Thursday, March 22, 2007

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

by Guest Reviewer Alan Trehern

Ah, yes, a Superman movie that I like. Are there any in this world I don't like? Probably not, but this one is up in the top 5 list. Anyway, Superman II: The Dick Donner Cut (Richard's friends call him Dick) is a movie directed by the aforementioned gentleman in 2006, using footage shot in 1977 and 1978 for the Superman 1 and 2 movies Dick planned on doing. However, as most of you know if you read The Solar Sentinel, Donner was fired half-way through Superman II and Warner Bros. hired Richard Lester to take his place. So basically, what you see in Superman II (originally released in 1980) is a hodge-podge of film directed by two men, but only one got the credit. Can anyone spell "shafted"?
On another side note, Marlon Brando (Jor-El) refused to appear in the second movie because of his personal tie to Donner (how cool is that to have a Brando tie?) and Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) stopped filming after Donner's termination, so if you notice closely in the 1980 version, Hackman himself is rarely visual, and a stand in took his place.

All these stars and lost footage, thankfully, can be found in the Superman II: Donner Cut. However, the story has changed. At the beginning of the film, there is a flashback to the previous events of Superman: The Movie. In one instance, Superman diverts one of the nuclear weapons from hitting California, and sends it into space. This missile explodes out of harm's way, but frees the three criminals of Krypton from their imprisonment in Jor-El's Phantom Zone. Terence Stamp provides a realistic version of the tyrannical General Zod, and Sarah Douglas (Ursa) and Jack O'Halloran (Non) provide the bitchy, lesbian white girl aspect and the comic relief, respectively.

However, what I found most appealing about this movie was how the makers went back, saved the film from archives in Africa (I believe) and managed to come out with a decent movie; and in this writer's opinion, a better, more connected version than the original. The events taking place within the film are radically different from its original, delivering many twists that you would not see coming. If you had seen Superman II (1980), without seeing the first Superman movie, you would have been lost. However, with the Donner footage put into place, the stories of the two movies flow together as one whole saga, as it was meant to be.

As to film content, Marlon Brando gives a stern yet fatherly performance as Superman's father. He continuously reminds his son what he was sent to Earth to do, but when Kal-El refuses to take this mantle, the feeling of regret and disappointment is in the old man's eyes. You are even angry at Superman for giving everything up (powers to save humanity) for an old hag like Margot Kidder (Lois Lane). Not only that, but when Superman returns to admit his wrongdoing, Brando admits his disappointment again, making you say "Ha, you deserve that Superman!!"

Christopher Reeve (Rest in Peace) and Margot Kidder take back their roles as Clark Kent and Lane, and a love story is more prominent in this film than its godfather. Donner admits himself that most of the footage used were screen tests, so the dialogue is a little sparce and fluffy. Reeve, however, delivers a more emotional side to the superhero: arguing angrily with his father, having the stuffing beat out of him by the no-name hick in the diner, and then his eventual return to the Fortress of Solitude as the prodigal son. Gene Hackman as Luthor, provides the comic relief and does a good job doing it, since his persona in the film is more solid than in the 1980 version.

All in all, this movie is a good replacement for the Lester version since it provides a better storyline, more relevant footage and the right cast. However, you have to be an avid Superman fan to fork out the $25 dollars (and that's if you find it!) that the DVD costs, when Lester's Superman II only costs a cool $7.50 at the local Target. Although it's a hard find, find it, watch it and enjoy it. As for me, if the editor of this blog approves of this review, I should get another gig reviewing Wild Hogs.

So keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

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