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!”