Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a somewhat jumbled and at times incoherent version of the what many consider the best film in the franchise. The premise is that Superman, by throwing a nuclear missile into space, has inadvertently freed General Zod, Ursa, and Non. These three evildoers soon realize they have great superpowers and they eventually make their way to earth. They have one goal and that is to rule completely. Making things easier on them is the fact that Superman aka Clark Kent is too busy giving into his desires to Lois Lane to be involved in what is happening.
After giving up his powers in order to have his tryst, Clark Kent gets in a fight and realizes that he needs his powers and the world needs him to save them from Zod and the others. So Superman returns to the Fortress of Solitude, gets his powers back and sets about taking on these new foes. It is an epic battle in parts, with Superman triumphing in the end and realizing that he's got a job to do on earth, and that supersedes whatever feelings he might have for Lois Lane.
There had been talk for some time about this phantom Richard Donner cut of Superman II. While I am somewhat unclear as to the details of what really went down, at one point in my screening of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, I stated, "No wonder they took this movie away from him." Without revealing too much, it's not that I mind the jumbled shots, the different angles, the screen tests that had to be substituted for nonexistent footage, what bothered me was the execution and ideas just weren't there. From the new way Lois finds out that Clark is Superman, to the way that Superman erases the events of General Zod, Ursa, and Non, this film felt like a sequel.
Say what you will about Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut vs. the only Superman II we had to screen before this, the latter film was at times scary, sad, and uplifting. This new version has glimpses of that, but I am wondering if glimpses are worth all the work that went into this DVD release?
Introduction by Richard Donner
Richard Donner begins this by thanking the fans who created the internet groundswell to see the film. He talks about how getting to put this film together is like a dream come true because he had thought all the footage was lost. He then goes on to explain the cut, how some of the footage is in there that he didn't shoot, how they had to use screen tests instead of actual takes, etc..
A pretty in-depth look at how Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was brought into existence. We again hear about the "internet movement" to see this film, and then we are taken into the painstaking process of putting it together. Michael Thau who handled a lot of the restoration process discussed working with the footage, creating continuity within the scenes (it seems Donner shot this movie at the same time he was making the first Superman movie), finding all the assets, etc.. One of the more interesting moments was Richard Donner talking about divorcing himself from the process, and letting Thau's fresh perspective take over.
There are 6 deleted scenes in total and they have titles like "Clark and Jimmy" and "Lex and Miss Tessmacher head North." These deleted scenes seem like they have been cleaned up as much as possible, yet there is still a large degree of dirt on these images. All in all these were cool to look at, as a lot of the footage wasn't so much deleted as alternate takes of what we have seen for so many years with the original Superman II cut.
Creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz and Richard Donner sit back and discuss this movie, but sadly they never address how some of their alterations make this story no longer make sense. They talk about certain conscious decisions with the Fortress of Solitude, how you can't kill Lex Luthor, and how Richard Donner was so pressed for time with the first movie, that he did everything in his power to not have to repeat any scenes. These two gentlemen laugh and reminisce throughout this track, I just wish they gave more answers than anecdotes.
2.35:1 - Aspect Ratio. This movie, aside from continuity problems that are really nobody's fault, looked really good. Some of the effects could have been pulled off better, but all in all if you want a solid viewing experience this movie provides that. It is apparent that this cut of the film had a budget, and to go back and make it stand up with the effects of today would have been pointless. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut has the look and feel that we have come to expect from these films, with a nice cross section of various (if confusing) images.
Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. I actually got to watch this movie on a huge TV with a solid sound system and that really helped this experience a lot. I never felt like I was beat over the head by any of the audio, and I really got a sense that a lot of work went into making the sound as full as possible. The score to this film is so linked with the images and I was happy to see that, at the very least, that aspect of the film more than came across.
A dark front cover features Superman opening his jacket to reveal the iconic "S" on his chest. The back cover contains some images from the film, a description about this project and it's history, a Special Features listing, a cast list, and of course technical specs. The thing I liked the most about this packaging is that it sets itself apart from the other Superman releases. Good work, Warner Bros.!
After we were done screening the movie (I watched it with MovieWebbers BB and Timmy), BB said that what they should have done was taken all of this footage and had Bryan Singer (or some other fan related director, heck there could have been an internet contest to decide it) recut a new version of this movie. I think that is a great idea because there were just too many moments in this film that felt off. I don't want to belabor the point too much (or give that much away), but did we really need to see Lois Lane wearing Superman's shirt after they had done the deed? I know that Richard Donner wanted to use every frame of conceivable footage from his cut that he could, but this went a little too overboard in my opinion. That said, there are still a number of deleted scenes for the fans to wade through.
All in all, I don't know that there was any way that Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut could have lived up to the years of hype that surrounded it. It seems that in the 21st Century we are going back and deconstructing our past in ways that we never were able to before. This digital age is giving us the opportunity to blend worlds and alter images, all with the knowledge that we will be able to put things back together later. While I think that this is great, the only time it could be a problem is when we can't go back to what originally got us so excited in the first place.
Dont't forget to also check out: Superman II