This title dates back to 1978, and arguably pretty much marks the beginning of the Superhero movie genre. There were others before it, like the cinematic take on Adam West's 'Batman', but none of them really ended up being home runs.
As per usual, I'm gonna review this one as though the reader has seen it already, so fair warning for potential spoilers ahead (for both films). First off, one of the more brilliant aspects of this movie is the opening. It starts off as a sort of early time theatrical feature, showcasing the 1930's comic. It then of course evolves to credits coming at you through that smaller screen, and transitions to the whole opening credits sequence where, of course, the epic theme is heard. Even if you've never seen a 'Superman' movie before, you know pretty much what it sounds like. It's certainly one of John William's most famous scores.
The whole origin portion of the film was overall more enjoyable for me than 'Man of Steel' was. One of the biggest issues being tackled was the death of Jonathan Kent. In 'Man of Steel', he gets sucked up into a tornado as Clark just stands there because he was told to. It feels far more inexcusable, and it's almost impossible to fathom Superman NOT saving Jon, his father figure, when it would have been so easy. In 'Superman', Jonathan dies from a heart attack. So when Superman struggles with the fact that he couldn't save him, it just makes more sense. It's "I couldn't save him despite all I can do" vs "I couldn't save him because he told me not to". It's frankly far more powerful for a movie to illustrate what he simply can't do BECAUSE he's so incredibly powerful in so many ways.
After the initial origin is out of the way, I have to admit that it's cool to see Superman helping people on much more of a scale than we're used to in the Superhero genre. For example, there's a scene where he saves a girl's cat from a tree, illustrating that he'll be there to help no matter how important or unimportant the task at hand is. Add to this the whole Luthor plot of luring Superman in by threatening several thousand innocent lives, and we basically see that he values life on Earth as though it was his second chance to protect a whole planet from whatever is out there. Again, 'Man of Steel' illustrated this trait of his far less so by having him basically level most of a city in a big fight in order to defeat the big villain. The old Superman would sooner move people out of the way of danger with lightning speed, whereas the new Superman seems to just be set on beating the big baddie, whatever it takes. Although, I will admit the way 'Batman v Superman' handled that situation was one of the things they did well in that movie.
The performances here by pretty much everyone are spot on for the time. There's just that right amount of cheese added to it, but you're able to emote with these characters just the same. Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor is really more of a Bond-type villain in this, but he's so cold a diabolical with his plans, it's hard not to add him to the list of best Superhero movie villains. He felt more like a comic book villain and less of a deep dark theatrical movie villain, and pulling that off well is saying something. Christopher Reeve, as we all know, does very well here too as Clark, along with Margot Kidder as Lois.
I suppose the elephant in the room is that climactic scene when Lois dies, Superman goes berzerk, and flies around the Earth, spinning it backwards and reversing time. It's ridiculous, and to do something like that today would be pretty much out of the question. I mean, spinning the Earth backwards would only just spin the Earth backwards, and time wouldn't enter into it. More to the point, for argument sake, if he COULD really do that, why the hell wouldn't he have just done that from the beginning of the climax? But I digress.
The real surprise to me about the film was that it runs over 3 hours long. Hand to God, I didn't know that before getting into it, so the overall length kinda threw me off. It's a lot of movie to take in, especially with effects that look painfully dated, contradicting the tagline "You'll believe a man can fly". Maybe at the time it worked, but it just looks silly now. However, I cannot fault the movie for it since it actually won a Special Achievement Oscar for Visual Effects! I'm not sure, but I THINK it was the first time they made someone genuinely look like he was flying, so no matter what it looks like now, it does have this achievement under its belt, and I can't take that away with any nitpicks I have to throw at it. All in all, it's a movie to be enjoyed for it's time.