After the critical and box office success of Superman, Warner Bros. (WB) allowed father & son producers, Alexander & Ilya Salkind, to produce a sequel based on half of the screenplay from the first film by giving The Salkinds financial as well as creative control on the budget and script approval for the second installment. The Main Cast return to film their scenes as they were contracted to finish half of the material from the original movie. Richard Donner was also hired to return to direct.
In early 1979, after Donner finished working on Superman II. He received a letter from The Salkinds that he is “no longer in their service.” The decision to fire Donner is considered one of Hollywood’s biggest controversies which resulted in The Cast disliking the fact that Donner has been kicked out, because The Salkinds can do whatever the heck they want with the script, marketing, budgeting & controlling The Cast & Crew as puppets. What The Salkinds did has got to be one of the most unethical/tactless decision by mistreating your cast by acting like a complete dictator. SHAME ON THEM!!!!!
The Salkinds hired Richard Lester to reshoot Donner’s scenes. Marlon Brando refuses to participate unless Donner comes back or demand a big fat paycheck like he did last time. Sadly, The Salkinds booted Marlon out of the picture. In retaliation, Marlon successfully sued The Salkinds for $50 million over profits from the first movie, taking home his grand prize. The Salkinds took revenge on Marlon by cutting out his scenes and replacing Jor-El with an actress to play Superman’s birth mother.
Composer, John Williams, called it quits, as he was too busy writing music for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. He got replaced by Ken Thorne.
Donner’s version on what he envisoned, was permanently removed by Lester including The Opening Scene, Brando’s Scenes & The Ending. Lester was forced to reshoot under strict rules of The Director’s Guild Of America. (DGA for short) If you’re gonna receive full credit as a director, you must reshoot a couple of scenes. Now that everything’s organized, WB distributed Superman II nationwide.
Superman II was released in 1980. It received positive reviews from critics, fans & movie goers. The film managed to make a profit at the box office.
Donner’s unreleased version became notorious for fans campaigning for a DVD release. They sent countless letters to WB on why they feel passionate as true fans.
In 2005, a year after Reeve & Brando’s deaths, Director, Bryan Singer, who was busy on developing Superman Returns, visited Brando’s estate, he asked for permission to use previous recorded scenes and unused footage of Jor-El, in order to recapture the essence of the original films. Brando’s estate approved, which encouraged Donner to reopened film canisters. Thus, Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut) was finally released on DVD. Fulfilling many fans’ lifelong dream to witness it for the first time.
This review contains no huge SPOILERS. Feel free to read this article, if you’ve never ever ever got a chance to see both versions of the second entry.
Strong: Christopher Reeve did a fantastic job on his unforgettable portrayal as Clark Kent/Superman.
The Climatic Fight Scene with Superman battling Zod & his henchmen, kept me entertained as the battle is a prototype to any epic fight scene related to Dragon Ball Z.
Other Cast Members such as Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, Jackie Cooper & Gene Hackman reprise their roles.
Terrence Stamp did a great job as General Zod. Michael Shannon if you’re reading this, I don’t mean no disrespect, but Terrence will always be the best Zod.
I’m giving Terrence a bunch of Extra Points for saying “Kneel Before Zod.” It’s perhaps the best line in the film. Why isn’t this line selected by The American Film Institute (AFI for short) as one of AFI’s Best Movie Quotes?!
Likes its predecessor, Special Effects at the time were groundbreaking.
Set Pieces like The Fortress Of Solitude, The City Of Metropolis & Niagara Falls were used as locations for prominent scenes.
Composer, John Williams returns to orchestrated the instrumental soundtrack for The Donner Cut. Especially the iconic theme song from the original.
Cinematography doesn’t contain any technical difficulties present throughout.
Marlon Brando’s deleted scenes as Jor-El, are featured in pivotal plot points.
A technician mentioned a “Rorschach Test” to an astronaut. Five or Six Years Later, Alan Moore created Rorschach, the main protagonist from Watchmen.
The second entry is more personal to Clark, as he’s torn between his responsibility to protect Earth and his personal attachment to Lois.
Character Development involving Clark, as he undergoes a transformation by learning the true meaning of how it feels to be human. If you know what I’m talking about?
Chemistry between Superman & Lois, recaptures the substance of their relationship naturally.
Richard Donner’s Opening Scene, interconnects both Superman & Superman II.
The Opening Credits is similar to the first film. To put the icing on the cake, the theme song is used perfectly! Makes you feel like a Kryptonian flying in outer space!
Richard Lester’s scene with Superman’s power to erase a person’s memory is pragmatically removed.
Weak: Special Effects haven’t age so well for a film that was in production in 1980. I’m giving this flaw a pass, because C.G.I. wasn’t around back then.
When a “stranger” attempts to jump off a building, Clark uses his powers to save the “stranger” while witnesses were present in the background. You can’t save somebody unless you put on a costume as fast as you can. Seriously?! Is everybody in Metropolis blind like Stevie Wonder, due to their inability to see Clark using his powers in public without a costume?!
Not really a spoiler. A little boy climbs on the rail located in Niagara Falls. I think this is just a contrived excuse so that Superman can show up. It could’ve been better in other optional ways if Clark heard a car wreck using his super hearing ability or witnessed a mugger stealing a woman’s purse. That would’ve been ten times better.
If you remember the controversial scene from Man Of Steel with Superman forced to kill his adversary, towards the end of Superman II, he murders his foes onscreen! Back in 1980, nobody freaked out, I’m surprised that they never complained about it! In The Richard Donner Cut, it’s fixed when Superman turns Earth back in time and spares his opponents. I’ll give it a pass for Richard, doing the right thing.
Product Placement featuring the following brands such as Coca-Cola, Marlboro, JVC, & KFC. I’m giving this flaw a pass. Unlike Man Of Steel, Superman II’s use of Product Placement, doesn’t contain a truckload of brands.
The Final Verdict: B, FOR BIGGER & BETTER!
All I have to say is The Richard Donner Cut is far more superior than Richard Lester’s version. If you’re a fan of the original Superman movies growing up, it’s definitely a must see picture. I have no disrespect towards Lester’s version. I’m giving it a B-.
So that’s all I’ve got to share on my real thoughts about this picture.
One thought on “Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut)”
Nice piece! Superman II will always have a place in my heart. I feel the theatrical cut hangs together as the better film, but the director’s cut is intriguing.