Movie Review: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

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Movie Review
Directed by Richard Marquand
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Sebastian Shaw, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, James Earl Jones, David Prowse, Alec Guinness
Review by Andrew Kosarko


The third and final chapter in the wondrous STAR WARS saga is RETURN OF THE JEDI. Luke (Mark Hamill) must save Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of the monstrous Jabba the Hut, and bring down the newly reconstructed–and even more powerful–Death Star. With Solo imprisoned, Luke accompanies his faithful droids R2D2 (Kenny Baker) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels) in a rescue bid, with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) also lending a hand. After they valiantly disentangle their friends from Jabba’s clutches, Luke returns to his Jedi Knight training with Yoda. Meanwhile, the Rebel Troops amass in an attempt to see off the impending threat from Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) and his new Death Star, with the operation being lead by Han Solo. But Luke must face Vader himself if he is to become a true Jedi Knight, and as he enters into a spirited battle with his light saber-wielding enemy, some surprising revelations await the young warrior.

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The always say, save the best for last, and while and I can openly admit that I prefer the New Hope trench run to the “Trap of Death Star II” and the training of Luke to the siege of Endor….Return of the Jedi does, in fact, have the greatest ending of them all with the climactic battle between two sith and a lone jedi. The “filler” up to that just doesn’t add up to it the way it should.

The Story: So, as stated above, the problem lies within taking down the shield generator for the newest Death Star. While an important plot point it is, we get very mislead within the “walking around the forest aimlessly” stuff. The ewoks, while very ‘cute’ to the female audience and quotable to the fanboys, are really quite un-interesting in this reviewers opinion. Upon repeat viewings, you just want to skip over the Jabba stuff or the whole deal with Endor and get right into the Luke/Vader stuff. We have gone through 2 whole movies setting this up and it only goes down in the last ¼ of the movie. In my opinion, there was enough to subject matter to last ¾ of the movie to have Luke and Vader going at it. There is no more of the Vader attempting to convert Luke to help him overthrow the empire. Apparently after telling Luke that he’s his father, Darth Vader figured that wonderful piece of information wouldn’t change Luke’s mind in the slightest to turning to the Dark Side with him. No imaginative tricks or tests are done by Vader to lure Luke away. Instead we have tribal celebration ceremonies by Care Bears. It’s only when Luke comes to face the Emperor, the run-a-way role of the movie, that things really start to get interesting.

Acting: For the most part, it’s the same old same from all the actors. Although, Han Solo isn’t as gruff and pirate-y as he has been in the past. He’s been well, domesticated in a sense. It’s been said in Empire of Dreams that Ford believed Solo should have been killed off, and it really shows in his performance that he doesn’t care much to be there. The newest and really, only main editions are Ian McDiarmid and Warwick Davis as the Emperor and Wicket the Ewok respectively. McDiarmid does a great job making the Emperor the epitome of evil. He’s creepy, malicious and powerful. Davis does some method acting for Wickett. He studied his dog’s mannerisms to show emotion through the mask and act like an animal. Turning his head in various motions to display emotions. Excellent acting for the two newest entries.

Directing:   Richard Marquand does an ok job. But there’s a lack of interest in almost every scene. The breath of emotions are just lacking. The only time you really get emotionally captured into the film, is, the end. Now whether it be the writing or the directing or the acting or the placement of those scenes in the shooting schedule, something rattled that production to make an amazing climax to the best trilogy of films of all time. I lean towards the writing and the idea of adding filler prior to it. I’d have been much more apt to seeing a battle between Luke and Vader/Emperor go for 2 hours. Or even have that occur early in the film and the remainder of how the galaxy is rebuilt. Any way you look at it, the director is the sole responsible factor for it all.

Cinematography: Very gritty and realistic. Now while I don’t love the fake CGI worlds of the prequels, Star Wars, in my opinion, requires a scent of imagination to it. Something otherworldly. Somehow, the world of Endor just doesn’t cut it for me. The cinematography is just boring to look at. As is Tattooine. The Death Star, however, is the strongest of all with strong colors and contrast with dark lighting to set the mood. Production Design: As listed above, the worldly stuff is very bland and “meh.” I understand the concepts of the worldly stuff being very primitive and the Empire being technology based. But I am not intrigued with the primitive world unless you provide a focus on it that makes it imaginative and fresh. This production design lacks it.

Editing: Again, lacks any real focus up until the final confrontation. The parallel action that takes place is the best way to have several climaxes going on at once is the best way to tell the story. Cutting out lackluster action and keeping the audience guessing was the best way to go.

Score: John Williams. Any questions?

Special Effects: The best of the un-Special Editions. Special effects can only get better as time goes on. And while the 80’s isn’t well known for having the greatest special effects of all time, Lucasfilm does one of it’s greatest final visual effects jobs with using real ships and green screens to create realistic, yet imaginative, battle sequences.

In closing: Return of the Jedi, on first viewing, is a great film and a grand finale to the Star Wars trilogy. However, unlike it’s predecessors, is a bit lackluster on follow up screenings. You just want to fast forward to the end and the rest is just filler. Filler that doesn’t even hold your attention or have great scenes of interest. Sadly, this will be the last Star Wars film that people really can enjoy the lack of overdone special effects. On a final “happy note,” the film provides one of the greatest and repeated lines of all time, almost as much as “I am your father,” ………….It’s a trap!

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Movie Review: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

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Movie Review
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing
Review by Andrew Kosarko


THE EMPIRE STRIKE BACK continues creator George Lucas’s epic saga where STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE left off. The Rebel Forces–which include young adventurer Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), rogue pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and the beautiful but seemingly humorless Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)–have been successful in destroying the Evil Empire’s Death Star. However, the Empire’s top commander, the terrifying Lord Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), is scanning the galaxy for the Rebels’ secret location. After a visually stunning showdown on the ice planet Hoth, the Rebels are forced to flee, and Luke separates from Han and Leia. Masterful storytelling weaves multiple, archetypal plotlines that pit Vader against Han and Leia as he desperately attempts to capture Luke for political–and, secretly, personal–reasons. Luke, meanwhile, finds himself under the tutelage of the tiny but powerful old Jedi Master Yoda, who teaches him the ways of the Force and warns the impatient but talented student against the threat of the Dark Side.


The movie that redefined sequels, franchises and “dark” movies in general. This movie changed the way we see and make films. It is complex and fun. It’s dark and emotionally tearing. It’s innovate, fresh and original, yet still loyal to the archetypes of old. It’s also proof that other people do a better job filming George Lucas’ ideas than Mr. Lucas himself.

The Story: What can I say? The movie has a narrative outline that has you guessing from the start. Until this point, sequels (sans Godfather pt. 2) really just followed the same outline as the first installment, with writers playing Mad Libs in their creation. This film takes place shortly after a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Our characters have moved on a bit from when we last left them so we’re already hooked to catch up with them before they take off for their newest arcs. Luke is kicking ass as the leader of the rebels, Han Solo is sticking around to do what he feels is right, and Leia is keeping her mouth shut about something.

After the end of A New Hope………who the hell saw all that coming? Well, don’t worry, cuz we’re running past that right away. Han decides he’s gonna blow town and get Jabba off his back so he can….well we never do find out where he’d go after that. I, personally, always believed that he just did that little song and dance to get Leia to out herself and her feelings for him. Space pirates need lovin too. And our boy Luke? Well, when he’s not being used as a pawn in Han and Leia’s love games (which is really sick if you think about it), he’s right back to disobeying his mentors. In this case, the amazing Yoda. And no kiddies, this was before talking in backwards fragments was cool. Obi Wan is ghosting around on occasion, but the real haunting presence comes from Darth Vader, looking for the young rebel who screwed up their plans in the first movie, seeking his revenge. Err….so we think.

Then we find out that Vader is actually after him to try and give him a sales pitch to join the bad guy club. Uh…wait…nope, we’re wrong again. And then we get hit with the biggest and greatest twist in movie history (The 6th sense can kiss Empire’s ass). Oh, and did a mention we get Billy Dee Williams as a Diet Han Solo? Well…..when you have someone as badass as Billy Dee in a side role, you gotta water him down so not to steal the sun from Harrison. All that leads to a culmination of ends for all the characters. You never guess how Luke will end his training, how Han pays his debt to Jabba, Darth’s sales pitch to Luke. All the stories going on are incredibly impossible to predict, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great movie. In this case, one of the absolute undisputed BEST of all time.

Acting: Everyone really steps up here. Maybe it’s because Kershner gave them something past “Faster and more intense.” Hamill is able to play the whiney and emotional character that Hayden Christianson wishes he could have been allowed to hit. Harrison Ford really understands what Han Solo is all about. Not that he didn’t in the first, but you can just really feel the pirate badass in him this go around. Carrie Fisher does a fantastic job as well. For once I have a female lead who is a badass fighter…..and it doesn’t feel forced or “in the movie to have an independent woman.” She’s not trying to be any of those, she just is. Which is what makes her the best female heroin I believe I’ve ever seen. Her emotions are real, she’s still a woman, but still holds a sense of reason and accountability.Directing: Irvin Kershner is my hero. Character directing is what I love the most, favoring it over plot directing. Kershner knows how to blend the characterization with the plot and doesn’t over do it the way Lucas does in the prequels. The story moves through them and we actually care about the characters in a way we never thought we could. We really feel like we’re in it with them and at the end of the first time you see this movie, you’re pretty flabbergasted at what the hell just happened. The mark of great directing if you ask me.

Cinematography: Well done for what it was. I know that filming in snow is a ridiculous and very ambitious job, but I love them for it. The sets of Hoth are beautifully photographed and really open up the worlds. It doesn’t feel like we’re in the arctic. We’re on another world. And that all subtlety comes through the way it’s shot.

Production Design: Once again, excellent. This is before George Lucas was able to go CGI crazy on the film and take the realism out of them.

Editing: Bar far, absolutely great. The dogfights, the chases, the lightsaber duel. All of the above are just so well handled and paced. The movie never really lags sans a couple bits with C3PO, but it flows very well. It’s in, tells ya what you need to know and makes you feel what you need, and then moves on.

Score: John Williams is film composer God. Need I say anymore?

Special Effects: Impressive. Most impressive. A step up from the original, the colors of the lightsabers are better maintained this go around. The Imperial walkers are very realistic, as are the speeders and other ships within the film. All well designed and shot.

In closing: “In every great story, you know that when you launch into the second act, everything goes to hell. And that’s usually the best part of any story.” That’s a loosely paraphrased quote from Lawrence Kasdan, one of the producers, during Empire of Dreams. I live my screenwriting life off that quote because it’s so true. It’s very much echoed in the superhero films of modern day – because they’re franchises. Spider-man 2, Superman II, The Dark Knight and no doubt countless more to come. There’s a great quote from Spider-man in which the Green Goblin explains to Peter, “The one thing people love more than a hero is to see a hero fail. Fall. Die trying.” The epitome of drama is in the fall from heaven and this movie makes you realize how hard you can fall. George Lucas is a master architect of story plot, just not always the best person to tell them. The Empire Strikes Back is a sci-fi epic tragedy that connects us closer to the characters that we thought were just “really cool” at one point. But now we hate them, love them, feel for them. Because of this movie, we’re in it with them. We’re ready to embrace our destinies and do what needs to be done in the next go around……

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Movie Review: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

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Movie Review
Directed by George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford
Review by Andrew Kosarko

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As the adventure begins, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), an impulsive but goodhearted young man who lives on the dusty planet of Tatooine with his aunt and uncle, longs for the exciting life of a Rebel soldier. The Rebels, led by the headstrong Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), are fighting against the evil Empire, which has set about destroying planets inhabited by innocent citizens with the Death Star, a fearsome planetlike craft commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and the eternally frightful Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones). When Luke’s aunt and uncle are murdered by the Empire’s imperial stormtroopers and he mysteriously finds a distress message from Princess Leia in one of his androids, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), he must set out to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a mysterious old hermit with incredible powers. On his journey, Luke is aided by the roguish, sarcastic mercenary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his towering furry sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) as they run into a host of perilous situations while trying to rescue the princess–and the entire galaxy.


A long time ago, in a Hollywood far, far away…..George Lucas was an innovative film maker. Well, I’m a little shocked. I can’t believe this film series has been reviewed yet. So I’m doing it before anyone else beats me to the punch. I also think it’s kind of interesting seeing as I’m one of the few people to “review the first Star Wars Film” after the prequels have come out. So lets get into it, shall we?

The Story: The perfect depiction of “the heroes’ journey.” Anyone who has an interest in storytelling should study this film along with the ideals of the Heroes’ Journey. The structure is perfect. There’s never a boring moment, the story is always pushing forward and revealing more and more about our characters. Those characters are also, near perfect with defining attributes that you would never question their purpose of involvement. Luke Skywalker is at the start of his journey under the guidance of Obi-wan Kenobi. Accompanied by our outside eyes and ears, the druids of C3PO and R2D2, they join forced with the rugged pirate Han Solo and his furry side kick, Chewbacca. Not only does Lucas have excellent stories to tell, but he tells it in a masterful of ways. Chewbacca never speaks a word of English, nor has subtitles and yet we understand everything he’s saying by others’ retorts. Same with R2D2. Obi-wan is wise and mysterious, teaching without teaching. Han Solo, well, one of my favorite words in my reviews is “badass.” And there is no other word that can describe him. And last but not least, we have our strong heroin who is just as tough, if not stronger, than her farm boy brother. The real strength in this film is the story. Luke progresses from farm boy, to new adventurer to growing hero, to a savior of the rebellion. And of course, no one can forget the greatest villain of all time, Darth Vader. It just doesn’t get more evil and sinister than him.

Acting: In the documentary, “Empire of Dreams” which I would suggest to anyone after they’ve seen the Original Trilogy, Carrie Fisher speaks of George Lucas’ dialogue; “You can write this stuff but you can’t speak it.” Which is why the acting is so extraordinary in this film. It’s the same dialogue in the new prequels, but notice how it’s not hard to listen to when Luke or Leia speak it, opposed to Hayden Christianson.

Mark Hamill / Luke Skywalker – Now, Star Wars, in a sense, is “before my time.” I know absolutely nothing of Mark Hamill’s early work. All I know is he did a Christmas episode with the muppets and later went on to portray the voice of the Joker on Batman the animated series. Nevertheless, Hamill is the perfect casting for the young farm boy with a heart of gold and the naïve courage to march into a detention center.

Carrie Fisher / Princess Leia Organa – Now I wasn’t around during the feminist era, but I’m sure this was a product or lightning rod of it. Fisher plays the role strong and intelligent. She’s a damsel in distress, but she fights back instead of waiting for the hero to come save her. She is the personification of the Rebellion.

Harrison Ford / Han Solo – I know this role has lead to so many other things for Ford, but I don’t think he’s had a better role. Blade Runner comes close, but still. Han Solo is his defining role. He’s smart, charming, clever, bold, head strong and selfish. I can’t think of a more enjoyable role to play without being a bad guy.

Alec Guinness / Obi Wan Kenobi – The man delivers every line like it’s Shakespeare, and it was just what was needed seeing as these films are the closest we’ve gotten since Billy-Bob Shakespeare put his pen down. Guinness is strikes us as honorable, wise and trustworthy from the second he shows up. Although, to this day I still wonder how he made that weird ass whistling noise to scare off the sand people.

Directing: “Faster and more intense” was Lucas’ main direction to his cast. Which I wish he could have resurrected that phrase when directing the slow prequels. He’s at his best here with the limitations that he had to deal with. This was hard, dirty, gritty rough hands work. Which is one of the strengths of the film. It’s realism in it’s production design and even in the visual and special effects. Lucas did the best he could with what he had.

Cinematography: Old school 70’s cinematography. While there isn’t any really ground breaking shots or techniques in the realistic shots, it’s still well covered.

Production Design: Very strong. It’s futuristic, er, well, in this case, historic. Well, it’s far more advanced than what we ever, at the time of it’s release, thought possible. Or even dreamed. Yet it has a slightly gritty look to it. Not a Bladerunner look per say, but still, not sterile either. It really helps establish the world(s) that we’re playing in as believable.

Editing: For the most part it’s sufficient for what it does. I still don’t know how the shot of the storm trooper bumping his head on the door when they bust in and find C3PO and R2D2 was left in, but ok, whatever. Where I do have to give it some credit is covering the lightsaber duel between Vader and Kenobi. Guinness being his age and only instructed in proper swordsman ship was limited in what he could do (Check out some of the special features and the footage from it all). The edit makes it look like he still has some fight in him.

STAR WARS IMAGESScore: One of the truly remarkable aspects of the entire film. It lifts the material from the scale of amazing to epic. John Williams hit two big scores (no pun intended) in this era with both Star Wars and Jaws. He establishes himself as one who doesn’t resort to gimmicks and remains with the classical approach to music writing, while keeping in tune with the emotional context of the story.

Special Effects: Now this is what’s groundbreaking. There’s a great collaboration between the production team and the visual effects team. The ships combined with the green screens and compilations of layers create some of the most realistic and invigorating elements in the film. The shots and editing can’t really be complimented, seeing as most of them are ripped off from old stock footage of dog fights.

In closing: The beginning of great film making starts here, and ends in the same place. George Lucas both created the most amazing aspects of the film world and then bastardized them by abusing them too much. Letting them spew out into other films and basically demolishing the “aww factor” in movies. The work done in this film was earned and hard done. Lately the cinema business has become lazy and cheaper with the same mind set. Sadly, it takes all the fun out of the movies. Regardless of it’s lasting effects in movies, this film still stands the test of time. It’s engaging, entertaining, interesting and fun. And it’s got a little bit, ok, a LOT of moral lesson whipped into it. But it’s neither preachy nor too subtle. Star Wars is the movie of our century. It still effects film making today, and will remain to for many years to come.




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Movie Review: SUPERMAN 2 (1980)

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SUPERMAN 2, 1980
Movie Reviews

Directed by Richard Lester, Richard Donner
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando and Terrance Stamp.
Review by Andrew Kosarko


Picks up where Superman 1 leaves off (kind of) and extends into the “I don’t want to be Superman” storyline right after he’s just become Superman.


Now, I know that synopsis was a little weaker than usual, but that basic gist of both movies. And yes, I mean there’s two different versions of this and that’s whats kept me from writing this review for so long. But now I’ve seen both Lester and Donner’s versions. Despite what some may say, I prefer Lester’s version overall, but Donner definitely had the right mind going in.

The Story:

Both films deal with Clark’s decision to give up his powers in an attempt to live a normal life with Lois. My issue with this is only that it happens so soon in the franchise / continuity of the story since both films timelines are supposed to be set back to back – picking up where one left off. But that’s irrelevant at this point. Here’s the lowdown in the difference between the two films: Donner makes a better character arc for Clark in the discussions with Jor EL (Brando) and the laying down of the Superman mantle is much more interesting and explained. Furthermore, the love scenes between Clark/Superman and Lois Lane work so much better in this version. The very first scene with Lois and Clark in the Donner cut made me so happy. It was something I had always wanted to see. Oddly enough though, while the romance/revealing of Clark as Superman and the character transitions that are better handled in this film still leave Clark out as the main focus of the film. It’s very Dark-Knightish in the scene that the story is kind of all over the place and doesn’t necessarily stick with Superman most of the time. In fact, he really doesn’t show up for about an hour into the film – which for an origin is acceptable, but this is the sequel here; lets get shit moving can we? Now, here’s where Lester’s version comes in. While some of the ideas that are utilized in the action sequences are quite ridiculous (cellophane S’s thrown from Superman’s chest and this Vanishing act power that he seems to have) they are still far better than Donner’s cut. The pacing and excitement just aren’t in Donner’s cut as they are in Lesters. Not to mention, the single greatest line Superman has ever said on film, “General, would you care to step outside?” (which for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of subtext, this loosely translates into “General, would you care to get your ass whooping now?”). No, instead we get “General, haven’t you ever heard of the freedom of the press?” LAME. Overall, I think what my problem is with some of the Donner cut, is that he’s obviously quite bitter about Lester taking over and chooses to put his own footage back in for some scenes, even if it’s incomplete or doesn’t work as well.

Finally, the film ends with Superman spinning the world back again and completely un-doing all the events of the film from everyone’s mind, chalking it up to déjà vu. Not to mention he violates major comic book code when he KILLS LEX LUTHOR at the end. Hindsight is 20/20 Mr. Donner and a better approach should have been taken for this, not to mention blowing up the Fortress of Solitude for absolutely no reason. But don’t worry – it’s all undone in the backwards spinning world. Lester’s film, while campy and ridiculous at times seems to work better as a whole, while Donner’s film only just “has it’s moments.”


For the most part, all of the actors hold their own. Reeves as Superman needs no comment. Even later in Superman 4 he still works that role better than anyone ever has or will. Margot kidder is much less annoying in Donner’s cut and much more believable. Gene Hackman – I apologize for my rant in my Superman 1 review. I recently watched the “Look! Up in the sky” documentary and was schooled on the history of Lex Luthor, who was a madman up until the 1980’s when they developed his

business man persona. Until then in the comics, Luthor was a crazed madman/scientist. So I apologize for the injustice I gave that performance and interpretation of the character. The real two characters that leap out are Terrance Stamp as General Zod, who’s quite a likable baddie in Lester’s cut (in a good way) and more of a dark sinister angel of death in Donner’s cut (also good) and Brando’s Jor-El. Zod’s performance can be attributed to Stamp’s ability to make the role work in whatever form and not violate the character. Brando as Superman’s father is incredible in the restored footage in Donner’s cut. It’s a shame they replaced him with his mother for Lester’s cut. Same dialogue and concepts, but come off completely different and much more powerful from Brando.


I think I’ve touched enough on this in my story – but it’s simple, take the dramatic scenes from Donner, the action from Lester (sans a couple of moments ) and the movie would be phenomenal as a whole. I’m sure some fanboy somewhere has ripped both films and cut them together by now and I’m sure it’s a great thing to watch if it can be found…


Same as always, although Donner’s cut has more of his personal stamp on it whereas Lester’s just seems more like cliché soft focus/fogged 80’s cinematography.

Production Design:

Good as always. A lot of projection backgrounds, but I can deal.


Lester’s is much better edited because they had an opportunity to create pacing and emotion in the scenes. Donner’s completed scenes work phenomenally, however, the scenes that are incomplete and mixed with Lester’s footage fail miserably. Score: Here’s the shocker of the century. John Williams sucks. Yeah, I said it. Now, I don’t know if he was brought back to re-score Donner’s cut or if existing track music was selected by Donner to be placed over scenes but the music just does not work at all in Donners cut. The Superman theme is non-existant most of the time, especially in the fight scenes (where it’s needed most.) The score in Lester’s isn’t by Williams, but it works with that edit. There’s emotional justification in it and it just makes the film more exciting. So if Williams was brought in for Donner’s re-cut, then shame on him. But if he wasn’t, no ill will towards him, but someone should have told Mr. Donner you can’t cover up bad scenes with bland music.

Special Effects:

The 70’s effects of Lester’s film were better than most of the shoestring budget effects that were created for the Donner recut. But overall, it’s all forgivable given the dating of this film.

In closing:

Somewhere between these two films lies potentially a fantastic Superman film. Neither director, in my opinion, fully “got it” enough to hit that mark of potential that I still believe Superman has. If someone could really grasp the proper handling of these films, we’d have an epic film that would dwarf any comic book film. Sadly, ego’s, money and lazy storytelling stand in the way. Unlike Superman, not everyone believes enough to keep fighting till it’s done right.

PS: The worst part of the Donner cut is the removal of Bill Cosby from Perry White’s wall, but he makes it up with Super Copy teeshirts.


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Movie Review: SUPERMAN (1978)

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Classic Movie Review
Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
Review by Andrew Kosarko


A young boy is sent away from the planet Krypton before it’s destruction. He lands on Earth and is raised by a farm couple named the Kents to be an all American boy. Upon learning the lessons of life, he realizes his special abilities make him different. When his father passes away from a heart attack, Clark has a discovery that he must use his special talents to help pass on the values of his father. He journeys north and dawns the suit that will come to represent Earth’s greatest savior….


So, let me start this review by saying that I’m a Batman fan first and foremost. And I’ve always been a Batman fan, even before the success of “The Dark Knight.” Now that being said, it is my belief, that Superman holds the potential for the having the title of “The Greatest Superhero Movie Ever Made.” Keyword in that sentence? “Potential.”Let me start by addressing…

The Story: The script moves very slow, steadily building towards Clark becoming Superman. It’s quite obvious that some of the roles from the comic book mythology are beefed up to support the actors playing the roles, such as Marlon Brando playing Jor-El, Superman’s biological father. A better part of the first act is based on planet Krypton before it’s destruction. This is, by far, the most interesting part of the movie simply because the “good parts” are not skimped over or rushed. The pacing is on beat and the story moves through character development. Once the film moves to Earth and we fast forward to Clark’s teen years, many important “Superman-necessary” elements are glimpsed over vaguely in exchange for the stereotypical “you’re alone” themes. The most disappointing scene is when Clark finally creates the Fortress of Solitude and dawns the suit for the first time. It has such great potential to be a goose bump raising moment and it passes over it. The script then because very repetitive and falls into a lull of random disasters that Superman must stop, including a half baked scheme to sink ½ of California by Lex Luthor.

Now that’s the plot. As far as characterization goes, Superman, Lois Lane, The Kents, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are spot on. The relationship between Superman and the other characters hit spot on. Sometimes the film takes liberties with the subject matter to expose some exposition, such as the flying around of Superman and Lois and her “Can you read my mind?” monologue. These sequences are somewhat dated with the style of the 70’s, but can easily be enjoyed today once you look at it in perspective.

The only character that, sadly, is astray from his original comic book mythos, is Lex Luthor. Now many philosophers have said, “A hero is only as good as his villain.” This script demonstrates a maddening effect on the audience as Superman is easily built up to be a great hero, and Lex Luthor comes off like a second rate villain. His schemes and rationality are far fetched and “kiddy.” Never once during the film do you feel as though he is a threat against Superman, even when he busts out the kryptonite. It’s because of this that the film fails to hit it’s potential of the greatest Superhero film ever. And once Lex is introduced, the film falls into a campy mess that it can’t escape from, even if you spun the world backwards….

Acting: My God the great acting that takes place in this film. Christopher Reeve may not have top billing, but he steals the show. His performance as Clark Kent/Superman has become the pinnacle of standards that every super hero has to live up to – in film, comics or any other form. Margot Kidder is feisty as Lois Lane and believable as a hard nosed reporter who won’t go away. Marc McClure is great fun as Jimmy Olsen is great at being a bigger nerd than Reeve’s Clark Kent. Gene Hackman is a great actor, and while I don’t particularly agree with his characterization of Lex Luthor, he upholds the acting level to the height it needs to be and still makes for some enjoyable moments. The supporting cast, while smaller roles, contribute greatly to the film. Everyone from the Kents, to the reporters in the office, or the two-bit thugs that Superman has to overcome, everybody is colorful and memorable.Superman Reeve

Directing:Richard Donner has done the best job with Superman so far. As director, he finds himself responsible for the whole film and it’s said to know that it was taken out of his hands by the film studio and reworked in a different way. I prefer to believe that the first half of the movie was directed Donner and the studio took over as it starts to fall apart.

Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth does a fantastic job capturing Superman and the world around him. The camera work never bothers the viewer and some great affects are created with it. The film, at that point in technology’s time, lived up to it’s tagline: You will believe a man can fly.

Production Design: John Barry is a great production designer and comic book films must be a dream to work on. The creative freedom one can have to create new worlds or to shape the ones we live in to reflect what we imagine in our head. Everything from planet Krypton to the all-American Kent farm, everything is imaginative and well designed.

Editing: The film is pieced together well, if a bit slow at times.

Score: Ok. Now while the film doesn’t grab that title of Best Superhero Movie Ever, John Williams is a man you do not mess with. Rivaled only by Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, John Williams creates the greatest Superhero theme of all time. The music is so uplifting and by the first couple of notes, if the hair on the back of your neck isn’t standing up and there’s not a smile on your face, then check your pulse. You might be dead if you’re not excited.

Special Effects: As mentioned in the cinematography section, at the time these effects were top of the line. The team did a great job in making the audience believe a man could fly. To some extent, the effects still hold up today, implying old school techniques such as stop-motion, flying harnesses and special lenses that, in this reviewers opinion, blow CGI out of the water any day.

In closing: Superman: The movie is one of the greatest Superhero movies of our time. While it doesn’t live up to it’s vast potential, it gets 90% of it’s characters right and when dealing with a subject matter like this, that’s what’s important. That’s why comics have so many issues and so many characters become franchises. The characters keep people coming back for more. When the film allows itself to be the great characters that it’s trying to adapt, the story comes through and shines brightly. Even with all it’s character flaws and spotty 1970’s crazy science theories, the film still stands out as a great step forward in bringing some of the world’s most imaginative characters to life and wanting us to come back for more. I’ll hold my breath for the day Superman gets the villain he deserves. When the day comes where that finally happens, movies like The Dark Knight, Spider-man 2 and Iron man will pale in comparison. For now, I’ll enjoy having my favorite character on top, having my dirty little secret being that I can’t wait for the day he loses it to Superman.

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