I’ve seen a few directors (Patty Jenkins, who’s directing Wonder Woman, and James Mangold, who did Logan) mentioning the 1978 Superman movie as an influence on their work lately, and I think that’s swell.
Now, I know that just mentioning it doesn’t necessarily translate into them capturing the best qualities of Superman. Ray Bradbury is an influence on my own work, but I still write like a cat battling a laptop. However, just the fact that they recognize that Superman has a lot to teach modern blockbuster films is rad. Now, Superman isn’t perfect. As a whole, when it comes to pre-superhero boom comic book movies, I like the 1989 Batman more, but that might just be because Michael Keaton flows through all things. The air, the water, the earth, the Keaton.
Superman, though, has enough character moments to fill a dozen modern cape movies. Just little moments between characters that actually make you give a shit about them. They do nothing for the plot, nothing for the backstory, and nothing for the wider “Superman universe,” but they do everything in creating a connection between the audience and the people onscreen. You’re not watching an explicit narrative. You’re watching people live their lives. And that’s super important, because, 99% of the time, what ruins a movie is the fact that we’re hyper aware of the movie-ness of it all. We know that there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. We know that there will be a climax and resolution. And we know that there might be a sequel.
And Superman has a hell of a lot of “movie-ness.” The triumphant, and whimsical John Williams score is a constant reminder that we are, indeed, watching a piece of cinema that was manufactured for our enjoyment. But when Clark Kent and Lois Lane just talk to each other about nothing that has to do with advancing the machinations of the story, it’s beautiful. And we don’t even realize it. We just get lost in it.