Friday, May 17, 2013


CLASSIC FILM REVIEW: Superman II (1980) ****

After the success of "Superman: the Movie" in the winter of 1978, "Superman II" saw a release in the summer of 1981 (US release date). In actuality the two films were largely filmed simultaneously, but budget concerns and other issues caused the firing of original director Richard Donner over the objections of several cast and crew members.

Richard Lester, of 1973's "The Three Musketeers" and the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," was his replacement. By all accounts, Lester added more humor into the film. All of Marlon Brando's scenes were replaced with footage of Susanna York as Superman's mother, due to Brando's protesting the use of his time for two films and only being paid for one. Luckily for viewers, Brando's scenes were later reworked into Donner's Director's Cut of the film, as well as Bryan Singer's 2006 reboot, "Superman Returns."

In this entry, we get a more involved romantic story-line between Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Lex Luthor is still looking for revenge on Superman for defeating him in the first film, but he'll have to wait in line as we meet three Super-Villains from Krypton who have escaped their Phantom Zone prison and are looking for revenge on Superman's father Jor-el. This leads to a lot of fun, as the villians eventually do battle with their prisoner's son, Kal-el (Superman, for those who didn't follow the first film). We also have real drama, as Superman makes a major sacrifice to show his love for Lois and unknowingly leaves the world temporarily vulnerable to his new enemies.

Overall, this film is about as good as the original. This comes as more of surprise when you learn all about its tortured route to the screen. The combination of Donner and Lester footage actually works to the film's advantage in some ways, particularly in the melding of serious versus comic sensibilities. Despite the long-held bad feelings between the makers, this is one of maybe a handful of sequels that manages to live up to its predecessor in many ways.

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