..

SUPERMAN II

superman2.jpg (6341 bytes)

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Terrance Stamp
Director:  Richard Lester and Richard Donner  (uncredited)
Audio:  Dolby Surround  (English and French)
Video:  2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Subtitles:  English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  127 Minutes
Release Date:  May 1, 2001

“The next time...we will kill him.”

“The next time, the next time? What am I going to do with you people huh? I held up my end, delivered you the Blue Boy… and what do I hear from my triple threat? ‘Bow, yield, kneel’…that kind of stuff closes out of town.”

“Why do you say this to me…when you know I will kill you for it?”

Film ***

What can be said about Superman II that most fans don’t know already?  Superman II, filmed for the most part at the same time as Superman: The Movie, was supposed to come out in the summer of 1979, one year after its predecessor.  Instead, the film arrived years later in the summer of 1981.  The hiatus was due to director Richard Donner’s “termination” from the project by the Salkinds, the film’s producers, 70% of the way through the filming.   

Growing up with Superman II in the eighties, I was really quite impressed with its overall quality.  Watching the film, one seems to feel like there is a lot of interesting developments in this version: the love between Superman and Lois comes to fruition, three evil villains arrive on Earth and wreak havoc, and finally, Lex Luthor returns to aid them.  Generally, this seems to build on the overall tension that started in the original among the characters, as more seems at stake. 

Unfortunately, the eighties came and went long ago.  Looking at this DVD, I was bothered by a few things.  For one, the film jumps from being serious like the original, to points where the “camp factor” rises to extreme levels, resulting in Superman II being somewhat uneven.  Also, along with the camp factor, some scenes seem so ridiculous, that it takes away from the overall power of the film.  Scenes such as when a four star general appears in the middle of some Texas reserve troops when the villains attack a small town near Houston.  What the hell is he doing there and not in Washington if he “only answers to the President?”  Other such frivolous scenes include: the citizens of Metropolis coming after the villains with clubs and the villains blow them back, sending some guy dressed like Liberace on skates skating backwards. Also, as some guy is talking in a phone booth, it gets   knocked over, yet he still continues to talk on the phone as the camera follows him being blown away.    

These problems seem to be the fault of incoming director Richard Lester, as the scenes that he reshot or filmed totally on his own represent a loss of both grandeur and realism for the film.  To be fair, after Donner left, so did a lot of what made the original so good: Brando (a great scene which explains how Superman gets his powers back was cut), Hackman (while the scenes he had already done were left in the film, a body double and voice impersonator were used for the rest of his scenes), and even composer John Williams (the score was redone by another composer using the work Williams had already created).  On the other hand, I might have given Lester more of the benefit of the doubt if Superman III wasn’t quite the blemish on Superman’s cape that it was.

Another problem that plagues Superman II is its special effects.  While not terrible, they don’t seem to have received the meticulous treatment of the original.  This is especially obvious in flying scenes, as lines are seen around the characters that weren’t as noticeable in similar scenes in the original, as well as when the super villains lift things with their fingers.

All my criticisms aside, there are still reasons why many consider this entry into the Superman legacy their favorite.  For one, there is a pretty solid story in the film, with just enough emphasis on the blossoming love between Superman and Lois, contrasting the emphasis put on the arrival of the super villains and the subsequent mayhem they cause.  Reeve and Kidder seem even more comfortable in their roles and provide performances that are right on the mark.  Similarly, Hackman is once again brilliant as Lex Luthor, Superman’s scheming arch-nemesis, providing almost as many quips as in the original.  Finally, what makes the film a winner overall is the return of Terrance Stamp as General Zod.  Unlike the original, the audience really gets to see Stamp in action, and he really sinks his teeth into the role.  His reactions of boredom and his dead pan comments of superiority are amazingly hysterical ("Kneel before me son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!!!").     

Video ***

The colors are good throughout the film.  Black levels occasionally suffer, especially in the space scenes, and the print looks like it’s a little older.  This is probably more due to the fact that I’m somewhat biased by how good Superman I’s video looked. 

Audio **1/2

Included is a track in Dolby surround.  All in all, the dialogue is generally crisp through the center channel, while the surrounds are used for the score and other effects.  This is a fairly good mix for Pro Logic, although I would have preferred a track in Dolby Digital, similar to the treatment Superman I received. 

Supplements **

It’s obvious that Warner spent their time on the supplements of the original.  Included here is just a theatrical trailer and Cast and Crew biographies. 

Summary:

In conclusion, despite the fact that Warner didn’t treat the disc as well as the original, you can still pick this up for around or under $14.99 (I got mine for $12.99 at Best Buy), and that’s a value for Superman II.  Recommended.