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Summaries

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Superman: The Movie begins on the planet Krypton. Superman’s father sends him off to Earth as an infant to save him from the planet’s impending destruction. The boy grows up in small town America, and eventually becomes a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent. Once he arrives in Metropolis, Clark transforms himself into Superman—saving the city from crime. However, when he unknowingly threatens the criminal genius, Lex Luthor’s plans to take over the world, trouble comes looking for our hero.

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‘Superman: The Movie’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Superman: The Movie (1978)Superman: The Movie begins on the crystal planet of Krypton. Jor-El (Marlon Brando), the biological dad of Superman (Christopher Reeve), sentences three Kryptonian criminals, General Zod, Ursa and Non, to life in a prison dimension called the Phantom Zone.

Afterwards, Jor-El discovers its red supergiant star is about to go supernova—destroying Krypton in the process. He goes to the High Council to report his findings, but fails to convince them to abandon the planet.

To save his infant son, Kal-El, Jor-El decides to send him in a spaceship to a primitive planet called Earth. While the planet has a suitable atmosphere, his dense molecular structure will give him superhuman strength and powers. Soon after launch, Krypton’s sun explodes.

Three years pass, and the ship finally crash-lands on Earth near Smallville, Kansas. Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter) find the boy wandering in the crater, and bring them home to raise as their own. They name him Clark after Martha’s maiden name. However, when their truck breaks down on the way home, Clark’s able to lift it to help his new dad. The two realize this little boy is special.

Sixteen more years pass, and Jonathan suddenly dies of a heart attack. Shortly after, Clark hears some sort of psychic call bellowing to him. He finds a glowing-green crystal in the remains of his old spaceship.

Time to leave Smallville behind

It compels the young man to head to the Arctic where he eventually throws the crystal into the snow. From the spot it lands, his Fortress of Solitude explodes from the Earth in the image of Krypton’s architecture. Inside it, he finds a hologram of Jor-El where he explains Clark’s true origins. Clark spends the next twelve years there getting a proper Kryptonian education.

Now finally understanding why he’s on Earth, and what he’s capable of doing, Clark leaves the Fortress in a blue and red suit. With a red cape on his back, and the El family crest on the front, Clark flies to Metropolis where he assumes the role of mild-manner reporter for the Daily Planet in Metropolis.

At the Daily Planet, his boss, Perry White (Jackie Cooper) introduces him to his star reporter, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), and photographer, Jimmy Olson (Marc McClure). Clark is instantly smitten with the sassy woman.

Soon after his arrives, Lois is involved in a helicopter accident where no conventional means of rescue are possible. Clark dawns his blue and red suit for the first time in public, and flies to her rescue—must to her amazement and the gathered crowd.

He then goes on a crime-stopping spree. First he thwarts a jewel thief as he scales a tall building. He then captures some other thieves as they attempt to elude cops in a boat, and even rescues a little girl’s cat from a tree.

Look up in the sky

When this nameless man saves Air Force One from a lightning strike that destroys one of its engines, the caped wonder becomes a national hero. The very next night, this caped mystery man visits Lois at her penthouse apartment where he takes her for a flight over Metropolis. While in the air, Lois subjects the audience to one of the worst poetry readings of all time, but I digress. After Lois interviews him, she names him Superman, and a star is born.

Elsewhere in the world, the criminal genius Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) catches wind of a joint U.S. Army / U.S. Navy nuclear missile test. Since this version of Luthor desires to make a fortune in real estate, he buys hundreds of acres of worthless desert land in California before reprogramming one of the two 500 megaton missiles to detonate in the San Andreas Fault—thus ensuring that worthless land will become ocean front property when everything west of the fault sinks into the ocean.

However, Luthor is now aware of Superman, and knows he could be a huge thorn in his side. Somehow he’s able to deduce that a meteorite found in Addis Ababa is part of Krypton, and that it is radioactive to Superman. He sends his two cronies, the bumbling Otis (Ned Beatty) and lovely Eve Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine) to bring a piece of it back to his underground lair.

Superman gets a warm welcome

Even though Superman has no hint of who Luthor is or his plan whatsoever, Luthor lures him to his hideout where he tells him every detail of his plan. Although it might seem stupid to you or me that Luthor is revealing all to our hero, he plans to use that Kryptonite he found to immediately kill Superman dead.

When he exposes Superman to the meteor it weakens him greatly as hoped. As a little insurance policy, Luthor reveals he also programmed the second missile to head in the opposite direction where it will destroy Hackensack, New Jersey.

This upsets Miss Teschmacher greatly because her mother lives in Hackensack, but Luthor could care less. He casually leaves Superman to die a slow death in a pool with the Kryptonite. What Luthor never counts on is Miss Teschmacher’s betrayal. She knows Superman always keeps his word, and she makes him promise to stop that missile to Hackensack first in exchange for freeing him. Superman agrees.

Once free, Superman does divert that missile up into space, but as he does so, the westbound one detonates in the San Andreas Fault. Immediately, massive earthquakes erupt across California with much damage. Additionally, the tremors rupture the Hoover Dam—releasing its water, and endangering lives down the river’s path. Superman is able to fly down into the fault, and lift the land back up as it collapses—thus sealing the fault line. Luthor’s plan is mostly thwarted.

With all his power, Superman still can not save everyone

However, while all the devastation continues, Lois is out in California, and the earth below her car opens up and swallows her car whole. Lois finds herself trapped inside with no way out as the cars fills with dirt and debris. Superman isn’t able to reach her before she dies of suffocation.

With all his powers, Superman finds himself unable to save the people he loves. In a rage, he flies off into space—defying Jor-El’s earlier warning to never manipulate human history. As he flies around the Earth, its spin slowly stops and begins to go in reverse. This allows the planet to travel several minutes back in time before he sets the planet back to its natural rotation. He’s then able to fly back down to California, and save Lois from death.

With our great nation safe once again, Superman nabs Luthor and Otis before flying them to prison. Our film ends with Superman flying around the Earth with a big smile on his face. Little did he know at that time that he would be part of the third and fourth sequels!

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