My Favorite Movies #17 – Superman II

Superman II

1980

Directed by Richard Lester

Quick synopsis… Three escaped criminals from the planet Krypton test the Man of Steel’s mettle in this hit sequel. Led by Gen. Zod, the Kryptonians take control of the White House and partner with Lex Luthor to destroy Superman and rule the world.

  • Now, here’s a movie that had all the behind-the-scenes drama.
  • Superman II was originally intended to be a very different movie than the one we got.
  • Well, not very different.
  • A lot of the plot is still there… but the tone would have been vastly different.
  • See, when they set out to begin filming Superman: The Movie, it was decided that they would go ahead and film its sequel at the same time.
  • This is why General Zod, Ursa, and Non were introduced during the opening scenes of the first Superman film.
  • Their story was set up, knowing that Superman II was a sure bet.
  • Somewhere in the middle of things… actually, past the middle…
  • About 75% of Superman II was shot by the first film’s director, Richard Donner, before tensions arose between himself and the producers, leading to him being fired from the sequel.
  • He was replaced by director Richard Lester, with which several cast members took issue.
  • In fact, when it came time to do reshoots so that they could officially credit Lester as director, some of the crew refused to return.
  • As did Gene Hackman.
  • Watching through Superman II, it’s easy to see that some of the reshot scenes involving Lex Luthor are clearly done with a stand-in.
  • Part of the drama, too, revolved around Marlon Brando’s reprisal of his role of Jor-El in the sequel.
  • He claimed that he was not compensated for the first film as had been agreed upon by the producers, thus refused to allow them to use his image for the sequel.
  • This meant that scenes that had been filmed involving interactions between Superman and Jor-El in the Fortress of Solitude that were intended for Superman II had to be reworked to involve Lara, Superman’s mother, instead of Jor-El.
  • So Richard Lester became the official director of Superman II, even though Richard Donner had already completed the majority of the film.
  • However, in 2006, the Richard Donner cut of Superman II was released, and it shows more of what Donner’s original vision of the sequel could have been.
  • Of course, being 26 years later, they couldn’t exactly fill in the gaps with newly shot footage.
  • So that last 25% was filled with test footage and even audition footage.
  • It’s pretty good, all things considered.
  • But enough history… this isn’t the Richard Donner cut.
  • The theatrical version of Superman II, gives us a recap of the beginning of Superman: The Movie.
  • We need that reminder that Zod, Ursa, and Non, three Kryptonian insurgents were sentenced to an eternity in the Phantom Zone.
  • Then Superman heads off to stop a terrorist threat in Paris, where he just happens to save Lois Lane, again.
  • When the terrorists’ hydrogen bomb is accidentally set off, Superman launches it into space where it’s not a threat to anyone.
  • But the vibrations from that bomb shatter the Phantom Zone, releasing the three Kryptonians.
  • Immediately, the trio have the ability to control their trajectory in outer space and they make their way to the moon, where they terrorize a joint mission of American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts.
  • Zod, being the brains of the operation, has figured out that the closer they get to a yellow sun, the stronger they get.
  • And they can talk on the surface of the moon… where there is no atmosphere.
  • Try not to think about it too much.
  • Lex Luthor, meanwhile, is still in prison, but he’s got a plan to escape.
  • Miss Tessmacher shows up in a hot air balloon and flies Luthor out of there, but they leave poor Otis behind.
  • Luthor has managed to create a tracking device that shows him where Superman hangs out when he’s not getting cats out of trees.
  • He’s built this tracker while in prison… uh-huh.
  • So he and Miss Tessmacher head north, toward the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Lois and Clark are sent to Niagara Falls to expose an industry that apparently dupes young couples out of their money.
  • Hard hitting news.
  • Lois thinks she’s figured out that Clark is actually Superman because Superman showed up to save a kid from falling while Clark just happened to be getting Lois a hot dog.
  • BTW… it sure takes that kid a long time to fall.
  • I’m glad special effects have come a long way since then, and they can now actually make Superman move super fast from one place to the next.
  • Anyway, Lois’ thought is that Superman appeared and Clark was not around “as usual…”
  • That’s your intuitive leap?
  • Perry White isn’t around either, could he be Superman?
  • Lex and Miss Tessmacher arrive at Superman’s Fortress and play around with the crystal control panel.
  • They discover a recording of Lara warning Kal-El about the possibility of Krypton’s criminals escaping the Phantom Zone.
  • Lex realizes this is why he’s suddenly picked up three new blips on his tracker.
  • After this, we never see Miss Tessmacher again… no explanation.
  • Lex decides he should be the super villains’ liaison to humanity.
  • In her attempt to prove Clark is Superman, Lois throws herself into the river expecting him to transform and save her.
  • He saves her, but he does as Clark, disproving her theory.
  • I mean he does use heat vision to provide her with a branch to grab onto.
  • By the way, he uses his heat vision through his glasses… but doesn’t melt the lenses.
  • Try not to think about it too much.
  • Meanwhile, Zod, Ursa, and Non arrive on Earth and discover they have powers beyond reason here.
  • Oddly enough, they think the planet is called Houston, since that’s who the astronauts referred to on the moon.
  • Ursa picks up a snake to examine it and it bites her.
  • She acts like she’s hurt and uses her heat vision to kill the snake in retaliation.
  • Why would she be hurt?
  • She’s invulnerable!
  • That snake’s fangs should have shattered on her skin!
  • Try not to think about it too much.
  • Back in the honeymoon suite, Lois is berating herself for being stupid enough to think Clark could be Superman.
  • But then, as he goes to hand her a hairbrush, he “accidentally” trips and falls into the fireplace.
  • Lois sees that he’s not even a little burned and he has no choice but to remove his glasses and reveal the truth.
  • Suddenly, Lois reveals she’s in love with him.
  • Woman, please, you’re in love with Superman because he’s a spectacle… he’s unattainable.
  • You wouldn’t give Clark Kent the time of day!
  • And for that, I think that Clark should blow her off!
  • Whatever… written in the stars and all that…
  • Superman flies Lois to his Fortress, though he has no clue that he’s had company.
  • I feel like the honeymoon suite would have been more comfortable.
  • The super trio make their way to a small town in Idaho that just happens to be called East Houston.
  • Havoc ensues.
  • General Zod has this amazing new power where he can shoot some kind of tractor beam out of his finger and lift a guy into the air.
  • Why does the kid who begs him to put his dad down have a British accent? In small town Idaho?
  • A reporter who shows up to cover the super villains’ takeover of the town corrects Zod on his assumption of our world’s name.
  • Then the National Guard shows up and more havoc ensues.
  • At the White House, the president and his staff watch the chaos unfold on TV, asking the obvious question: Where is Superman?
  • Oh, he’s on a date at the top of the world with Lois Lane.
  • General Zod declares he is now the new ruler of earth.
  • Superman decides that, because he’s in love with Lois, he needs to give up his powers and live life as a regular human being so he can be with her.
  • He steps into a chamber and is flooded with red solar radiation, which make him like a human.
  • I ask… why would he do this?
  • Lois didn’t fall in love with Clark, can we all agree on that?
  • So without his powers, he’s just Clark… except maybe not as bumbling because he doesn’t have to pretend anymore.
  • This red sun process looks kind of painful.
  • At the end of it, the crystal control panel explodes.
  • There is no turning back.
  • Question… since he can’t fly anymore, how are they getting back to Metropolis from the North Pole?
  • The super villains’ make their way across the U.S. and instantly replace the presidents’ faces on Mt. Rushmore with their own.
  • They get to the White House and easily take down the military in order to gain access to the president.
  • Zod demands that the president kneel before him, which he does in the hope that it will save lives.
  • Zod says that it will, beginning with his own.
  • The president tells Zod there is one man on earth who will never kneel before him.
  • Lois and Clark are still on a nice little vacation and stop at a diner for some dinner.
  • While Clark is in the restroom, Lois gets hit on by a tough guy kind of trucker who just assumes that everything he sees is his.
  • When Clark tries to stand up for himself and Lois, he has his butt handed to him.
  • Clark tells Lois that they should probably hire a bodyguard from now on.
  • She says, “I don’t want a bodyguard, I want the man I fell in love with.”
  • At least they both admit that Clark is not the man she fell in love with…
  • To distract everyone from the bleeding guy in the corner, they turn the TV on in time for a message from the president.
  • He announces that all global leaders have agreed to turn over all authority to General Zod.
  • Clark has a new moment of panic, understanding exactly what’s happening now.
  • He’s determined to go back and find a way to get his powers back so he can stop Zod.
  • Clark trudges along the frozen wasteland and somehow survives the walk back to the Fortress.
  • He cries out to Jor-El, but gets no answer.
  • Then he finds the same green crystal that built the Fortress in the first movie.
  • Not sure how this restores his abilities… looks like a glow stick from a rave or something…
  • Zod and his underlings are bored at the White House.
  • Enter: Lex Luthor.
  • He promises to deliver Superman to them, also revealing that Superman is Kal-El, the son of Jor-El.
  • All he asks in return is Australia.
  • Lex leads the trio to the Daily Planet and Lois Lane.
  • If she’s in danger, Superman is bound to show up.
  • And show up he does.
  • The epic battle begins.
  • You’d think, with there being three of the super villains, they’d team up.
  • But they basically go after Superman one at a time.
  • Like in a Kung-Fu movie.
  • Eventually, Superman realizes he needs to lure them away from the city so they aren’t continually putting innocents in danger.
  • Luthor reveals that he’s probably gone to his Fortress to regroup.
  • So the trio take Luthor and Lois with them to face Superman on his home turf.
  • Now we et all kinds of new powers.
  • First is the cellophane S that Superman throws at Non.
  • Then there’s the energy beams from the villains’ fingers.
  • Then there’s teleportation and projection.
  • When Zod is tired of Luthor, he tells Non to kill him.
  • But then Luthor tries to team up with Superman.
  • So Superman tells Luthor to try and lure them into the red solar chamber.
  • But Luthor immediately turns on Superman, warning Zod that the chamber turns a Kryptonian into a normal human.
  • So they force Superman inside and order Luthor to activate the chamber.
  • But this time it’s different.
  • This time, the red energy is outside the chamber, flooding the villains with red solar radiation while Superman is protected inside.
  • Superman pretends to be weak, kneeling before Zod and taking his hand.
  • Then he crushes Zod’s hand (which is immensely satisfying to watch, BTW) and… I’m pretty sure he kills Zod by throwing him into some kind of bottomless pit.
  • Non tries to fly, falling into a bottomless pit.
  • Then Lois punches Ursa, knocking her into a bottomless pit.
  • Superman knew Luthor would double cross him, which is why he reversed the chamber.
  • The next day at work, Lois is torn up because she knows she can’t be with Superman.
  • The fix is another new and arguably unethical power: the mind wipe kiss.
  • Clark kisses Lois and suddenly she’s forgotten all about his alter ego.
  • I mock a lot of these ridiculous powers because I grew up with a Superman in comics that just had those standard powers.
  • And I do it out of a place of love.
  • But, seriously, a mind wipe is really, I wanna say, not the kind of power a super hero should be using.
  • I also question Clark going back to that diner and confronting the guy that beat him up before.
  • Would Superman go back and pick a fight with a guy out of, what? Revenge?
  • Sure, it’s a funny scene, but it’s sort of out of character for the Man of Steel.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this, good job. This was a lot. It was a lot before I even got into the beginning of the movie. Sorry about that. Next week will probably be a lot more straight forward with a teen rom-com from the ’90s. It’s based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, if that provides an extra clue.

One thought on “My Favorite Movies #17 – Superman II

  1. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

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