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Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut [HD DVD]
Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut
HD DVD
Actors: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper
Directors: Richard Donner, Richard Lester
Genres: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
PG     2006     1hr 55min

In the year of Superman Returns, Superman II starring Christopher Reeve also returns - with a totally different beginning and resolution. With Jor-El (Marlon Brando in recently discovered footage) in key scenes that amplif...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper
Directors: Richard Donner, Richard Lester
Creators: David Newman, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Leslie Newman, Mario Puzo, Tom Mankiewicz
Genres: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Superheroes, Richard Donner, Alien Invasion, Aliens
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: HD DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/28/2006
Original Release Date: 11/28/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 11/28/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 55min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
Edition: Director's Cut
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

Not so good, people, don't get your hopes up too high
SupermanFan | 11/09/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"attended last week's world premiere screening of the much anticipated Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Like many Supe fans, I'd been looking forward to this for a LONG time. However, I'm here to tell you to lower your expectations on this one. It's simply not as good as the released version finished by Richard Lester.

After seeing the Donner version, I watched the Lester version again to make sure I could coherently compare the two versions. I concluded there are several very serious problems with the Donner version, and I'll lay these out, alerting you to spoilers.

First, a few comments about the original Superman 1, so you understand where I'm coming from. IMO, the first film had several major tone shifts. The Krypton section was very serious, bordering on pretentious. Brando played Jor-El not like a man, but as a demi-god, cold, aloof and superior. The Smallville section (my favorite portion) evoked Frank Capra-John Ford Americana, human and emotional. And the Metropolis section started as an enjoyable comic book, but then degenerated into goofy camp as Lex Luthor's ridiculous plan unfolded, and Gene Hackman mugged and played Superman's arch-enemy for laughs. For me, the Luthor characterization and earthquake plot ruined what I thought what could have been a fine film. And I totally didn't buy Superman turning back time, which I thought was a complete cop-out. All real Superman fans know that Supes can't do that (and even if he could, he wouldn't)! So that's the "baggage" I bring to this review.

On to Superman II. As most fans of the series know, Brando filmed scenes for the Fortress of Solitude sequences, but they were dropped when he demanded more money, and redone with Susannah York as Lara. Donner's version restores the Brando scenes. I found these restored scenes too long and not very good. The truth is, Brando did these films for the money, and basically walked through his role. I doubt that there is any survey of Brando's work that mentions Jor-El as one of his memorable performances. It seemed that Donner wanted to include every frame of Brando, so there's a lot of repetition. For example, Superman II now opens as Part 1 did, with Jor-El sentencing the 3 villains to the Phantom Zone, reciting the litany of their crimes. When Luthor plays back the recording crystals in the Fortress of Solitude, he gets the exact same explanation by Jor-El, about the villains. Hearing this information twice is boring and unnecessary. Later, Jor-El interacts with his son. But the tonal shifts of the first film come back to undermine the second one. Brando's pompous interpretation of Jor-El simply doesn't mesh well with Reeve's everyman version of Supes. These actors are in two different movies. Lester got around this by using Lara instead, in a performance that we can now see had more humanity than Brando's, but was light enough to maintain the comic book tone. Lara is sympathetic and basically supportive regarding her son's conflict about love vs duty, and this serves the story well, providing the emotion the story needs at this point.

SPOILER. In Donner's version, Jor-El is judgmental and dismissive to his son which, although is true to his characterization, does not make Superman's ultimate decision to give up his powers believable. But Donner's worst choice is in the placement of this scene. In Lester's version, Superman talks to his mom about his conflict, then gives up his powers BEFORE he sleeps with Lois. The implication is that Superman can't have sex with a human unless he surrenders his super powers (no doubt, his super orgasm, going faster than a speeding bullet, would be fatal!). But Donner has the sex scene first, and then has Superman talk to Jor-El and give up his powers.

This begs the question, if Superman can have sex with a human, why give up his powers? It makes no sense! Changing the order of these scenes completely undermines the human story and conflict at the core of the film. Later, when Clark returns to the Arctic in hopes of restoring his powers, there's yet another scene with Jor-El, who says "I knew this was going to happen," followed by some ridiculous mumbo jumbo in which Jor-El somehow transfers his spirit into his son to restore his powers. It's supposed to be moving and emotional, but it's not because there's no human relationship between Jor-El and Kal-El to begin with. Richard Lester simply showed us Clark finding the green power crystal and left the rest to our imagination, keeping the tone of the entire film light, like a comic book. Donner, however, adds in elements of pretension, and even said in the panel discussion afterward that he was trying to make a movie about the father-son relationship. But it doesn't work, and it doesn't belong because Superman II isn't a movie about father and son, it's about a man who has to decide between what he wants for himself and his responsibility to the world.

Almost every scene in Donner's version goes on too long. There's usually an extra unnecessary beat at the end of scenes. There's more Luthor and Otis, more Luthor and Miss Teschmacher, more Luthor with the villains, all which slow down the pace for the sake of marginal gags. If you like Hackman's Luthor, you may enjoy this. But I didn't.

There is a nice alternate version of the scene in which Lois throws herself into the river in an attempt to prove Clark is Superman. Donner's version takes place at the Daily Planet, where Lois jumps out the window - same gimmick, different execution. And the screen tests on the Superman 1 DVD are turned into the revelation scene at Niagara Falls, which works pretty well.

SPOILER. Finally, we have a major cop-out with the ending. After the villains have been vanquished and we're back at the Daily Planet, Lois tells Clark that his secret is safe with her. But rather than giving Lois the "magic kiss of forgetfulness" to erase her memory, Superman once again turns back time, using the same footage from Part 1. He turns back time so far that the villains end up back in the Phantom Zone, meaning that the entire movie never happened! This is followed by the final denouement from the released version, in which Clark Kent returns to the diner and takes down the bully who beat him up. However, because time has been turned back, Clark had never been here before, so this makes no sense either! There's also another serious lapse of logic regarding the time reversal which requires too much explanation, but it will be obvious to most viewers.

Most of the music is recycled from the first film. This didn't bother me, but someone else who was there said that the cues kept reminding him of the scenes from Part 1 in which they originally occurred.

All in all, the Donner Version is an interesting curiosity, with some good moments among a lot of misfires. But personally, I'm glad we have the Richard Lester version, which is more coherent tonally, makes more sense, and is more entertaining. Superman completists will no doubt want this DVD for the collection. For everyone else, I suggest you rent it before you buy it."
The Best Superman II-But Not Perfect
Brian Himes | 12/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have read several reviews of this DVD and I have to say that I think some folks are just being WAY too picky. The thing that I told myself the first time I saw this was that what I was about to see was an 'approximation' of what Superman II would have been like had Richard Donner been allowed to finish the film 25 yeas ago. I was pleasantly surprised. While this cut is a bit rough around the edges, I found that I was emotionally invested in these characters after the first 20 minutes or so. By the time the film got to the re-powering sequence, I was totally into the film. I actually cried during that scene. Reeve and Brando really put some serious emotion into that scene. It blew me away.

I have to agree with some of the reviewers here, there are a couple of scenes that (even though they were Richard Lester footage) should have been extended in this version. Some scenes just felt cut off too soon. Like the scene after Superman rescues the little boy from Niagara Falls. There was nothing wrong with Lois stating that Clark wasn't around as usual.

There are some scenes that by necessity had to be cut short, because there was no corresponding filmed footage and the Richard Lester stuff just wouldn't have worked. For example, the use of the screen test. Because it was decided to use the screen tests for Reeve and Kidder, the Lester scene where Clark is revealed to be Superman couldn't be used. Or any part of it. Thus, the quick cut after that was unavoidable. Also, there were a few scenes between Lois and Clark after they arrived at the Fortress of Solitude (Lester footage) that could have been trimmed a little better to fit better with the Donner footage.

Over all I personally prefer this version of Superman II to the theatrical version. I wish people would get off criticizing the 'turn the world back' end of this film. What I guess folks forget is that this was the original scripted ending for Superman II, but it was moved to Superman: The Movie. An alternate end to Superman II by Donner was never filmed. According to Donner, it wasn't even discussed how they would end Superman II. That was going to wait until they got back to filming in 79. Well, as we all know, that never happened. So, what else could they have done to end this cut? It was totally impossible to bring the cast back after 25 years to film new scenes to finish the film. Nor do I think it was appropriate to use the Lester magic forgetful kiss.

I'm just glad that after 25 years we are finally seeing what Superman II could have been. I watched both versions of Superman II this past weekend and I stand by my opinion. Even if it is a little rough around the edges and the ending is the same as Superman: The Movie, this is by far a superior version of Superman II.
"
Not Perfect, but a Clearer Sequel to Superman...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 12/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Having just watched the Richard Donner version of "Superman II" twice (once with his commentary with 'Creative Consultant' Tom Mankiewicz), I can say that I prefer the Donner version, over Richard Lester's...but with reservations.

Other reviewers point out redundancies, over-long scenes, and character development problems in the Donner version, but these aren't really fair arguments; what you see are the basic scenes, originally shot; Donner, himself, admitted that had he continued on the film, he would have had to do reshoots of several key scenes, and, of course, would have been involved in the editing process (which couldn't be accomplished to the same degree, in the 'restored' edition). The 'turning the world back' resolution was intended for "Superman II"; when the Salkinds chose not to end the first film with a cliffhanger ending, Donner shot the Lois 'death' scene, and Supes turns back time to save her...so repeating the same resolution in "Superman II" was simply a case of using the original film conclusion, which Donner would have changed, had he continued with the film.

There are plotholes, and leaps of logic; as the film stands, Luthor is apparently in the Fortress of Solitude when Superman destroys it(!); Clark's 'revenge' against the diner bully makes no sense, since, after winding back time, the original confrontation never took place; indeed, the Jor-El 'farewell' scene would have been unnecessary, as well, insomuch as Supes rewound time back to before he lost and regained his powers. And what ever became of Miss Teschmacher?

All this having been said, there are moments where I think Richard Lester's lack of understanding of Superman and his Universe makes me stand in Donner's corner; he introduced abilities Supes never had (Saran-wrap symbols...what exactly were they supposed to do?...the 'Kiss of Forgetfulness'...turning Metropolis citizens into comic buffoons, during the climactic brawl...the whole British-accented town sequence, when Zod 'introduces' himself to the world). Other critics have panned Brando's 'Jor-El' in the Donner sequel, praising the Salkinds for dropping him, and increasing Susannah York's involvement, but she seems totally out-of-place as the 'final authority' figure in the Lester version. Maybe he was overpriced, but I think Brando was essential, and the film certainly would have been big enough to offset his paycheck.

I think the Donner version has more 'heart', and reverence to Superman, than Lester's broader, more comic 'take'. Even with the abrupt transitions, logic lapses, rough edges, and redundant resolution, a vision of what "might have been" emerges, and it was a pretty terrific film!"
A refreshing alternate vision!
Mr. G. Caci | 11/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"************** Spoilers **************

After just seeing the movie, I'm glad to say I really enjoyed it. As it opens and we get the view of Krypton from the opposite side, I was annoyed that we only hear half of the Planet Krypton theme, and I thought it was some sort of bad omen that there would be lots of similar things that would annoy me, but actually there wasn't much that I didn't like.

The Jor El scenes were really well done, even though the scenes with Lara in Lester's cut are fine, Brando's Jor El really elevates them and to me comes across as more emotionally charged, because the relationship with Kal El and his holographic father was established in the first movie, unlike the relationship with his mother, also there's no pay off to that relationship, where as with Jor El's sacrifice there is in this version.

The screen test footage scene really surprised me, it worked far better than I'd imagined, the editing of those 2 separate screen tests is so well done, that without the changing of Reeve's hair style you wouldn't notice any other real discrepancies.

The Metropolis battle works so much better without the gags too, and the one bit that was left in, the man on the roller skates works alright and isn't too much because it's not accompanied by a host of other campy gags. The little Donner additions like Supermansmashing through the torch of statue of liberty and the extra few flying shots, look so cool, far better than any over the over top cgi flying scenes in Superman Returns, that zoom across the screen so fast you can barely notice them.

I don't miss the exclusion of the Paris sequence at all, except for the alley change, but this I accept as necessary for this version. The scene with Non smashing his way through the Daily Planet is also so much more effective in this version, the sound effects really make him sound like an unstoppable behemoth.

A few things I didn't like, there were plenty of lines towards the 2nd half that I noticed were dubbed even though these lines appear with the original actors voices in the Lester cut. though on the whole I liked the new sound effects, there were bits I found more effective in Lester's version, such as the Superman deflecting Zod's heat vision with the side view mirror. Also I do see now why people have complained about cutting from small scenes with Lois and Clark/Superman with large scenes of Luthor, the problem comes from using as little Lester footage as possible. Those romantic scenes at the fortress of Solitude should have been longer, adding Lester's soufflé scene would have been fine as it's in the original script and would have padded out those scenes abit, also Superman's fetching of the flower really is a scene I feel should have been left in.

The problems with the edited music tracks were somewhat jarring in some scenes too, besides the opening like i've already mentioned, the way its edited during the opening credits too is so obvious, but in a lot of scenes we have Williams music replacing Thorne's exact rendition of those cues and I liked that.

So overall there were a few things I missed in this cut, but I'll always be able to view them in the original theatrical cut, on the whole it worked better than I thought it could and it's a real delight to view all these alternate scenes, so I really enjoyed the Donner Cut."