Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

My wife bought this DVD for me as an early Christmas present:

For those of you who don’t know, here’s some background:

Superman I and II were originally filmed simultaneously. As both films were being finished, the decision was made to focus on Superman I and then wait to see if it would make any money at the box office.

Of course, Superman I was a huge success. But tensions had been building between the producers and the director to the point where they would barely speak to one another. So the decision was made to fire director Richard Donner and hire a new director to finish Sueprman II. Even though the movie was about 80% completed, large portions of the movie were rewritten and re-shot (partly because the new director had a different take on the film, and partly to keep him from being accused of taking credit for Donner’s work). Only about 30% of Donner’s footage remained when Superman II hit theaters.

Now, finally, we can see the movie as Donner intended it to be. Well, almost. There are a few bits that Donner never got to finish shooting, including one scene with Clark and Lois that was only shot as a screen test. And in a “behind the scenes” featurette Donner admits that the film was shot so long ago that he has trouble remembering what his original vision was. But all things considered, the film holds together quite well.

There is a TON of new material in the film. For someone familiar with the original Superman II (as a kid I watched it about a zillion times and knew every line by heart) it was a real treat to watch this movie in a fresh new way. And dare I say it, I think I prefer this version to the original.

Granted, the plot (and some dialogue) are still cheezy and over-the-top by today’s standards. The special effects budget for this restored version must have been about ten bucks. And there were a couple of sequences that felt “cobbled together”. But so much of the Donner material is well-written, well-acted, and sprinkled with great one-liners, that the movie was still very enjoyable to watch. It feels smarter and snappier than the original.

(SPOILER ALERT) Some of the biggest changes I noticed include:

• The opening sequence at the Eiffel Tower is gone. Instead, the movie opens at the Daily Planet. Lois figures out that Clark Kent is Superman, and jumps out the window to prove it, declaring “You won’t let me die”.

• The scene at Niagra Falls where Lois jumps overboard is deleted, and replaced with a scene (shot as a screen test) where Lois fires a gun at Clark to prove he is Superman.

• Several new scenes involve Superman talking with his father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) in the fortress of solitude.

• Many scenes of General Zod and the gang wreaking havoc are deleted or replaced (for example, instead of re-carving Mount Rushmore the villains knock over the Washington Monument).

• Superman regains his powers thanks to a moving act of self-sacrifice on the part of his father.

• During the big fight scene, Superman is thrown into the torch on the Statue of Liberty.

• Instead of the “magic kiss” ending, Superman (again) turns back time, essentially undoing everything that happened in the entire movie. Still a dubious ending, but I prefer it to the silly “magic kiss” bit.


Has anyone else seen this movie? Anyone planning to see it? Let me know what you think.