As I've said before in previous Random Coolness posts, even though much of the comic book reading experience is about the "Big Stuff", I continue to insist that some of the coolest things in comics are minor elements and small details that have stuck with me over the years.
1. The Comic Book: Not exactly an obscure moment (it is the opening scene, after all), but I can't emphasize enough how brilliant this sequence is. Instead of shying away from Superman's quaint beginnings, the movie embraces them from literally the first frame...which was actually quite a brave thing to do during the anti-establishment fervor of 1970's cinema. The narration of a child earnestly reading a Golden Age comic book instantly brought the audience into a place free from the era's fashionable cynicism and into the realm of innocence, hope and the promise of high adventure.
4. Jor-El Alone: In another great bit of symbolism, an unpersuaded Science Council has adjourned their meeting and left Jor-El standing alone, with no support for his warnings of Krypton's impending destruction. This scene establishes a theme of solitude and isolation that will continue to surface throughout the movie.
5. "He will never be alone.": As a counterpoint to the previous image, Jor-El reassures his wife Lara that their Earth-bound son "...will not be alone. He will never be alone." Anyone who's seen the movie knows that Jor-El will essentially "live on" through the Kryptonian super-science of the crystals, so there's some very literal foreshadowing going on here. Shading the meaning a bit more may be Jor-El thinking about his own solitude (see #4) and how he's determined to prevent that for sonny boy.
7. Pa's Lil' Helper: In stark contrast to the horror of Krypton's demise was Kal-El's first meeting with a flabbergasted Ma and Pa Kent. A perfectly-cast Phyllis Thaxter and Glenn Ford are never pushed to sound like the corn-pone parodies that often pop up in the comic books and, instead, convey all the good-hearted dignity the roles demanded. Capping off the heartwarming sequence is little Clark's attempt to help out his kindly adopted parents by hoisting up the back of their pickup truck. The sweet look Clark's face is priceless, despite the "actor's" very young age.
8. Double Dust Clouds: Although Clark's goofy run alongside a train was a complete miss for me, a much more subtle depiction of Clark's super speed quickly made up for it. As the car carrying Lana, Brad, and the rest of the popular crowd turns down a dusty country road, far in the distance and to the right is the smaller (and much faster) dust cloud of Clark himself.
9. Closing the Gate: Although the entire funeral scene of Jonathan Kent is quite moving, the final shot's sweeping camera work and film score pack an extra powerful emotional punch. Listen carefully for the solemn toll of a church bell during the coda.
10. Opening the Doors: After the cemetery gates close a major chapter of Clark's life, another set of doors opens a new one. Awakened by the "calling" of the Green Crystal (accompanied by a return of the ghostly Krypton chorus), Clark opens the doors of the barn against the early dawn sky. At this point, the very "grounded" feel of the Smallville portion of the film begins to take on a more mythic tone, with dark and very dramatic camera shots like this one foreshadowing the amazing life awaiting Clark.
11. Leaving Home: Opening the most touching scene of the entire movie is this beautiful shot of Ma Kent walking out to a contemplative Clark (you can even see her trail through the Wyeth-like wheat field).
12. Always Remember: Ma Kent's parting words to Clark never fail to pull my heartstrings. Sensing her son's larger-than-life destiny, a heartbroken Ma implores Clark to "Remember, son. Always remember."
That does it for Part One of Random Coolness from Superman: The Movie. Stay tuned for Part Two!
In the meantime, what are some of your Randomly Cool elements from these sections of the movie? (Let's try holding off talking about later sections until Part 2)