Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor
Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent
Ned Beatty as Otis
Jackie Cooper as Perry White
Sarah Douglas as Ursa
Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
Jack O’Halloran as Non
Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher
Susannah York as Lara
Clifton James as Sheriff
E.G. Marshall as The President
Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen
Terence Stamp as General Zod
Marlon Brando as Jor-El

Special Features:
Richard Donner’s cut includes footage shot but never used, including a never-before-seen beginning, a never-before-seen resolution, 15 minutes of restored footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El, and more

All-new introduction by Richard Donner

Commentary by Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz

New featurette “Superman II: Restoring the Vision”

Deleted scenes

Other Info:
Widescreen
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 116 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“You haven’t seen all the Superman films until you’ve seen this! ‘Superman II’ starring Christopher Reeve returns with a never-before-seen beginning and resolution. Director Richard Donner began shooting his vision of ‘Superman II’ while concurrently filming ‘Superman: The Movie.’ For the first time, his unique vision is here. Jor-El (Marlon Brando in recently found footage) appears in key new scenes that amplify Superman lore and deepen the relationship between father and son. Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) plots more schemes to unmask Clark Kent as Superman. With so many changes, large and small, this version is an eye-opening alternate experience.”

“Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” is rated PG.

Mini-Review:
Being a big Superman fan, I was quite eager to see the Richard Donner cut of “Superman II.” As you’re probably already aware, Donner was thrown off the film despite having shot much of the “Superman” sequel. Now he’s had a chance to rework the film to his original vision.

The first really noticeable difference is the first scene between Clark and Lois. Lois finally figures out that Superman and Clark are the same guy. To prove it, she jumps out a window expecting Superman to save her. Instead, Clark runs downstairs, uses his super-breath to slow her fall, then allows her to fall into a fruit cart.

The escape of General Zod, Non, and Ursa from the Phantom Zone is also a little different. Rather than escaping because of a terrorist bomb, they are broken loose thanks to the nuclear missile thrown into space in the first film.

Later, we see more of Ms. Teschmacher rescuing Lex from prison. There’s more banter between the two and we see them making their way to the Fortress of Solitude. There, they activate the crystals and see Marlon Brando as Jor El. There’s a lot more dialogue with Brando which is quite interesting to see. (Oddly, Ms. Teschmacher is never seen again in the movie and it’s not explained.)

Instead of Clark falling into a fireplace in the Honeymoon suite, we see Lois confront Clark with a handgun again in an attempt to prove he’s Superman. She shoots him and Clark reveals he’s Superman. Lois, in turn, reveals she was using blanks. This scene was actually never filmed and the footage seen here is from a screentest.

If you wondered where the kid came from in “Superman Returns,” wonder no more. Superman and Lois are seen cuddling naked in bed together in space age Kryptonian silver sheets. Later, as Superman talks with his father about falling in love with Lois, we see her eavesdropping wearing only the Superman shirt. In this scene, too, we see new Marlon Brando footage. His conversation with Kal El is much more powerful and Superman’s emotion about wanting love is much more prominent.

Later, when Superman returns to regain his powers, we see more of Brando where he reveals that restoring his powers will use up the last of the Kryptonian energy in the Fortress and erase the last of the simulation of his father. Brando also mentions that the event is the fulfillment of the “Kryptonian prophecy” – “The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son.” Sound familiar?

There are a number of other minor yet noticeably different scenes throughout the movie. We see Zod pick up a machine gun in the White House and shoot soldiers. We see Jimmy Olsen tell off Zod at the Daily Planet. We see Superman get knocked into the Statue of Liberty torch. A few of the scenes even have dialogue provided by a Christopher Reeve impersonator.

The conclusion of the movie is also slightly tweaked. Gone are the bizarre Super-powers like disappearing doubles and cellophane ‘S’ logos. After defeating Zod, Superman actually destroys the Fortress of Solitude with his heat vision. After a tearful goodbye with Lois, Superman actually spins the world in reverse and turns back time yet again. (It turns out this was the original ending for “Superman II,” but it was bumped to the first film instead.)

In short, there’s enough different here to make the Richard Donner Cut well worth checking out. The basic story is the same, but the final product is significantly different. In some ways this version is better, in some ways the theatrical version is better. But no matter what, Superman fans can’t go wrong adding this film to their collection.

Besides the new commentary, there’s a ‘making of’ documentary. It’s about 13 minutes long and discusses the challenges of creating the director’s cut. They had to find the footage, catalogue it, restore it, and add sound to it. You really appreciate the work that went into it. You also get a chance to see that alternate angles of previously seen scenes (like the opening trial) were included. It’s a subtle difference but a noteworthy one. Richard Donner also makes it very apparent that he’s still bitter towards Richard Lester taking over the project.

Six deleted scenes are also included. One noteworthy one shows an artic patrol arriving at the Fortress of Solitude and arresting Lex Luthor. It’s kind of cheesy but fun to see. Another scene shows an alternate version of Lex Luthor’s escape from prison. Ms. Teschmacher poses as the warden’s girlfriend and drives out of the prison with Lex hidden in the car. Other deleted scenes contain more interaction between Lex and Jimmy and Zod and the gang attempting to enter the Fortress.

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