Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Loses cinematic appeal.
When I was going through the entire Superman anthology a while back, I reviewed them based on what the general masses have seen, which was more or less the theatrical versions. Those have the most copies sold, and henceforth, millions of people base their knowledge of Christopher Reeve in blue tights off of those films, so I skipped the Donner Cut of Superman II. I did mention it though, saying from my recollection – it was better than the theatrical version. Giving it a second viewing however…has me really questioning where I got that. It’s definitely interesting and awesome to watch in comparison, but is it really worth watching as a movie movie? I think that’s a really good question.
Plotwise, it’s very similar to the theatrical…just done in an…alternate way if you will. Superman must defeat the three Kryptonian foes including General Zod and his buddies as well as touch base with Lois Lane in a very intimate way – because she discovers his secret, you see. So basically, it is a very character oriented film that asks the question…who is superman really? What does it mean to be him, what power struggles does he face within himself? Then, of course, there is Zod.
I was shocked at how much this film really just resembles the theatrical film. Yeah, there are new, never-before seen stuff (especially with Jor-El), but for the most part it’s the same story…just the way Richard Donner would have preferred it seen. To give you a little background, Richard Donner filmed a lot of Superman II, but the project was handed over to another director for dramatic reasons. They reshot a lot of footage, and the original footage was tossed away in some lost-and-found film factory (I’m assuming), and was then discovered when they were making Superman Returns, so here we are.
Here’s what you should know about this version: you have to take it with a grain of salt. You can’t take it seriously as a film on its own, because it’s an alternate version…kind of like the Anchorman alternate movies. They don’t feel like complete film and instead feel like a collection of unfinished footage…and so does Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. I actually didn’t remember it being so obvious, but there were shots here and there that just flat out looked wrong and had major continuity problems – including a scene that was simply just the actors’ screen tests where Clark’s hair and glasses change dramatically several times. No one will miss that.
That being said, there are some scenes that ultimately work better in this version than the theatrical. The most notable scene is towards the end, where [spoiler] Clark sucks Lois’s memories out with some kind of super-kiss. That was in the theatrical version and makes no logical sense…we know he’s super, but he doesn’t do that. In the Richard Donner cut, they take a play out of the first film…but at least it makes more sense. Also, even though it was a little more repetitive in the Richard Donner cut, Lois’s investigation skills feels more natural as she slowly discovers Clark’s secret…instead of it being a little forced. I did like the theatrical reveal scene though.
It’s so hard to pick a favorite between the two, but if I had to pick, it would be the theatrical version just because that movie feels more like a film than a collection of interesting shots put together. I think it was more nostalgic to release a Christopher Reeve Superman movie in 2006 than anything else. It’s a nice film to check out once in a while, but it shouldn’t take precedence over the other – it’s just put together a little choppily.
Seeing Christopher Reeve in newly found footage after so many years is definitely nostalgic, and the preparation of these scenes work a lot better than the theatrical version in many cases.
You can tell it’s just a special movie created to showcase brand new stuff.You can’t just toss in screen tests into an actual movie and expect people to not notice. Filmmakers shoot and reshoot scenes hundreds of times for a reason.