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The EnlightenmentThe Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told ...In The Movies!
POSTED BY TERENCE NUZUM, June 20, 2013    Share

With the new Man of Steel film out this summer, I wanted to highlight the best screen adaptations of Siegel and Schuster's iconic creation.The less I say about Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel the better. But as a Superman fan I can't complain too much, realistically we fans have many choices when it comes to the cinematic Superman. We have to at least like one of them, if not all of them. Some of the films capture his not so godlike "in a single bound" era of the 1930s, others cover his campy 40's and 50's adventures, and some turn toward the darker 1970's and 80s aspects of the character, and at least one manages to capture all this and produce a masterpiece. There is a film for every fan and one for every era.....look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's..

The Greatest

Stories Ever Told...in the movies!

The Fliescher Studios Superman (1940s)
Nothing has captured the 1930's era of Superman like these legendary animated short films by Fliescher Studios. The man of steel still leaps over buildings instead of flying and a mortar shell could knock him out of the sky but that was one of the best and most endearing things about the original Superman incarnation. In his 1930s comic run, before he was a godlike being that basically is unstoppable at this point, he was more of a super-powered Robin Hood, a guardian angel for the weak and oppressed. His villains were mad scientists, or common crooks. The Fleischer Studios cartoons upped the ante a little bit and added giant apes and flying bullet cars but they still capture the early Siegel and Schuster version of the character. With their film noir design and dynamic actions scenes they are unlike any animation produced at the time and continue to influence animation to this day. The masterpiece that is the Batman: The Animated Series would not exist if it were not for these 17 shorts. As a huge fan of the 1930's era comic run this personally just might be my favorite film version of Superman.

Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)
While the Kirk Alyn Superman serials might be mostly forgotten today I think that the second of the two film serials is damn enjoyable and deserves more than a footnote for having the first screen appearance of Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Kirk Alyn is a terrible Superman, let's be clear on that. Also Superman turning into a cartoon every time he flies is close to embarrassing even for the era it was made. That being said this is damn fun. Luthor using a disguise and calling himself Atom Man threatens to destroy Metropolis using ray guns and other fun gadgets. Superman, of course, must stop him but Luthor has managed to create Kryptonite and so on and so on. Like most serials it goes on way too long and isn't meant to be watched in one sitting, but in small daily doses you have yourself a fun early Superman adventure that features his greatest enemy for the first time on film. Less than one year later the very first ever Superman film would hit the screens and change the face of celluloid men of steel for a long time to come.

Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
George Reeves is Superman. Most comic fans wouldn't deny that. But that is not entirely fair. He is the greatest Superman of his era. Reeves captured 1940's and 50's version of the comic to a tee. For years he would become the face of Superman, the portrayal to live up to. He was dashing, brawny, smart, goody two shoes, and stood for the American way. His Clark Kent may not have been definitive but it was revolutionary. Reeves, using what very little character development he could manage to muster with such little screen time there was, created perhaps the most realized and human of all Clark Kents. Clark usually is the fake personality of Superman. The act and sometimes the comic relief. But Reeves' Kent is the real person as much as Superman is. Sometimes it's hard to tell if maybe Superman isn't in fact the act. While the TV show would explore this much more ( the two best episodes "Panic in the Sky" and "The Stolen Costume") the film (which came out before show as a sort of pilot) focuses more on Supes. All the ingredients are there, aliens, the moral tale, and of course Lois Lane. Fans can say what they want but very few actresses have captured Lois Lane quite like Phyllis Coates did. Sexy, smart and sarcastic she was way better than Noel Niels doddering and sexless Lois. This film has cons of course. For one the aliens aren't really evil just misunderstood and for two Superman's flight sequences are still all animated like the serials were. Although it has the greatest take off scenes ever filmed in my opinion. All in all not a great film for Superman but still worth it for spawning one of the greatest versions of Superman, the TV series The Adventures of Superman.

Superman (1978)
For a film that first started as an almost complete spoof (in the hands of Godfather author Mario Puzzo), was meant to be a four hour film, and cast a unknown in the role of the greatest comic book hero ever it's amazing that Richard Donner's film came out good at all much less the complete masterpiece it is. Has any super hero film really managed to match the excellent pacing of this movie. Covering Kal-El's birth, his youth in Smallville, his introduction to Metropolis, his encounter with his arch enemy, stopping a earthquake, and still managing to have excellent and well rounded characterizations all under three hours? I beg anyone to find another superhero film that has managed this feat. Christopher Reeve's portrayal did the impossible, it washed away the unbreakable image George Reeves had on the public's idea of Superman. In fact it did more than that, Chris Reeve became the face of the big blue boy scout for the next thirty years. In fact Superman Returns would continue with the first two films continuity (thankfully ignoring and de-canonizing Superman 3 and 4 for good) and cast Brandon Routh to play what is basically a Christopher Reeves impersonation. The film also managed to capture not only the 1940's and 50's idealized Superman but also the late 1970's introspective and emotional man of steel. The misdirection of the Luthor character aside (Kevin Spacey playing Hackman continuity Luthor in Superman Returns, only ten times more evil, made up for all this though) this film has not been beaten. The best super hero movie ever made? Hmm that might go to The Avengers. The best Superman movie ever made? By a long shot. Has yet to be toppled.

Superman Returns (2006)
Haters can say what they want, but I like this film. If for nothing else because it continues the same timeline as the Donner films. Basically, it sadly just couldn't have Christopher Reeve. And if Reeve couldn't be there then might as well recast Hackman while you are at it. Kevin Spacey's Luthor rules this picture. He plays Hackman's Luthor brilliantly on spot but this time around he is far darker and bitter. Superman himself is really not the main character here. That is the brilliance of this film. It shows the after effects on the supporting characters after their lover (in Lois' case), their nemesis (in Lex's case), and their son (in Ma Kent's case) disappears for years and then shows up out of nowhere. Lois has moved on and now is torn when Supes returns looking for love. Ma Kent is relieved after the stress his disappearance has cost her. And Lex Luthor's world comes tumbling down, after the man who imprisoned him for years has returned to put him away once again. Could've used more action but all in all brilliant filmmaking.

So there you have it, the greatest Superman films. Sure, I may have left out the less-than-perfect Superman 2, and I omitted TV shows and animated films, but this is the cream of the crop when you come down to it. With films this great, Zac Snyder's overblown hollow shell of a film has a lot to beat. If this list were Kryptonite, his film would be dead. So if you haven't seen some or all of these, get to it, because more Superman is always better than one Superman!

"The Enlightenment" is ©2013 by Terence Nuzum. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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