RICHARD DONNER Talks Reeve, Brando and Moving on From SUPERMAN

An interesting interview with the director of the greatest superhero movie ever.

I really do believe that Superman: The Movie was not just the first of its kind but the best of its kind — a “serious” superhero film.

I’m sure you’re shocked — shocked! — that I don’t grant that honor to a Batman movie but in my mind it’s not even that close. The 1966 Batman movie was fun but hardly a movie you can compare to, say, The Avengers. And while The Dark Knight was excellent it still has its shortcomings.

Superman isn’t perfect but it’s about the best you can ask for: It has adventure, excitement, pathos, romance, the scope of an old-school Biblical epic — and a leading man so perfectly cast as the Man of Steel that it would take decades for another actor to fit any super-role so well (paging Chris Evans).

Director Richard Donner was the driving force behind the movie’s success, of course, and there’s a nifty interview with him on NPR’s The Business podcast, produced out of LA’s KCRW.

The interview, recorded in 2016 about the time the execrable Batman v. Superman was released, starts around the 7:35 mark. While a lot of the material is familiar to hardcore fans, it’s still great to hear his perspective nearly 40 years after Superman: The Movie came out. He talks about casting Reeve, working with Brando and tells other tales out of school. He also says what he thinks of the modern superhero movie — and it’s not terribly complimentary.

In all, it’s the kind of interview every Superman — and superhero-movie fan — will want to hear.

You can check it out here or download The Business podcast from iTunes.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I enjoyed the movie when it came out. The first 2/3 are epic and mythic but it too was flawed. For me it bogged down with the campy Otis and Luthor portrayals. That had echoes of the 1966 Batman era (although I love that now, it was time to move away from it then). The Larry Hagman cameo was another bit that was silly. And while reversing time to save Lois had emotional gravitas, it still was illogical in terms of giving Superman an ability that he could use to reverse any tragedy. Which of course he never did again. Overall, though, it was a step in the right direction. Tim Burton would take Batman a step in the right direction with his 1989 film which while not perfect, thrilled me.

    True, The Dark Knight is heralded although it has some flaws but still a great film. And I didn’t find Batman v Superman “execrable” but rather an attempt to do a film with some heavy thematic material. It was narratively complex (particularly the 3 hour version which should have been the version in the theaters) which I loved and I really didn’t mind the so-called “deconstruction” of Batman and Superman; I found it interesting. There are many versions of these characters and this felt like a very good attempt to discuss what would happen if Superman was in the real world; how would we deal with his seemingly unilateral actions? Would there be consequences?

    There were good reviews of BvS, quite a number in fact that felt the critics got it wrong (like they did with John Carpenter’s The Thing and Hitchcock’s Psycho among many many more).

    But Chris Reeve was probably the definitive Superman for his time, the optimistic Reagan 80s. Certainly one of the best characterizations I’ve ever seen in terms of a translation from the comic pages to “real life.” He is sorely missed.

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  2. John K. Patterson also has a good point in his blog where he says,

    “For those who have groused about Superman not being the perfect Boy Scout of the Christopher Reeves movies: remember in Superman II when he gives up his responsibility of saving lives and defending Earth so he can sleep with Lois Lane? Not exactly the spotless paragon everyone talks about. Cavill makes perfect sense as a Superman who struggles with doubt, but is still trying to be an authentic hero in a world that has all but given up on morality, and often looks with suspicion on the exact people who have the courage and conviction to do what we all know to be morally right.”

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