When viewing these two films and comparing them against one another, a few caveats have to be made. First, the nostalgia of seeing Superman: The Movie (if you’re a 70s to 80s baby) on the big screen and remembering days of youth has to be put aside to be objective. I don’t care what you say, Christopher Reeves will always be Superman. Fight me. I needed to get that off my chest. Secondly, there’s a 35 year gap between films so technological (cgi, special effects, etc.) advancements jumps leaps and bounds between the films, therefore, grading on a curve will be allowed in that aspect. Also when dealing with remakes the question of “Was this film necessary?” has to be answered. Some original films are so dated that they need to be remade if the story is worth retelling. Others, no matter how many decades have passed are so near perfection that there’s never a need to remake them (think The Godfather trilogy, and the original Terminator). That memo aside lets breakdown the Superman movies
A: Christopher Reeves vs Henry Cavil
Reeves is the standard for Superman, not only for the fact he’s everyone’s first image of Superman on the big screen but other than Cavil, he’s the only one who’s acceptable ( Dean Cain and Brandon ” thank God for arrow cause my career would be over ” Rouths portrayals don’t exist. Again, fight me). As far as being Kal-El /Superman both Reeves and Cavil are great and believable as being the near invincible son of Krypton. Cavil gets the edge over Reeves in having the physically imposing stature that Supes has in the comics. Where the edge goes to Reeves is actually the character portrayal of Clark Kent. Reeves basically plays two different characters in the film. Superman and the comical nerdy Clark Kent. Cavil’s Clark Kent is basically the same person as superman just without the suit. Same mannerisms same look.
B: The Villain
Superman The Movie had Lex Luther being played in a campy role by Gene Hackman. Man of steel had General Zod as the main villain being played by Michael Shannon. Shannon’s Zod was even more menacing and frightening than any version we’ve seen on screen before (not as quotable as Terrance Stamp in Superman 2 “oh god ‘, ” no, Zod” though). Even though Hackman’s Lex Luther works for the campy nature of the film, Shannon’s Zod was a better villain.
There’s no comparison. Man of steel was action galore from the start. We got to see Superman’s full arsenal of powers on display. Man of Steel as far as visually showing the son of Krypton’s abilities was the film all Superman comic fans have wanted/waited to see. Superman The Movie basically showed Superman flying around preventing natural disasters, super strength (although nothing on the level of Man of Steel) X-ray vision and a completely, non-nonsensical ability to reverse the earth’s rotation and reverse time. Although, it seemed cool when viewed as a kid, it still didn’t make sense, even then.
D: Re-watch Ability
As a complete story, Man of Steel shows a more in depth view of life on Krypton that no other Superman film displayed. Superman The Movie only showed the banishing of Zods army, and Kal-El being sent to earth. Man of Steel lets you see how truly screwed Krypton was in the grand scheme of things as well as how badass Jor-El really was. Superman The Movie although less serious than Man of Steel, does still hold your attention on replay. Other than Margot Kidders annoying portrayal of Lois Lane and the movies obvious point of focusing on the love story aspect of Lois and Superman, I had no problem re-watching the film from start to finish
Was a remake or reboot needed? Well yes! Not just because of a 35 year gap between levels of visual effects that would be needed to capture a clear vision of a super hero (arguably the ultimate super hero) story and powers.
Was it better? As an overall movie, Man of Steel was leaps and bounds better than Superman The Movie. Both have re-watch ability but Superman The Movie only has nostalgia or if you’re in the “I want my Superman caring and wholesome “camp.
Anyways, I give the “should it have been” remade question a double hell yeah! Both films are allowed to live in harmony.