Superman: Remembering Richard Donner, Creator of Modern Superhero Film

As predictable and formulaic superhero films are today, none of it would have been possible without Superman director Richard Donner, who passed at the age of 91. While the late director wasn't the first to put a superhero let alone, the Man of Steel, up on the big screen, the template he left behind in the hero's origin story, the adventure of self-discovery, and sense of wonder still resonates with us today in almost everything we have ever seen in the genre from DC and Marvel.

Superman: How Richard Donner Created the Modern Superhero Film
Image courtesy of Warner Bros

Yes, no one will ever take away how perfect the casting Christopher Reeve was as Kal-El, born of parents who had to abandon him as their planet of Krypton was about to be destroyed and sent away to the planet earth to be its champion. It was Donner who not only wanted Superman's tale to be told on earth but also to allow audiences to intimately know the shade of the man he'll become thanks to the guidance of his father Jor-El, played with such humility by Marlon Brando.

As the current generation of comic fans was exposed to Zack Snyder's Man of Steel in 2013, there was no controversy left the way Donner's vision left with audiences as the embodiment of the original vision from creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. There was simply nothing left to misinterpret from the 1978 Donner classic as a symbol of hope in the face of adversity. In other words, audiences were allowed to have empathy for Superman, but in Man of Steel, he was turned into someone who should always be feared. I'd even argue in the current realm of DC that Shazam! made for a better Superman-type story because everyone was allowed to embrace what they were given and be grateful for what they had. I will credit the DCEU's Henry Cavill for what he's given with, but unfortunately, he was never allowed to have fun in the role. In fact, Donner looked like he had fun in everything he ever did, from The Goonies, the Lethal Weapon franchise, and more.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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