The superhero movie genre has never been as popular as it is today, but both Marvel Studios and DC Films continue to use Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie as an example to strive towards. Released back in 1978, director Richard Donner delivered an origin story for Superman that has so far gone unmatched. The Christopher Reeve starred flick took audiences on a journey as Clark Kent learned of his abilities and went on to save the day in typical hero fashion, and the way the film unfolds has kept in the conversation to be one of the best superhero films of all-time.
The target audience for the modern superhero genre may not have been around back when Donner’s first Superman movie hit theaters, but it has left a lasting impression on all who watch it – including some of the most powerful men in the superhero movie genre today.
The Academy honored Donner’s storied career yesterday and had many familiar names on hand to share stories of his influence. Two of the men in attendance were none other than Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and DC Films president Geoff Johns – both of whom were former assistants to the Donners. As noted by IGN, both men pointed to Superman as being hugely influential to the movies they are working to make right now – where Johns called it, “the greatest superhero movie film still, ever.” Feige noted that he’s made a practice to rewatch the perfect origin story before they begin every MCU production:
Superman: The Movie is still to this day the archetype of the perfect superhero film origin story and we watch it before we make almost any one of our films, and that’s been the case for the past seventeen years since I left the fold to go work for Marvel.
Even though fans on both sides of Marvel/DC camps have created a rivalry between the properties, it goes to show just how similar they actually are. Marvel and DC’s films may be different in their style, approach, and/or tone, but with using Superman as their goal, they are drawing from the same source.
Marvel has made its fair share of great origin stories already with Iron Man particularly standing out, but they’ve also adopted a similarly light-hearted tone that Superman had and kept the focus on the heroes – both when they are and are not saving the day. With more potential origin stories coming, Feige and company should prepare to watch Superman many more times.
DC meanwhile has also pulled from Superman, with the most recent release of Wonder Woman being a shining example of that. This was very intentional on the part of director Patty Jenkins as she’s repeatedly cited Superman as inspiration for her vision. She even included plenty of callback sequences in the film, most notably reenacting the alley fight, but with the roles switched and Diana saving the day. As both cinematic universes move forward, we should only continue to see Superman have an influence on what they produce.