Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. It was a landmark movie in so many ways. Everyone involved with making the movie were clearly determined to do it right. From carefully collected the perfect cast to make Krypton, Smallville and Metropolis look right to creating the technology needed to film the movie’s special effects – because they didn’t exist before the movie started filming. Some didn’t even exist until after filming was underway – there was clearly so much care in crafting the story.
As Superman, Christopher Reeve may not have looked like the muscular hero that had popped off the pages of ACTION COMICS since 1938, but he very much embodied the compassion and strength of character that was the Man of Steel’s hallmarks. While other actors may have had a better physical look, the spirit of Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent will always carry a piece of Christopher Reeve. So many artists and actors over the last 40 years have used this Superman’s likeness or his mannerisms when portraying Superman, and I doubt that will end any time soon.
Even in the recent ELSEWORLDS crossover, Tyler Hoechlin, who is maybe the best Superman since Reeve, managed to evoke chills from me by making references to the 1978 movie.
In celebration of the its 40th anniversary, the movie was back in theaters for three nights only, showing the original theatrical release. Yes, I took a night off from work to go to the movie theater to see it on the big screen for the first time. I’ve seen it a couple dozen times on VHS or DVD, but I never experienced all of it the way it was originally intended.
It was absolutely worth it. Christopher Reeve’s Superman has always been an important part of my life, and watching Clark Kent grow from a conflicted child in Kansas to a hero the world could look up to meant so much to me growing up. I’d even say it helped form the man I am today. I wasn’t around 40 years ago, when the film was originally released, but part of my journey certainly is tied to that December 15, 1978 release.