Friday, October 15, 2004

The Death of a Superman

Christopher Reeve as Superman Photo - Superman in the BadlandsThis isn't the death of the Superman in the DC comic books or Warner Brothers movies, killed by villians, only to come back to life stronger than before. Christopher Reeve won't be coming back. There is no real Fortress of Solitude for him to regain his strength. But he's left a legacy that will hopefully endure, long after people remember that 'he was in a few Superman movies'.

I've had the 2-CD Superman score by John Williams playing the last couple of hours. I'm sad to hear about the passing of Chris but I'm smiling at moments of the film, playing over in my head. From the few notes in 'Leaving Home' that remind me of when Clark finds a remnant shard of Krypton in the Kent family barn to the rousing theme when Clark rescues Lois and the falling helicopter in 'The Big Rescue'. I'm getting chills up my spine just listening to the soundtrack again.

There are few DVD box sets that I will pick up the day they come out. The Superman Collection was one I didn't hesitate with. Sure the other 3 aren't up to the standard of the first one, but it's magic to see Superman in film, translated from static comic book imagery to gravity-defying motion. From Christopher Reeve's nearly flawless role as The Man of Steel to John Williams uplifting and adventurous score, Superman: The Movie is a film that should be remembered for the way it propelled our imaginations and made us all want to be superheroes. How many of us came out of the theater flying? Or put on a Superman shirt or bedsheet at home and pretended to save Lois Lane and the citizens of Metropolis? Christopher Reeve got to live that dream. It has been suggested by many that Superman: The Movie is the epitome of Comic Book Films, and others pale in comparison. Bryan Singer, Director of X-Men, and X2: X-Men United acknowledges that the Richard Donner Superman film was a big influence. If we had a DVD Commentary in the film, we could only imagine how Mr. Reeve would look back on his role now and wish to fly again. He certainly made me 'believe a man can fly.'

Superman wasn't just an American hero. He had some Canadian connections. From the earlier influences of one of his creators, Joe Shuster, to the filming locations in the movies themselves. I cannot drive through Southern Alberta without thinking of the Superman production filming there. Wondering if the cast and crew realized what magic they were creating. Seeing the wheatfields that stood in for Kansas, the town that stood in for Smallville, or Calgary, which doubled as Metropolis. And the Badlands where Lois was rescued from the Earthquake. It makes me wonder if we'll ever see another Superman inspire others as Reeve's portrayal inspired us. Just passing through a montonous, but beautiful prairie conjures images of a young Clark Kent discovering his new abilities.

Others have said it, and I have to agree - Christopher Reeve was a Superman in more ways than one. He was not an alien to our planet like Kal-El, but human like the rest of us. He wasn't impervious to pain and he was just as succeptible to injuries as any. It was reported that he fell into a depression after his accident and questioned life itself, but he rebounded with new found strength - like Superman ridding himself of the crippling Kryptonite - and began to fight new battles. To increase awareness of the disabled, to educate on stem cell research - dispelling the myths, and to mark a return to acting, magically playing a small guiding role to Clark Kent in TV's Smallville. The episode itself featuring a few nods to his character in the film.

Living up to the character he played was probably a difficult situation for Chris. As an actor, it's just another role, a job perhaps, but having played the character during a time when movies were the most important part of any of our lives, he portrayed a hero who did what he could for others, forsaking his own history - and even powers - in the process. Reeve probably knew, like others, that he might be labeled with the role of Superman for life, but he couldn't have chosen a better one to be associated with. He'll leave a few legacies with us though. Not only as Superman, the role we best know him for, but also his family who will carry on his legacy, and The Christopher Reeve Foundation. If his untimely death helps in one way, it will be the publicity for his causes and the Foundation itself, and the good it will do for others with disabilities.

I'm hoping Warner Brothers takes the opportunity with the new Superman feature film and dedicates it to Reeves. Or at least an 'In Memory Of' tag at the end of the film. Bryan Singer can do this with class, and it would be another fitting tribute to the one who will always be 'Clark Kent' and 'Superman:The Man of Steel'.

May he be flying again among the clouds and stars. He'll be missed by all.

The Christopher Reeve Foundation

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