Last night, Beth and I watched both the theatrical version and the Richard Donner cut of Superman II back to back. To give a little background on why two versions exist, Donner was originally supposed to direct it, and he had a fair amount of the picture filmed. He was then fired for some reason (there’s a lot of speculation as to why, but no definite answer), and the new director Richard Lester had to re-film much of the movie in order to get full credit. A few years ago, it came out that the unused Donner footage still existed, and due to fan demand the film was recreated to be as close to his original vision as possible. Since he never finished it, however, there are still some Lester-directed parts in the Donner cut. Anyway, I must say I preferred the Donner version overall, mostly because there was actually some explanation as to how Superman regained his powers after giving them up. I also liked how it tied into the first movie by having the missile launched by Lex Luthor be what frees General Zod and his companions from the Picture Postcard Zone…um, I mean Phantom Zone.
There was even a little more explanation as to why Superman would have given up his powers in the first place, but still not enough. Just because a holographic projection of his dead parent (which one depends on the cut, as Marlon Brando was cut from the theatrical release) said he needed to be an ordinary human to be in a relationship with Lois Lane, why would he just accept this? Who’s going to object if he keeps his powers AND dates Lois? The idea that he does it for Lois doesn’t make sense either, as it was always the manly superhero she was attracted to, rather than the dorky Clark Kent. I get that Superman didn’t want to have to keep doing the superhero thing, but what about his sense of responsibility? In this world, things are going on every day that it takes super powers to handle. This is especially true in the theatrical cut, when Superman had just recently had to stop terrorists in Paris with a loose nuke. And how convenient that he and Lois just happened to be away at the Fortress of Solitude during Zod’s takeover. I guess it’s not like they have jobs where they need to be kept constantly abreast of current events. Oh, wait, they totally DO.
Overall, regardless of which version you’re watching, it’s a good movie but with quite a few plot holes. It appears to be pretty easy to reach the Fortress of Solitude, despite the fact that it’s at the North Pole. I figure the best explanation is that it’s not LITERALLY at the North Pole but somewhere in northern Canada, difficult but possible to access by conventional means. Then we have Superman getting revenge on the guy in the diner, which he totally deserved, but it still seems out of character for Supes. It would be one thing if Clark just let the guy punch him and hurt himself, but shoving him into a pinball machine? This makes even less sense in the Donner version, since he’s apparently turned back time to BEFORE that guy beat him up. From what I understand, the turning back time was originally going to be in the second movie, but they put it in the first instead, and added in the amnesia kiss to wrap things up with Lois. I wondered how reversing time to return Zod and the others to the Phantom Zone would have helped anything, and Beth said he’d just throw the missile in the other direction this time. I also felt that Luthor was underused in this film, but that might be because Gene Hackman wouldn’t return to shoot more scenes after the release of the first film. I did like Zod, who managed to be corny in his way while still posing an actual threat.
One complaint I see frequently when it comes to Superman is that, if he already has so many super powers, why do writers feel the need to give him more in order to advance a plot?
It’s not like this didn’t happen in the comics, but come on, it’s kind of lazy.
We saw a bit of this with Superman and the villains in this movie. The amnesia kiss is one example (and according to the IMDB, one that had been used in the comics), as is the bad guys’ tractor-beam eyes with the deputy sheriff’s gun. And in the theatrical cut, Zod’s gang apparently has super-carving to use on Mount Rushmore. In this latter case, I suppose it can be put down to the joke taking precedence over what made sense, and perhaps it can be excused for that reason, but still.