And he flies, soaring across the sky on wings made of wax and feathers and cables and front projection. He catches a reporter, a helicopter, a burglar, a boat, a cat and a very important airplane all in a row, and deposits each one exactly where it’s supposed to be, as the crowd cheers. He is here, and he is magnificent.
And then he goes home and gets yelled at by his dad, which I for one find intolerable.
I’ve written before about the various versions of Superman: The Movie, including the bloated Extended Cut with an extra 45 minutes of mostly worthless footage, and the more restrained Director’s Cut released in 2000, which only added 8 minutes of mostly worthless footage.
We’ve reviewed a few of these correctly-deleted scenes, including Lois’ parents on the train and the “feed the babies” scene in Lex’s lair. Now we get to a scene that made it into the Director’s Cut, which I think would have been the worst sequence in the movie: the apology scene.
It comes right after all the exciting rescue sequences, when the audience is just coming down from the burst of thrilling superhero action. The march dies down, and we see the Fortress of Solitude from across the Arctic wastelands. There’s a pause, and then Jor-El’s echoey voice: “You… enjoyed it.”
And then we see Superman, standing to attention like a naughty schoolboy behind the crystal control lectern.
Superman: I don’t know what to say, father. I… I’m afraid I just got carried away.
Jor-El: I anticipated this, my son.
Superman: You couldn’t have!
(He scoffs, smiling at the recollection.)
Superman: You couldn’t have imagined…
(Then he collects himself, and looks down, ashamed.)
Jor-El: … how good it felt?
Jor-El: You are revealed to the world. Very well. So be it. But you still must keep your secret identity.
Jor-El: The reasons are two. First, you cannot serve humanity twenty-eight hours a day —
Jor-El: — or twenty-four, as it is in Earth time. Your help would be called for endlessly, even for those tasks that human beings could solve themselves. It is their habit to abuse their resources in such a way.
Superman: And secondly?
Jor-El: Second… your enemies will discover their only way to hurt you — by hurting the people you care for.
Superman: (nods) Thank you, father.
Jor-El: Lastly… do not punish yourself for your feelings of vanity. Simply learn to control them. It is an affliction common to all, even on Krypton. Our destruction could have been avoided but for the vanity of some who consider us… indestructible.
Jor-El: If it were not for vanity, why… at this very moment… I could embrace you in my arms.
Jor-El: My son…
(Superman raises his arms, as if to embrace the mental projection of his father.)
(The projection of Jor-El fades.)
(Awkwardly, Superman puts his arms down.)
So: I can see the appeal of more Superman/Jor-El interaction. Brando is always fun to look at and listen to, and the father and son having a conversation about their feelings is, in the abstract, difficult to resist.
But this is the wrong time for it, and the wrong tone. As the audience, we have just been enjoying ourselves tremendously, watching Superman slip the surly bonds and rescue everybody in his line of sight. And now we have to see him hauled into the principal’s office, for a lecture.
It’s the “sorry, father” and “thank you, father” stuff that bugs me, really. Superman spent a ridiculously long time in Arctic grad school getting trained up, and he’s just on the verge of going out with girls. After a very long prologue, he’s finally grown up, and I don’t like seeing him acting like a little kid. Keeping his secret identity should be his own grown-up choice, not just something that he’s being told to do.
Now, the “twenty-eight / twenty-four” moment when Superman corrects Jor-El is very cute, and if this was a more grown-up conversation, then it might have been worth saving. But as it is, I think it’s a downer, and not worth being in the Director’s Cut. It turns out the best version of the film is the one released to theaters, as is often the case, thank goodness.
Lex Luthor unilaterally
declares war on the sun in
1.66: So Below
— Danny Horn