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Superman 2 - The Richard Donner Cut
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Superman II: Richard Donner Cut, The (DVD)
The Richard Donner cut of Superman II is an infamous legend come to life. Director Donner shot most of the sequel at the same time as his first blockbuster film, but somewhere along the line, the producers and studio lost confidence and brought in Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers) to rework the film, and receive sole credit. For years fans speculated on how different the final film was from Donner's original until an underground copy appeared showing a fully formed feature. In an unprecedented move, Warner Brothers officially embraces this alternate version. For those who have not been part of the rumor mill, know that Donner shot all the footage with Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). You can find blow-by-blow descriptions of what is new/changed elsewhere, but most of the changes deal with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as the comic-book couple. Donner's cut provides alternate scenes for how Lois tests her hunch that Clark is Superman, the moment he reveals his identity, and how Lois unlearns that truth. Thing is, Lester's reshots are stronger, adding weight to the romance between the two, lifting the picture's stature. Lester also added the dandy Eiffel Tower opening. Donner's chief additions are in the Fortress of Solitude, where Marlon Brando returns to teach (Susannah York, as Superman's mom, appears in the Lester cut). The producers cut Brando's footage so they wouldn't have to pay him millions. The Brando/Reeve scenes continue the father/son dynamic of the first film. There is a great lesson in editing--Lester's less is better than Donner's more--when you compare how Kent turns back into Superman after losing his powers. The Donner cut is completely formed but does use some rehearsal footage, new effects, and some pieces shot by Lester. The history of cinema has many of these stories of movies reshot, hijacked, and changed from the original version, but here the underdog wins and Donner gets his chance to change history, even adding a note in the end credits about the use of fur and smoking as regrettable choices of the time.
Director Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz have a jolly good time revisiting their past on the commentary track. You get a clearer picture of who shot what, but the two have nothing good to say about Lester's edition. Donner doesn't go much into why he was dropped, just a difference of opinion and the need not to pay Brando. He also explains why the déjà vu ending of this edition was used in the first movie and a new ending would have been thought up for part 2. A quick featurette looks at how Michael Thau and a small crew reconstructed the film and compares several scenes from both versions. Also added are additional scenes shot by Donner but not used, most with Hackman. --Doug Thomas
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Top Customer Reviews
I tried not to raise my expectations too high for this restored cut, but in the end there is far more to love here than to complain about.
On the upside:
* Thank God for the return of Marlon Brando. The father-son relationship plays a crucial role here that was sorely missed in Lester's version.
* The restoration of Superman's lost powers is finally explained here, with a major sacrifice involved.
* There are no more finger beams; teleportation; giant, cellophane "S" symbols; amnesia kisses; or other random, pull-em-out-your-butt super powers that only showed how little Lester cared for his source material.
* Lois comes across as smarter and more likeable in this movie than she did in Lester's, and there's actually more chemistry here between her and S-man thanks to the revised scenes -- the romance is moving, rather than annoying. Her suspicions about Clark and how she deals with them are handled far better, plus she doesn't do that moronic elevator-climbing stunt that she did in Lester's Eiffel Tower terrorist sequence.
* There are more fun scenes featuring Lex and Miss Teschmacher - enjoy.
* The music is arranged properly and played at the right speed. And the opening credits look good.Read more ›
I've read bits of the unused Superman II before, and really liked them - Marlon Brando's big finish stands out particularly, of course. It's ridiculous how Lester's never explains Clark getting his powers back, and this is far superior.
It's a breath of fresh air: Donner believes in heroism and courage and sacrifice, and Lester doesn't - so he goes instead for cornball hokiness. Lester went for Superman's return to Metropolis with a shot of him floating outside the window with a big grin on his face - Donner goes for it with a wonderful angle of Superman from behind, arms hidden beneath his cape, perched neatly on the tip of an American flag waving in the breeze. It's gorgeous, and you just can't beat it - it's probably the best shot in the entire series, and why anyone would replace it with something cheesy is beyond me.
I'm surprised, though, how much I didn't absolutely love this movie. Not the way I loved the first one. Puzo's script isn't as well-structured, I guess. And why is there so much inane comedy? Less of Otis and bumbling hick cops and more of Zod breaking into the Fortress, and Lex being taken away by Arctic patrol (these are deleted scenes) would have made this an even stronger movie. It's confusing why these would be omitted from this new cut, while sillier bits of Valerie Perrine trying to find a bathroom are left in. Frustrating, really. Too many plotholes, but still, I like it an awful lot more than Richard Lester's, and I'd definitely recommend it to any Superman fan - it's a must-see.
The transfer to HD is spot on. Depth, clarity, color. All the elements for a great home theater showcase are here. The sound is sublime, and as good as it gets. When Supe and Zod and his cronies are ripping up Metropolis during their benchmark battle, you'll feel like ducking to avoid debris. It places you in the action. Makes you feel like you can soar.
The special features do a good job of letting you understand how this version came to be. They are informative, and engaging. My only complaint is that there were just too few of them.
The movie can feel a bit jarring at times. Especially when Donner includes a shot he only filmed during rehearsals. Overall, however, this film does a great job of restoring the vision of Richard Donner, and repairing the reputation of Metropolis City's favorite son.
I might have preferred an even darker vision, with a more serious tone, but the innocence of this franchise is to be revered. The heroic nature of this film is preserved and enhanced. I rate it a must own, must watch experience for the whole family, and kids of all ages.
Most recent customer reviews
Superman is back, and when he inadvertently releases three inmates from the Phantom Zone, he has to go up against three supervillains every bit as powerful as he is. Read morePublished 16 months ago by A.P. Fuchs, author of The Axiom-man Saga
I loved this movie. This is the original version i watched as a kid, with richard lester directing. It is filled with humour, romance, and suspense. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2013 by Shauna MacNeil
Still one of the best superhero movies of all time. Classic in every sense of the word. RIP Christopher Reeve.Published on Aug. 12 2013 by Michael Milley
liked this one a lot, in my opinion it was probably even better than the first one. One of the biggest reasons would probably be the villains. Read morePublished on March 2 2013 by Sorpse
after watching this version of Superman II,i can honestly say,i didn't
think it was any better or worse than the Richard Lester version. Read more
for me,this movie was not as good as i remember it the first time.i
found it boring,to be honest.i also didn't like the story that much. Read more
Not nearly as good as the first movie, this suffers from production problems as a result of Donner's sacking by the Salkinds. Read morePublished on July 16 2004 by Gordon Riley
Very bad film.
They released Spiderman into the 21st century, why not Superman?
I've always found him to be the most appealing comic book character. Read more
All you people complaining about what is and should have been (Donner not being able to complete the project) the end result is a movie that many people view as better! Read morePublished on July 11 2004 by Morris B
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