Superman II (1980): DC Films Revisited

Superman II was a notoriously troubled production, as was Superman – The Movie. The relationship between director Richard Donner and the producers had broken down so badly during production that, despite 75% of the sequel already being shot, Donner was replaced by director Richard Lester. As a result, Superman II, as released theatrically in 1980 (and domestically in 1981), was far from a seamless sequel, with wild ranges in tone (thanks to radically different styles from the two directors), a  partially dubbed Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman refused to loop his lines after Donner was fired) and a lack of John Williams, who was replaced by Ken Thorne for the score.

Yet, the movie still turned out pretty well thanks to Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and a trio of unforgettable villains, led by Terence Stamp as General Zod. In this episode of DC Films Revisited, we dig into the troubled production of Superman II, and the eventually completion of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.

Neither version of the film is without its flaws. The Lester version has some truly obnoxious, slapstick jokes (which would dominate Superman III), as well as the “kiss of forgetting”, but even the Donner cut is far from seamless. Given that he was working with only 75% of what he shot, he had to rely on screen-tests and discarded footage from the first film to fill the gaps, but even still some of the plot points make no sense, especially given the new ending, which is basically a reprise of what happens in Superman: The Movie (although it had always been planned for Superman II). We’ll dig into this and more in this episode of DC Revisited, which is written and narrated by Tyler Nichols, produced by Nick Bosworth and Chris Bumbray, and executive produced by Berge Garabedian.

Which cut do you prefer? The theatrical or Donner’s? Let us know in the comments!

And check out our previous episode of DC Films Revisited below!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.