Our review of the second Christopher Reeve-led Superman movie. Half-finished during the production of Superman I, Donner left between films, for reasons still shrouded in rumor. The producers hired 3 and 4 Musketeers director Richard Lester to finish things up. This is a review of the Lester cut of the film…fortunately and unfortunately.
12 thoughts on “Superman II (1980)”
When I was a kid, (maybe 10-11) I found myself running late for class one day. I entered the class and found the teacher hadn’t arrived yet. In a booming, theatrical voice, I yelled,”Kneel before Zod!” No one there had a clue what I was doing. That was a sad day for me. It was the day that I realized that everyone I went to school with sucked.
The same thing happened to me around the same time when I realized no one else actually bothered to read. Anything. Unless there was no way for them to get away with it. That’s when I realized movies do inform as they entertain, though what they inform us of is open to some degree of artistic interpretation.
Ah, but then even the most respected of scholarly works contains at least a little bias (or artistic interpretation). I got to spend an entire semester learning that no one source can ever truly be trusted.
I can definitely relate to having peers who didn’t read. Unless you count Nintendo Power or books about football…
At this point, I’m desperate enough that those totally count. Hell, all Nintendo Power ever did was create gamers, our natural allies against the Vampires, the Demons and the Forces of darkness.
Despite all its faults, I still love the Lester cut of Superman II. It’s definitely due to the rose colored glasses of nostalgia, but I firmly believe the good outweigh the bad. Excellent review, though. Funny, informative and all-around deserving of being on TGWTG main contributors as always.
I saw this first run(I was…11),and useless,if not entirely pointless,romance aside,
this flick had everything a growing film-lover could want.So in that respect,I still love the Lester version. The Donner Cut is more thoughtful,more…adult?
The amalgamtion of the films showcases how a more balanced film could have been a boon to comic fans.But as the 3rd film and “Supergirl” demonstrated,the producers didn’t see much beyond the word “cartoon”.1970’s saturday mornings
treated “Shazam” and “Isis” with possibly a better eye-no stupid romance,and no slapstick.
“Adult” is a harsh word to apply any Superman movie. On a surface level, Superman vs. The Elite‘s got more “adult content” than any Super-film without the word Doomsday in its title, while Superman IV failed miserably in part because it tried to tackle the most “adult” theme around: the total nuclear annihilation of the human race. It’s all about how a movie handles its dramatic subjects. You can be (for lack of a better word) “adult” about it and deal with the consequences of the situation you (as a creator) contrived…or you can be completely flippant and wipe those situations from existence, either with a magic kiss, or by turning back time. The result’s the same: stasis. Blandness. Predictability. The very things that induce boredom and the certifiably insane belief that Superman is, somehow, inherently boring.
Though you’re absolutely correct about 70s Shazam. One of a handful of faithful small screen adaption to come out of that period, when Marvel and CBS ruled TV Land with a big, green fist. Not “good” by most definitions of the word, but better than most contemporary alternatives.
I haven’t seen the Donner cut of this film yet, but I did see both this film and its predecessor first-run (I was 11 when this film came out). I frankly don’t think anything can knock the first film out of its #1 spot on my superhero-film list, and I’m beginning to doubt if anything will overtake this film, with all its Lester-inspired silliness, at #4 (behind the two Michael Keaton Batman films).
Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous to expect Lois to correctly guess at Superman’s true identity in the first film. We know who Clark Kent really is, of course, but then, we, with our limited-omniscient perspective, have been following him for 30 years of his life, more or less. Nor do I think it fair to expect Kal-El to not want to have a taste of a “normal” life, and a relationship with someone along with that. He is, after all, (1) not so not-human as he (or we) might think, and (2) not likely (to put it mildly) to hitch up with another Kryptonian–the only female of his species to be had is both spoken for and a complete bitch.
If anything, Superman’s decision to have his powers stripped away, ill-considered as it is, demonstrates a level of fallibility, one that I think anyone living in this universe would find reassuring. Which would you want: to live under the (benign) autocracy of a super-perfect superbeing, or a world where the Man of Steel actually, if rarely, screws up once in a while?
The latter, of course…but there are so many ways for Kent to screw up the mind boggles. Besides, that’s a false choice – “autocracy” implies he’d be making the Big Ticket decisions that go along with ruling the world, and for all his Super-dickery, not even Silver Age Superman (who was super-perfect – so much so that he’s one of the few characters the Superfriends show got kinda-sorta right) had that kind of time. Too busy constructing flying cars, patronizing Kara, or fighting Reverse Hitler.
I maintain, like Lois in the title card, that, with this film, “It could’ve been worse.” But I also maintain that the fact so many saw this film at such a young age, and the fact it’s since become a cornerstone of its genre, protects it from much-needed critical re-evaluation. This allows space for unforgivable atrocities to rise up and terrify, like Superman Returns. It also means a continuous stream of superhero sequels that de-power, or threaten to de-power, their protagonists for no good reason beyond an Eleventh Hour (or “Zero Hour”) raising of the stakes. At least Spider-Man 2‘s crew was honest about whom they were sitting behind in class, but 2008’s Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor 1…hell, even The Dark Knight flirts with this cul-de-sac of subplot. And Rises straight-up opens with it! Time to retire that particular trope now that Ghost Rider’s done it and it’s officially out of hit points. Put it to bed…that way, it can come back in 20 years, once everyone’s good and nostalgic for it.
I am also in agreement about the “I have to give up my powers for the earth woman” thing. Never felt right to me. I guess what they could have done is have Clark realize he can’t be a hero and have someone worry about whether or not he’ll come home at night. Unfortunately, the previous film’s finale had Superman pretty much defying all rules of reality so I guess that whole realizing mortality thing was out the window so this all just became the deus-ex machina to defeat Zod and his minions.
As for Lois’ attraction to Superman. I think it all has to do with the fact that Superman is a representation of the childhood fantasy that she long ago abandoned when she grew into a cynical adult.
Sounds nice, except that’s not “what they could have done,” that’s what they up and did. Lois even has a line (in Lester’s cut) about how “it’s like being married to a firefighter” which appears to galvanize Clark’s decision to whitewash her brain with his tongue. But no matter which cut you watch, it’s deus ex machinas all around. Either Lois takes the Rohypnol Kiss Express to Potential Brain Hemorrhageville or Clark turns back time. Either way, it’s all about avoiding the consequences of selfish action. Returning the status quo. Not growing up. Which means it fits perfectly with your reading of this Lois & Clark’s relationship:
which I’m surprised to find myself completely agreeing with…despite it making their relationship a whole lot ickier. Instead of two adults working out their identity issues, we have a daddy’s boy (or momma’s boy, depending on the cut) and a girl in a woman’s body chasing a pair of tights and a cape.
“Either way, it’s all about avoiding the consequences of selfish action. Returning the status quo.”
I guess I asked for that when I accepted this Donner/Lester Superman universe. Ah well.
“Instead of two adults working out their identity issues, we have a daddy’s boy (or momma’s boy, depending on the cut) and a girl in a woman’s body chasing a pair of tights and a cape.”
I think all, or most of us, can trace our attractions to our significant others back to childhood.