Can anyone beat Christopher Reeve as Superman?
Who can be the one true ‘Man of Steel’?
Written By: Andrew Lowe
Date: 27th December, 2014
Over the years there have been many people to play Superman. Kirk Alyn and George Reeves were the first to play the part for serials and the TV series from the 1950’s. This is the first time anyone had ever seen Superman. But you can hardly say that the acting was really any good.
When Christopher Reeve played the character in Richard Donner’s 1978, the acting quality had improved by leaps and bounds in comparison. He took all aspects of both Clark Kent and Superman so seriously and treated them as very different characters. There is such a contrast of the way Clark Kent and Superman is played. This is what makes Christopher Reeve performance so outstanding. It would be very hard to even imagine that this version of Clark Kent, being so clumsy and awkward, would ever be Superman. His mannerisms, different hairstyle and the large glasses perfectly hid who he was. But eventually as with all actors, Christopher Reeve although perfect as the Man of Steel, was feeling typecast and wanted to try other roles. That along with the increasingly poor Superman films of the mid to late eighties meant that the film series was put on hold.
Dean Cain was first person to play Superman after Christopher Reeve. This was in the 90’s television show ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’. There was nothing really wrong with the performance that Dean Cain did. In fact I believe he made the Clark Kent character seem far more realistic than it had ever been before. The problem is that you can’t tell much difference between Clark Kent and Superman, both are confident and sure of themselves. It wouldn’t be too hard to tell that this version of Clark Kent was in fact Superman.
Now moving to the 2000s, the new version of Superman was Smallville. This version was kind of the beginning elements of Superman the movie. Showing Clark Kent growing up and dealing with his powers. This version showed complexity to the character, and having to deal with it all. It certainly was a good version but it felt that it went too long. It didn’t show having to deal with a double life, well except for small areas towards the end of the series.
After many abandoned attempts to revive the film series, a new version of Superman was released in 2006 called ‘Superman Returns’ directed by Bryan Singer. Brandon Routh played this time the title role. The whole film is very respectful and works like a tribute to the Richard Donner film. Now Brandon Routh is very good at the role. He clearly makes a great deal of effort to play the role in the same manner as Christopher Reeve. The main problem this effort really suffers for is that everything was too much of a tribute to Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve, and with no room for any individuality. It is a shame as Brandon Routh, did prove he was capable of playing the role, the story was just too slow and too many past references. This then lead more cancelled plans for films.
Moving to 2013, we saw a complete reboot of the Superman story with ‘Man of Steel’ with Henry Cavill playing the lead. Now this can’t be compared in the same way as the other Superman films. What we have here is very much an updated look and certainly more action packed Superman origin story, something I would say is mostly due to some of the major criticisms of ‘Superman Returns’. Like Smallville, it doesn’t have the traditional dual identity story arc that past versions incorporate. What it really has done is set everything up in place for future stories. It is very much starting a new franchise of films. Henry Cavil plays this role reasonably well. He certainly has the look of Superman, but he never really has any scenes to show off his acting skills. ‘Man of Steel’ is definitely a film more for action rather than character building and inspiration.
The main problem has been that Christopher Reeve was the first to play Superman in a full feature length film, with a reasonable budget and in a very serious way. His portrayal was just so memorable and good. For this reason, he will always be considered the yardstick of which all portrayals of Superman will be compared to.