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Face-Off: Superman vs. Superman II

Dec. 6, 2012by: Paul Huffman
For last weeks Face-Off, we went X-Men crazy in a match up between X-Men (the gem that started it all) and the latest outing X-Men: First Class (the film that redeemed the franchise). The original X-Men took the cake in the verdict, but you our readers split that opinion and pretty much made it a dead even race. Not bad, as any film is deserving of the win in their own ways.

This week we decided to show some love to the Man of Steel, the Son of Krypton, the one who made us all believe a man could fly...Superman! The legendary superhero is being re-imagined via the talents of Zack Snyder and company in the upcoming film Man of Steel. While this is exciting in so many ways, fans will always have a soft spot for the magic in at least the first two films featuring the late great Christopher Reeve. Richard Donner's vision for the first Superman film and the brilliant sequel that followed has made two classic comic book films in a world before films of the like dominated cinema. But which one could be called better? Let's discuss.
Story
After this film managed to sum up the entire Smallville television series in about thirty minutes (in a beautiful way), the newly donned Superman arrives in Metropolis to blend into life once again while doing his heroic duty. Once we get into the nitty gritty, Superman ultimately has the same battle on his hands that he did in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Only...y'know...in this one he did more than stalk Lois Lane most of the time. The film introduces the world to Superman and all his abilities, and all he stood for beautifully. There's no more you can ask from a first film in a franchise.
Alright, the world is well acquainted with the Man of Steel, now it's time to introduce him to a more formidable villain. He gets just that in the form of three surviving Kryptonian criminals after they escape from The Phantom Zone. General Zod and his cronies arrive on earth and soon discover the presence of the offspring of the man who jailed them...and well...shit gets real. Sprinkle in a little romance and an interesting identity crisis for Clark and we have ourselves a worthy sequel. Superman II did everything a sequel should do, especially for a comic book film, it upped the stakes. Bravo.
Villain
Lex Luthor is portrayed as Superman's ultimate foe for his pension for evil ingenuity and ruthlessness. A desire for land? Really? Alright I'll bite, we've went to war for that sort of shit here in the real world. The evil methods Luthor is prepared to employ to achieve his goals is nothing to laugh at in my opinion. Killing millions in the name of real estate makes you an evil son of a bitch indeed. Lex is portrayed in a humorous manner here, but it's a testament to Gene Hackman's talent that he was able to give his Lex an aura of menace nonetheless. While we've gotten better incarnations of Lex Luthor following this, he served as an alright first outing for Superman to defeat.
Terrence Stamp was a genius in this film, as were his costars. I love a group of villains that are perfectly justified in looking at the human race as a bunch of puny ants you just can't wait to squash. They were also nowhere near faltering when they found out there was someone on Earth that were operating on their level, on the contrary, they were elated. The third act came around and they caused some damage to Metropolis that I would have loved to see in effect with all the technological advances we have in filmmaking today (hello Man of Steel). I almost wish they would have left Luthor completely out of the fold for this film, considering how they used him. The war criminal Kryptonian's were more than satisfactory.
Effects
The brilliant design of the Kyrptonian wardrobe, to the brilliant use of a practical set and matte painting for the Fortress. The brilliant use of miniatures, and the wonderful use of blue screen and wire rigs. The ingenious way to portray Clark Kent's ability to launch a football that probable ended up where Krypton used to be, not to mention his time turning talent. It was the 70's, but a team was assembled that really pulled off making the world believe a man could fly. Practical effects, while dated, are beautiful to look at. I can only imagine what it was like to see this bad boy in 78.
I saw Superman II before I saw the original film. I was amazed to see Zod walking on water, I marveled at Superman's abilities with laser eyes and super breath. The whole third act of this film blew my mind, before filmmaking evolved and I grew up seeing what we can do today. One of the shots that stayed with me for years and that I loved was seeing Zod slam into that billboard and the amount of carnage that ensued. Like the story, they special effects team amped up the effort for Superman II ten fold. More formidable foes for our hero served as fuel for that. Singer should have taken this approach for returns. Ah well.
Overall
Donner, John Williams' iconic score, brilliant casting for not only Superman but the rest of the players as well, all the elements just seemed to come together beautifully to bring Superman to life, no? I mean when bring Marlon Brando in to portray Jor-El, you know this film was deserving of your attention. How about the dialogue they gave to Brando, eh? While we looked at Luthor conducting a real estate scam as ridiculous for Superman Returns, it worked in 1978. As if this film needed anymore praise, they actually pulled off some pretty dramatic shit for the films climax. Bottom line, no better job could have been done to introduce Superman to a wider audience.
This film was plagued with famous production controversies and still turned out brilliant. Donner began shooting the first film and this sequel simultaneously, and studio interference led to him getting booted to be replaced by Richard Lester. Nevertheless, this film had Superman doing battle the way he was meant to. He had worthy opponents, his relationship with Lois Lane landed itself on a deeper level, and we got a taste of the world without Superman. Weird ass plot serving kryptonian powers aside, Superman II is a sequel that I believed managed to improve on its original despite all the elements working against it, and earned its spot as another comic book classic.
Superman II
So there is my two cents folks. Superman was a near flawless piece of cinema for its time and beyond, then comes Superman II which was bigger, badder, campier in a beautiful way that enhanced the experience we were treated to with the first film. The film overcame odds that could have made it a disaster, and managed to become a film that has earned a genuine argument for being a superior film to that of its classic predecessor. But do you agree? Let us know.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Superman film is your favourite?
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8:35PM on 12/06/2012
Both films are good, and when I first saw the series I preferred Superman II more b/c of the kryptonians making more interesting villains and more action. Now that I'm older, I like Superman I more. The battle in II is still more exciting that anything in the first movie, but the first movie as a whole is better made.
Next week you should do Superman III vs Superman IV. Both are huge disappointments compared w/ the first 2 films and Superman Returns. I'll admit I like IV more than III.
Both films are good, and when I first saw the series I preferred Superman II more b/c of the kryptonians making more interesting villains and more action. Now that I'm older, I like Superman I more. The battle in II is still more exciting that anything in the first movie, but the first movie as a whole is better made.
Next week you should do Superman III vs Superman IV. Both are huge disappointments compared w/ the first 2 films and Superman Returns. I'll admit I like IV more than III.
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5:17PM on 12/06/2012

Hmmmm

So here are my points about both movies:
Superman 1: MASSIVE plot point in the ending. So he's clearly fast enough to fly AROUND the world to REVERSE TIME (more on that in a minute), so why did he struggle to catch both missiles? On top of that, why did he have to fly one WAY out to space, when he could have just used his strength to THROW it into space? Speaking of reversing time by reverse-revolving the Earth's rotation, which would cause more harm than good - given how it would cause
So here are my points about both movies:
Superman 1: MASSIVE plot point in the ending. So he's clearly fast enough to fly AROUND the world to REVERSE TIME (more on that in a minute), so why did he struggle to catch both missiles? On top of that, why did he have to fly one WAY out to space, when he could have just used his strength to THROW it into space? Speaking of reversing time by reverse-revolving the Earth's rotation, which would cause more harm than good - given how it would cause cataclysmic problems with the oceans and gravitational field on Earth, what happened to both missiles when he did this? By the time he met up with Lois would have been about the same time the second missile hit the Fault. So, are we to assume that he got the second missile in the meantime?

Superman 2: People dog on how Superman gained the powers of cloning himself (he used to play that game in school...yet no one seemed to ever mention how young Clark Kent was a Goddamn freak who could clone himself. So there's that), turning his shield into a WTF Saran Wrap thing that could be thrown, and that his kiss can cause people to have amnesia (able to go back to a very specific point, mind you). Let's be real people: this is SUPERMAN. The fucking guy gets new powers every time a new saga or story is released. Mind you, we're also talking about the same superhero who gained the powers of shooting fucking RAINBOWS FROM HIS FINGERTIPS.

So I say, you can't really dog on Supes for gaining ridiculous powers in the movies when he can pretty much do whatever anyone says he can do. I say it's a tie though. Both are great in their own right, ridiculousness aside.
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9:16PM on 12/06/2012
He did not spin the earth backwards, he alone went through time. An old popular theory on time travel was that if you flew against the earth's rotation at the speed of light you would travel backwards in time. This is what Superman did.

The earth spinning backwards was a sight gag to let us know that he was going back in time. Like the old sight gag of a clock spinning backwards to indicate time travel (spinning a clock backwards doesn't cause time travel, but traveling through time causes
He did not spin the earth backwards, he alone went through time. An old popular theory on time travel was that if you flew against the earth's rotation at the speed of light you would travel backwards in time. This is what Superman did.

The earth spinning backwards was a sight gag to let us know that he was going back in time. Like the old sight gag of a clock spinning backwards to indicate time travel (spinning a clock backwards doesn't cause time travel, but traveling through time causes the clock to appear as if it is running backwards).
+3
3:26PM on 12/06/2012

Superman 1 for me

He's always calm and collected except for when Lois dies and he flippin loses his mind. That is awesome. And Gene Hackman was perfect. "We all have our little faults. Mine's in California. "
He's always calm and collected except for when Lois dies and he flippin loses his mind. That is awesome. And Gene Hackman was perfect. "We all have our little faults. Mine's in California. "
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12:57PM on 12/06/2012

Absolutely correct!

S1 great film.. S2 Fantastic!! So memorable
S1 great film.. S2 Fantastic!! So memorable
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11:18AM on 12/06/2012

Nailed It!

S2 is as epic a sequel as you can get if only for Zod and the crazy destruction set pieces. The annihilation of East Houston, Idaho and Times Square is still freakin' fantastic. Sure there are some extremely silly moments (the plastic chest logo flinging thingy; his stupid, tin foil bed, Lois) but as a whole it's a way more solid and entertaining flick worthy of the epic nature of the Superman character.
S2 is as epic a sequel as you can get if only for Zod and the crazy destruction set pieces. The annihilation of East Houston, Idaho and Times Square is still freakin' fantastic. Sure there are some extremely silly moments (the plastic chest logo flinging thingy; his stupid, tin foil bed, Lois) but as a whole it's a way more solid and entertaining flick worthy of the epic nature of the Superman character.
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10:50AM on 12/06/2012

Superman: The Movie is a better film

I have to disagree. Like sayahh said, when I was a kid I always preferred to watch Superman II because there was a lot of action. As a grown up as much as I love Superman II I do notice the flaws. And like Netforce, I LOVE all four Reeve Superman films and that scene where Superman flies up to save Lois from falling from the helicopter combined with the building score is unforgettable and yes I get goosebumps too.

Superman: The Movie is easily the greatest superhero/comic book movie of
I have to disagree. Like sayahh said, when I was a kid I always preferred to watch Superman II because there was a lot of action. As a grown up as much as I love Superman II I do notice the flaws. And like Netforce, I LOVE all four Reeve Superman films and that scene where Superman flies up to save Lois from falling from the helicopter combined with the building score is unforgettable and yes I get goosebumps too.

Superman: The Movie is easily the greatest superhero/comic book movie of all time.
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10:04AM on 12/06/2012

Disagree

Clearly sir, you're insane.

Superman The Movie
- better score
- better cinematography
- less campy
- better ending
- Marlon Brando

Superman II
- Margot looks horrible
- Clark's big reveal - he trips over a pink bear? Lois doesn't figure it out - and he conveniently misses the massive pink bear rug? Could have sworn the "clumsy clark" was just an act...
- Brando is replaced with Superman's mom?
- Due to the loss of Donner and Mank - the story didn't have an ending so to
Clearly sir, you're insane.

Superman The Movie
- better score
- better cinematography
- less campy
- better ending
- Marlon Brando

Superman II
- Margot looks horrible
- Clark's big reveal - he trips over a pink bear? Lois doesn't figure it out - and he conveniently misses the massive pink bear rug? Could have sworn the "clumsy clark" was just an act...
- Brando is replaced with Superman's mom?
- Due to the loss of Donner and Mank - the story didn't have an ending so to write themselves outta this mess - Superman gains NEW completely superpowers???
- Superman KILLS the criminals?
- Bad, obvious fake "Hackman" double
- horrific representation of small town middle america
-ridiculous, unnecessary humor added to the Metropolis battle - completely deflating the seriousness of the situation.
- one word - SUPER KISS.

I love all four Reeve films without question - but I'm sorry - but Superman The Movie is still a nearly perfect film and a landmark achievement in an of itself. Superman II is a fun film without a doubt and has been my favorite at times. But both the theatrical cut and the Donner cut of II are deeply flawed in comparison.
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9:38AM on 12/06/2012

NOT SURE IF DONNER CUT OR S2?

if ur talking about the donner cut then YES superman 2 donner cut is amazing
if ur talking about the original
please wat a complete utter garbage, superman shield net, nuff said
if ur talking about the donner cut then YES superman 2 donner cut is amazing
if ur talking about the original
please wat a complete utter garbage, superman shield net, nuff said
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+5
9:14AM on 12/06/2012

"we've gotten better incarnations of Lex Luthor"?

Depends on what did you mean by "better". Truer to the comicbook character? Okay.
Better actor than Gene Hackman? No way.
Depends on what did you mean by "better". Truer to the comicbook character? Okay.
Better actor than Gene Hackman? No way.
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7:47AM on 12/06/2012

No way...

...just, no way.
Plus, The Donner cut is better than the original Superman II.
...just, no way.
Plus, The Donner cut is better than the original Superman II.
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7:12AM on 12/06/2012

Disagree again

Superman the original is the best superhero film of all time, the second film had its tone all over the place (mostly due to Richard Lester taking over directing duties midway) whereas the original was the first comic book film to ever give the source material respect and resulted in an iconic, exciting, epic and a emotional experience. Part 2 has got its strengths but part 1 is a straight up classic.
Superman the original is the best superhero film of all time, the second film had its tone all over the place (mostly due to Richard Lester taking over directing duties midway) whereas the original was the first comic book film to ever give the source material respect and resulted in an iconic, exciting, epic and a emotional experience. Part 2 has got its strengths but part 1 is a straight up classic.
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+6
6:31AM on 12/06/2012
This is very tough, as i count both movies as one. It is basically a LOTR style - where they continue into each other so well, that we a few snips of editing you would have one 4.5 hour movie - so i think its a draw.
This is very tough, as i count both movies as one. It is basically a LOTR style - where they continue into each other so well, that we a few snips of editing you would have one 4.5 hour movie - so i think its a draw.
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5:26AM on 12/06/2012
This one is a very very close call but I have to with Superman. I remember when I was a kid when I watched Superman on VHS for the first time. The very scene that has Superman flew up to the top of Daily Planet to save Lois Lane and the Superman theme came up, I got goosebump. Even nowadays as a grown-up, I still have goosebump everytime I watch that scene. It's an epic debut for Superman. So, Superman for me.
This one is a very very close call but I have to with Superman. I remember when I was a kid when I watched Superman on VHS for the first time. The very scene that has Superman flew up to the top of Daily Planet to save Lois Lane and the Superman theme came up, I got goosebump. Even nowadays as a grown-up, I still have goosebump everytime I watch that scene. It's an epic debut for Superman. So, Superman for me.
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3:34AM on 12/06/2012
Despite some silly moments, I do love Superman II, mostly because of Zod. Stamp has a sickly, murderous look about him in this film that makes you buy the character's criminal past and contempt for humanity. Compared to Superman III, II is actually a fairly menacing/aggressive film in parts. Reeve is totally on form throughout Superman II - probably his best portrayal of the character. I'm not going to knock Superman (I), though I personally dislike the earth-spinning finale, but I just have
Despite some silly moments, I do love Superman II, mostly because of Zod. Stamp has a sickly, murderous look about him in this film that makes you buy the character's criminal past and contempt for humanity. Compared to Superman III, II is actually a fairly menacing/aggressive film in parts. Reeve is totally on form throughout Superman II - probably his best portrayal of the character. I'm not going to knock Superman (I), though I personally dislike the earth-spinning finale, but I just have way too much fun watching Superman II. Kneel before Zod!
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1:13AM on 12/06/2012

Sorry dude...

Superman The Movie is THE greatest superhero movie ever.
'nuff said.
Superman The Movie is THE greatest superhero movie ever.
'nuff said.
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+3
1:02AM on 12/06/2012

180-degree turn

As a kid, I always thought Part II was much more action-packed than part I and thus more kick-ass. As a grown-up, especially after being exposed to the behind-the-scenes drama caused by the Salkinds, I tend to appreciate Part I more, even after I found out young CK's voice was dubbed, which I never really noticed until I read it online. On the other hand, while I think Donner's "freedom of the press" line was good and very suitable for Superman's all-American boy scout, I still prefer
As a kid, I always thought Part II was much more action-packed than part I and thus more kick-ass. As a grown-up, especially after being exposed to the behind-the-scenes drama caused by the Salkinds, I tend to appreciate Part I more, even after I found out young CK's voice was dubbed, which I never really noticed until I read it online. On the other hand, while I think Donner's "freedom of the press" line was good and very suitable for Superman's all-American boy scout, I still prefer Lester's "care to step outside" revision because it showed that Superman can be mean if he wanted to be. (BTW, the blatant Coca-Cola and Marlboro product placements didn't bother me in the '80s and are only slightly annoying now.)
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12:35AM on 12/06/2012
Superman II has too much retarded slapstick comedy for my taste. Like the guy who randomly opens his umbrella just so he can get blown away by super-breath. This movie was full of very awkward moments like that
Superman II has too much retarded slapstick comedy for my taste. Like the guy who randomly opens his umbrella just so he can get blown away by super-breath. This movie was full of very awkward moments like that
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