So I sat down and watched the first one again. It has been a decade or so since I saw it, and I still like it a lot. There are lots of oddities, like Lois' misspellings (leading to the Perry White line I've used in the title above). Reeve is perfect. After reading that his interpretation is based on Cary Grant in Bringing up Baby, I can see why he chose it. The dynamic between Clark and Lois might as well be that between Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. If I recall correctly, Reeve worked with Hepburn quite a bit.
My favorite parts: Catching the bullet to save Lois, then feigning fainting. The completely straight delivery of "Truth, justice, and the American way." Miss Tessmacher. The many wigs of Lex Luthor. Christopher Reeve's primal scream of denial as he decides to turn back time to save Lois. Great scream.
Superman is a disaster movie. They were quite popular in the late '70's, partly because technology made them possible. And it made Superman's flight possible. So flight and disaster movie, that's Superman. He's our response to "a capricious universe" in the words of Neil Gaiman and Adam Rogers in Wired a few years ago. It's interesting that so many actors who've portrayed Superman have been heavily involved in charity work--attempting to thwart all sorts of disasters both potential and actual. Bud Collyer, George Reeves, and Christopher Reeve (I haven't checked on the others) were all very much involved in these sorts of things.
But Superman is very overtly a disaster movie. The destruction of Krypton is shown in very great length. Lots of people running and falling. The helicopter crash--where he meets Lois--is excessively destructive. And then there's the missile test at the end, where all sorts of avalanches, dam breaking, bridges falling, etc, go on and on and on. There's so much more emphasis on disaster than on heroism, it becomes overwhelming. I know that the greater the disaster, the greater the heroism that saves us from it, but this was excessive.
Not that it makes it a bad movie. I really didn't pay attention to it until I was thinking about the time it was produced and the other kinds of movies that came out during that era. The eighties had very few (more in the nineties--millennial fever?), but the seventies had a lot--notably the Airport films.
Also, they're really showing off those flying effects. The first time we see Superman, standing in the distance of the Fortress of Solitude, he takes off and flies directly toward the camera before swooping away. My guess is that this was showing that they weren't limited by the effects of the old Adventures tv show, where Superman was pretty much always flying in profile, sideways across the screen.
So, it's a great movie, even now, I think. And I hope that's not just nostalgia talking.