The latest Superman movie takes the screen.


This weekend I went to see “Man of Steel,” the latest in long list of Superman movies.  Movies these days are getting more and more expensive, and there’s even been talk lately of drastically increasing the price in the not so distant future.  One talking head on one of the news shows asked if anyone would pay $150 to see a movie.  I don’t think they’d have much success with those kinds of prices,.  My suggestion would be to make the movies on a smaller budget.  Funny how I have not been contacted for my opinion.

This latest screen iteration of the Superman comic book character is undoubtedly an expensive venture.  I would imagine that the costumes alone created a loud “ca-ching.”  Of course, showing the destruction of a major city is probably also costly.  I’m not sure how much of the movies that make it to theatres these days depend on Computer Generated Imaging and  I don’t know if that costs more or less than making a movie the old way.

“Man of Steel” is certainly spectacular with all kinds of flying machines, some of which even resemble airplanes. I really like movies, but more and more I have learned that what I really like about them is the story they tell.  This particular rendition of Superman was sorely lacking in terms of story.  I took a  look back at the history of this ongoing saga.  Of course, I grew up on the made for television series, “The Adventures of Superman.”  There were 104 episodes over a seven year period.   From 1952 – 54, they were featured in black and white.  Then from ’54 to ’58 the episodes were in color.  George Reeves played the title character and came across wonderfully well given the comparatively poor quality of television then.  The characters of Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen were also beloved by television audiences.  During the first two years of the series there were 26 episodes each season.  That is presently unheard of for a television series.  The magic number is now 13 a season, with reruns appearing early on, interspersed with the brand new titles.

In 1993 another television series appeared and was dubbed “Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman,” starring Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain.  It was a popular series that lasted four seasons and hurled the two main character into fame.  Lois became one of the “Desperate Housewives,” while Cain ended up starring in a number of made for TV movies, often for the Lifetime Channel, which undoubtedly aimed at cashing in on his soap opera good looks.

There was another TV movie with Tim Daly, (“Wings”), as Superman and Dana Delany (“Body of Proof’) cast as Lois.  This 1996 made-for-TV movie made little impact on the list of treatments these characters enjoyed.  Meanwhile, the television series “Smallville” ran for ten seasons and enjoyed an extended life in syndication with Lex Luther playing the recurring antagonist of a story that focused on Clark Kent’s years in a small Kansas town before he learned his true destiny.

The most popular series of Superman movies hurled Christopher Reeves into the spotlight with Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.  The first film was just called “Superman” and came to the silver screen in 1978.  After that, three sequels followed with many of the same cast members, but also some powerful additions.  Marlon Brando played Jor-El in the first film.  After that Gene Hackman took the role of antagonist, Lex Luther.  The series of films set the bar rather high for the Superman characterizations.  Then in 2006, “Superman Returns” treated fans of the super hero to new discovery Brandon Routh.  I cheered for him because he came from Norwalk, Iowa,  and his mother was my dance partner in a college production of the opera, “Die Fledermaus.”   Sadly the film garnered no sequels.  Christopher Reeves remained the “peoples’ choice” for portraying the comic book hero.

Now the 2013 treatment of the same character comes to the fore.  Thoughtful casting places Henry Cavill in the role as “Man of Steel” and the charming Amy Adams plays the part of Lois.  Russell Crowe takes on the role of Superman’s father, Jor-El, while Kevin Costner plays the early counterpart.  Lawrence Fishburne heads “The Daily Planet” as editor in chief, Perry White.

Movies, for me, are about telling stories. I favor the old black and white films partly because they depend not on flashy technical gimmicks, but rely on good stories that hold one’s attention.  In the earlier movies with Christopher Reeves, even the music took on a memorable part in the drama with scores by John Williams.  In this new movie, Hans Zimmer composed the score that is less dominant, but nevertheless, effective.

Excessive violence, frenetic action and sometimes confusing special effects did little to replace the less than stellar plot, but the path for a sequel is nicely constructed, provided the movie shows a good margin of profit.  One can be sure that this set of characters will more than likely never be totally abandoned.  The story has found success in comics, television and film.  It will find more treatments in future years, and the main character, Clark Kent or Superman, will always capture the attention of those who look to artistic creations to stir hope for a better future.