Movie Review: SUPERMAN 2 (1980)

Submit your Fan Fiction Screenplay to the Festival: http://fanfictionfestival.com

SUPERMAN 2 MOVIE POSTER
SUPERMAN 2, 1980
Movie Reviews

Directed by Richard Lester, Richard Donner
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando and Terrance Stamp.
Review by Andrew Kosarko

SYNOPSIS:

Picks up where Superman 1 leaves off (kind of) and extends into the “I don’t want to be Superman” storyline right after he’s just become Superman.

REVIEW:

Now, I know that synopsis was a little weaker than usual, but that basic gist of both movies. And yes, I mean there’s two different versions of this and that’s whats kept me from writing this review for so long. But now I’ve seen both Lester and Donner’s versions. Despite what some may say, I prefer Lester’s version overall, but Donner definitely had the right mind going in.

The Story:

Both films deal with Clark’s decision to give up his powers in an attempt to live a normal life with Lois. My issue with this is only that it happens so soon in the franchise / continuity of the story since both films timelines are supposed to be set back to back – picking up where one left off. But that’s irrelevant at this point. Here’s the lowdown in the difference between the two films: Donner makes a better character arc for Clark in the discussions with Jor EL (Brando) and the laying down of the Superman mantle is much more interesting and explained. Furthermore, the love scenes between Clark/Superman and Lois Lane work so much better in this version. The very first scene with Lois and Clark in the Donner cut made me so happy. It was something I had always wanted to see. Oddly enough though, while the romance/revealing of Clark as Superman and the character transitions that are better handled in this film still leave Clark out as the main focus of the film. It’s very Dark-Knightish in the scene that the story is kind of all over the place and doesn’t necessarily stick with Superman most of the time. In fact, he really doesn’t show up for about an hour into the film – which for an origin is acceptable, but this is the sequel here; lets get shit moving can we? Now, here’s where Lester’s version comes in. While some of the ideas that are utilized in the action sequences are quite ridiculous (cellophane S’s thrown from Superman’s chest and this Vanishing act power that he seems to have) they are still far better than Donner’s cut. The pacing and excitement just aren’t in Donner’s cut as they are in Lesters. Not to mention, the single greatest line Superman has ever said on film, “General, would you care to step outside?” (which for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of subtext, this loosely translates into “General, would you care to get your ass whooping now?”). No, instead we get “General, haven’t you ever heard of the freedom of the press?” LAME. Overall, I think what my problem is with some of the Donner cut, is that he’s obviously quite bitter about Lester taking over and chooses to put his own footage back in for some scenes, even if it’s incomplete or doesn’t work as well.

Finally, the film ends with Superman spinning the world back again and completely un-doing all the events of the film from everyone’s mind, chalking it up to déjà vu. Not to mention he violates major comic book code when he KILLS LEX LUTHOR at the end. Hindsight is 20/20 Mr. Donner and a better approach should have been taken for this, not to mention blowing up the Fortress of Solitude for absolutely no reason. But don’t worry – it’s all undone in the backwards spinning world. Lester’s film, while campy and ridiculous at times seems to work better as a whole, while Donner’s film only just “has it’s moments.”

Acting:

For the most part, all of the actors hold their own. Reeves as Superman needs no comment. Even later in Superman 4 he still works that role better than anyone ever has or will. Margot kidder is much less annoying in Donner’s cut and much more believable. Gene Hackman – I apologize for my rant in my Superman 1 review. I recently watched the “Look! Up in the sky” documentary and was schooled on the history of Lex Luthor, who was a madman up until the 1980’s when they developed his

business man persona. Until then in the comics, Luthor was a crazed madman/scientist. So I apologize for the injustice I gave that performance and interpretation of the character. The real two characters that leap out are Terrance Stamp as General Zod, who’s quite a likable baddie in Lester’s cut (in a good way) and more of a dark sinister angel of death in Donner’s cut (also good) and Brando’s Jor-El. Zod’s performance can be attributed to Stamp’s ability to make the role work in whatever form and not violate the character. Brando as Superman’s father is incredible in the restored footage in Donner’s cut. It’s a shame they replaced him with his mother for Lester’s cut. Same dialogue and concepts, but come off completely different and much more powerful from Brando.

Directing:

I think I’ve touched enough on this in my story – but it’s simple, take the dramatic scenes from Donner, the action from Lester (sans a couple of moments ) and the movie would be phenomenal as a whole. I’m sure some fanboy somewhere has ripped both films and cut them together by now and I’m sure it’s a great thing to watch if it can be found…

Cinematography:

Same as always, although Donner’s cut has more of his personal stamp on it whereas Lester’s just seems more like cliché soft focus/fogged 80’s cinematography.

Production Design:

Good as always. A lot of projection backgrounds, but I can deal.

Editing:

Lester’s is much better edited because they had an opportunity to create pacing and emotion in the scenes. Donner’s completed scenes work phenomenally, however, the scenes that are incomplete and mixed with Lester’s footage fail miserably. Score: Here’s the shocker of the century. John Williams sucks. Yeah, I said it. Now, I don’t know if he was brought back to re-score Donner’s cut or if existing track music was selected by Donner to be placed over scenes but the music just does not work at all in Donners cut. The Superman theme is non-existant most of the time, especially in the fight scenes (where it’s needed most.) The score in Lester’s isn’t by Williams, but it works with that edit. There’s emotional justification in it and it just makes the film more exciting. So if Williams was brought in for Donner’s re-cut, then shame on him. But if he wasn’t, no ill will towards him, but someone should have told Mr. Donner you can’t cover up bad scenes with bland music.

Special Effects:

The 70’s effects of Lester’s film were better than most of the shoestring budget effects that were created for the Donner recut. But overall, it’s all forgivable given the dating of this film.

In closing:

Somewhere between these two films lies potentially a fantastic Superman film. Neither director, in my opinion, fully “got it” enough to hit that mark of potential that I still believe Superman has. If someone could really grasp the proper handling of these films, we’d have an epic film that would dwarf any comic book film. Sadly, ego’s, money and lazy storytelling stand in the way. Unlike Superman, not everyone believes enough to keep fighting till it’s done right.

PS: The worst part of the Donner cut is the removal of Bill Cosby from Perry White’s wall, but he makes it up with Super Copy teeshirts.

 

Submit your Fan Fiction Screenplay to the Festival: http://fanfictionfestival.com

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: SUPERMAN 2 (1980)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s