Discussion:
[REVIEW] As for Lester’s SUPERMAN II...
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christopherl bennett
2020-01-30 15:11:31 UTC
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Recently, I did a post in which I discussed re-watching Richard Donner’s
Superman: The Movie followed by the reconstruction of his original version of
Superman II, and concluded that both individually and together, they work
better than I remembered. I also concluded that Superman II: The Richard
Donner Cut works much better than what I could recall of the final,
theatrical version of S2 which was largely reshot by Richard Lester after
Donner was fired from the production. However, my memories of that film were
rather vague.

Well, lately, BBC America seems to be forgetting the “BBC” part somewhat and
focusing more on the “America” part; it’s apparently running a series of
mostly American movies whose only real British connection is that their
villains are played by English actors. And one of those was Superman II
(which, true, had a British director and was filmed largely in England, but
still had nothing to do with the BBC as far as I know). I wasn’t too eager
to revisit that film, but I was curious to compare it to the Donner version,
and I figured that since I’d had the nerve to comment on the films online,
fairness demanded that I watch the Lester version so I’d have valid
information to base my judgments upon.

And my judgments were correct. Lester’s S2 is one film I don’t need to
change my opinion of — or rather, my opinion of it has actually fallen now,
since I hadn’t known just how much it fell short compared to what the story
should have been.

Cutting out Marlon Brando was clearly a bad move. It’s fishy from the start,
when the recap of the first film under the titles manages to exclude all
images of Jor-El even during the destruction of Krypton, and when the trial
of the three villains is retconned to having an anonymous voice pass sentence
on them. (And the attempt to depict their “crimes” is baffling: Zod walks
into a room, breaks one crystal, and then the room turns into their trial
chamber? So they were sentenced to the Phantom Zone for petty vandalism?)
More importantly, it badly undermines the plotline of Superman giving up his
powers for Lois and then trying to get them back. In the original Tom
Mankiewicz version of the story, that’s a continuation of the Superman/Jor-El
relationship, the son defying the father and asserting his independence.
It’s a strong confrontation where the risks, motivations, and consequences
are far more clearly spelled out. And later, when Jor-El sacrifices himself
to restore Superman, it’s a meaningful climax with real consequences. It
makes sense: there is a way to restore Superman’s powers, but at great cost,
and it can only happen once.

But in the Lester version, that whole arc becomes feeble. It’s not so much
the replacement of Jor-El with Lara that ruins it; if anything, Lara was
unforgivably marginalized in the original film and this could’ve been a good
showcase if she’d been written more strongly, if a real relationship had been
established with her son (although it still wouldn’t have been as strong and
unified an arc across the two films). The problem is that the writing
simplifies the tensions and difficulties spelled out in the original version
and makes the whole thing so much more cursory. Things aren’t explained as
clearly and the emotions are far more superficial. “Ma, I love her.” “Okay,
but you have to give up your powers for her.” “‘Kay, fine.” “Cool, go into
that chamber.” I don’t recall precisely, but I’m pretty sure the Jor-El
version at least offered some explanation for why he had to give up his
powers to be with Lois.

And then there’s how he gets his powers back — he goes to the Fortress, yells
futilely, then sees the green crystal and picks it up… and then later he
suddenly has his powers again! It’s too random, too easy, with no
consequences, nothing sacrificed. And since Lara had clearly said that there
was no going back once he gave up his powers, the ease with which he
recovered them feels like a cheat and makes Lara come off as a liar.

Of course one can complain about the excess of comedy beats in the Lester
version, and that’s valid, though it’s nowhere near as bad as the third and
fourth films. Most of the East Houston sequence was annoying and unnecessary
— though I almost liked the running gag about Non struggling to make his heat
vision work, since at least it gives him some personality. And the comedy
intrusions in the Metropolis battle, particularly that whole extended
product-placement scene set outside a KFC, undermined the intensity of that
sequence.

But the other thing that struck me the most here was how much Lois was
weakened as a character in the rewritten scenes. The Donner version of S2
opens with Lois simply looking at Clark Kent and noticing that he resembles
Superman. Unlike virtually every other incarnation of Lois Lane, she is
actually perceptive enough not to be permanently fooled by a pair of glasses.
Then she does an experiment to test her notion, drawing Clark clothes onto a
photo of Superman. Thus convinced, she dramatically risks her life to prove
her conclusion, jumping out a window to force Clark to change to Superman and
save her. He manages to save her without revealing his identity, and she’s
left uncertain, but ultimately clings to her conviction when Superman shows
up at Niagara Falls, and then she enacts another bold ploy to force the truth
from Clark, shooting him with a blank so he thinks he’s been exposed and
gives himself away. Throughout, she’s perceptive, strong-willed, and in
control.

But in the Lester version, she’s so much less of all of those things. She
doesn’t even begin to suspect the resemblance between Clark and Superman
until she accidentally gets a glimpse of him without glasses. Instead of
being observant and deducing that they’re the same man, she stumbles upon the
discovery. She then tests it in a variation of the window-jump scene from
the Donner version, but instead, she merely jumps into the rapids — still
dangerous, true, but not as extreme and unambiguously life-or-death a gamble,
and it’s not that hard for Clark to rescue her while still remaining Clark.
And at that point, Lois is completely convinced she was wrong, and doesn’t
even suspect anything further until Clark “accidentally” stumbles over the
rug and his hand lands in the fire. Lois is taken completely by surprise.
They rationalize the stumble by suggesting that maybe Clark subconsciously
wanted her to know, but that makes Clark the initiator and leaves Lois far
more passive. All in all, she’s a far less impressive character in this
version. (Not to mention that the shot of Clark taking off his glasses and
changing his bearing to become Superman without changing clothes is far less
impressive in this version, because his back is to the camera.)

One more thing I noticed was that there were a number of scenes where
Luthor’s voice was evidently dubbed over by a different actor with a lower,
gruffer voice than Hackman’s. I recall hearing that Hackman refused to come
back to work on the Lester reshoots, so I guess Lester had to go with a voice
double for the relooped dialogue. I wonder who the double was. I can’t find
a listing for a voice double on IMDb.

Bottom line, when the Salkinds fired Donner and cut out Brando to save money,
they ended up undermining Superman II on many levels, and we were deprived of
a much better story. Which isn’t really news to anyone who’s familiar with
this film’s production history, but now I’ve seen the specifics for myself.
anim8rfsk
2020-01-30 15:49:13 UTC
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Thu, 30 Jan 2020 08:11:31 -0700 christopherl
Recently, I did a post in which I discussed re-watching Richard Donner’s
Superman: The Movie followed by the reconstruction of his original version of
Superman II, and concluded that both individually and together, they work
better than I remembered. I also concluded that Superman II: The Richard
Donner Cut works much better than what I could recall of the final,
theatrical version of S2 which was largely reshot by Richard Lester after
Donner was fired from the production. However, my memories of that film were
rather vague.
Well, lately, BBC America seems to be forgetting the “BBC” part somewhat
and
focusing more on the “America” part; it’s apparently running a series of
mostly American movies whose only real British connection is that their
villains are played by English actors. And one of those was Superman II
(which, true, had a British director and was filmed largely in England, but
still had nothing to do with the BBC as far as I know). I wasn’t too eager
to revisit that film, but I was curious to compare it to the Donner version,
and I figured that since I’d had the nerve to comment on the films online,
fairness demanded that I watch the Lester version so I’d have valid
information to base my judgments upon.
And my judgments were correct. Lester’s S2 is one film I don’t need to
change my opinion of — or rather, my opinion of it has actually fallen now,
since I hadn’t known just how much it fell short compared to what the story
should have been.
Cutting out Marlon Brando was clearly a bad move. It’s fishy from the start,
when the recap of the first film under the titles manages to exclude all
images of Jor-El even during the destruction of Krypton, and when the trial
of the three villains is retconned to having an anonymous voice pass sentence
on them. (And the attempt to depict their “crimes” is baffling: Zod walks
into a room, breaks one crystal, and then the room turns into their trial
chamber? So they were sentenced to the Phantom Zone for petty vandalism?)
More importantly, it badly undermines the plotline of Superman giving up his
powers for Lois and then trying to get them back. In the original Tom
Mankiewicz version of the story, that’s a continuation of the
Superman/Jor-El
relationship, the son defying the father and asserting his independence.
It’s a strong confrontation where the risks, motivations, and consequences
are far more clearly spelled out. And later, when Jor-El sacrifices himself
to restore Superman, it’s a meaningful climax with real consequences. It
makes sense: there is a way to restore Superman’s powers, but at great cost,
and it can only happen once.
But in the Lester version, that whole arc becomes feeble. It’s not so much
the replacement of Jor-El with Lara that ruins it; if anything, Lara was
unforgivably marginalized in the original film and this could’ve been a good
showcase if she’d been written more strongly, if a real relationship had
been
established with her son (although it still wouldn’t have been as strong and
unified an arc across the two films). The problem is that the writing
simplifies the tensions and difficulties spelled out in the original version
and makes the whole thing so much more cursory. Things aren’t explained as
clearly and the emotions are far more superficial. “Ma, I love her.”
“Okay,
but you have to give up your powers for her.” “‘Kay, fine.” “Cool,
go into
that chamber.” I don’t recall precisely, but I’m pretty sure the Jor-El
version at least offered some explanation for why he had to give up his
powers to be with Lois.
And then there’s how he gets his powers back — he goes to the Fortress,
yells
futilely, then sees the green crystal and picks it up… and then later he
suddenly has his powers again! It’s too random, too easy, with no
consequences, nothing sacrificed. And since Lara had clearly said that there
was no going back once he gave up his powers, the ease with which he
recovered them feels like a cheat and makes Lara come off as a liar.
Of course one can complain about the excess of comedy beats in the Lester
version, and that’s valid, though it’s nowhere near as bad as the third
and
fourth films. Most of the East Houston sequence was annoying and unnecessary
— though I almost liked the running gag about Non struggling to make his
heat
vision work, since at least it gives him some personality. And the comedy
intrusions in the Metropolis battle, particularly that whole extended
product-placement scene set outside a KFC, undermined the intensity of that
sequence.
But the other thing that struck me the most here was how much Lois was
weakened as a character in the rewritten scenes. The Donner version of S2
opens with Lois simply looking at Clark Kent and noticing that he resembles
Superman. Unlike virtually every other incarnation of Lois Lane, she is
actually perceptive enough not to be permanently fooled by a pair of glasses.
Then she does an experiment to test her notion, drawing Clark clothes onto a
photo of Superman. Thus convinced, she dramatically risks her life to prove
her conclusion, jumping out a window to force Clark to change to Superman and
save her. He manages to save her without revealing his identity, and she’s
left uncertain, but ultimately clings to her conviction when Superman shows
up at Niagara Falls, and then she enacts another bold ploy to force the truth
from Clark, shooting him with a blank so he thinks he’s been exposed and
gives himself away. Throughout, she’s perceptive, strong-willed, and in
control.
But in the Lester version, she’s so much less of all of those things. She
doesn’t even begin to suspect the resemblance between Clark and Superman
until she accidentally gets a glimpse of him without glasses. Instead of
being observant and deducing that they’re the same man, she stumbles upon
the
discovery. She then tests it in a variation of the window-jump scene from
the Donner version, but instead, she merely jumps into the rapids — still
dangerous, true, but not as extreme and unambiguously life-or-death a gamble,
and it’s not that hard for Clark to rescue her while still remaining Clark.
And at that point, Lois is completely convinced she was wrong, and doesn’t
even suspect anything further until Clark “accidentally” stumbles over the
rug and his hand lands in the fire. Lois is taken completely by surprise.
They rationalize the stumble by suggesting that maybe Clark subconsciously
wanted her to know, but that makes Clark the initiator and leaves Lois far
more passive. All in all, she’s a far less impressive character in this
version. (Not to mention that the shot of Clark taking off his glasses and
changing his bearing to become Superman without changing clothes is far less
impressive in this version, because his back is to the camera.)
One more thing I noticed was that there were a number of scenes where
Luthor’s voice was evidently dubbed over by a different actor with a lower,
gruffer voice than Hackman’s. I recall hearing that Hackman refused to come
back to work on the Lester reshoots, so I guess Lester had to go with a voice
double for the relooped dialogue. I wonder who the double was. I can’t find
a listing for a voice double on IMDb.
Bottom line, when the Salkinds fired Donner and cut out Brando to save money,
they ended up undermining Superman II on many levels, and we were deprived of
a much better story. Which isn’t really news to anyone who’s familiar with
this film’s production history, but now I’ve seen the specifics for
myself.
"It stinks" - The Critic
--
Join your old RAT friends at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1688985234647266/
Arthur Lipscomb
2020-02-10 02:47:02 UTC
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Permalink
Recently, I did a post in which I discussed re-watching Richard Donner’s
Superman: The Movie followed by the reconstruction of his original version of
Superman II, and concluded that both individually and together, they work
better than I remembered. I also concluded that Superman II: The Richard
Donner Cut works much better than what I could recall of the final,
theatrical version of S2 which was largely reshot by Richard Lester after
Donner was fired from the production. However, my memories of that film were
rather vague.
Well, lately, BBC America seems to be forgetting the “BBC” part somewhat and
focusing more on the “America” part; it’s apparently running a series of
mostly American movies whose only real British connection is that their
villains are played by English actors.
They could always do a marathon of movies about iconic American comic
book heroes, played by British actors. ;-)

And one of those was Superman II
(which, true, had a British director and was filmed largely in England, but
still had nothing to do with the BBC as far as I know). I wasn’t too eager
to revisit that film, but I was curious to compare it to the Donner version,
and I figured that since I’d had the nerve to comment on the films online,
fairness demanded that I watch the Lester version so I’d have valid
information to base my judgments upon.
And my judgments were correct. Lester’s S2 is one film I don’t need to
change my opinion of — or rather, my opinion of it has actually fallen now,
since I hadn’t known just how much it fell short compared to what the story
should have been.
Cutting out Marlon Brando was clearly a bad move. It’s fishy from the start,
when the recap of the first film under the titles manages to exclude all
images of Jor-El even during the destruction of Krypton, and when the trial
of the three villains is retconned to having an anonymous voice pass sentence
on them. (And the attempt to depict their “crimes” is baffling: Zod walks
into a room, breaks one crystal, and then the room turns into their trial
chamber? So they were sentenced to the Phantom Zone for petty vandalism?)
There is no version in any cut of Superman I or II where there sequence
makes a lick of sense.
More importantly, it badly undermines the plotline of Superman giving up his
powers for Lois and then trying to get them back. In the original Tom
Mankiewicz version of the story, that’s a continuation of the Superman/Jor-El
relationship, the son defying the father and asserting his independence.
It’s a strong confrontation where the risks, motivations, and consequences
are far more clearly spelled out. And later, when Jor-El sacrifices himself
to restore Superman, it’s a meaningful climax with real consequences. It
makes sense: there is a way to restore Superman’s powers, but at great cost,
and it can only happen once.
But in the Lester version, that whole arc becomes feeble. It’s not so much
the replacement of Jor-El with Lara that ruins it; if anything, Lara was
unforgivably marginalized in the original film and this could’ve been a good
showcase if she’d been written more strongly, if a real relationship had been
established with her son (although it still wouldn’t have been as strong and
unified an arc across the two films). The problem is that the writing
simplifies the tensions and difficulties spelled out in the original version
and makes the whole thing so much more cursory. Things aren’t explained as
clearly and the emotions are far more superficial. “Ma, I love her.”
"Mother, I love her." Growing up as a kid watching II, that line always
worked for me. Reeve acted the hell out of that scene and just as you
could believe a man could fly, you believed Superman was willing to give
up his powers for the one love of his life.

“Okay,
but you have to give up your powers for her.” “‘Kay, fine.” “Cool, go into
that chamber.” I don’t recall precisely, but I’m pretty sure the Jor-El
version at least offered some explanation for why he had to give up his
powers to be with Lois.
I think it was basically the same dialogue in both versions. In the
Lester version she said, "If you want to live with a mortal, you must
live as a mortal." Funny thing is, I most recently watched the Donner
Cut. The last few times have been the Donner Cut. But I grew up with
the Lester version, so that's the version I remember best.
And then there’s how he gets his powers back — he goes to the Fortress, yells
futilely, then sees the green crystal and picks it up… and then later he
suddenly has his powers again! It’s too random, too easy, with no
consequences, nothing sacrificed. And since Lara had clearly said that there
was no going back once he gave up his powers, the ease with which he
recovered them feels like a cheat and makes Lara come off as a liar.
Agreed. This is where the Donner surpasses the Lester version.
"Look at me!" Best scene in the movie, and Lester cut it out. :-/
Of course one can complain about the excess of comedy beats in the Lester
version, and that’s valid, though it’s nowhere near as bad as the third and
fourth films. Most of the East Houston sequence was annoying and unnecessary
— though I almost liked the running gag about Non struggling to make his heat
vision work, since at least it gives him some personality. And the comedy
intrusions in the Metropolis battle, particularly that whole extended
product-placement scene set outside a KFC, undermined the intensity of that
sequence.
But the other thing that struck me the most here was how much Lois was
weakened as a character in the rewritten scenes. The Donner version of S2
opens with Lois simply looking at Clark Kent and noticing that he resembles
Superman. Unlike virtually every other incarnation of Lois Lane, she is
actually perceptive enough not to be permanently fooled by a pair of glasses.
Then she does an experiment to test her notion, drawing Clark clothes onto a
photo of Superman. Thus convinced, she dramatically risks her life to prove
her conclusion, jumping out a window to force Clark to change to Superman and
save her. He manages to save her without revealing his identity, and she’s
left uncertain, but ultimately clings to her conviction when Superman shows
up at Niagara Falls, and then she enacts another bold ploy to force the truth
from Clark, shooting him with a blank so he thinks he’s been exposed and
gives himself away. Throughout, she’s perceptive, strong-willed, and in
control.
But in the Lester version, she’s so much less of all of those things. She
doesn’t even begin to suspect the resemblance between Clark and Superman
until she accidentally gets a glimpse of him without glasses. Instead of
being observant and deducing that they’re the same man, she stumbles upon the
discovery. She then tests it in a variation of the window-jump scene from
the Donner version, but instead, she merely jumps into the rapids — still
dangerous, true, but not as extreme and unambiguously life-or-death a gamble,
and it’s not that hard for Clark to rescue her while still remaining Clark.
And at that point, Lois is completely convinced she was wrong, and doesn’t
even suspect anything further until Clark “accidentally” stumbles over the
rug and his hand lands in the fire. Lois is taken completely by surprise.
They rationalize the stumble by suggesting that maybe Clark subconsciously
wanted her to know, but that makes Clark the initiator and leaves Lois far
more passive. All in all, she’s a far less impressive character in this
version. (Not to mention that the shot of Clark taking off his glasses and
changing his bearing to become Superman without changing clothes is far less
impressive in this version, because his back is to the camera.)
One more thing I noticed was that there were a number of scenes where
Luthor’s voice was evidently dubbed over by a different actor with a lower,
gruffer voice than Hackman’s. I recall hearing that Hackman refused to come
back to work on the Lester reshoots, so I guess Lester had to go with a voice
double for the relooped dialogue. I wonder who the double was. I can’t find
a listing for a voice double on IMDb.
I think I heard or read someone it was Rich Little.
Bottom line, when the Salkinds fired Donner and cut out Brando to save money,
they ended up undermining Superman II on many levels, and we were deprived of
a much better story. Which isn’t really news to anyone who’s familiar with
this film’s production history, but now I’ve seen the specifics for myself.
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