Christoper Reeve was truly an incredible actor. If you haven't seen his film Somewhere In Time, well, you will not be surprised to see him pull off a nuanced and moving performance. He gave a tour de force in Superman back in the late 70's. It was the beginning of a relatively brief, but brilliant career. The following is an examination of what makes him such a great (possibly the greatest) Superman in movie history. First, take a look at some of his best moments from Somewhere In Time:
SPOILER WARNING! Do not read if you haven't seen Superman (1978).
A Brief History of Reeve
Reeve was truly a remarkle guy to begin with. He found his passion for acting early by participating a school production of The Yeoman of the Guard and was ready to start a career in acting by the time he graduated high school. However, he applied and was accepted to FOUR ivy league institutions including Brown, Princeton, Cornell, and Columbia. He was also accepted at Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon.
So it appeared Chris's life was pretty well set to begin with. He chose Cornell, but by his third year there he applied and was accepted at Julliard. Instead of finishing his degree at Cornell, he used his first year at Julliard as the senior year of his degree at Cornell. Pretty freaking insane.
As many of you know. His close friend Robin Williams met Reeve at Julliard, and they shared classes together. After completing his first year of training (and obtaining his bachelor's from Cornell) Reeve auditioned for and was cast in a Broadway production of A Matter of Gravity.
Reeve Gets Cast
Reeve continued to work in the theatre, and small parts in Hollywood films until he was eventually asked to audition for...Superman...
Here is where things get amazing. While Reeve stood 6'4" he was undeniably skinny, and not physically suited for the part aside from his height. This didn't stop Casting Director Lynn Stalmaster from relentlessly pushing to have Reeve seen for the part. Eventually, producers gave in, and allowed Reeve to be seen. Reeve himself didn't think he had much of a chance at the role either, but took the audition very seriously. He decided to audition with the thought in mind that this was going to be a "dual role." Superman was a strong yet gentle and vulnerable character, while Clark was actually Superman pretending to be somebody else.
Reeve got the part, and trained with a professional weight trainer to gain the necessary muscle for the role. Yes, many actors do this, but it's our good fortune that the casting team of this film gave Reeve a chance to do it.
Reeve as Superman Pretending to be Clark Kent
As we can all see that is how things turned out, and it works pretty darn well. One way in which we can see how things work so well is that Reeve is constantly trying to maintain his Clark kent image while still protecting other people from harm. The result is comical, and very touching. WARNING: Spoilers. Just making sure you're paying attention. Observe:
It's brilliant. You see a very scared and afraid Clark Kent catch a freaking bullet, and not letting Lois see a bit of it. Then he screws up by describing everything that was in Lois's purse without actually opening it (which Lois notices).
Reeve as Superman
And then we actually have Reeve in the role without the facade. The resut is magnificent. I believe this film is helped immensely by John Williams score. Without it, I'm not sure it would be the same film, but I am sure that without Reeve this would not have been a Superman film. Please for the love of Pete do not watch the following clip if you haven't seen this film. It will ruin it for you.
Something you can never take away from histroy is that this man will forever be known as probably the best Superman that ever stepped in the shoes of the character. He is so likeable and vulnerable that when terrible things happen in the world of Kal-el we can't help but empathize with him.
Christopher Reeve made Superman...a man. A flawed, smiling, crying, and loveable man (it sounds like I have a crush on this guy).
Henry Cavill does a serviceable job in Supermans boots, but I can't help but miss the innocence and well-meaning demeanor that Christopher Reeve brought to the role. If Superman actually existed I have no doubt he'd be just like this.
The power of Reeve's portrayl can be seen in his words to Lois in the scene above when Margot Kidder complains "...I'm almost killed and to top the whole thing off this stupid car runs out of gas!" Reeve looks at her trying to supress his glee that she is still alive by saying "I'm sorry about that, Lois, but I've been kind of busy for a while." He is so happy that she is alive, and can't really tell her that he just reversed time to save her life. The best he can do is apologize and take her home.
Christopher Reeve's performance touches our hearts. He makes us want to be better people. When a guy dressed up in a blue and red costume can do that to you, you know it's a very powerful thing.
Christopher Reeve was, and always will be Superman.