It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a week for Superman – both his dedicated fans, viewers of the DC Films, and the actor who recently played him on the big screen. Henry Cavill announced that he no longer would be returning to the role of Superman, this despite recording a video proclaiming his return thanks to a celebrated cameo in Black Adam that now apparently means nothing. At the same time, shortly before Cavill made the announcement that his “turn to wear the cape has passed,” Superman fans looked back even further into the character’s cinematic history to celebrate Superman: The Movie turning 44 years old – Richard Donner’s classic opened in theaters on December 15, 1978.
Donner’s masterpiece made audiences believe that a man could fly. And that man was Christopher Reeve, the first actor to wear Superman’s tights in a big-budget, studio-sanctioned motion picture. (George Reeves appeared as Superman in a film that served as a promotion for his eventual TV series, so I’m giving Reeve the nod as the Man of Steel most audiences remember as being first.) Fans of the franchise, of the character, and of Reeve took to social media to celebrate his iconic portrayal on the anniversary of the film, sharing Tweets such as:
SUPERMAN premiered 44 years ago today, so here's a great moment from the film: Christopher Reeve takes off his glasses, straightens his posture, and transforms into the Man of Steel in front of our eyes. pic.twitter.com/lRIR3peij8December 10, 2022
No special effects. Just Christopher Reeve using physical body language to convey the sheer difference between his portrayal of Clark Kent and Superman. His posture and stance were assisted by John Williams’ score, which indicated that we were in the presence of a hero, of a god. But Reeve did so much to capture the spirit and confidence of Kal-El, as well as the sheepish mousiness of Clark, with small decisions he made in his appearance. It’s why so many paid respects to him when he died. He really was an effective special effect, all to himself.
More Tweets that landed on social media in honor of Superman: The Movie turning 44 years old took notice of the humanity that Christoper Reeve brought to the part. He was wholesome and good. He was tender and humane. He allowed himself to show that he could be hurt, could feel, could bleed. Things that made him feel more like his adopted species – humans – than like his native species. Superman is a god amongst us. Christopher Reeve helped make him a man, as well.
People like to pretend that Christopher Reeve as Superman was just corny one-liners. In reality we saw him fall in love, he felt pain and doubt. Most of all he was human. He felt like a friend and not some distant super-god. Thats why he is iconic. pic.twitter.com/cQXNqAAtLRDecember 10, 2022
And then my eye was drawn to this incredible quote that is attributed to Christopher Reeve, though I can’t seem to find it anywhere else beyond this Tweet by Kevin Rubio.
“It was my privilege to be the on screen custodian of the character in the 70s and 80s. There will be many interpretations of Superman, but the original character created by Siegel & Schuster in the 30s will last forever.” ~ Christopher Reeve #Superman pic.twitter.com/UsKpA6mhH1December 15, 2022
There’s a beautiful irony in that quote, given everything that just happened with Henry Cavill and the role of Superman. Every single actor’s time in the suit is fleeting. We think, based on recent events, that Gal Gadot said farewell to Wonder Woman after the news broke that Patty Jenkins would not be moving forward with Wonder Woman 3. And yes, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were redeemed by Spider-Man: No Way Home, but only because their respective runs as Spider-Man ended abruptly, and on bad terms.
The future of the Man of Steel is uncertain. But we are certain Superman will have A future, because as Cavill and Reeve both point out, the character’s larger than them. His presence is the reason why we spend time ranking Superman movies or putting our favorite Superman suits in order. He’s a character who fascinates and enthralls. And will continue to do so 44 years from now, without a doubt.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.