"Widely regarded as one of the best superhero sequels ever, director Richard Lester's 'Superman II' had the daunting task of living up to the legacy of the original film, despite having major restrictions placed on it. For instance, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were not available for additional scenes, thus much of the film had to be re-cut and Brando had to be removed entirely for legal reasons. Lester had to incorporate footage shot by original director Richard Donner with newly shot scenes, while keeping the tone of the sequel consistent. The end result is a sequel that's almost every bit as good as the film that spawned it. Christopher Reeve even said that this was his favorite of the Superman movies.
In recent years, the revelation of all the behind-the-scenes drama of Donner's dismissal from the franchise has unfairly placed Lester's version in a negative light. Some fans even went as far as to state that the new Superman II-The Richard Donner Cut was the definitive sequel before even having seen it! While which 'Superman II' is superior remains subjective, the simple fact is that the Donner Cut is a close approximation of his original vision rather than a fully realized film, since he had only shot around 70% of the footage. The rest was spliced together from screen tests, new shots using body and voice doubles, and footage from Lester's version. This is not unlike what Richard Lester had to do to finish his sequel. Thus, both films can and must co-exist since there are shared footage and scenes unique to each version that simply work better. For instance, terrorists hijacking the Eiffel Tower is simply more of a job for Superman than Lois jumping out a window. Consequently, Donner's Brando footage better illustrates the father/son motif established in the first film than Lester's re-shoots with Superman's mother.
As for the extras in this re-release, WB has compiled an impressive array of rarely seen material. There is a commentary by the producers, a 1981 'making of' special hosted by Chris Reeve, 8 Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons plus a retrospective, deleted scenes, and perhaps the most eclectic...the 'Superman 50th Anniversary' TV Special. Produced in 1988 by the 'Saturday Night Live' crew, this special was widely panned originally but had since become a hot commodity on the bootlegging scene. With appearances by classic Superman and SNL alumni, this special can be better appreciated now in hindsight for its quirky blend of comedy and nostalgia.
In closing, despite its shortcomings, 'Superman II' set forth a benchmark in the superhero film genre by showing how a sequel can take off the "kid gloves" and come out swinging once the exposition is firmly established in the original. Knowledge of the off-set controversy should only enhance our appreciation of the final film the cast and crew put together because it really is a classic sequel."
Not the ABC-TV Version!
Daniel Laird | Las Vegas, NV United States | 03/31/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was disappointed when I bought this version, when I recorded the Superman 2 version on ABC way back in the late 80's. VHS tapes don't last, so I wanted the UNCUT version of Superman 2 on DVD. I wasted my money.
Vital scenes are cut from the DVD: 1) Superman saves the boy at Niagra Falls. He goes back to the hot dog stand and meet up with Lois, changes back to Clark Kent and walks away from the hot dog stand with a proud and humourous smile on his face (knowing that he saved the boy). 2) Flying to Paris.....and it shows him passing the Concorde in the sky. 3) A prison scene with Lex and Otis, about Otis going "pssh", which Otis mentions he had wished before they left the cell, even though it means something else. Funny scene. 4) Miss Teschmacher needed to go to the bathroom at the Fortress of Solitude, where she says she thinks she found it. And Lex says, "she found it." 5) And finally, the ending where Superman defeats the 3 supervillains, Lex shows more interest in befriending Superman (which he doesn't), the cops show up at the Fortress to arrest Lex, and Superman destroys the Fortress Of Solitude.
There's more from the ABC version, but too difficult to explain.
Just to say, the Lester cut wasn't worth the price! I don't know about the Donner version, but the DVD creators destroyed this movie....and who knew a TV version would be so much better!"
What happened to the ABC-TV version..
cybernery | USA | 12/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The following gripes I have are mainly related to the Donner cut DVD, but I've also summarized various issues with the theatrical version.
The Superman II theatrical movie (by Richard Lester) isn't the same as the TV movie I remember seeing in the 80s.. nor is the Donner cut DVD. Apparently, the TV version was the Lester cut, with some of Donner's best scenes integrated in. It is refreshing to see never-before-seen footage from the Donner cut, but by no means is it superior to Lester's version. In fact, many of the scenes are terrible...
Donnor Cut Version:
1) For example, the opening scene showing the credits and highlights from the first movie are gone. The John Williams score is still there, but it is a shortened (and less effective) track. 2) Also, they took out the Eiffel Tower scene and replaced it with Lois jumping out of the Daily Planet building. 3) Lex Luthor and Miss Tessmacher scenes when they first enter Superman's Fortress are new, but dialogue is no better than the Lester scenes. The tv version's hackman seemed like he wasn't over-acting. It featured a close-up view of Hackman's face, where he says "think of it.. three super villains, all with the same wonderful contempt for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". 4) Niagra Falls is included, but the part where Clark trips and lands on the fireplace is replaced by a ludicrous scene of Lois shooting a gun filled with blanks. 5) Marlon Brando scenes were dissapointing. Whereas Superman's interaction with his holographic mother, Lara, was compassionate, his meeting with Jor-El seemed confrontational, portraying Superman as a spoiled teenager. 6) And towards the end, Superman flies back in time to undo the damage done by General Zod.. an "anticlimax" indeed, Lex Luthor!
As a general comment, Reeve's appearance in several "restored" scenes - like his physique and hair - is inconsistent with the rest of the movie. Overall, the Donner Cut felt like a compilation of deleted scenes.
Moving on to the theatrical version, some missing scenes which I thought took away substantially from the film include the following...
Theatrical Version (Lester Cut):
1) Concorde scene 2) Luthor's funny comment to Otis in the prison laundry room, "Otis, your brain defies any known scientific laws in its infinite capacity to deteriorate." 3) Nasa personnel: "All right, which one of you guys is using a hair dryer?" 4) Lex Luthor's unique North Pole dialogue (mentioned above in Donner's cut). 5) When the US army approaches the three villains, Non first gestures to Zod for permission before unleashing his heat vision. 6) Luthor's witty response to Zod, "No, Jor-El the baseball player!" 7) A few missing scenes of the New York battle. One example includes Zod's comment to Superman, "It is extremely likely you are merely a fool. Like father, like son." 8) Superman grabbing the S from his chest and throwing at Non (some people think it's corny, but I found it fascinating as a child..a super power no one has ever seen before). 9) Humorous response from tough-looking bald guy whom Clark accidentally bumps into, "Hey, try sleeping at night, buster!". This fluidly transitions to the hotdog diner scene where Clark was brutally beaten up as a human.
I am wishing they would release the ABC-TV version. It had all the great qualities from Lester and Donner. To me this tv version was the superior movie. How about a release of all three versions in one DVD package similar to the Bladerunner 4-version set?"
Robert A. Raymond | West Hartford, CT | 06/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Usually only the first movie in a series of movies with the same title is the best, but thhis is not the case with superman 2. I thought that this was the best superman film that Christopher Reve was in. I liked the confrontation with the kryptonion outlaws and all the action sequences displaying the kind of power that the man of steel has. This film is a keeper."
Different Enough To Please, But Still Same Old Supes!
Zachary Koenig | Fergus Falls, MN | 12/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After viewing "Superman: The Movie", it is difficult to believe that any sequel could top the story, effects, and just the overall aura of that masterful film. Well, Superman II is at least as good, and some would argue better, for two main reasons:
First, the special effects (many of them filmed at the same time as scenes from Superman I) are still incredible (at least by early 1980s standards). The action scenes, where as many as four beings are flying through the air simultaneously, are even more exciting than those from the first film. Also, the comedic and heroic tone of the first film remains intact for this effort (likely because parts of both were filmed together). Thus, Christopher Reeve is still the same old bumbling, stumbling Clark Kent but wholesomely heroic Superman, Lois Lane is just as rambunctious, and Lex Luthor is just as comically maniacal. In essence, it wasn't as if there was a big break in shooting and the actors had to rediscover their roles again...and that stability is very refreshing.
Of course, the second reason the film succeeds so well is that it introduces enough change to not become old hat. Instead of thwarting Luthor, Superman dukes it out with three Kryptonian baddies (led by the merciless General Zod). Instead of fooling Lois, Clark reveals his deepest secret to her (and, ultimately, puts the world in grave danger for doing so).
I have always felt that most sequels fail due to one of two (or maybe both!) issues: Either the film is too repetitive, or the actors can no longer fully regain the passion for the roles as they once had. However, with the combination of a fresh plot and the fact that both the first two Superman films were mostly filmed together, this film was able to avoid those traps.
So, if you were enthralled by Superman: The Movie, Superman II will not let you down in any way. The visuals are still stunning, the drama is still palpable, the humor is still funny, and I can guarantee that the closing scene will have you on your feet and cheering at your television!"