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Superman II
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by David Cornelius

"Hot diggity damn, now this is a superhero movie."
5 stars

Friends and family have long known of my obsession with the 1978 “Superman” and, by extension, the 1981 sequel “Superman II.” These are, in my mind, the greatest comic book movies ever made, grand adventures full of wonder, excitement, and, most importantly, fun. This is entertainment at its best.

The successes of “Superman II” come despite a series of mishaps and personnel switches that would have sabotaged a less lucky production. The movie was originally filmed simultaneously with “Superman” by director Richard Donner, although work on the sequel was eventually postponed in order for the filmmakers to focus more on the first picture. When filming finally resumed in 1979, Richard Lester, the director of such varied classics as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “The Three Musketeers,” was called in to take over for a disgruntled Donner. Lester reshot a few scenes and added some broader comic touches (and worked around an absent Marlon Brando, who was bumped from the project following money issues, and a no-show Gene Hackman, who refused to reshoot with a new director), and the final product is a movie credited to one director but in reality the work of two individuals with two separate visions. It’s like two movies edited into one.

So how did “Superman II” get so good despite itself? Well, for starters, the “vision” wasn’t too diverse; Lester served on the first movie as something of a go-between for Donner and executive producer Alexander Salkind, so he knew the ropes of the franchise from the very beginning. Secondly, despite the various rewrites that occurred as production resumed on the sequel, those rewrites were done by David and Leslie Newman, who also worked on the original picture and therefore had a feel for the characters and action.

But above all, the basic story - originated by Mario Puzo as part of one epic work - kicks so much ass that it kind of saves itself. Consider the plot: three Kryptonian villains arrive on Earth and tear the joint up, just after Supes gives up his powers to be with Lois Lane! That’s just great stuff, people.

We get all the great comic adventure flourishes, from a nail-biting opener involving a hydrogen bomb and the Eiffel Tower to the sort of supervillain rumbles we’ve come to love from the comic books to the glorious showdown at the Fortress of Solitude (!) that lets the Man of Steel unleash every trick in his superpower bag. (For you purists out there, please remember that this takes place before the 1986 overhaul of the character. When this movie was made, Superman was a guy who could do anything the writer wanted, so the teleportation and that weird “S” net thingy isn’t out of character.)

The movie’s best assets are its baddies, including one of the all-time greats, General Zod. Played by Terence Stamp with scenery-chewing gusto, the obsessive, sinister Zod (a general of what, exactly?) becomes Superman’s greatest cinematic foe, outshining even Hackman’s Lex Luthor (here appearing more as comic relief, but what a delicious role!). The screen crackles every time Stamp appears; his commanding presence defines the character as the guy who honestly deserves a shot at defeating the Man of Tomorrow.

Along with his cohorts - the devilishly sexy Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and the silent hulk Non (Jack O’Halloran) - Zod’s challenge to Superman results in arguably the finest moment in the franchise: the Metropolis street brawl. Buses and cars are tossed around like paperweights. People get hurled through brick walls. Insurance claims go through the roof. If you want to pinpoint the precise moment in movie history when the superhero/supervillain action showdown began, I’d bet on this scene.

And Superman’s grand entrance! “General, would you care to step outside?” I’ve seen this movie a good hundred-plus times, and I still want to cheer at that moment. Here’s a movie that, like its predecessor, gets Superman. The aw-shucks sincerity, the cornball patriotism, the knowledge that it’s OK to be cynicism-free, the sly, arrogant bombast. (Credit this to Donner, who understood how to interpret the story as American myth, not just as some campy comic book movie.)

What we also get in “Superman II” is a depth of character often absent in sequels of this sort. In between the Zod plotline, we get Lois Lane finally discovering the truth about Clark Kent. You know, why he’s always disappearing whenever Superman shows up. The first movie showcased a brilliant performance by Christopher Reeve, who had to balance the grandeur of the superhero with the slouchy nerdishness of his alter ego, managing to switch characters with just a minor adjustment in posture. He does the same here, and it’s still a fabulous acting trick. But this time it pays off: with his character finally getting to properly admit his love for Lois (played again by Margot Kidder) as well as question whether or not he can be a superhero and have a workable relationship (resulting in the heartbreaking decision to give up his powers), Reeve is allowed to do even more this second time around. For a genre that’s often skimpy on characterization and attention to performance, “Superman II” is such a welcome change of pace.

If the first two Superman movies are nothing else, they’re grand entertainments. These are movies that make us cheer, make us smile. We’re thrilled, wowed, engaged, won over. It’s epic mythmaking with a human touch and a great comic sense, storytelling with wit and verve and nonstop magic. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite of the two; I prefer the first one’s vision of neo-Biblical epic, and the second’s juggling of grandiose action and intimate drama.

I watched “Superman II” on the Fourth of July, and watching Reeve’s Superman stand behind that waving flag as he addresses a grateful president, I recognized once again that this character - and these films - are perfect Americana. Bold, brash storytelling. Larger than life bravado, triumph over tyranny. Superman, apple pie. Truth, justice, and the American way. “Superman II” made me cheer when I was seven years old, it makes me cheer now that I’m thirty, and it’ll make me cheer when I’m ninety.

Way to go, Superman! What a nice man.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1000&reviewer=392
originally posted: 06/17/05 20:06:27
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good sequel 4 stars
7/21/13 Gurd Singh Great Sequel. Stamp and the other villains are great. 5 stars
12/10/12 Linda Classic. I hate Donner's cut it was boring. And dude Superman returns was crap! 5 stars
7/16/10 MP Bartley Horrendously plotted, but still the best of the original Superman flicks. 4 stars
7/05/10 art A HIGHLIGHT is clark getting REVENGE on ROCKY,the truck DRIVER! 3 stars
6/20/10 Sarah Webster Better Than Supoerman Returns which was a flop. 5 stars
1/23/10 art 2 WAS exciting,but SUPER 3 was better because ROSS WEBSTER made you forget lex luthor! 3 stars
3/24/09 John best comic book sequel of the 80s 5 stars
3/01/08 Pamela White Sequel as good as the first 5 stars
10/01/07 Andrew Kercher Donner's cut much better. This release disappoints but provides fodder for Superman Returns 3 stars
3/20/07 dude Superman Returns was better 4 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega The best yet!!!! 4 stars
1/05/07 David Cohen The Lois Lane subplot slows the movie down and contributes almost nothing 3 stars
12/25/06 johnnyfog Superman has a James Bond silk-lined bed in his Fortress? The pimp! 5 stars
10/21/06 David Pollastrini very good 4 stars
10/03/06 Jeremy Davies The best of the series 5 stars
7/18/06 Michael Superman should have paid more attention to protecting the world. Why give up his powers? 4 stars
6/05/06 drydock54321 it can't get any better than this - 3 Kryptonian villains. 5 stars
12/28/05 tony Usually i hate sequels, but this movie was good 4 stars
9/10/05 Big Blue Boy 2005 Violent, mean-sprited B-movie trash! Viva Donner! 2 stars
8/12/05 ES Zod!= best superman movie yet 5 stars
7/05/05 shannon huard great sequels, the first superman had the story t,his brings the action. 5 stars
6/22/05 Eric Rollins Kiss of Forgetfulness? Oh my Zod! 4 stars
6/21/05 Carolyn Rathburn The saga continues, man of steel, on screen and off. 5 stars
5/10/05 Indrid Cold Yeah, probably better than the 1st, but that's not saying much. 3 stars
3/13/05 Dave A good movie, but not as good as the original from 1978. 4 stars
1/19/05 Laurian Diaconescu Awesome movie. Not quite like the first part, but still great. Another treasure. 5 stars
9/03/04 T.B. This is better than the first Superman movie 5 stars
7/28/04 American Slasher Goddess Even better then the first, one of the best sequels out there. 5 stars
7/06/04 EricDSnider Good, but with much corniness and silliness 4 stars
1/02/04 JimmyC Kneel Before Zod!! 5 stars
12/06/03 john it's pretty good - not as good as the original but still fun 4 stars
9/09/03 Evoke Ogbevire This movie was much better than the first ! 5 stars
8/22/03 wilson araya " A Job well done ! " 5 stars
3/21/03 Jack Sommersby By far, the best of the series. Superbly crafted by Richard Lester. 4 stars
2/19/03 Dave Faster, funnier and better plot than the first (and you can't go wrong with the theme tune) 4 stars
11/06/02 Charles Tatum I've been blinded by the shitty effects 1 stars
8/15/02 Shaun faster and better than the first 5 stars
8/11/02 Ionicera fun to watch and actually character driven 4 stars
7/20/02 Gary Loved the diner rematch! 4 stars
2/27/02 R.W. Welch The usual sequel slippage, lacks the light touch of the original. 3 stars
10/30/01 Andrew Carden I Liked The First One A Bit Better, This One Is A Bit Too Goofy. 3 stars
9/08/01 Butterbean The best Superman film! General Zod and his crew were awesome! I loved the ending! 5 stars
5/08/01 Greg O. Exciting sequel 5 stars
2/19/01 Nick Berger havent seen it but it doesnt seem fair that noone disliked it 1 stars
1/01/01 Terry Still fantastic, despite troubled production -Donner fired, or could have been even better. 5 stars
12/27/00 Turtle Better than the first and a lot of superheroic fun! 5 stars
9/17/00 total camp, missing the heart of the fine first Superman film 3 stars
4/09/00 punkass Uh? Decidedly average 3 stars
3/15/00 Jeremy Superman in his greatest battle yet 5 stars
3/11/00 Non Thrilling Sequel 5 stars
3/10/00 Don Brilliant Super Excellent Master..... You Get The Idea 5 stars
3/08/00 Kal El Great Sequel but SUPERMAN 4 The quest for peace is still the best 5 stars
10/21/99 Russell Christiansen Very good sequel, almost as good as the original one... 5 stars
6/03/99 Thethug266 Better than the 1st bitching one! 4 stars
9/30/98 Johny Fondly remembered here 5 stars
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  19-Jun-1981 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Nov-2006

  09-Apr-1981 (PG)

  04-Dec-1980 (PG)

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