HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
OnTV Today's Date:

Superman II:
The Richard Donner Cut

I'm 11 again. Only instead of sitting with my friends at the Century 22, I'm in front of a television playing a DVD of one of my all-time favorite movies. Except somehow it isn't that movie, as scenes just aren't quite the way I remember them.

Whether you consider this "the way it was supposed to be" or not, the release of the Richard Donner cut of Superman II is an historic event. Fans all over the world had clamored for this, allegedly righting a wrong committed decades ago when Donner was summarily dismissed from his vision of a two-part epic before he could finish the second part. Director Richard Lester stepped in and reshot much of the movie, partially to qualify for DGA credit, and partially to make it follow his own vision.

Now editor Michael Thau has put Donner's version back together, after a couple of illegal attempts were made and circulated. Perhaps the greatest surprise is how much of this "lost" film still existed; seeing a change in print quality from scene to scene doesn't detract from the story. At no point did Thau have to resort to storyboards or animatics, though one scene is cobbled together from screen tests - a far wittier scene, by the way, of Lois uncovering Clark's secret than is in Lester's Superman II.

But on the whole, is this restored vision better than that movie that did get released back in 1980?

Donner himself is gracious enough not to weigh in; he's just happy to see the thing. So let us split the invulnerable hairs that might later be used to clone the atomic man in Superman IV: Lester's version remains a fine and fun movie, but Donner's version is the better film.

At one point in the commentary, Creative Consultant (in reality, the uncredited screenwriter) Tom Mankiewicz wisely observes, "you've got to follow the rules." For those who have smiled tightly over cellophane shields and multiple Supermen, that's a welcome observation, and one of the absolute strengths of Donner's vision. Despite the presence of Kryptonians, the film strives to maintain a sense of believability throughout. It balances with a respect for what Superman's abilities allegedly are.

As a result, the film isn't quite as action-packed as the one we all remember, but its emotional notes have a lot more resonance. From the beginning, Lois has strong suspicions about Clark Kent's dual life, so it doesn't come arbitrarily as a second act plot device. She also goes about it smarter here, and in that screen test scene (pieces of which are on the Superman: The Movie DVD extras), the revelation does credit to both Superman and Lois Lane instead of the absolutely stupid "falling in the fire" bit. For the first time, Margot Kidder's Lois seems like a match for Superman, instead of just a plot point because the mythos said so.

It's also pretty clear that Bryan Singer had seen some of this lost footage, as he definitely carries on the themes brought to fruition in Donner's version. The veteran director reverses a couple of scenes in the Fortress of Solitude, allowing for a Superman Returns plot twist to make a lot more sense.

But that's minor compared to the restoration of Marlon Brando's scenes. Though Susannah York did a creditable substitution in Lester's version, the confrontations between Kal-El and Jor-El have much more power. Even though it's done with green screen, a momentary exchange of looks between Lois and Jor-El has great story weight. An important theme of Donner's vision returns, and makes Superman Returns a lot less difficult to accept.

Though it still has a lot of humor, this version of Superman II gets rid of extraneous comic relief. The Daily Planet employee with a seeming crush on Non (Jack O'Halloran) has disappeared. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) still has every bon mot (and more) from before, but Donner never forgets the underlying menace; Luthor may be funny, but he's also quite happy to be a mass murderer.

In his introduction and commentary, Richard Donner expresses over and over his gratitude at the chance to see this cut. Moreover, he quite movingly stresses his dedication and admiration for Christopher Reeve, who really makes this film work. This is a chance to see one last "new" performance as Superman, even though some of it is old. And it's enough to make me want to give the last two movies another try.

That's not to say this is a perfect film, either. It's not just a snapshot of a film that might have been, but of two. In particular, the resolution would work better if Donner had been able to do Superman: The Movie more closely to his idea of a two-part film. Taken with the film that was, this ending now seems clunky. But heck, it still reads better than Lester's ending.

Thau also creates a prologue recapping the first film, which ends with what should have been that original ending - and would have been chillingly cool in 1978. To make it seem less like retreading old material, Thau put it together from different takes than were used in Superman: The Movie, but that might not be noticeable if you haven't watched it in a long time - or don't watch the documentary included in the extras.

The extras are pretty sparse, by the way, and somewhat repetitive. Understandably, Donner and Mankiewicz divorced themselves emotionally from the project years ago, and seem more charmed that fans would care than able to offer much insight. They talk maddeningly of wanting to have continued the series, and Donner often mentions that he wishes he could have done some sequences differently. (Donner has begun a run co-writing Action Comics with Geoff Johns, in which he has promised that at least one story arc will be loosely adapted from his plans for continuing the movie series.)

So it's sparse. We're still getting a film nobody thought we ever would. And even in its understandable imperfections, it's a thrill.

Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut

Derek McCaw


Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites