It’s one of those thing you never question as a child – just why no one recognises Clark Kent as Superman, when they look pretty much identical.
Now, Twitter is being entertained by an explanation of why adults are equally happy to accept the same premise, and it’s all down to the mastery Christopher Reeve had of his craft.
A simple gif of the late actor ‘transforming’ from shy, bespectacled Clark Kent into a superhero in the iconic 1978 movie Superman shows how he did it, well before computer generated imagery was a thing.
Ben Kuchera, the writer for Polygon.com whose gif went viral, says that Reeve, who died at the age of just 52 in 2004, was “his own best special effect”.
One scene in Superman in particular underlines Reeve’s expertise, Kuchera explains – the one after Superman takes Lois Lane flying, where the girl reporter is about to go on her date with Clark Kent. Reeve, as Clark, prepares to tell Lois that he is, in fact, Superman.
“You can see Christopher Reeve shift his body from Clark Kent to Superman. His voice changes a bit, sure, but it’s all there in the body language,” Kuchera says. “It’s a powerful, physical performance that doesn’t require a change into the costume or any of the special effects that went into the flying scene. The burden is on Reeve to sell the transition, and holy hell does he do it convincingly.
“He appears to grow about a foot taller, his neck lengthens, his shoulders square and he shifts his body weight forward to lead with his chest. His mouth, which is almost turtle-like as Clark, turns into a confident smirk as his jawline somehow seems to square.”
It’s thanks to Reeve that the least believable part of Superman’s story is believable in the movie, Kuchera reckons.
Tweeters loved the gif and the memory of Reeve.
“We’ll never have another one like Christopher Reeve,” Steven Carter tweeted. “Such a simple move yet so impressive.”
“Christopher Reeve was a superb actor who took his responsibility as custodian of Superman very seriously,” Brian Drew agreed
Reeves, who died almost 10 years after he became a paraplegic in a horse-riding accident, was a well-known fan of the Alexander Technique, which is described as a “method that works to change movement0 habits in our everyday activities” to improve coordination, balance and other physical activities.
The actor received great reviews for his “utterly convincing” performance as Superman, and went on to star in Superman II and Superman III as well as other movies, before concentrating on the theatre. After his accident, he fought for more stem cell research to help improve the recovery prospects of people with spinal injuries, raising millions of dollars through his charitable foundation.
He died suddenly after going into cardiac arrest, which was believed to be an adverse reaction to a medication he had been given to battle an infection.