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Superman (1978)

Penned by Godfather scribe Mario Puzo and shot with the same epic breadth as any film by David Lean during the previous twenty years, Superman aims high for an aura of grandeur that it never manages to reach, a fact that renders this two-and-a-half hour superhero epic as something of a collective conflict of interests. Unlike the character of Superman, who manages to juggle his two identities (the other being mild-mannered journalist Clark Kent) with relative ease, Richard Donners' film never finds the right mixture for both its reverent seriousness towards the Superman mythology and the silly undercurrents inherent in such a story, the result being an awkward mishmash that will seemingly only appeal to those already won over by the titular character. Granted, Superman himself is the most appealing aspect of the film, warmly portrayed by the young Christopher Reeve and given remarkably human characteristics, despite his abilities being anything but human. Gene Hackman would be an inspired choice as supervillian Lex Luthor - with a better script. Here, bogged down by bad dialogue and a comic-relief sidekick so irritating as to make Jar-Jar Binks look tolerable by comparison, we never get to see his full chops on display (whereas Marlon Brando, in perhaps the most expensive cameo in movie history, never cared less about a role than he does here). The somewhat hammy, dated special effects give the film a nostalgic touch, and the action set pieces are generally engaging, but neither of these aspects is able to offset the simultaneously overreaching and uninspired direction. Sadly, Richard Donners' vision isn't nearly up to par with the standards of the Man of Steel.