There are film scenes that we love, and there are scenes that we loathe (or hate). As such, we like to celebrate the good ones and shame the bad ones. Today, it’s time to talk about a bad one. This is the scene from Superman that causes us to involuntarily exclaim “I LOATHE That Scene!” whenever it is brought up in conversation, and that’s only if we’re being nice.
THE FILM: Superman (1978)
You will believe a man can fly, or at least be horizontal in front of a moving backdrop in Richard Donner’s Superman, the film that showed Hollywood that superhero films could dominate the box office. It was a kinder, gentler time, when superheroes were hardly the safe bets they are today. How quaint it must seem for there to have been a time in which cigar-smoking, Hollywood moguls didn’t see instant dollar signs when presented with the latest tights-sporting, wunderkind. I don’t want to be too hard on the film. I like it fine, although I think Superman II is better. For 1978, the special effects were ground breaking, and both Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder are perfectly cast as the titular Superman and plucky reporter/ love interest, Lois Lane. The film works best when it allows these two incredibly charismatic leads room to charm the viewer, which they seem capable to do almost effortlessly, and play their roles like they’re in an old-fashioned romance.
The main plot revolves around Lex Luther and his plot to make a fortune in real estate (truly, the most insidious of venues) by sinking parts of California, through physics best left unexplored. The threat’s barely an issue, though, when you can just fly around the world really, really fast and reverse time.
(FOR EVERYTHING BELOW: SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)
THE CONTEXT OF THE SCENE:
Superman has come to Lois Lane’s apartment for an exclusive interview, allowing Kidder and Reeve to do what they do best: act as though they’ve been cast in a screwball comedy. Eventually, though, Superman decides the only way to cap an interview is to take your interviewer for midnight flight, leading to Lois’s iconic line, “you’ve got me. Who’s got you?”
If that was where the spoken dialogue ended, all would be well and it would be a lovely, charming sequence. Alas, what follows is a sequence so mind-numblingly awkward it defies all logic and inspires embarrassment in fan that ever proclaimed a comic book poetry.
WHY I LOATHE IT:
Where do you want me to begin? Let’s put aside that Superman simply holding Lois’s hand, while it would keep her from liquefying on the pavement below, would really just mean she’d really just be dangling below him, not flying side by side.
That’s a problem that defies all physics, but in a film with a flying, omnipotent God-like being at its center, science waved “bye-bye” long ago. No, the problem is we have a sodding poem, via voice over, spoken by our favorite cynical, hard-boiled reporter, Lois Lane. She shifts from a hardened, career woman to a swooning, giggly, teeny-bopper in the span of a few moments. What’s worse, and this is critical, is this a terrible, terrible poem. Sample dialogue: “I don’t know who you are, just a friend from another star.” and “Here I am, like a kid out school, holding hands with a God. I’m a fool.” If Superman could have heard this, he’d probably have dropped her in disgust, because this schlock is enough to make “roses are red, violets are blue” sound like Keats and Byron and Dickinson all rolled into one.
I know it was originally meant to be a song, sung by Kidder herself, which is even more horrifying. All it took for Donner to nix that idea was actually hearing Kidder sing, and he decided that the only solution was to have the song’s lyrics spoken. Why he didn’t just decide to, I don’t know, not have anything sung or spoken at all is anyone’s guess. As lyrics they’re dreadful, but as a poem, they’re hide your face in the sand humiliating.
Instead, we’re left with the knowledge that at one point it was going to be perfectly fine for a musical number (A musical number! We’re grasping at reality straws as it is like they’re precious, golden nuggets. Why rip them from our hands?) to suddenly rear its singing head in a Superman film, and the knowledge that Lois can apparently spout poems at the drop of a hat. Isn’t it a shame they never went back to that Lois Lane skill again?
Superman is a hard enough character to take seriously as it is, what with his boy scout ideals and near-invulnerability (except for kryptonite, a rare substance that still seems pop up every day). Adding a musical number or a freakin’ poem takes a campy premise and dolls it up in fishnets and a corset. We’ve already got a guy flying around in a cape and underwear. Is it too much to ask that he not inspire literal poetry from the women he meets?
So, what do you think? Am I being too hard on this scene? Do you hate it as much as we do? Is there another scene/ film you’d like us to cover? Let us know in the comments!