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Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut Reviews

Page 1 of 70

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2008
Haven't seen the Richard Lester version of "Superman II," but I thoroughly enjoyed this as-close-to-intended cut of the film. Even more-so than the first movie. More action-packed, faster paced, and plenty of humorous and witty dialog. It's a shame that the planned 4-hour epic that would have merged the intended versions of "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II" never came to be; because it really would have been something special to behold.

Super Reviewer

February 7, 2013
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a very entertaining picture as director Richard Donner originally intended. Now I never really was into Superman, and this is the version that I have seen instead of the theatrical release of Superman II. Picking up where the first one left off, Christopher Reeve adorns the cape yet again and delivers another great performance as Clark Kent/Superman. This is a well crafted action film that is entertaining from start to finish. I really liked the Richard Donner cut, and in general I liked director's cuts because I feel that it reflects a director's vision on how they envisioned the film to turn out. Fans will surely enjoy this follow up to Richard Donner's classic. The film boasts a great cast who are wonderful on-screen. This is a very good sequel that does a great job at delivering the thrills that made the first one so good. Christopher Reeve is great here and he is matched by Terrence Stamp, who plays a very good villain as well. The film does have its flaws, but is still far better than most sequels. The cast are what makes this one worth seeing and with a great plot as well, it is sure to keep you entertained from start to finish. Now, I have yet to see the theatrical version, but for what it is, The Richard Donner cut is great and a must see for superhero fans. Add to that some great special effects that though slightly dated, still look wonderful nonetheless and look better than most movies that use effects. Richard Donner delivers a very exciting follow up and though not on the caliber of the first, is still a great film in its own right.

Super Reviewer

July 3, 2007
Just as good as the original, if not better yet. More action, more fun and more interesting villains. Special effects-wise, it's awfully dated, but I didn't really mind that much, as the entertainment level is kept at a constant high. The only part that bugs me a bit is the one where the bad guys fly around in that flat square thingy in space. It just looks so tacky and ridiculous, that you might as well be watching an Ed Wood movie. Or the eye-roll-inducing fact that Lois Lane is the only one who notices the obvious resemblance between Clark Kent and Superman - and it took her a whole movie, plus who knows how many encounters with him, before it finally dawned upon her. Personally, I prefer more realistic superhero films like Christopher Nolan's two masterpieces, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but this well-made sequel does have it charms as well. One thing that will never get old, is the beautifully orchestrated music by the one-and-only John Williams. Nor Christopher Reeve's iconic performance, which shall always be remembered. Although I doubt anyone will ever nail the role as perfectly as he did, I'm glad though that the saga lives on through other creative film-makers. Next up we have Zack Snyder's Man of Steel to look forward to, which has every potential to be a winner. That is, assuming he doesn't let us down again with another Sucker Punch to our faces. Either way, I'll definitely be getting my ticket.

Super Reviewer

July 29, 2010
Director Richard Donner's version cut made me little confused, rough around a couple of edges and didn't make sense in the story as well as I really like the original theatrical version than this one. I see the battle scenes are a mess, with no geography between cuts. It's just random action. Aside from having a disjointed feel to it, the dialog was actually more campy in many places, sometimes bordering on silly. The evolution of the Lois Lane/Superman romance is less well-developed (one of the strengths of the original Superman II) and the ending was particularly unsatisfying.
I found out why Donner was bringing scenes re-filmed because of Marlon Brando as Jol-El, Superman's father, was deleted in the theatrical version, I was surprised.
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

January 24, 2010
I believe this is the best of the Superman movies, but that may only be because of his chemistry with Margot Kidder.

Super Reviewer

March 21, 2008
A slightly less homogonized version of the film.
A little grittier, a little more violent, a lot less of the cheesy sight gags and silly sound effects that (in my opinion) cheapened the original release.
An interesting and enjoyable revisting of my favorite of the Superman films.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 3, 2009
...Its interesting, obviously unfinished in places but would love it if it was made properly. Is it better than what was brought out? I don't think so but hey, its Superman! Better than Superman Returns any day! Best line: 'I'm not a coward Zod'! (Watch it to understand why)
Chris G

Super Reviewer

November 30, 2008
A much better film than the original release, The Donner Cut is all we have of the original vision of Richard Donner's Superman II. The main difference between the two are the respect to the mythology of Superman: the theatrical film threw in garbage such as teleportation whereas Donner kept the film within Superman's powers and weaknesses. It is the superior version, although I still have to give the original props for being able to put together a solid film after the mess that the Salkinds created.

So why didn't I give it five stars? Because it's still not done and will never be done. If it had been completed to the original specifications it would have easily been better than the original film. The Donner Cut is an artifact of what might have been and how producers sometimes don't know what's best for their project (yes, they produced Superman III and Supergirl).

Super Reviewer

June 1, 2008
Every bit as good as the original, though because Donner directed both the first and second ones it's intended as one movie. Watching both, you can really tell the difference in quality. Apparently Richard Lester was just a pawn to finish the film the producers' way and it's noticeable. Donner wants nothing less than the best - his way - and he gets it done here. One of the best superhero movies made, but let's forget about 3 and 4, shall we?
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

December 14, 2006
President: Oh God
General Zod: That's Zod

Originally, when Superman was being made, Richard Donner was directing the first 2 movies back to back. Sometime along the way of putting number two together, the studios fired Donner, despite having already shot 80% of the film, and put in director Richard Lester in his place. Having said that, what were they thinking,

I like the theatrical cut of Superman II, but having seen this version its strange that producers opted not to stick with the vision Donner had in mind.

This version is very different from the theatrical cut and almost a different movie all together. Culled from nearly lost footage deep within the archives, this is Donner's true vision of Superman 2 and it is equal to the first and in some ways better.

The story continues right from where the original leaves off with changes that make more sense. General Zod (Terrence Stamp) and his lackies who imprisoned in space are released prompting there trip to earth to cause some harm.

Meanwhile, Clark and Lois continue there daily lives at the Daily Planet, with Lois growing suspicious of the similarities between Clark and Superman. This eventually leads to a tough choice needed to be made by Superman.

You also have Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) still up to his zany schemes as well.

Gone are the campy jokes and scenes, no random powers (memory kisses, silifane Ss) no goofy scenes for the sake of being goofy. This movie is darker in essential spots, giving more context to the problems Superman faces and makes more of a menace of uber powerful General Zod and his cronies.

Christopher Reeve shows how good of an actor he can be dealing with his struggle between being a super man and being human.

A new introduction and a new ending, mixed with new scenes throughout, including more Marlon Brando as Jor-El, make this is the superior version of Superman 2 that deserves to be seen.

Note: Due to the fact that this cut is made from the old footage found and the fact that Donner didn't get to really complete his full vision back in the day, there are some minor ways in which it doesn't work completely out of context, but suffice it to say, if Donner had his way, these first two Superman movies would basically work as one great epic five hour movie.

Clark Kent: [after having been shot by Lois] You realize that if you had been wrong, Clark Kent would be dead.
Lois Lane: Right. With a blank?
Martin B

Super Reviewer

March 5, 2008
Superman 2 is one of the best superhero films of all time. That being said, this Donner Cut is interesting to see as a curiosity, but the theatrical version is still far superior. Not worth a purchase on its own, as this alternate version should have just been an extra in a 2-disc edition of the film.

Super Reviewer

January 22, 2008
A tried & true original cut of an already classic superhero movie sequel.

Super Reviewer

December 24, 2007
Far better cut of the film. Much more in the spirit of the first film.
Dean !

Super Reviewer

January 13, 2007
My favourite of the first 4 Superman films. The battle with the 3 others with super powers in the city is great.
Flutie A

Super Reviewer

June 6, 2007
Awesome and holds up better than Superman Returns....Better than the original cut!
Jason S

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2007
This is a very different movie. The new scenes are cool and all but it doesn't fit with the first one.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

January 16, 2007
The Donner Cut is proof that this movie was kind of doomed regardless of who was directing. It was cool to see Brando again, but I'd have been really disappointed if I paid cash money to see this.

Super Reviewer

August 22, 2012
"Superman 2" had been shooting simultaneously with the first movie before the Salkinds decided to sack Richard Donner, replacing him with Richard Lester with whom they had worked on "The Three Musketeers".Because of this the movie now exists in two distinct versions; the original theatrical cut and one reassembled recently by Donner himself. I grew up with Lester's cut and always enjoyed it but having seen Donner's far superior edit it's impossible to go back. Clearly the Salkinds cut their noses off to spite their faces as the subtle differences in how Donner chose to tell the story make for a much better film.
The movie consists of two main plot-lines, the arrival of General Zod (Stamp) and his two companions (Douglas and O'Halloran), and Lois Lane's discovery that Clark Kent is actually Superman. It's how the latter is handled which makes the biggest distinction between the two director's cuts. In Lester's version it comes across as awkward and heavy-handed, Lane cottoning on to the theory while she and Kent are covering a story at Niagra Falls. Willing to bet her life that Kent is the Man of Steel, she throws herself into a river, falsely presuming Kent will change into his cape and rescue her. Instead he uses his power slyly to give her a branch to hold onto. Back at their hotel room, Kent clumsily puts his hand in an open fire, giving away his secret. I always thought this was a pretty undramatic way to convey such a major plot point. Donner gives us this plotline right from the outset in his cut with Lane jumping out a window of the skyscraper which houses The Daily Planet. Again Kent rescues her in a way which keeps his identity secret. The reveal once more comes in the Niagra Falls hotel room but this time in far more dramatic fashion. Here Lane tells Kent she is willing to bet his life and pulls a pistol out, shooting him in the chest. When the bullet has no effect, Kent confesses only for Lane to reveal the gun was firing blanks. It's one of the best scenes in the movie but ironically it was never actually shot for the film. Donner used footage from a screen test between the two actors but their performances are so convincing it doesn't feel out of place whatsoever. Even the makeshift set looks more realistic than the rather bizarre one used in Lester's version (what hotel room has an open fire in the center of the room?)
Donner's cut is actually shorter, mainly due to completely cutting out a set-piece at the start involving terrorists on the Eiffel Tower. Apart from that the cuts are subtle, mostly with the purpose of removing the more slapstick moments of Lester's version. Footage of Brando replaces that of Susannah York, a bummer for the actress but far more effective for the film.
No matter which version you account for, this is hands down the greatest superhero movie ever. What makes it stand out from most efforts in the comic book sub-genre is how simple the plot is. Superman takes Lane to the Fortress of Solitude where he intends to seek Jor-El's approval of the relationship. The news isn't received as well as he had hoped however, Jor-El informing him he must revoke his powers if wants to be with the earth-woman. Superman agrees, unaware that Zod is in the process of taking over the whitehouse. His first taste of life as a mortal comes when a redneck dishes out a beating to him in a road-side diner. On a TV screen he sees the news of Zod's campaign and realises he must return to the Fortress to plead for his powers back. Jor-El agrees, but with a catch, restoring Superman's powers will extinguish his father's spirit. With a heavy heart, Superman agrees and heads to Metropolis to kick Zod's ass. What results is one of the greatest action set-pieces in cinema as Superman and the three villains destroy half of Metropolis in an extended intergalactic wrestling match.
This came in the middle of a run of great Hollywood blockbusters from the mid seventies to mid-eighties, a streak which began with "Jaws" and ended with "Back To The Future". We'll probably never see such quality from Hollywood again but we can savour the treats they once gave us.
Darik H

Super Reviewer

August 10, 2007
Gather 'round, children, gather 'round- the time's come for me to tell you a story! You see, a long, long time ago, around the year 1976, French film producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind hired an American director named Richard Donner to bring the famous comic book hero Superman to life on the big screen. He was to do so over the course of two films, which were to be shot back-to-back (it wasn't the first time such an endeavor was undertaken, but it was certainly the largest-scale attempt up to that point); when money started running low and the shooting started falling behind schedule, however, they urged Donner to finish the first film and leave the second to be completed later. Superman: the Movie was released in 1978 and became a tremendous critical and box-office success, earning back its inflated budget easily and putting the Salkind's movie-making machine back in business... but when the time came to finish Superman II, the producers fired Donner, replacing him with a more economical British director, Richard Lester. You see, there were insurmountable tensions between the former director and the producers- budgetary problems and creative differences had created an antagonistic relationship, and Donner voiced his unhappiness to the press (and really, if you bad-mouth your producers to an international magazine columnist, you should count yourself lucky to ever work again). Lester could finish the movie quickly and on budget, but in order to get a full directing credit, he'd have to have filmed more than 50% of the movie, and it had to be different than the material Donner had already shot- so the producers rewrote the film extensively, adding some of the more ridiculous powers (I still can't get over that cellophane "S") and cutting Marlon Brando's Jor-El out of the film completely to save on his extraordinary salary, replacing him with Lara, Superman's mother and the "keeper of the archives of Krypton". Superman II, a hybrid of Donner footage and Lester's new material, was released in 1980 to even more critical acclaim and ticket sales, and the Salkinds would bring Lester back to shoot all of Superman III- which, perhaps unsurprisingly, would receive significantly less of both. Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

Die-hard Superman fans knew that Donner had completed roughly 70% of shooting on Superman II before he got shit-canned (less than half of which ended up in the final cut), and for a long time they could only imagine what Donner's sequel might have been like, untampered-with. Then, with the advent of DVD and the director's cut, came the power of the Internet petition! A legion of Lester-hating fanboys sent a signed petition to Warner Brothers demanding a new cut of Superman II, using all the Donner footage that was shot; Warner eventually submitted to these demands (the weak, pathetic fools) and funded a search effort put together by editor Michael Thau to track down and restore as much footage as humanly possible. The result, such as it is, is sadly not up to par with the Donner/Lester bastardized Superman II, but only because it is incomplete- with a stronger dramatic arc bolstered by the conflict between Superman and Jor-El, a noticably more clever and witty script, a far more brutal portrayal of General Zod and his minions, and more vivid lighting and dynamic framing, it's clear to see that the building blocks for a great movie were being fit together here, before they all came tumbling down. The editors had to make allowances for what was never filmed, however, so the movie includes some Lester footage, but these scenes are pointedly truncated; at one point, in perhaps the film's biggest disappointment, a potentially brilliant scene between Lois and Clark is played out through the two lead actors' screen tests, because the actual scene was never shot (Lester's version was significantly reworked, and it wasn't as clever). On the other hand, the film is loaded with exciting new moments for a fan of the films, such as Lois' first attempt at proving that Clark is Superman and Jor-El's final moments with his son. The film also features finished and computer-polished effects work that was done but never used, which makes the climactic showdown with General Zod even more fun to watch (Supes gets drop-kicked by Zod into the Statue of Liberty! It doesn't kick much more ass than that).

The general plot is very similar to the theatrical cut, so I won't go over it again. The Paris opening sequence is gone here, because in this version it's the nuclear missile that Superman chucked into space at the end of the first film that frees Zod and associates (which makes a whole lot more sense, really- how many nuclear weapons would Superman have to throw into outer space in a given month? NOT counting the events of Superman IV); instead, this film opens with Lois actually figuring out that Clark Kent is Superman by just, you know, LOOKING at him (well, and doodling on a photo a little, but still, she actually puts two and two together! It's about time, Ms. Investigative Reporter). She tries to prove her hypothesis by jumping out a window in front of Clark, hoping to force him to rescue her- I won't go into how he gets out of the situation, but the scene is priceless. Then later, in the aforementioned screen-test scene, Lois manages to finally get Clark to blow his cover by shooting him. It plays as unintentionally hilarious since it's so unfinished (my favorite line? "Lois! Now, don't be insane!"), and it would have been fantastic if they'd shot the damn thing. Oh, and the ending is completely different, too: since they were running out of time when they were putting the finishing touches on the first film, they used the SECOND film's ending in the first one (since it was the most spectacular effects shot in either film, and they weren't sure if the first would do well), hoping they could come up with something else later as a finale for part two. Since they never did, the Donner Cut features the originally intended ending for Superman II: TURNING BACK TIME. AGAIN. And this time, it makes even less sense, if possible: Zod, Ursa, and Non all end up back in the Phantom Zone... somehow, and Supes actually pushes the clock back DAYS, not minutes. Sure, it undoes all the property damage and probably resurrects all the people Zod killed, but it renders the entire film POINTLESS! It takes us back to the status quo that the film had when it started! And even more than last time, it raises the question: HOW DO YOU BEAT SOMEONE WHO CAN TURN BACK TIME AND UNDO HIS DEFEAT?!?

The actors are all the same, and the performances are largely the same (well, Lois is spunkier, and Superman comes off as even more human than before, but it's incremental), so I'll just jump to the big difference: MARLON BRANDO. Yes, the Big Giant Head is back in Donner's version, and he handles all the Kryptonian exposition in the Fortress that was formerly pawned off on nameless bald day-players and Superman's mom. The cool thing, though, is that he lends an entirely different dynamic to the scene in which Superman relinquishes his powers to be with Lois: here, he's the stern, disapproving father to Reeve's brash, arrogant son, and he even gets to throw a withering giant glare up at Lois as she watches Superman's de-powering (in Superman's shirt, no less- in this version, they do the deed BEFORE Superman loses his powers, thus rendering the question of his self-control moot. By the way, Reeve at this point is just wearing a white shirt and slacks, but he's still acting like Superman, which is indescribably surreal). The whole thing is resolved, though, when Superman returns to the Fortress and begs for his father's help, and Jor-El actually shows up and sacrifices himself to reenergize Supes- THUS FINALLY EXPLAINING HOW HE GOT HIS POWERS BACK! I knew there was something missing there! Also worthy of mention is the fact that General Zod, played iconically by Terrence Stamp, isn't quite as much of a goof in this version; Donner apparently wanted Zod to be quite the badass, because this is a much angrier, meaner General that the theatrical version's. At one point in the White House attack, he pulls a soldier through a window by yanking on his rifle; holding the abandoned firearm, he examines it for a moment, grabs the handle, and starts shooting the other soldiers with a smile on his face. My only reservation concerning this change is the replacement of certain familiar lines with alternate takes: the line "Why do you say this to me, when you know I will kill you for it?" may have more menace this time around, but I loved the original take- it cracks me up every time.

The film uses a combination of completed effects shots from the original shooting and poorly-blended, low-budget computer effects shots to flesh out the scenes. I wish I could say that the low quality of the new footage and the outdated-but-high quality of the vintage stuff balance each other out, but the new stuff is glaringly out of place here, making this seem like a low-rent, Lucas-style Special Edition. The effect is magnified when you realize how much the editor (and presumably Donner, who had significant input on the project) is trying to re-write history, from re-dubbing lines and switching out sound effects (Non's inhuman growls are gone, but this definitely makes the character more intimidating and less cartoonish) to mercilessly cutting down Lester's scenes and looping in John Williams' original score from the first film (which is a hit-and-miss match-up- I STILL wish Willaims could've done an original score for II!). The fact is, The Richard Donner Cut can't really be seen as a complete movie, because it simply isn't; it's like an extended deleted scenes reel, strung together in chronological order with bookending credits. For a fan of the character and the movie, though, it's a real treat. It gives us a glimpse into the film that Superman II might have been, and for that I'm very grateful- I've always loved Richard Donner's take on Superman, and I would have much prefered to see him stay on the franchise than to watch Richard Lester fumble his way through the world Donner created. Then again, maybe Donner's firing was a blessing in disguise; if he'd finished Superman II, and maybe even moved on to a Superman III, as he's often said he wanted to, he might not have been able to make... ummm... wait, let me look this up...

... Inside Moves? THE TOY?!?

Alec B

Super Reviewer

June 24, 2010
Definitely an improvement over the theatrical cut, while it does seem unfinished at certain points, you do get a sense of full scope of what Richard Donner was trying to accomplish with Parts I and II even if its just a rough outline in certain sections. Its too bad they replaced him as director, because he was clearly planning great things for the whole series.
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