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Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut January 18, 2007


Just for the record, I have now seen the “Richard Donner cut” of Superman II, and, um, if I ever had any thought of buying that 14-disc “ultimate collector’s edition” of the Superman movie franchise, it has now pretty much passed from my mind.

The basic story is still just as silly as it ever was, and some aspects of Donner’s film are even sillier than their counterparts in the other version of this film, which Richard Lester directed after he was hired to replace Donner. For example, when Lois Lane puts herself into life-threatening situations in a futile bid to get Clark Kent to reveal himself as Superman, it makes much more sense to me that she would do this by throwing herself into a river right after she notices for the umpteenth time that Clark and Superman are never around at the same time, than that she would throw herself out of a skyscraper after drawing a pair of glasses on a photograph of Superman; it also makes much more sense to me that Clark Kent would get so carried away with his “klutz” routine that he would accidentally place his hand in a fire, than that Lois Lane would point a gun at Clark Kent and his X-ray vision would fail to tell him that it was loaded with nothing but blanks.

But one enormous improvement the “Richard Donner cut” does make is that it restores the long-lost footage of Marlon Brando as Superman’s father, Jor-El. It was beyond stupid that the producers tossed all of Brando’s footage from Superman II into a vault, and replaced him with Susannah York as Superman’s mother, simply so they could save some money. The two films are profoundly linked by the relationship between Jor-El and his son, and by the growth of Kal-El into a man who learns from his mistakes and is redeemed from them, but at an enormous cost. So to ditch that aspect of the story made no sense whatsoever, and I am very glad that we finally have a chance to see it the way it was meant to be. (Well, almost; when the final scene between Jor-El and Superman reaches its climax, you suspect the original film would have had a little more money to spend on trippy, flashy special effects.)

Just about everything else on this disc is as it was on the earlier disc, with only minor variations (such as the degree of destruction wrought by the Kryptonians during their battle over Metropolis). So there isn’t much else to say that I haven’t said here already.

Oh, except to say that screenwriter and “creative consultant” Tom Mankiewicz makes an odd comment in the commentary to the effect that Jor-El sending his son down to Earth is a reference not only to Christian beliefs about God the Father sending God the Son (i.e. Jesus) down to Earth, but also to Muslim beliefs about Allah sending Mohammed, among other things. Um, oh-kay …

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