Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Surely ‘Superman II’ will go down as one of my favorite films, or at least it was when I saw it when it released as a thirteen year-old back 19 whenever it came out.  Upon later viewings of the film with a more critical eye I still found it highly entertaining, though maybe a bit too comic, and lacking the some of the emotional power of the first Superman film.  What I didn’t know, and you could really knock me over with a feather on this one, was that Richard Donner DID NOT direct ‘Superman II’ until the announcement of the release of ‘Superman II – The Richard Donner cut’.  Mind you, I always knew that he directed the original, and this was before it mattered to me who or what a film director was, I knew Richard Donner directed Superman, Steven Spielberg directed ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and George Lucas directed ‘Star Wars’.  For whatever reason, I had always assumed that Richard Donner had directed ‘Superman II’ as well, but no, Richard Lester got the credit for that one.

It was only recently that I had learned that Donner was fired from Superman II for whatever reason and Lester shot the rest of the movie and removed enough of the Donner footage so that he could claim at least a 51% director’s stake in the film to receive a directors’ credit.  Whatever, the film worked.  But when I had learned that majority of the Donner footage had been found in a vault in east hell somewhere and the powers at Warner were assembling it to at least get a facsimile of what Donners’ vision of Superman II was to have been, imagine the excitement at what they would come up with.

I am pleased to say at what they have come up with is a pretty damned interesting alternate view of what the second story of Superman may have been.  Not drastically

different, as the basic story is still the same, but there were enough differences that anyone who’s a fan of the films should at least check out ‘Superman II – The Richard Donner Cut’.

The story is still the same as three villains, Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O’Halloran)  that Jor-El dispatched to the forbidden zone are set free, but the means behind that are linked more closely to the first film in this version than the original version.  Other notable changes are the way that Lois attempts to trick Clark into revealing that he is Superman, the way that Lois eventually finds out that Clark is Superman and most importantly the missing Marlon Brando scenes.  What is probably the best part about Donner version is that there is more of the total despotic lunacy which is General Zod.  Even though the changes between the two versions are subtle, Donner’s Zod is more evil, more self centered, more delusional and even though the Donner version of ‘Superman II’ didn’t carry the overt humor of Lester’s version, the Zod persona is actually funnier since he is so over the top with his wrath.  If Richard Lester did anything wrong in his take on the Superman franchise, it’s the disservice he did to Terence Stamp by watering down his portrayal of General Zod.

Most people who watch this version of ‘Superman II’ will probably be a little put off by the ending Donner had shot for this film as it harkens entirely too close to the ending in the first film, but as it is explained during the commentary, they lifted the ending for the first film from the second film, and were going to cook up a new ending when the time came.  But as history would have it, that time never came for Richard Donner who was fired from the production and the DVD reveals that he is still pretty miffed about to this day.  He still refuses to call Richard Lester by name.

The Donner / Lester cut of ‘Superman II’ is still a fantastic and highly entertaining film in my opinion and will always be a favorite.  But considering that Lester went on to helm the incredibly lackluster ‘Superman III’, we are forced attribute the majority of the goodness that was in ‘Superman II’ to the deposed Donner.  Richard Donner laments during the extra content on the DVD about what could have been and what he would have done given the chance.  Having seen what happened to the franchise after ‘Superman II’, we all lament right along with him.  This is a must DVD for anybody who is a fan of these series of Superman movies.

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