Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

I watched Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut again last night.

For the people that don't know.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a 2006 re-edit of the 1980 superhero film, Superman II, by Richard Donner, who shot a large part of the original movie before being replaced as director by Richard Lester. It stars Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Margot Kidder and Marlon Brando. The cut was supervised by Donner, creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz (who penned the 1977 shooting script for Superman II,on which the Donner cut is based), and Michael Thau, an editor who worked with Donner on the 2001 DVD director's cut and restoration of the 1978 film Superman.

Unlike many "special edition" and "director's cuts" released over the years, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a very different film, despite both versions following roughly the same storyline. As much as half of the film contains never-before seen material filmed by Donner, including 15 minutes of Marlon Brando scenes as Superman's father Jor-El as well as numerous new Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder scenes. Some of this "new" material has appeared in earlier extended television cuts. Some of the existing scenes were also replaced with alternative takes or footage from different camera angles. There are also several newly-filmed shots and many new visual effects. Richard Donner is credited as director of the film instead of Richard Lester. More than half of Lester's footage filmed for Superman II has been removed from the film and replaced with Donner footage shot during the original principal photography from 1977. Certain footage filmed by Richard Lester remains in sequences that were not shot by Donner (due to the halt in production for this film) for purposes of story cohesion. As a result, approximately 83% of the footage in the film is Donner's footage.

When I first watched this I wasn't really expecting the film to start so differently straight away with Zod. The first scene wit Clark and Lois is fantastic and I love Lois diving out of the window of The Daily Planet.It's classic Superman how he manages to save her while still remaining undercover.
It's scenes like that that make you completely forget the Nuclear bomb opening scenes in France in the Lester version.

The extra bits with Lex Luthor and Miss Teschmacher in the Fortress of Solitude and Marlon Brando in even more scenes as Jor-El is awesome. Jor-El explaining all the little bits Lester cut out is fantastic but was there any need to imply there is a toilet in the fortress?
The scene at Niagara falls is a bit strange to watch now what with the previous scene with Lois nose diving out of the Planet a short while earlier. I like how it cuts to test footage though after the Zod scene splicing two separate test scenes together. The new way Lois finds out he is Superman by shooting him is great. Funny how Clark stitches himself up then Lois admits it was a blank.
I can't help but notice a lot of the slapstick Lester moments are no longer in this.
During the scene with Clark stepping into the chamber and loosing his powers I love how the hologram or Jor-El looks at Lois and she steps back to try to get out of sight. Does anyone else get the impression Lois regrets him doing that? Clark getting smashed up in the diner is still shocking though.
When he returns to get his powers Jor-El brought a lump to my throat with his speech.

The fight in the White House is pretty brutal now. Zod using a machine gun is scary.
"Would you hit a woman"
Again I can't help but wonder how cool a massive face off between Superman and someone with equal powers would look today with CGI effects.The fight in the city in this film still impresses me to this day.
I was expecting a bit of a better ending for Zod and co but it seems they did just fall down the cracks in the fortress in this one as well as the original. Not too sure what I think about the ending with Superman reversing time though. The only gripe I have there is that it's a bit pointless and I prefer the Lester ending in that respect.
So Donner would of ended both films with that trick then???

I remember watching this film for the first time being worried that it would change my opinion of the Lester cut but I can honestly say it hasn't.
The Donner cut is an enjoyable version of Superman II. I wonder how well this version would of done if it had been released back in the day had Donner not been fired?

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