Superman vs Superman

So who’s the greatest superman? The answer is Christopher Reeve.

Yeah that was a little anticlimactic. I’m going to do a comparison on the supporting cast and locations and just all around everything concerning that particular mythos but, UNDERSTAND that I have a huge partiality to the Richard Donner Superman (1978) the film charmed, astounded and just all around enchanted me as a child.

It helped make me the nerd I am today and is a film I have easily seen more than 200 times.  It was a lot later in my childhood that I finally separated the man and the character but for several years (and even now to a certain extent.) when I think of Superman, Chris Reeve is still the one I see.

I won’t be including Smallville in all of this because Tom Welling is Superboy, not Superman. (Argue the point with me all you want, I’m just not a Smallville fan.)

The three that we’ll be dealing directly with will be Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman ( though I don’t think at 18 years they really qualify as new anymore.) The Donner Superman (and its partially Donner directed sequel.) Superman Returns.

Don’t take it as a slight to George Reeves or the animated Superman from Warner Animation. I’d like to keep it to live action and I’m honestly just not as familiar with the 50’s Adventures of Superman series.

Man of Steel also chose to eschew most of the elements that I’m comparing, and in respect to fairness, I’m trying to make it as much of an apples to apples comparison as I can.

But let’s say we get started.

First and foremost, a hero is only as good as their villain.

No disrespect to James Kirk.

The greatest hero in the world isn’t much without a great and worthy adversary. And Superman’s is easily Lex Luthor. People will tell you that he is overused. I’ll grant you that. A lot of the time I’d say that budgetary constraints. A man in a suit is much easier to recreate than a despot from a fire planet that requires constant CGI assistance.

Lois and Clark certainly didn’t have the money to adequately make a Doomsday appearance or a Darkseid mutiparter.

Lois and Clark’s proposed Doomsday.

For Luthor, all you need is a commanding presence and a suit.

And usually some baldness.

Usually.

The three actors we are looking at today are John Shea, Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey. John Shea is at a disadvantage right off the bat. Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman are two of the greatest living actors today. Ian McKellan and Morgan Freeman have to bring their considerable A game to compete with these men. I would easily list them amongst the most talented performers living or dead. Their collective resumes are things of legend (mostly.)

John Shea was in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and some episodes of Sex and the City and Law and Order. That isn’t a slight to him, its just facts.

I think he did an exceptional job on what he was given in the script department. Lois and Clark wasn’t always the most impressively written show and he’s probably glad that he left the show before its largely un-watchable fourth season. The first and second were the most enjoyable with the show losing a consistently threatening and comparatively better written and performed villain. All that being said, he’s my least favorite of the Luthors. Gene Hackman falls into second. I like his Luthor. He isn’t playing him as clichéd or one note. He does, on the other hand, occasionally feeling like a used car salesman.

“Kal-El? Can I call you Kal?…”

I never felt threatened by him. He’s a bad man to be sure, but I always thought he’d be more likely to sell me a lemon than destroy the world or stop the world’s greatest superhero. I think some of the problem lies in the fact that all he wants to do is get real estate.

Luthor is a lot of things in the comic books but a land owner was never really emphasized (or really ever discussed as far as I recall.) Mad Sceintist, Humanitarian, Half Cyborg-Half Human Luthiac, but he never worked for Century 21.

I don’t know what informed his performance, but it certainly wasn’t the source material. Despite all this going against him he still managed to, at least, entertain in every scene he’s in as well as provide a good balance against Reeve’s buffoonish Kent/Greatest Boy Scout performance. He was also in Superman IV and thus responsible for Nuclear Man.

To Do List: 1.Kill Superman 2. Destroy Superman Film Franchise.

I had to deduct points for that. Hackman was a good Luthor, but Kevin Spacey was always how I pictured him.

Superman Returns is a flawed, though enjoyable film. I think it was almost too respectful of the originals and retreaded a lot of the same material. I have also never been a fan of Luthor as an out and out super villain portrayal.

I would have really enjoyed seeing Spacey portray the billionaire industrialist. When I actually read the Superman titles (they haven’t been fantastic in some time.) that was how Luthor was portrayed.

And I think it’s the best use of the character.

Again despite all this, Spacey is easily the best thing about the movie. I think he felt the least tethered to the Donner films. Spacey is also an immensely talented actor and was with one of the directors that made him a name.

I love Spacey and Singer and Superman, but if you want to see them at their best, watch the Usual Suspects instead, it ended up being a much better use of their talents.

Spacey is vicious, slimy and commanding. And he went bald for the role as well, which gives him serious method points.

Having a main villian is all great and good. But how about the supporting cast?

The Daily Planet and Lois Lane will be first.  Margot Kidder and Kate Bosworth are kind of in the same boat for me. In the sense that I don’t like them. I have no clue why the most powerful man in the world would settle for these women.

Not that one…

iKate Bosworth looks like she’s 14 and Margot Kidder is just irritating.

The only Lois Lane that I have any kind of respect for is Teri Hatcher. Her character is occasionally dumbed down on the show, but out of the three I think she seems the most capable.

She’s also the most attractive.

She’s been with James Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Superman (Lois and Clark). Was a guest star on Star Trek The Next Generation, Seinfeld and Quantum Leap. Do you have any clue how many fantasies that fulfills for me. (several for any interested parties.) So as far as that’s concerned Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie get no points with Lois and Clark getting all the points for that one.

Though I honestly feel like the winner here.

Perry White is quite a different story. I like all the actors and characters involved here. Jackie Cooper, Frank Langella and Lane Smith.

All of them bring some interesting, albeit different, to the character but all seem to ring true amongst their respective actors.

Frank Langella might edge the other two out if I had to pick just one of them, but I think that’s just my familiarity with his other work.

Lane Smith is funny but still commands respect when he needs to.

Jackie Cooper is old school and occasionally spouts some Yoda-esque anecdotes about the newspaper business. Frank Langella is just what I’d expect from a man that runs a major metropolitan newspaper and still seems wizened by his years. He knows his reporters strengths and weakness and isn’t afraid to tell them the uncomfortable truths.

 

Cowboy Curtis is doing WHAT?!?

The Last one we deal with is Jimmy Olsen. I think this character is worthless in the comics and for the most part I think he’s pretty worthless in the movies as well. Sam Huntington and Marc McClure are both pretty valueless in the movies. They seems to exist as comic less relief or reasons to consume Superman’s time when he could be doing something much more important.

Why am I talking to this Gorilla again, JImmy?

I haven’t created any characters that are beloved or have been around in various media for over half of a century or more.

I just don’t think Olsen has any place in the current incarnation. I’m supposing that he was put there as some sort of avatar for the younger generation to place themselves upon.

But, why would I want to do that when I have Superman to look up to and avatate myself upon?

But what do I know?

The only incarnation of Jimmy Olsen that I really cared about was the original Jimmy Olsen on Lois and Clark. He was let go because he looked too much like Dean Cain, the gentleman responsible for the Clark Kent/Superman duties on the show.  Which is a terribly stupid reason to lose your job by the way.

I didn’t hate the new guy but it really wasn’t broke in the first place either. Micheal Landes is closer to I think the way that I would write the character. Justin Whalin is more of the traditional naive Jimmy Olsen.

They say the suit makes the man, and in Superman’s case, I suppose it isn’t any different.

Who has the best Superman costume?

Superman Returns is probably my least favorite.

 

Milk still does a body good though.

 

There’s a lot of things that I think they did with the costume that were really just being done for the sake of being different than what came before it. Raising the S, the belt buckle bearing the symbol, no yellow symbol on the Cape and the Boots looking like Nike made them…

 

Unless Ma Kent owns a sweat shop, I don’t see how we arrived here.

 

As well as the collar being so tight.

I don’t hate costume, I just don’t think all of the decisions were made for the right reasons.

The Cain costume I think actually made a couple of improvements over the Reeve costume, though the fact that it’s a television show and not a major motion picture really does show sometimes.

The darkened colors look better than the lighter ones that are associated with the Reeve costume. There are some incarnations of the costume early on that I didn’t like but the one that the show eventually went with I really did like.

 

Too bad they didn’t spend more money on Cain’s acting lessons.

 

I also like the difference in the hair between Kent and Superman. The slicked back hair suited the character. But, honestly, can a brotha not get a spit curl up front?

 

 

In no surprise to anyone, the Reeve costume is my favorite. I’ve actually got to see the one used in the original up close

They would not let me put it on, sadly.

Or, not sadly. I don’t really have a “spandex body”.

Whatever.

its construction was obviously meant to hold up to greater scrutiny (and several films) and is my favorite incarnation, in any form, of the costume. The hair, the actor, the costume, just everything works here.

 

Mathematically proven to kick seven a**es.

 

I first mentioned that Christopher Reeve is the best Superman. I stand by that.

I did actually like Brandon Routh as Superman, but I think his performance was more of an imitation, than an original performance, so in no insult to him, I give more credit to Dean Cain than I do to Routh.

I think all of them, much like my opinion of the Perrys made valid additions to the mythos, but Christopher Reeve was even good in the bad Superman films.

 

I don’t want to kick a dead horse…wait, why was Superman inside that nuclear missile in the background?

There are a lot of things I like about Lois and Clark.

There are a lot of things that I don’t.

The final two seasons are pretty terrible and a lot of the villains they go with are just terrible even if you go easy on them. I think they wanted to kind of go for what Adam West’s Batman show did but they just weren’t getting the same caliber of actor, and it suffered, tremedously, as a result.

I also don’t think you had a very strong voice as far as the executive producer was concerned and it made the show a listless vesicle toward it end.

And I still hate the fact that it ended on a cliffhanger.

Seeing as how its been 18 years since it went off the air, I don’t think were getting a made for TV movie wrap up for it.

Superman Returns will never get to correct the mistakes it made coming out of the gate or a chance to compete or fill in any of loose threads. With a production budget of 232 million dollars and a final tally of 450 million (after DVD and various home video profits are taken into account) it certainly turned a profit.

I love that we live in a world were half a billion dollars just isn’t quite enough.

Superman: The Movie, even with its nonsensical ending, is my favorite incarnation of the character.

I don’t think Superman II is shot as well and lacks a lot of the scope that the first film had in spades. That’s what happens when you hire Lester instead of Donner. Quick list me five other movies that Lester did that don’t have Musketeer in the title?

Yeah you cant can you? Don’t feel bad, he isn’t really that talented.

It’s a good thing he had all of that preexisting footage that Donner shot to get him out of the hole he would have likely been in. The Superman film he had all to himself, Superman III, is quite the epic fail.

If I had to pick just one incarnation, this would be the one. It’s the one that enchanted me as a child and the one that still entices me as an adult.

Even with Christopher Nolan and David Goyer sheparding the newest incarnation. (And the SDCC footage looked very promising) I still can’t imagine that my affinity is going to change allegiance anytime soon. I look forward to it, and the ensuing Justice League film, but my Superman, will and ever, be the Richard Donner directed original.

But they’re always welcome to try.

 

 

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