Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Superman II: the Richard Donner Cut

I've always loved the first two Superman movies, perhaps the second more than the first. "Come to me, son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!" So I was quite anxious to see what Richard Donner intended to the second to be, and I picked it up today. Having just finished viewing it, I love Richard Donner's vision of "Superman II" as much as the original release.


We get to see more of Brando, and his wonderful exchanges with Reeve show that the latter could act. We also get, after all these years, an explanation of what the green crystal did. The lopsided battle at the White House is longer, and what a look on Zod's face when he uses the assault rifle! Also, the fight at the Fortress of Solitude is much improved: the ridiculous Superman cellophane net and Kryptonian disappearing acts are eliminated. That includes Superman's puzzling statement, "We used to play this game in school. He never was any good at it."

There are, however, several parts where I think the Donner-Lester original was better.

The most glaring imperfection was the change to what was presumably the original dialogue, instead of my favorite moment in the entire movie: "General, would you care to step outside?"

The changes to the fight scene were good. The guy laughing on the pay phone was cut, and the new Donner footage/dialogue was good. However, after Superman rejoins Zod with, "I'm not a coward," there's some additional action before Zod declares "Then die as you deserve to!" and throws the cement wall. It would have fit better had Zod said, "Now die as you deserve to!"

I wish Superman and Lois at the Fortress of Solitude could have been a combination of the two versions. Superman picking flowers was unfortunately cut, although Lois' "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable" was also removed. What, Superman just happened to have women's clothing ready for her? I prefer the original sequence of Superman being made to choose while she was changing, rather than his choice coming after they had already made love. The latter, though, explains how Superman got Lois pregnant with a superbaby. That was my biggest problem with "Superman Returns": a pretty good action movie, but it ruined so much of who Superman was, and the new Superman and Lois just didn't have any chemistry. I actually like it less and less the more I think about it.

The new ending was so-so. I thought the original was more touching because of how it pained Lois to see Clark every day, knowing who he really was. Even if it did rely on a sort of Kryptonian hypnosis, I preferred that night of emotional conflict to the "too easy" resolution in the new one: Superman destroys the Fortress, and Lois cries as she promises to keep his secret. Yawn.

Time reversal was bad enough in the first movie, but using it in the second shows a lack of imagination. It's too easy, like a character waking up and realizing that the disaster was just a dream. Part of Superman's lesson was repairing, not undoing, the damage so he could see the consequences of his "selfishness." And was Superman zooming around the Earth reused from the original movie, just like the final shot?

Worst of all, if the time reversal undid the damage Zod & Co. caused, and in fact returning them to the Phantom Zone, then we can also assume it undoes Superman giving up his powers. So when he returned to the diner and took care of the bully, he was in fact seeking revenge for something that never happened. Perhaps the diner owners and customers are glad someone shut Rocky up, but the time reversal makes Superman's "I've been, uh, working out" fall flat. Only the events of the original version made that line work.


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