It was a true pleasure to be on Filmspotting again, this time in a World’s Finest-style team-up with my Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon. Glen is “unauthor” (his joke, people) of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography and author the just-published, even-better The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. Host Adam Kempenaar invited the two of us to join him for this episode’s Top Five segment, Superman/Batman Movie Moments. Adam and Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips reviewed Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in the show’s first segment. They didn’t like it any more than I did.
There’s always at least one thing in my notes that I forget to say when I’m on a podcast/radio show, and this time it was a big one: In my No. 1 Superman/Batman scene, the Lois Lane/Superman patio interview from Superman ’78, the big guy actually volunteers to the Daily Planet reporter that he can’t see through lead. Hey world! I know I seem invulnerable, but I do have a few exploitable weaknesses which I shall now reveal!
I love this, because it shows us that Supes’ belief in humanity’s goodness is so absolute (and unchallenged, somehow, even though we know from this very film that he attended high school) that it doesn’t even occur to him that he should keep his vulnerabilities to himself. But when Lois asks his age, he will say only that he is “over 21,” a line that perfectly encapsulates the discreet but palpable sexual tension of the scene. It’s a huge improvement on Superman’s reply to this question in an earlier draft of this scene that was used to audition actors for the role of Lois once Christopher Reeve had been cast: “Thirty.”
Everything that’s weird about this conversation — “Krypton with a ‘C-R-I?'” “No, Krypton with a K-R-Y.” — feels like a deliberate, and inspired, decision by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz (whose formal credit on the picture was “Creative Consultant”) and director Richard Donner. There’s plenty in their Superman that I don’t love, starting with all those wacky komedy scenes of sacrificial fat guy Ned Beatty falling off of ladders while tuba music plays. But the stuff Superman gets right is as right as any superhero flick has ever gotten anything. The patio interview is one of those.