April 29, 2014
I've never attempted a fan edit, but Superman: The Movie has long been on my list of movies I'd like to see re-cut with the modern audience in mind. While there is so much the film got right -- Reeve's casting, Williams' score, memorable lines, great character acting, etc. -- there's also several missteps in the final cut that can make sharing the magic of this film difficult to someone who prefers the faster-paced movies of today.
I've had a vague idea of the changes I'd like to see made to this film for several years now but I can enthusiastically say that Music Ed's edit not only captures them, but contains numerous additional edits I had never considered that make substantial improvements to the film overall.
It trims out a little over 30 minutes of fat out of the movie, helping the pace big time. The best part about these edits is that they're pretty seamless and actually improve pacing without seeming off -- I've seen a few fan edits that throw the pacing off by trying to get rid of unwanted scenes. This one mostly feels like a studio edit to me, with very few, if any, awkward scene transitions.
Some of the edits that made the biggest difference to me include:
• He changes the opening and reduces the time of Krypton by quite a bit -- as the fan wanted this to be a tight stand-alone movie, he removes the Zod and Phantom Zone stuff, since its all set-up for another movie. So the film opens on Krypton, with Jor-El warning the council. From there, he makes a lot of little edits that improve the pace -- it doesn't feel as slow as the original.
• The Superman opening credits and march come after Kal-El's rocket leaves Krypton and I really like what he did here, mixing in little snippets of Kal-El traveling in the spaceship (sans Jor-El voiceover). While I love the grandiose nature of Superman's opening credits, it can feel tedious to see name after name beam onto the screen -- by cutting away to Kal-El growing and traveling in the ship, it provides a nice bit of visual interest to the opening credits while keeping that amazing John Williams' theme front and center. And the funny thing is, that wasn't even the intention -- he wanted to get rid of the Phantom Zone actors names in the opening since they weren't in the edit and this was his solution. This may be my favorite single edit of this effort.
• He gets rid of the "Can You Read My Mind" voiceover while still keeping the Lois flight scene -- he edits it down very nicely. And what's great is that this scene fulfills the scene's point much better and actually feels sweet and romantic. It's a massive improvement.
• He trims down the parts with Otis being followed by the cops by quite a bit. Over time, I've come to like some of Otis' antics here but they do undermine the scene. As a kid, I didn't really even understand what was happening because I'd always zone out during this -- it's so much better paced and to the point without feeling rushed or awkward.
• He deletes the scenes where Luthor and his sidekicks change the missile coordinates. This is huge, because those scenes really drag and we really don't need to know how he pulled it off. In The Dark Knight, he just accept that the Joker pulled off all these schemes and traps -- we didn't need to see him setting them all up ahead of time.
Is this a *perfect* cut? No, because I don't think that's possible without access to the original footage and sound. While I miss a few little moments and on-liners (Superman running up to the public phones and seeing they're not booths, his line to the cat burgular, "Something wrong with the elevator?", etc.), I understand the reality of having to deal with a film's musical score forcing a fan editor into some difficult decisions on whether the good outweighs the bad in any particular scene.
Finally, he edited out the biggest flaw in this movie, the time reversal/travel ending. Now, Superman just averts the disasters and then flies down to talk to Lois as she tries to start her car. The edit itself is very tight, but the one problem it creates is that the film has no climatic, emotional moment. It's a tough call to make -- I really hate the whole deus ex machina of the idea, but it injects that extra emotion into the climax (thanks to Reeve's amazing acting) that you usually need in a movie.
I'm conflicted and still undecided on this edit, but I'm glad to see an edit that gets rid of this just to see how it would flow. It'd be interesting to see how this edit would play out to a person who has never seen this movie before -- would they feel something is missing or that it's an anti-climatic finale? Is it better to have that feeling than keep in one of the worst movie endings ever? I guess each viewer will have to decide on their own.
In any case, if you're a Superman: The Movie fan that would like to see a tighter cut with faster (and better, IMO) pacing, this is for you. This could be the version you might want to show to a friend who you know wouldn't like the slower pace of the first movie. At just under two hours, it covers all the bases and gives us the magic of this film without all the fat weighing it down.