My Favorite Superman: Part II
Christopher Reeve made four Superman movies. The first two are considered classics of the genre and are among my favorite Superman movies. Superman III co-starred comedian Richard Pryor and the movie delved more into comedy. Although I do find it too comedic for my tastes there are some good aspects to the movie. Superman himself has some great action scenes and the time in Smallville with Lana Lang is done very well. Although with the third trip to the theater for this franchise the budget was cut and it showed in the sometimes lack luster special effects. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, had a great premise but a poor execution and the film was a dud. Although it did not do well, I do find some parts of the movie are still very enjoyable.
Superman once again went on nearly a 20 year hiatus until director Bryan Singer and actor Brandon Routh once again placed Superman in the theaters in 2006. The movie, Superman Returns, was a loose sequel to the first two Superman movies and ignored numbers III and IV. I really enjoyed this movie and with the rescue of the airplane by Superman it is one of the best Superman action shots ever filmed. The film did fairly well at the box office but it didn’t do as well as the studio heads would have liked. Plus, with Batman Begins and then the Dark Knight so successful, WB studios decided to reboot Superman, giving the movie a more serious tone.
This brings us full circle. In 2013 Henry Cavill played a Superman more inline with George Reeves than Christopher Reeve. This also was a very personal story of the struggles that Clark had growing up and being different. Although other incarnations of Superman have hinted at this none have shown it to the degree that Man of Steel did.
It is difficult for me to judge a portrayal of Superman based on one performance. Although, as of this writing, Man of Steel is my favorite Superman movie, I cannot say, just yet, if his performance is my favorite. The same with Brandon Routh. Brandon had some pretty big shoes to fill. The same with Henry Cavill. Although I am sure many actors that portray Superman will be compared to Christopher Reeve, Routh had more of that pressure on his shoulders due to the fact that his was the first portrayal of the character since Reeve wore the cape and tights, and his movie, Superman Returns, was set in the same cinematic universe as Reeve’s movies were. I think Routh did an excellent job although the film itself could have used more action. I was disappointed that he would not be playing Superman again because I do think he did very well.
For myself then it comes down to George Reeves and Christopher Reeve. I do love them both but I have to give George Reeves the slight edge. I like his portrayal of Clark better. Christopher Reeves made Clark into too much of a bumbling fool. However, in his defense, he also was great in showing how different Clark and Superman were and if anyone could sell how different they were then it was Christopher Reeve. I just happen to enjoy George Reeves more aggressive approach to the character of Clark Kent. He really seemed to be the hard nosed investigative journalist they needed at that time in Metropolis.
If he was tough as Clark Kent George Reeves was even tougher as Superman. Sure, Christopher Reeve could demonstrate that toughness but he was more of the boyscout type of Superman. George Reeve really personified that strength and it never seemed like he was acting. I think that even though Christopher Reeve may have looked more like Superman, George Reeves personified the extraordinary strength that the character needed. We just knew he was Superman and he wasn’t going to take crap from anyone!
Also must admit some nostalgia plays a part in my selection of George Reeves. Sure I was only 15 when Superman: The Movie came out in 1978, but I had seen the Adventures of Superman at a much earlier age. When I was in grade school, around the 5th grade, our teacher marched our class down into the Church basement one afternoon. A projector screen was set up and a movie projector was in the center isle surrounded by metal folding chairs. We sat quietly not knowing what we were about to watch. The lights dimmed and the projector started to roll. Then up came the title page and the announcer said “the Adventures of Superman!” I was hooked and almost flew around the room myself!!
Shortly after that, cable TV came to my hometown and on WPIX channel 11 out of New York City were showing the Adventures of Superman on a regular basis. So George Reeves portrayal of Superman will always be my favorite. And as they say, you never forget your first love!