When Superman hit the big screen in 1948, the era of serials was almost over. It took Superman an enormous amount of time to make it to the movie theater, at least in a live-action mode. The Fleischer cartoons had filled the void early in the decade, but as the years rolled by and lesser heroes populated the screen, the absence of the Man of Steel was glaring. Part of the problem was of course DC wanting the best deal they could manage. When Columbia took the property it was a pretty good deal I guess.
Kirk Alyn plays both Clark Kent and Superman and does a creditable job, though his moves as Superman can come across a bit mincing at times. Blended with animation for the super stunts, he provides a handsome version of the famous hero.
Noel Neill plays Lois Lane for the first time, role she will define in years to come. She's almost consumed by her own costume which includes an enormous hat, but still and all her frisky but friendly manner shines through. Jimmy Olsen as portrayed by Tommy Bond is particularly good and lacks some of the buffoonery the character is sometimes saddled with.
The story begins with Superman's origin story but quickly shifts gears to engage the schemes of the vile Spider Lady (Carol Forman) who has a lot of henchmen and a sprawling plan to capture and use a deadly device called the Reducing Ray. Most of the movie deals with attempts to steal it and later rescuing its inventor.
It's usual serial stuff, with some pretty decent super stunts tossed in. Superman seems singularly reluctant to take the offensive and just rid the city of the criminals, but instead performs as a soldier in the Daily Planet's war on the crime queen and her gang.
All in all a thoroughly diverting entertainment. It's not a great serial, but it's far far from the worst one.