I recently rewatched Superman: The Movie. I think it was because it was on the menu at HBO Max (now just “Max”) and I needed to kill a few minutes before the kids were ready to watch something else.
So I watched the opening of the theatrical cut, got nostalgic about the super-duper extended TV cut—and remembered, hey I have that on a Blu-ray! Then I watched that one, padded scenes and all.
It’s wonderful, of course—and I don’t need to write the 800th tribute to this movie on somebody’s blog. But to have the cast, and the music, and the warmth of it all, just the way I remembered from being a kid—it was so comforting. And magical!
By the way, the kids got one look at a super-rescue scene and asked, “Why does it look like that?” They meant the VFX composites for the flying—and I had to explain this was just how they did it back then (and the best they could do). It must be strange, spending your life watching modern CGI, to try to adjust the artifice of the analogue effects. So don’t hate on my kids!
One is that rewatching Superman was a reminder, as a kid, what a portal into a different world it was to see these giant, spectacular movies on TV. If I’m remembering correctly, the Star Trek, Superman and James Bond movies were on ABC and were big premieres:
Ah, good old Ernie Anderson on the voiceover!
I’m not trying to say that “the old ways” were better than today! I don’t like that angry Grandpa stuff.
But I do vividly remember the sheer magic of seeing these huge movies on television: not just the special effects, but the locations, the movie stars, the sheer adventure of it all—and the fabulous music!
It really was like, wow, your ordinary life is humdrum and plain—and then all of a sudden, you get whisked into these other worlds where everything is exciting and dashing and charming and full of such style and fun.
Superman can fly! James Bond always wins! Star Trek is a magical utopia! The design of it all, and the beauty of the stars—it was like, whoa, this heightened reality.
The other thing about these movies is, metaphorically, the next morning’s hangover...how bad the sequels were!
As kids, we got conditioned to the fact that no matter how good the original movie was, inevitably the sequels would just be stale rehashes with tired plots, dumb jokes and wimpy replacements for our favorite stars (and composers).
The Superman movies were the biggest offenders. From Superman I to II wasn’t that bad a drop-off, but then to III (Richard Pryor)—and to IV, what the living hell?
Let’s see: the Jaws sequels, oh my God, are you kidding me? The Poltergeist sequels? I didn’t even see the Conan movies back then, but they fit the model.
With Star Wars, as a kid I loved Return of the Jedi—but The Ewok Adventure? Did George Lucas lose his mind?
When V went from the original miniseries to The Final Battle—okay, that wasn’t so terrible, but the weekly series?!?
The Star Trek movies were the exception in that, as all fans know, the even-numbered movies are the good ones. But the first season of The Next Generation was misery.
I’m sure there are lots of other exceptions, too. Temple of Doom was no Raiders, but it was still The Real Thing. The Roger Moore Bond movies were goofy, but they were “real,” too.
It created a kind of fatalism: Don’t worry, no matter how much you love it—they’ll ruin it.
It was a kind of mystery, as if there was obviously some sort of reason—either business or even existential—why the quality could not be maintained.
We also learned that any science fiction on weekly television (Misfits of Science, Otherworld) would be appallingly idiotic and formulaic.
Somehow the nadir of all this was, of all things, SpaceCamp. An original—but what a piece of crap! They even fooled John Williams into scoring it.
Ultimately, what happened is...we grew up. We discovered R-rated movies: Aliens, Die Hard, Predator, RoboCop, Total Recall.
And they were awesome! They renewed our faith in movies and interest in storytelling.
Inevitably, those sequels (or remakes) sucked too, but by then, we were accustomed to it.
And we looked around and realized—hey, we’re all grown up.
And now I’m 49 and writing this blog. What the hell?!?!?