Face-Off: Superman vs. Superman II

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

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.

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.
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.
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.
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 [email protected] 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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