Movie Review – Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Mini Review)


– Summary –

Director : Richard Donner
Year Of Release : 2006   (From material filmed in 1977)
Principal Cast : Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Terrence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Marlon Brando, Sarah Douglas, Marc McClure, Jack O’Halloran, Jackie Hooper, Valerie Perrine, EG Marshall.
Synopsis: Superman must face off against three renegade Kryptonian criminals who arrive on Earth to rule – meanwhile, Lois Lane continues her quest to expose the truth that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same.
What we think : Quirky, gargantuan action set-pieces and a deeper emotional connection between Superman and Lois Lane elevate what was a fairly cheesy Superman adventure into an outright classic: the remodelling of Richard Donner’s once-thought-lost sequel into a more straightforward action piece is both revelatory and extraordinary. A wonderful companion piece to the classic original, and a definite must-see for any fan of Superman.


Just Quickly

When Richard Donner was unceremoniously (and acrimoniously) dumped as director of the Superman movie sequel, producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind brought on Richard Lester to complete a project which was rapidly spiralling out of control: Donner had tried to film two movies at once, and costs had escalated to the point where friction between he and the producers caused a major fracture. With Lester named as sole director of Superman II, many fans clamoured for the release of a version of the film that Donner had wanted to give us, and clamoured long and loud enough that Warner Bros decided to do just that. With recently uncovered footage restored, as well as Donner himself overseeing the edit, Superman II was re-released to the public in a version true to the original story Donner wanted to tell. The Donner Cut, as it came to be known, included many alternative shots, takes and story points from the version released under Lester, as well as the original screen-test between Christopher Reeve & Margot Kidder being woven into the story. While the film doesn’t have the polish of the original Superman film, nor do many of the included scenes make sense logically within the narrative framework, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a fascinating look into the Superman mythos, and the dream of what might have been.

The Result

Okay, so Donner has cobbled together many scenes excised from the Lester version, such as the nuclear  bomb linkage from Superman I (where Superman throws one of the Luthor-controlled nukes into space – where it then explodes and releases Zod, Ursa and Non from the Phantom Zone) instead of the “Bomb in the Eiffel Tower” sequence, and some alternative shots and takes for the “Invasion of the White House” sequence. Plus, the romance between Superman and Lois is more effectively developed, as well as previously unseen dialogue between Clark and Jor El in the Fortress of Solitude, giving deeper emotional weight to Clarks decision to give up being Superman for the sake of love. While it does have some narrative flaws (the major one being the wonky “Lois discovering that Clark is Superman” throughline) and some of the shot selection and editing remains a little jarring, the film isn’t supposed to be a New & Improved version, just an Alternate Version – so watching it with this in mind, the film isn’t that bad. If you’re a fan of Superman, and want to investigate the convoluted and often bitter journey that was Superman II, then you’ll want to have a look at the Donner version of the film. [Editors Note: for a complete history and listing of the changes between the Lester and Donner versions, read more at this Wiki page.]

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7 thoughts on “Movie Review – Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Mini Review)

  1. I haven't seen this version but I want to. Superman is one of my favourite superhero films and I do like the sequel.

    1. Thanks Dan! You really should give this one a shot at some point – it's a terrific rainy-day film when the X-box breaks.

  2. Hmmm. Am i gauche for thinking this is a little kitsch? i had a bad crush on Ursa when i was a tot, if that counts for anything…

    1. Ursa? She freaked me out as a kid – her gaunt, feed-me face and horrifying attitude towards men wasn't exactly a turn on.

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