Monday, December 11, 2006

Donner's cut vs. Lester's cut: And the winner is... WARNER BROTHERS!



Well, you vociferous little fanboys asked for it and you got it. Last Tuesday, Warner Brothers released the long anticipated Richard Donner cut of Superman II on DVD, coinciding with the DVD release of last summer's less-than-super "sequel" Superman Returns. Already the message boards are atwitter with pr0-Donner fanboys enthralled in heated debate with pro-Lester fanboys.

Once again, it is up to me, Cody Dee Williams – smooth talkin’, gambler - to set the record straight. To end this fledgling, yet frivolous debate once and for all and bring peace and harmony to Fanboydom... so its citizens can dedicate more time focusing on how to lose their virginity.

Okay, let’s break it down beat by beat, MC Hammer style:

Advantage: LESTER
Lester did a nice job of intercutting key sequences of the first film with the opening credit sequence. It gets us up to speed, without wasting too much time. In Donner's cut, pre-opening title cards, we are shown seemingly random clips from the climax of the first film. Some of these clips have absolutely no point, like the Miss Teschmacher kiss. Why do we need to see this in order to understand what will be happening in Part II??

Advantage: LESTER
Donner's cut of Zod, Ursa, and Non's banishment to (and subsequent escape from) the Phantom Zone is way too long and the special effects are way too bad. Even worse than the original effects in the Lester cut. Not to mention, the cringe inducing addition of Zod screaming "FREEEEEEE!" after breaking out. If you haven't seen it yet, trust me, it's on the cheese level of Kirk's "KHAAAAHHHNNN!" from Star Trek II. Nuclear warhead versus nuclear Parisian elevator??? I'll let you decide.

Advantage: LESTER
In Donner's cut, Lois realizes Clark is The Man of Steel in the first two minutes of the film. How? She draws a hat, eyeglasses, and a suit over a newspaper photo of Superman. If it were that easy shouldn't more people have realized by now? Donner follows this up with a scene where Lois chucks herself out the 40th floor window of the Daily Planet, in hopes of outing Clark as Superman. I guess she must be REALLY sure, huh? I mean she's a journalist, not an artist, right? In Lester's cut, Lois' realization is a little tamer, and he paces it out better; Lois' sees Clark several times without his glasses on before making her deduction. And when she does, makes a much more believable gamble with her life.

Advantage: DONNER
Donner has reinstituted the character of Jur-El, played by Marlon Brando, back into many of the Fortress of Solitude scenes in SMII. Brando’s added presence in the film helps to clear up much of the ambiguity in Lester’s cut surrounding the sudden reacquisition of Superman’s surrendered powers. Not to mention, there is a gem of an extended scene, featuring Gene Hackman’s character Lex Luthor yelling “ARE YOU THE OLD MAN!?!” at the prerecorded apparition of Jur-El. Very funny :)

Advantage: LESTER
I know all you fanboys are going to go ape shit, but come on! The new footage of the old (very old) screen test in place of Lester’s bear rug scene is absolutely preposterous. Both Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder look dramatically younger, not to mention the former looking about 25 pounds lighter, as well. As cheesy as the newlywed suite scene may be in Lester’s cut, it still sells the love story angle between Clark and Lois better than what Donner has done in his cut. At least in Lester’s cut the two characters have a conversation about their feelings for one another before riding off into the sunset (or in this case, the North Pole) together.

Advantage: LESTER
In Lester's cut it happens after Superman surrenders his powers. In Donner’s cut in happens before. HOW IS THIS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE!?! To quote Brodie from Mallrats, “It's impossible, Lois could never have Superman's baby. Do you think her fallopian tubes could handle the sperm? I guarantee you he blows a load like a shotgun right through her back. What about her womb? Do you think it's strong enough to carry her child?” Case closed!

Advantage: DONNER
Props to Donner’s cut for the added footage of Lois Lane in superjammies, after the aforementioned physically impossible supersex.

Advantage: DONNER
Donner has really chopped it up, but the good outweighs the bad. I don’t think anyone is missing Lester’s goofy sight gags.

Advantage: LESTER
This is the big one. The new ending added into Donner’s cut basically negates everything that takes place up until that point in the movie. So essentially, in Donner’s cut, the film ends where it begins. If we are to except this cut as the definitive version of the film, as well as the prequel to Superman Returns, the continuity within the film itself and between SM:II and SMR is practically non-existent. How did Lois get pregnant? How did the Fortress of Solitude get rebuilt (Yes, Superman now blows it up at the end of Donner’s cut)? Why is Clark Kent going back to get revenge on the trucker for a beat down that now has never taken place? It just doesn’t make sense on so many levels. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Lester’s magic kiss. If Superman can shoot laser beams out of his eyes, then he can suck away someone’s memory with a kiss.

Well there you have it . A totally non-partisan perspective on the whole mess. As the title of this artical so cleverly states, the only real winner in the battle of Donner vs. Lester is Warner Brothers. Because they are making a boat load of cash off this very shrewd and well timed marketing ploy. I think the best possible use of profits would be some acting lessons for Brandon Routh. I hope we can all agree, no matter which cut of SII you feel is superior, that Christopher Reeve was a tremendous and underappreciated talent. And he is and always will be the definitive Superman.


Cody Dee Williams said...

An author's sidenote:

To my dedicated Readers,

Please disregard G.I. Jeff's review of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, posted below my much more thorough and complete comparison of both SMII films. Please except my article as the definitive critique on the subject of SII: Lester vs. Donner.

Faithfully yours,

Cody Dee Williams

G.I. Jeff said...

Some very good points Cody Dee Williams but with all of that hard research that you did you couldn't find the spelling for Jor-El's name? That's right Mr. Cody Dee Williams it is Jor-El not Jur-El. Nice job though, really I'm not blowing smoke up your ass. You forgot to mention that Donner's repowering of Superman was better than Lester's. The whole Father becomes the Son and the Son becomes the Father stuff. Very nice!!

Cody Dee Williams said...

Not true, toolbox, not true. I direct your attention to THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE section of my review. Sorry if I didn't want to ruin every small, minute, detail and line of dialogue for our readers that haven't seen the Donner cut yet.

And, by the way, Superman's father's name in the original Aramaic text is written Jur-El. With a "U". I'm surprised you didn't find THAT in all of your hard research.

Captain Mike said...

In Latin, Jehova starts with an "I."

Speck said...

Only a penitent man may pass.

Fiona said...

I just (bought and) saw the BD version of Donner cut last night and I was very frustrated by it. I agree with your critiques completely. Though the most frustrating bit was that I "thought" I was buying a movie that I knew and grew up with and in fact I wasn't. So now I'm gonna buy *another* copy. Warner Brothers +1,000,001 : Me : Stupid Consumer

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Victor Murillo said...

I agrre with you. Lester version is the definitive cut. Donner cut is the Warner's cut really; only the truncted vision by Donner is that survives, not a film at all.