Superman II the Remix (Superman II, The Donner Cut, 2006)

Superman-2-Donner-Cut-posterAssemble almost 30 years later, the Donner cut restores the original footage Donner shot and also uses some of the Lester material to fill in the blanks.  It was not assembled by Donner, but it had his blessing.

And in many, many ways, it improves the movie.  Gone are the weird additional powers.  Gone is the opening Eiffel Tower sequence.  Instead we have Lois trying to prove Clark Kent is Superman by jumping out a window of the Daily Planet.  Which is pretty absurd.  In a way, it is reminiscent of the Bible story where Satan tries to Tempt Jesus by suggesting if he jumps off the temple, Angels will save him.  And this is not Lois being a smart reporter, this is her doing something dumb.

The stuff that works, works very well and make this a pretty fun watch.  But some of the additions are problematic.  While the Super-Kiss to rob Lois of her memory is gone, Superman’s resolution is to fly the world backwards.  As I noted in the Review of Superman the Movie, this bit was meant to be the ending of Superman II.  As they had no ending shot by Donner, they re-use the sequence, and he reverses time to the point that the Kryptonian criminals are again trapped in the Phantom Zone once more.  But this creates all sorts of problems.  Superman is supposedly making it so the entire second film never happens.  The criminals never get loose, Clark never reveals his identity to Lois, they never visit the cafe.  Yet Clark goes back to the Cafe and beats up the trucker.  Who must have no idea why a guy he has never seen before walked in and started insulting him.  This is not Superman.

And reversing time does not mean the cycle won’t begin again, unless Superman avoids the situation that freed Zod, Ursa and Non in the first place.  End why should we have cared about any of it if Superman completely undoes everything?  So, even the Donner cut has problems.  Superman still causes a lot of destruction in his fight with his Kryptonian foes.  They still lose their powers and get kills by Superman and Lois.  I am told the novelization claims they survived…apparently they landed on pillows or something…but the novelization is not the movie.  It is pretty obvious they are dead.

So, why more entertaining and slightly less frustrating than Lester’s cut,  the Donner Cut is plenty flawed on it’s own.

Bring on the Bad Guys (Superman 2, 1980)

superman_2_posterSuperman the Movie and Superman II were filmed back to back, but director Richard Lester came in when there was friction between the Salkinds and Donner.  He threw out a lot of what Donner filmed and started over.  Remember Zod and his Cronies?  They are still floating through space in the Phantom Zone.  When Superman thwarts a terrorist plot by launching a bomb into space, they are set free and make their way to earth.

Superman 2 is often held up as a standard of great sequels and a great super-hero film.  Unfortunately, it is not.  The film has Superman (and Zod, Ursa and Non) developing random powers and weapons.  Their heat vision suddenly can be used as tractor beams, Superman’s logo can turn is a giant cellophane bag, they can shoot beams from their fingers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good points.  The Villains are frightening at times.  Terrance Stamp is menacing and arrogant, while Douglas plays Ursa with a disinterested flair.  She is slightly amused by earthlings, but she could never care, she lacks all compassion.

There is a story in which Lois and Clark must pose as newlyweds.  This leads to the reveal of Clark’s secret to Lois, which leads to them running off for romance.  Superman and Lois hide away in the Fortress of Solitude, completely unaware of the arrival of the Kryptonian criminals.  Superman realizes that to be with Lois, he must give up his power.  He consults with his Mother Lara (well, a hologram of her and she shows him a machine that will bath him in the light of a red sun and make him human.  You can see where this is going.  When Lois and Clark start to make their way home, Clark tries to defend Lois at a cafe.  A trucker beats the crap out of him.  This moment is actually really well handled, Reeve really sells Clark’s startling realization that he is no longer the strongest man alive.  But then Clark learns of Zod.

So, Superman’s human life is a short lived one.  Even though the Fortress was damaged and he was told the process was irreversible… Clark gets his powers back off screen.  This leads to a dramatic fight in the city.  You know, for all the criticism Man of Steel gets for it’s destruction, Superman II has Superman carelessly throwing the criminals through building, the character beating each other into the ground and so on.  There is little concern for the city.

One of the other good points is the duplicitous nature of Lex Luthor.  Towards the beginning he breaks out of prison and then runs off to the Fortress of Solitude.  He starts listening to the information from Lara…considering Lara can hold conversations with Superman, I am not sure why she cannot react to Lex.   Luthor helps the Kryptonians attempt to take over the world (they promise to give him Australia).  But when things look tough, he is quick to side with Superman (for Survival).

One of the big problems is the film has a Superkiss that robs Lois of her memories of who Superman is…and he also goes back to the cafe to humiliate the trucker.  This is not Superman.  And his character is tarnished for a joke.  Superman II does not hold up, and is actually a weaker film than it’s predecessor.  And more recent Super-hero films are vastly superior.

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