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SUPERMAN 2, 1980
Movie Review

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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 ďI donít want to be SupermanĒ storyline right after heís just become Superman.

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REVIEW:

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

The Story:

Both films deal with Clarkís 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 Ė picking up where one left off. But thatís irrelevant at this point. Hereís 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. Itís very Dark-Knightish in the scene that the story is kind of all over the place and doesnít necessarily stick with Superman most of the time. In fact, he really doesnít show up for about an hour into the film Ė which for an origin is acceptable, but this is the sequel here; lets get shit moving can we? Now, hereís where Lesterís version comes in. While some of the ideas that are utilized in the action sequences are quite ridiculous (cellophane Sís thrown from Supermanís chest and this Vanishing act power that he seems to have) they are still far better than Donnerís cut. The pacing and excitement just arenít in Donnerís cut as they are in Lesters. Not to mention, the single greatest line Superman has ever said on film, ďGeneral, would you care to step outside?Ē (which for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of subtext, this loosely translates into ďGeneral, would you care to get your ass whooping now?Ē). No, instead we get ďGeneral, havenít you ever heard of the freedom of the press?Ē LAME. Overall, I think what my problem is with some of the Donner cut, is that heís obviously quite bitter about Lester taking over and chooses to put his own footage back in for some scenes, even if itís incomplete or doesnít 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 everyoneís mind, chalking it up to dťjŗ 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 donít worry Ė itís all undone in the backwards spinning world. Lesterís film, while campy and ridiculous at times seems to work better as a whole, while Donnerís film only just ďhas itís moments.Ē

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 Donnerís cut and much more believable. Gene Hackman Ė I apologize for my rant in my Superman 1 review. I recently watched the ďLook! Up in the skyĒ documentary and was schooled on the history of Lex Luthor, who was a madman up until the 1980ís 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, whoís quite a likable baddie in Lesterís cut (in a good way) and more of a dark sinister angel of death in Donnerís cut (also good) and Brandoís Jor-El. Zodís performance can be attributed to Stampís ability to make the role work in whatever form and not violate the character. Brando as Supermanís father is incredible in the restored footage in Donnerís cut. Itís a shame they replaced him with his mother for Lesterís cut. Same dialogue and concepts, but come off completely different and much more powerful from Brando.

Directing:

I think Iíve touched enough on this in my story Ė but itís 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. Iím sure some fanboy somewhere has ripped both films and cut them together by now and Iím sure itís a great thing to watch if it can be foundÖ

Cinematography:

Same as always, although Donnerís cut has more of his personal stamp on it whereas Lesterís just seems more like clichť soft focus/fogged 80ís cinematography.

Production Design:

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

Editing:

Lesterís is much better edited because they had an opportunity to create pacing and emotion in the scenes. Donnerís completed scenes work phenomenally, however, the scenes that are incomplete and mixed with Lesterís footage fail miserably. Score: Hereís the shocker of the century. John Williams sucks. Yeah, I said it. Now, I donít know if he was brought back to re-score Donnerís 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 itís needed most.) The score in Lesterís isnít by Williams, but it works with that edit. Thereís emotional justification in it and it just makes the film more exciting. So if Williams was brought in for Donnerís re-cut, then shame on him. But if he wasnít, no ill will towards him, but someone should have told Mr. Donner you canít cover up bad scenes with bland music.

Special Effects:

The 70ís effects of Lesterís film were better than most of the shoestring budget effects that were created for the Donner recut. But overall, itís 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 ďgot itĒ enough to hit that mark of potential that I still believe Superman has. If someone could really grasp the proper handling of these films, weíd have an epic film that would dwarf any comic book film. Sadly, egoís, money and lazy storytelling stand in the way. Unlike Superman, not everyone believes enough to keep fighting till itís done right.

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

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