So earlier tonight I took my son Emmett to the nearby movie theater, which was showing a 40th anniversary screening of Superman: The Movie.
Now, I consider Superman to be the greatest superhero film of all time—despite dated graphics, despite the stupidity of the Man of Steel turning back time by flying around the world, despite some jarringly bad cuts and audio tricks. It’s simply a wonderful film, carried by the magnetic charisma of Christopher Reeves, the feisty urban power punch that is Margot Kidder and an origin story that works 100 fold. Seriously, if you’ve never seen Superman: The Movie, well, see it. It’s joyful.
That said, the 1978 film is also home to the single worst scene in great movie history. And, after tonight, I’m not even sure there’s a close second.
To set the dynamic … I’m sitting with Emmett. He’s eating some candy, I’m sipping a soda. Everything’s going swimmingly, Clark Kent has established himself as Superman, he’s a reporter/hero, Lois is busy following leads, Jimmy is snapping photos. And then—BOOM!—Superman asks Lois if she’d like to fly with him.
Here’s the dialogue that follows—all via Lois’ head …
Can you read my mind?
Do you know what it is that you do to me?
I don’t know who you are. Just a friend from another star.
Here I am, like a kid out of school. Holding hands with a god.
I’m a fool. Will you look at me? Quivering.
Like a little girl, shivering.
You can see right through me.
Can you read my mind?
Can you picture the things I’m thinking of? Wondering why you are all the wonderful things you are.
You can fly. You belong in the sky.
You and I could belong to each other.
If you need a friend, I’m the one to fly to.
If you need to be loved, here I am.
Read my mind.
I mean—Jesus Christ. It’s so awful, and as Emmett’s chuckles punctured an otherwise silent theater, all all I could do was shrug and chuckle, too. Because it’s THAT bad. Seriously, I’d love to travel back in time and ask the writers what, exactly they were thinking. Or smoking. Was it an effort to draw in female fans? A need to show Superman’s sensitive side? Because it’s not merely the cheesiest of cheesy. It’s an actual mood killer.
Luckily, the movie recovers.