Canister X Movie Review #77: Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
Written by Mario Puzo, David Newman and Leslie Newman
Directed by Richard Donner
Runtime 115 min.
5 out of 5
Superman is back, and when he inadvertently releases three inmates from the Phantom Zone, he has to go up against three supervillains every bit as powerful as he is. Complicating matters, Lois Lane is getting wise to the possibility that Clark Kent might not be who he claims to be and that, just maybe, beneath those glasses is the Man of Steel she so desperately loves.
As the two become close and spend time together, the three Kryptonian villains arrive on Earth and wreak havoc and destruction. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor seizes the opportunity to cash in on the aliens’ arrival and tries to exploit their powers for his own gain.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance and Superman nowhere to be found, will the Earth fall to General Zod forever?
This version of Superman II, the Richard Donner cut, was made possible by the outcry of fans. Eventually, the studio and Richard Donner—the director of Superman I and the original director of Superman II—responded and thus this version of the beloved super movie was born. Tracking down loads of old footage—most of which was shot when Superman I and II were filmed simultaneously, but then later discarded since with a change of director came a change in vision—fans finally got Superman II as intended.
This version is way better, in my opinion. Better paced, better story—well, it’s the same story but the “new” scenes are better and more well-written than the 1980 Superman II ones—and lots of heart and Superman fun.
For performance reviews, see my 1980 Superman II review as the actors did just as well in the alternate scenes shown in this flick.
While, yes, you can watch this movie after Superman I, you’ll notice some overlap but don’t let that distract you. When there was a change of director behind-the-scenes, it affected even the cut of Superman I that made it into theatres.
While attending a panel with Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) back in 2007, I asked her how this version of Superman II came about. Aside from giving a detailed backstory—however, I can’t remember the specifics, it was so long ago—I do remember her saying that had it not been for the screen test footage that was used in the Lois-finds-out-Clark-is-Superman scene in the Niagara Falls hotel room, the one where she shoots him with a blank, the Richard Donner cut would’ve been released in theatres. I don’t know if this is fact or wishful thinking on her part, but I know I would’ve paid to see this on the big screen. Easy. Obviously, the official Lois-finds-out-Clark-is-Superman scene in the Niagara Falls hotel room was never shot due to the change of directors and with Mr. Reeve’s passing, it couldn’t have been reshot anyway. I’m sure with Hollywood magic the reshoot could’ve been pulled off, had he been alive.
The big battle between Superman (Christopher Reeve) and General Zod (Terrance Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O’Halloran) is more exciting in this version, and likewise we find out what happened to the bad guys in this flick as opposed to them just dropping into a foggy chasm in the Fortress in the 1980 film.
The Lois and Clark relationship is better portrayed in this one, too, and that new scene with Lois trying to make Clark reveal himself as Superman when she jumps out of the Daily Planet window is more exciting than the “I’m going to drown myself in a river” bit that was in the 1980 flick.
There is also plenty of Jor-El (Marlon Brando) and Superman/Clark interaction, stuff that wasn’t in the 1980 movie. It totally adds to the mythology and the overall sense of awe and wonder that is Superman.
For the Superman completist, this movie is a must-watch and a must-own. I know, for me, when I go to watch the Superman movies, I watch Superman I then Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. I feel I’m getting the original story this way as the original script was so massive it had to become two movies.
Watch this movie. It’s awesome.