At the end of a hectic day at the newsroom, Clark asks Lois if she’d like to go to dinner. Lois says that she can’t, because she’s going to the airport to interview the President, end of scene.
That’s a simple bit of dialogue that the characters could deliver at their desks in about thirty seconds. Instead, Richard Donner turns this moment into a screwball comedy masterpiece, using a single tracking shot with dozens of extras bustling around the crowded newsroom.
Everybody pays attention to the helicopter rescue scene, which is coming up next, but in my opinion, you can’t beat this walk-and-talk scene, which does it backwards and in high heels.
Continue reading Superman 1.51: The Long Walk
In an article about the filming of Superman: The Movie published in August 1977, Time Magazine reported, “One thing Superman does not have — so far as anyone with plain old 20-20 can see, anyway — is many laughs. Director Donner, convinced that it was campiness that brought down King Kong, is avoiding even the possibility of untoward giggles.” Which just goes to show how wrong a magazine can be.
Because for the last five minutes, starting from our arrival in a Metropolis taxicab, the characters have been doing nonstop screwball comedy shtick, up to and including getting stuck in a revolving door.
Extricating themselves from the architecture, Lois and Clark emerge into a sunny musical comedy New York, where everyone is quiet and well-dressed, and the traffic noise limits itself to a couple of respectful honks when nobody has any important dialogue to say.
Continue reading Superman 1.42: Another Sunny Day in Comedy New York
The thing to remember about Superman: The Movie is that nobody had ever made a live-action feature-length superhero movie before, so they didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what a superhero movie was supposed to be like. It could go in almost any direction: science-fiction, fantasy, drama, fairy tale, action-adventure. Should it be aimed at kids, or adults? How scary should it be?
The movie that they ended up putting together is famous for changing tones throughout the prologue: the glitter opera of Krypton segueing into Norman Rockwell in Smallville. The teen football scene could fit into a contemporary live-action Disney film with no questions asked; one of these days, I’m going to get around to writing that Superman/Escape to Witch Mountain comparison that American film criticism has been waiting for all these years.
But the most important tone shift happens right here, in our first visit to the Daily Planet. This is when the story really begins, and we find out what a Superman movie sounds like. The answer, thank goodness, is screwball comedy.
Continue reading Superman 1.32: Murder, With a Smile