Tag Archives: music

Superman 1.73: The Takeoff

“Christopher felt very strongly about staying in character, all the time,” Margot Kidder says, in one of the DVD featurettes. “I, on the other hand, got really bored during the flying scenes, because there were Chris and I strapped together for ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day. So I would hide books down my front, or try and tease Chris, and he’d be going, ‘shut up!’ And we would bicker, and the poor crew would look away, and they’d go ‘action’, and suddenly we’d be madly in love, and they’d go ‘cut’, and we’d go back to our bickering.

“And at one point, I remember Christopher said, ‘Don’t you stay in character?’ and I said, ‘Oh, Chris, for god’s sake, I’ve been Lois Lane for a year now, and all we have to do is look left!'”

So this is what happens to you, I guess, when you spend fifteen weeks writing about the same movie: I’m watching this incredibly romantic night flight sequence, and all I can think about is how much of a pain it was for them to shoot.

Continue reading Superman 1.73: The Takeoff

Superman 1.56: The Catch

It’s impossible, of course. Falling object LL descending distance d at velocity v for a given time t, being met by rising object S at acceleration a, with v equal to a times t, and d equal to one-half a times t squared, would result in falling object LL rapidly disassembling into her component parts, some on rising object S and quite a bit on the ground g, making a terrible mess and putting the kibosh on the romance like you wouldn’t believe.

So overall I think it’s best if we stress the fiction more than the science here, and focus on the matter at hand. A handsome man from beyond the stars has suddenly appeared directly under Lois, sweeping aside the laws of physics for her immediate benefit.

“Easy, miss,” he assures her. “I’ve got you.”

Her surprised squeak of a response — “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” — is one of the great moments in American cinema, partly because her comic timing and the crack in her voice are utterly perfect, but also because she’s expressing the surprise and anxiety of a person who suddenly finds herself starring in a different movie than the one that she thought she was in.

It’s easy to imagine this scene going wrong; all you’d need is for Lois to be grateful rather than horrified. “Oh, thank goodness,” she would say, “I thought I was falling to my death, but here you are and you’ve saved me, hurrah!” And then she’d wave to the crowd like a homecoming queen, instantly comfortable with the idea that gravity is backwards.

What Lois is actually expressing is more along the lines of, “Holy shit, what’s happening? What the fuck are you, and what are you doing to me?” I mean, obviously she’s pleased that she’s moving away from the ground rather than smacking directly into it, but she’s fallen into the clutches of a monster from outer space, and that’s going to take a minute to get used to.

Continue reading Superman 1.56: The Catch

Superman 1.43: The Training

And then, for about four minutes, it becomes a cop movie.

As we’ve been going through Superman: The Movie, I’ve been tracking the film’s swift pivots in tone, as it transforms itself from sci-fi space opera to tragic teen drama to screwball comedy, with a detour into the psychedelic mindscapes of the Fortress of Solitude. The film is essentially a montage of different styles, and once we get to Metropolis, that process doesn’t stop.

People talk about the Krypton / Smallville / Metropolis sections as if that explains everything, but Richard Donner keeps on juxtaposing different styles through the entire movie. This moment is a perfect example, because over the next four minutes, the film is going to walk us through a gradual transition that takes us from the last scene’s classic romantic comedy meet-shoot and leads us down into the depths of the underworld, and the brutal murder of a central figure in the sequence.

Naturally, this dark ritual of summoning begins with a quaint musical comedy street-sweeper, who shouts, “Hi, Otis!”

Continue reading Superman 1.43: The Training

Superman 1.14: Music from the Hearts of Space

All right, here’s the situation: we are currently three weeks in on this new format that I’ve invented for myself, where I try to comment on every element of Superman: The Movie that I can think of, and today is one of those “face the music” posts, both literally and figuratively. At some point, I have to write about John Williams’ orchestral score, because it’s an important part of the movie and people who like movie scores are entirely obsessed with it, but I don’t know much about music and I am utterly hopeless on the subject.

I mean, I have this booklet that came with the Superman: The Music box set, and here’s what it says about the score during the “space capsule flying across the galaxy” sequence:

“Scherzo for the starship’s three-year journey. A swirling woodwind line suggests the speed at which the spacecraft is traveling while high-register violins sing a lofty melody exclusive to this cue; statements of the Fanfare are overlaid skillfully.”

My issue, obviously, is that I don’t know what scherzo means; I even went and read the Wikipedia article on scherzo, and I still don’t know what scherzo means.

Continue reading Superman 1.14: Music from the Hearts of Space