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Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
DVD disk
12.15.2006 By: Jason Adams
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut order
Director:
Richard Donner

Actors:
Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder
Marlon Brando

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After Lois Lane discovers his true identity, Superman chooses to give up his powers and live life as a puny human so he can be with his lady love. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the exact moment three Kryptonian criminals arrive on Earth with dreams of world domination.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
There’s no getting around it; it’s great seeing “Directed by Richard Donner” whoooosh past the screen against John Williams’ opening credits theme. It was no secret that Donner had been filming SUPERMAN I and II simultaneously, only to be replaced by Richard Lester, who reshot the majority of the sequel. Since then, a completed cut of Donner’s original film has always been a fanboy dream. But was it worth the wait?

Mostly yes. Lester’s complete lack of knowledge regarding the character made for some truly horrible choices, which have now thankfully been righted. Gone is the lame S-shield boomerang, the Super-clones and best of all, the amnesia kiss. Donner’s version of how Lois tests and ultimately discovers Clark’s secret works much better. There’s greater focus on story and characters this time around, rather than random action and campy humor. And best of all is the return of Marlon Brando as Jor-El. His brand new scenes with Reeve are much more powerful than those with Lara, and they flesh out the legacy between father and son that was set up in the first movie. For these corrections alone, I will say that this is superior to the theatrical version. And that’s in addition to what already worked well before: The kneeling-obsessed Terrance Stamp.The large-scale showdown in Metropolis. And most of all Christopher Reeve. There’s one new scene where you can see Reeve transform from Kent to Kal-El solely through his eyes. It’s a great reminder of why the man was perfect as Supes.

However, as a film on its own, it’s not completely perfect. Since Donner never got to finish shooting his movie, about a quarter of Lester’s footage is incorporated for completion’s sake, and the result is a patchy feel and the occasional atonal spot. Also, in this version Superman and Lois hook up before he gives up his powers, which renders pointless the entire plot of him becoming human. My biggest gripe though is with the ending. [Possible Spoiler!] Donner re-uses the “turn around the world/turn back time” resolution again. While it works slightly better here than the aforementioned “roofie” kiss, it still doesn’t make any sense and is such an unnecessary copout. [End of Spoiler!]

All in all, fans of Superman will no doubt enjoy this as an addition to the universe. Just try to keep your expectations in check.
THE EXTRAS
I think the fact that this version even officially exists is a testament to the DVD format and the versatility of the market. Even five years ago something like this wouldn’t have even been plausible, let alone considered profitable.

Introduction by Richard Donner (1:54): A very warm “thank you” to the fans who made this possible.

Commentary by director Richard Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz: Donner and friend are equally nostalgic and energetic about watching this cut. The director lays out his original vision for the film and goes sequence by sequence to explain why things work better this way. It’s obviously still painful for him to talk about the whole situation, especially when he mentions having had SUPERMAN 3 and 4 already planned out before having the plug pulled. (Darn you Warner Bros.!)

SUPERMAN II: Restoring the Vision (13:12): A look at the process of bringing Donner’s vision to life, through archiving, editing, sound and visual effects. Warner Bros. gave the director a surprising amount of resources and freedom to correct their thirty year old mistake, but it was still no easy task. Editors had to go through six tons of film just to locate Donner’s footage. I was also surprised at how much new CGI was used, probably because they worked hard to make the effects look old and fitting within the time period.

Deleted Scenes (8:42): Apparently there was even more footage that wouldn’t fit in to the movie, mostly new stuff at the Fortress of Solitude. The best though is the revelation of what finally happens to Lex Luthor in the end.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I’m sure if Donner had been able to film 100% of his vision for SUPERMAN II it would’ve made Lester’s version look like SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR SUCK. As it stands now, this new cut is as good as you can expect but it’s not the miracle do-over we’ve been waiting for. If you’re a big Supes fans you should pick it up and if you’re just curious, give it a rental. It’s worth it just for the new Brando scenes.

Somewhere Richard Lester weeps. (Kneel before Donner!)


Extra Tidbit: Producers originally wanted Paul Newman for the role of Superman.
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