Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) by Richard Donner

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  • Directed by: Richard Donner
  • Starring:
    • Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent | Superman | Kal-El
    • Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
    • Terence Stamp as General Zod
    • Sarah Douglas as Ursa
    • Jack O’Halloran as Non
    • Marlon Brando as Jor-El
    • Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor

Synopsis: A battle with the criminal mastermind, Lex Luthor, ends with Superman hurling a nuclear warhead into space where it explodes, but not harmlessly. Instead, it frees the Kryptonian threesome from their other-dimensional prison. They soon discover they have almost unlimited power, which they use to take over the Earth. (IMDB)

*** So, it wasn’t until I watched the “Everything Wrong With” video that I noticed just how different this cut is from the original 1980 version. Some of what I saw in that video made me so grateful I watched this version instead.

The Good:

  • Christopher Reeve is still the best live action Clark Kent: I said this before in the Superman: the Movie review but I really love this version of Clark. He’s adorably awkward, clumsy and just generally a nice person. I feel like we didn’t get a ton of him as Clark in this film because of the plot but the little we got was lovable.
  • Superman: Superman kind of takes a backseat for most of this film but the third act in the streets of Metropolis was really good. We got to see a range of his abilities. Unlike the recent films, we see the freeze breath in addition to the laser vision and super strength. He also got to use his wits at the end of this film so that was great too.
  • Emotional arc: Clark elects to get rid of his powers in this film for Lois Lane. More on that below but I say this to preface this point: there as a lot more for Reeve to do acting wise in this film. He has to portray Kal’s struggle to decide between Lois and Superman and, later on, he loses his father and feels like he let the world down. While I wasn’t completely sold on the “Nooooo” from the first film when Lois died, when Reeve was shouting for his father in this film, I actually felt for him., I felt his internal turmoil and it made me appreciate how good of an actor Reeve was.
  • Terence Stamp as General Zod: While I didn’t love Zod in Man of Steel, I adored this version of the character. Stamp was very intimidating as Zod. Part of it was his voice – it was strong and commanding and a lot more believable as the leader of a trio of Kryptonians. He just carried himself in such a great way and I loved him in this role! There was a part where they’re in the White House and he’s just leaning against the wall while his minions destroy everything and just his posture was commanding. A++ casting here.
  • Ursa: I feel confident this is the same type of character from Man of Steel but I never looked up that characters name. I adored her! Yes, she was just another of Zod’s minions but in a film where the only other female character is Lois Lane, perpetual damsel in distress, Ursa was a revelation. This was after Princess Leia so I wonder if maybe they thought it better to give us a stronger female character and I’m so thankful they did. She was unapologetic, gleefully evil and equally as strong as the men beside her. I loved Sarah Douglas’ choices in expression and the way she carried herself.
  • Zod’s rampage: Listen, the effects are dated but the scene in East Houston, Idaho was fantastic! As was the scene where the take over the White House. In some ways, I paid more attention to these scenes than I did to Zod’s scenes in Man of Steel.
  • Lois Lane reveals Superman: While current superhero films have decided to forgo secret identities as a thing of the past (Batman and Spider-Man being the exceptions), this film tackled the concept that all Clark’s only disguise was a pair of glasses. Lois just takes a newspaper, draws some glasses on Superman’s face and posits that he’s Superman. From what I’ve seen, the Donner cut does this in a much more clever way by having her attempt to make Supes reveal himself use actual wit. She fills a gun with blanks and takes a shot at Clark to see how he reacts. She does this*. It was a great way to show how smart Lois is.
    • *In the regular cut, it seems like Clark trips over the rug, drops his glasses into the firepit and immediately reaches inside to get them like an idiot. That’s way less impressive because it’s Clark’s subconscious desire to reveal himself that leads to the reveal. Lois really needed this win okay?

The Bad:

  • Recap?: I don’t understand why this film presumed its audience couldn’t go back and watch the previous film because it spends the first fifteen minutes with flashback scenes and credits. Some of the events happen slightly differently in the flashback than it did in the first film and it’s all confusing.
  • Why is Lex Luthor here?: Yes, he is a part of the ending but he served no purpose in this film save bringing Zod to the Fortress. And even then, if he wasn’t in this film, it wouldn’t have been that hard for Zod to realize he should kidnap Lois and she would’ve led them there. What is the point? He’s a great actor but, c’mon.
  • Flying scenes: I don’t want to rip on this for the bad effects but when you know your flying scenes look really bad, why would you do an entire sequence of them just flying through the air? It didn’t make sense. Why highlight your low points?
  • Lois Lane: I wonder if I’m so harsh on her because the comic book industry has progressed (rather slowly and very minutely) its roles for female characters. While I love Amy Adams and she had much more to do in Man of Steel, Lois seems like a much more integral part of Superman’s life in this film. She’s there for almost all of it and her actions set some of the plot in motion. However, I found myself disliking her quite a bit in this film.
    • I get it, there’s speculation as to whether Mary Jane loved Peter Parker or Spider-Man; there’s questions of whether Pepper Potts ever loved Iron Man. It’s a question that gets asked a lot but in this film, it seemed 100% clear to me that Lois Lane did not love Clark Kent. She doesn’t pursue him until she knows that he’s Superman and we barely see her affectionate towards him after he’s lost his powers.
    • For the second time in this franchise, Lois Lane has a slapping the Joker moment. Jessica Plummer coined this trope for moments where the female character encounters a villain and acts offensively and.. ineffectually. I would add that, typically this character is later rescued or have this antagonist finished off by the male character. In the first film, it was Lois attacking the gunmen and then cowering as Clark stops the bullet. In this one, it’s the gross trucker hitting on her and then her climbing on top of him and trying to hit him ineffectually. Empowering right?
    • Interestingly enough, Margot Kidder famously said that she didn’t like the DCEU’s version of Lois Lane because
      • “They took one of the best American actresses’ around, Amy Adams, and didn’t give her anything to do! I mean, how stupid is that? They made her what used to be the girlfriend, which kind of ended in the 60s with women’s rights.” (Screenrant)

  • Clark gives up his powers: Sorry, but I really didn’t understand why. Lois is very pretty and all but this film didn’t really explain why Clark couldn’t both be Superman and date Lois Lane? There weren’t any examples of him missing dates or abandoning her because he had to run off and save someone. I don’t understand why he took Jor-El’s word for it that he couldn’t have both and then he ran right off to give up his powers. He could have given it a shot first before doing something so (seemingly) final. He ended up giving up the ability to talk to his father in the process.
  • The ending: I understand that the ending is different in the 1980 version but in this one, I think they just lifted the footage they had from the last film. It ends with Clark reversing time to stop the events of the film – YET AGAIN. Perhaps this is because they didn’t have enough screen footage to come up with another ending and they thought the original 1980 ending was 10x worse but this was such a slap in the face. Clark had real growth in this film and it’s all just reversed… for what? I guess I’m being selfish because this means that anyone who died comes back to the life, the Fortress is repaired and Clark’s secret is in tact. Still, it kind of cements that there are no real stakes here and it’s a big “screw you” to anyone that worried about the consequences.

Is it a recommend?

Well, I definitely recommend the Richard Donner cut. It was a cohesive story, it’s missing some of the cheesier aspects of the 1980’s version (the giant S being thrown at Zod) and it’s the way Richard Donner wanted to release it. I enjoyed several parts of this and it’s definitely worth seeing at least once. So, yes.

Score: 8/10

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