Supergirl” (1984) starts in cheesy fashion on a Kryptonian outpost, with Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater) impulsively deciding to chase a doodad that she has carelessly dropped into a timewarp (or something along these lines) all the way to Earth. Without pausing to shed a tear for the family and friends she leaves behind, she’s Supergirl – she can change costumes and hair colors with her mind, which technically makes her more powerful than Superman. And this seems like a really dumb movie out of the gates.
Comic book writers love their heroes, and are less likely to give love and attention to their villains. That’s human nature, I suppose, but boy does it hurt modern superhero movies. “Justice League” (2017), now available for home viewing, is the latest film to suffer from a bland, predictable villain, and it keeps a fun blockbuster from becoming something substantial. Steppenwolf – no, not that Steppenwolf – wants to destroy the world because, as a Geico commercial would say, “If you’re a supervillain, it’s what you do.”
If you watched the opening segment of “Superman: The Movie” (or “Man of Steel”) on Krypton (or Krypt’n, as Marlon Brando would say) and weren’t among the 95 percent of the audience thinking “C’mon, just get to the Superman part,” “Krypton” (10 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays on Syfy) is for you. The latest “Superman” project luxuriates in the ice planet, the peasant-class underground and the brutal maneuverings within the sparse governmental palace corridors – all while teasing a Superman connection that’s much further away than in the aforementioned films.
Since I have for some bizarre reason watched every episode of “Supergirl” (now in Season 3) and “Riverdale” (now in Season 2), I might as well get a blog post out of it by asking: “Which is the dumber show?” It’s kind of like deciding whether the Patriots or Eagles are the team worth rooting for in the Super Bowl: It’s a brain-spinner.
After 19 years away from the big screen, ole Supes comes back in a weird way in “Superman Returns” (2006). Directed by “X-Men’s” Bryan Singer, a longtime fan of Richard Donner’s “Superman” (1978), this is a spiritual sequel to the original quadrilogy, but not a strict sequel. And that makes for a confusing viewing experience.
In 1985’s “Rocky IV,” Rocky ends the Cold War with an impassioned speech. Two years later, “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987) offers a more sobering examination of the issue: By the movie’s end, the creation of nuclear bombs goes on, even though Superman (Christopher Reeve) has flung the existing arsenal into the sun. The latter is more grounded, but it’s not nearly as inspiring, which is why “Rocky IV” is a cult classic and “Superman IV” rates a 3.7 on IMDB.
Having gotten the heavy backstory out of the way, franchise screenwriters David and Leslie Newman and director Richard Lester (who helmed the theatrical version of “Superman II”) cut loose with the character in “Superman III” (1983). While the film rates only a 4.9 on IMBD – suggesting that a lot of moviegoers would’ve rather missed this one, like the Bermuda-bound Lois — it has a lot to recommend it.
Man of Steel” (2013) ends with Superman ravaging Metropolis in order to defeat General Zod, and that destruction becomes a central issue of “Batman v Superman” (2016). The filmmakers had time in between the films to learn that viewers were bothered by the collateral damage of Supes’ fight, and either added that theme to the sequel or knew they were justified in doing so. Things were different in the original “Superman” film saga.
Superman” (1978) is a product of its time, something that’s more evident today when contrasted with the muscular and modern “Man of Steel” (2013). Still, if a viewer puts themselves in the mindset of a 1978 movie-goer, it’s clear why this movie is beloved. Indeed, it even rates a 7.3 on IMDB on compared to 7.1 for “MoS.”
Now a franchise of five films with the addition of “Justice League” this week, the DC Extended Universe launched in 2013 with “Man of Steel.” Written by the Dark Knight Trilogy’s David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan and directed by “Watchmen’s” Zack Snyder, “Man of Steel” attempts to balance everything we love about Superman with a fresh examination of his character and place in the world. Every subsequent DCEU film – despite having a variety of writers and directors — has followed that formula, to varying degrees of success. Here are three things that have become trademarks of the saga, for better or worse: