Friday, December 08, 2006

MOVIES: Superman II The Donner Take

I, like many other Superman fans, have always wondered what a Richard Donner cut of Superman II would actually look like. Now thanks to a fan outpouring of letters Warner Brothers has allowed Richard Donner to come back into the editing booth to edit his version of the film. According to the special feature documentary about this process Donner, with the help of his editing crew, was able to locate most, if not all, of the footage that he had shot for the film back in 1977. The script by Mario Puzo was intended to be one gigantic film that they later separated into two movies. Donner did shoot most of Superman II before he was strangely fired and Richard Lester was brought on to finish the film. It's interesting that the studio would allow a Director they had once fired to do this especially because Superman II, the original theatrical version, was well received and is considered as good or better than the first film by most fans. So of course I had to buy this new cut, I mean this has never happened before, unless you count the two versions of the Exorcist prequels from a few years ago. Donner wanted to explore the father/son dynamic further in his cut. Of course in Lester's defense, Brando wanted a huge payday to be seen in the second film so they cut him out in favor of Susannah York, who played Superman's Mom Lara. She did an adequate job but seeing Brando as Jor-El in scenes I had previously never viewed before made the film much more powerful.

The film begins with a recap of the first film as well as a slightly different intro to the Kryptonian criminals: General Zod (Terrence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O’Halloran). Donner completely takes out the Eiffel Tower terrorist scene from the original and focuses on Lois' (Margot Kidder) desire to trick Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) into revealing he is Superman. The scene was well staged but I felt it wasn't as believable. I mean Lois just decides to jump from the window to prove that Clark is Superman? I thought it might have been a little too early in the film for this. Besides in the Lester version Lois jumps into a raging river just below Niagara Falls, its dangerous sure, but it's not jumping out of a thirty story building. Donner also cuts up the Niagara Falls scenes and uses a screen test of Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve in the hotel room as Lois decides to now shoot at Clark to prove that he is Superman. Again the Lester version is a little more subtle, Clark stumbles into a fire and proves who he is rather quickly. The gun thing did seem a bit over the top and maybe even a little crazy.

The film weaves in and out taking bits of scenes we have seen before and lightly peppering the film with new stuff. Donner extended a lot more of the Luthor (Gene Hackman) in prison and unfortunately used a lot of the goofier exchanges with his sultry assistant Ms. Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). The best part of this new cut is the sequence where Superman gets his powers back. Now in the original Lester version Clark goes back to the empty Fortress of Solitude and holds a glowing green crystal. The scene ends and the next thing we see is Superman flying around like nothing ever happened. This was always really lame so it was a great thrill for me to see the full explanation for Superman getting his powers back. I won't go into detail about how it happens, but trust me it works a lot better than the original. Donner also took out a lot of the stupid annoying crowd scenes that made the film seem silly and he cut back the un-necessary fight sequence in the fortress of solitude. No stupid S logo saran wrap this time. Donner also doesn't use the kiss of forgetfulness either; he just rehashes the time travel loop from the first film. I was curious to know what he would've have done differently had he been able to shoot the actual ending to this film. I guess we may never know. Overall it was a fun ride viewing never-before seen footage of Chris Reeve and the crew and even though the pacing was klunky and the scenes seemed sometimes disjointed, it was still a great ride.

1 comment:

Speck said...

I regret not buying this when I had the chance...because it sodl out everywhere. And its been in netlfix cue under the heading LONG WAIT. But now it says its availble...hopefully i get it in the mail on Tuesday.