As this was “The Summer Of The Superhero Movie”, I was going to be writing about my opinion on the best ever SH movie. In my opinion that continues to be Superman-The Movie. The idea began to germinate in my mind when I went to see Captain America and found that it shared a quality with the earlier film that I think is essential in a great superhero film (or any film for that matter). The central character must be HONEST. The actor must take the subject matter absolutely seriously even when it is in the fantastical realm of science fiction or fantasy. This is especially crucial with an Iconic character such as Cap or Superman. Chris Evans was so successful as Cap because he was HONEST as an actor with the character.
Because HE believed, WE believed.
No one ever did this better than Chris Reeve as Superman. In fact he may have been the single most honest actor I have ever seen. Not necessarily the most talented, although he was certainly that, just the most honest. He respected Superman…was honest in his portrayal and never made light of the Man of Steel. And while his CLARK was over the top, he was also a very HUMAN being. Again, honesty.
As I mentioned earlier this WAS going to be a column about my take on Superman-The Movie but then I got to thinking that the anniversary of Christopher’s death was coming up. Sure enough when I looked it up the anniversary is October 10th.
So I decided that this column would be why I do believe that Superman was an absolutely REAL person.
In the final analysis you can best judge a person’s essential character when they are under duress. MOST people shine when things go well. But how does a person react when they have everything stripped away?
One can say that up until his accident, Chris reeve lead a storybook life. He was a major motion picture star, had legions of fans, a lovely wife and many causes that he supported. It must have been pretty cool to be Chris!
Then, in a blink the single most important thing he had was stripped from him. His health. He went from being a vital, athletic man to near total paralysis. Many people would have turned towards the wall, given up, or even turned bitter. Many people would have grown angry and lashed out at those around them. I am sure that Chris struggled with all of this.
But what he DID was become the real Superman.
He embraced his lifelong activism more than ever, championing the necessity for Stem Cell research. He became a spokesman for this cause, tirelessly working to get the message out.
Reeve was elected Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability. He co-founded the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, which is now one of the leading spinal cord research centers in the world. He created Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to speed up research through funding, and to use grants to improve the quality of the lives of people with disabilities. The Foundation to date has given more than $65 million for research, and more than $8.5 million in quality-of-life grants.
The Foundation has funded a new technology called "Locomotor Training" that uses a treadmill to mimic the movements of walking to help develop neural connections, in effect re-teaching the spinal cord how to send signals to the legs to walk. This technology has helped several paralyzed patients walk again.
He never quit. He believed that, one day he would walk again. He never waivered from that belief for the rest of his life. AND he shocked his doctors by actually regaining some movement.
In 2000, he began to regain some motor function, and was able to sense hot and cold temperatures on his body. Reeve then moved his left index finger on command. "I don't think Dr. McDonald would have been more surprised if I had just walked on water", said Reeve in an interview.
Chris WAS going to win. I really believe that Superman was going to fly again.
He just ran out of time.
On October 10, 2004 Chris Reeve died from cardiac arrest after being given antibiotics for an infection.
But he never gave up.
And that was his victory.
There is a line at the beginning of the 1970’s Bio-Pic “Brian’s Song”. It goes: “All true stories end in death.”
Chris’s life was a true story so it could not end any other way. But I like to think more about how he lived than how he died. And I especially like to think about how he left…
ON HIS FEET.
I believe in Superman.
He’s my hero.
His name was Christopher Reeve.