Superman II

Superman II

name = Superman II

caption = Original movie poster.
amg_id = 1:47870
imdb_id = 0081573
writer = Screenplay:
Mario Puzo
David Newman
Leslie Newman
Creative Consultant:
Tom Mankiewicz
Mario Puzo
Comic Book:
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
starring = Gene Hackman
Christopher Reeve
Terence Stamp
Ned Beatty
Jackie Cooper
Margot Kidder
Sarah Douglas
Jack O'Halloran
Clifton James
E. G. Marshall
music = Ken Thorne
John Williams
cinematography = Robert Paynter
"(Lester footage)"
Geoffrey Unsworth
"(Donner footage)"
editing = John Victor-Smith
"(Lester footage)"
Stuart Baird
"(Donner footage)"
director = Richard Lester
Richard Donner
producer = Pierre Spengler
distributor = Warner Bros.
released = flagicon|EU December 1980
flagicon|USA June 19 1981
runtime = 127 min.
country = UK
language = English
budget = $54,000,000
preceded_by = "Superman"
followed_by = "Superman III |

"Superman II" is the 1980 sequel to the 1978 superhero film "Superman". It was the only Superman film to be filmed by two directors (minus the alternate cut, see below). For this reason the film is surrounded with controversy since original director Richard Donner had completed, by his estimation, roughly 75% of the movie in 1977 before being taken off the project. Many of the scenes shot by second director Richard Lester (who had been an uncredited producer on the first film) in 1979 are refilmed Donner sequences. It was released in Europe and Australia in late 1980 but not in the United States until June 1981. Selected premiere engagements of "Superman II" were presented in Megasound, a high-impact surround sound system similar to Sensurround. It has since become the most fan-edited movie of all time, surpassing even the Star Wars|date=October 2008

According to statements by Donner, roughly 25% of the theatrical cut of "Superman II" contains footage he shot, including all of Gene Hackman's scenes. In 1984, when "Superman II" premiered on television, 24 minutes were re-inserted into the film (17 minutes on the American Broadcasting Company). Much of the extra footage was directed by Richard Donner. In the ABC-TV version, a U.S. "polar patrol" is shown picking up the three Kryptonians and Lex Luthor at the end of the film. Without this ending, it appears that Superman has let the Kryptonians die, though Superman has a strict code against killing and their deaths aren't necessary once they are depowered. On the other hand, the theatrical version's ending implies that Luthor is left stranded at the Fortress of Solitude, leaving the viewer to wonder how he got to prison in ""--that question was answered in the extended versions. The ending of the extended cuts also has Superman, with Lois standing beside him, destroy the Fortress of Solitude.

A brand new re-cut of the film, restoring as much of Donner's original conception as possible, titled "", was released in November 2006. The latter part of the aforementioned scene can also be found on "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut", while the part where the police arrive is a deleted scene.


A prologue recounts the trial of the Kryptonian criminals as seen at the beginning of "Superman" (in this version of the scene, Jor-El is absent from the trial; owing to a dispute between Marlon Brando and the Salkinds, Brando's voice was dubbed over while he was physically removed from the film's negative) in which General Zod and his co-conspirators, Ursa and Non, are banished to the Phantom Zone by the Kryptonian high council as punishment for attempting to establish a dictatorship to rule Krypton.

After the opening credits, which recapitulate many important scenes from "Superman", Clark Kent arrives for work and learns from his boss Perry White that Lois Lane is in France, where terrorists have seized the Eiffel Tower and threatened to destroy the city with a hydrogen bomb contained in an elevator. Clark immediately transforms into Superman and flies to Paris. He arrives just as the French authorities make an ill-advised attempt to disarm the terrorists by blowing up the support cables to the elevator where they are keeping the bomb. This activates the timer on the bomb and sends Lois plummeting. Superman catches the elevator, putting Lois out of harm's way, before throwing the elevator out of the atmosphere and into deep space, where it explodes. The shockwaves shatter the crystalline conduit into the Phantom Zone now floating near Earth, whereupon Zod, Non, and Ursa are released.

Lex Luthor, meanwhile, has escaped prison with Miss Teschmacher's help, leaving a hapless Otis behind. Luthor locates Superman's Arctic Fortress of Solitude, where he learns from a hologram about the three Kryptonian villains. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, he hurries south, convinced that his device has detected the three criminals' alpha wave signatures.

Clark and Lois are sent on assignment to Niagara Falls, Ontario, investigating what Perry calls a "honeymoon racket". They are walking near the falls when a boy drops over the railing. In the confusion, Clark is able to change into Superman unseen and save the boy. Lois, seeing this, suspects that Superman and Clark are one and the same. Soon after, she tries to prove it by jumping into the Niagara River, screaming for Superman to save her. Clark, however, does not change his identity and remains in his civilian identity while feigning panic and using, unbeknownst to Lois, his heat-projecting vision to sever a tree branch for Lois to use to stay afloat. After Lois reaches shore, she scolds herself for putting herself in danger and for believing Superman could be Clark.

However, later in their hotel room, Clark's powers are revealed when he accidentally trips and falls onto the fireplace. Seeing that he is unscathed, Lois realizes the truth. After some hesitation, Clark admits his secret identity and takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude, showing her the crystals that created it and control its operations; given a green crystal to examine, Lois inadvertently leaves it under her purse, outside the control panel. After a conversation with the hologram of his mother Lara about the consequences of being in love with an Earthly woman, Superman agrees to give up his powers in order to begin a relationship with Lois, despite warnings that the process is irreversible. The process, which bombards Clark with a replication of the energy output spectrum of Krypton's sun, destroys the crystal control console. The two then retire to his bedchamber.

Meanwhile, the three Kryptonian criminals have devastated a joint NASA-Soviet moon expedition, killing three astronauts. They fly to Earth, which they believe is called "Planet Houston" (having overheard radio transmissions with Mission Control in Houston, Texas). They wreak havoc on the town of East Houston, Idaho, easily defeating the U.S. military. After defacing Mount Rushmore, the trio attacks the White House, where Zod forces the President of the United States to kneel before him.

Returning from the Fortress of Solitude, the now-depowered Clark is beaten in a diner by a bully. His despondent mood worsens when, in horror, he watches the President announcing his abdication and Zod's now-supreme authority over the Earth. The President suddenly pleads for Superman's help, while Zod issues a challenge to Superman to face him. Realizing the danger posed to the world and the terrible mistake he has made, Clark returns to the Fortress in search of a way to restore his lost powers. Arriving in the dark sanctum, he falls into despair, but abruptly sees the green crystal glowing where Lois accidentally left it and (presumably, though this is not shown) uses it to restore himself.

Meanwhile, General Zod and his cronies have grown bored of ruling the Earth and desire a challenge. Lex Luthor pays them a visit in the Oval Office and negotiates a means to lure Superman to the villains by holding Lois hostage. He also reveals that Superman is the son of Jor-El, their imprisoner, knowing they will want revenge. They arrive at the Daily Planet offices and seize Lois, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Superman, whose powers are fully restored. A destructive battle ensues among the three Kryptonians as Superman struggles with the new experience of battling multiple enemies who match his abilities. During the battle, Ursa and Zod discover Superman's concern for human life and use this against him. Finally, Superman flees, seemingly in defeat. Luthor then convinces the villains that they must pursue Superman to his Fortress.

At the Fortress of Solitude, Superman presents himself atop an opening above them. Non immediately launches himself at him but is cast back to the ground by a triangular entrapment fabric thrown by Superman. Superman then repels all three of them and later attempts to distract the villains with a hologram that creates multiple images of himself throughout the fortress. This interesting duel concludes when Zod, slightly unsure, is seized and overpowered by the real Superman. However, after grappling with Zod, Ursa and Non threaten to tear Lois limb from limb, whereupon Superman agrees to release Zod and capitulate to them to spare her life. Superman manipulates Luthor into tricking the criminals, counting on Luthor to double-cross him. Superman is forced into the same depowering chamber he used before; but the Kryptonian sunlight is set loose on the Fortress. The three supervillains are drained of their powers while Superman, shielded in the chamber, is unchanged. Upon emerging, he defeats Zod while Lois overcomes Ursa. Non, attempting to fly, finds himself incapable. All three villains fall into the depths of Superman's fortress, apparently to their doom.

In Metropolis, Clark finds Lois in her office regretting her selfishness in desiring Clark to be hers alone. Clark then kisses Lois and in the process uses a form of telepathy to erase the knowledge of his dual identity from Lois, returning them to their former "status quo".

Later, Clark takes revenge on the customer who bullied him at the diner, claiming that he has developed his muscles since their previous encounter. The film closes with Superman restoring the American flag atop the White House and assuring the President that he will never again abandon his duty. Flying away into the reaches of outer space, he smiles, knowing that all is right with the world he now protects.The film ends by stating that the series will continue in "Superman III".


Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty and Marlon Brando are the only actors who didn't participate in the film's reshoots. Their scenes in Lester's version (with the exception of Brando) were portrayed with body doubles.

In the 2006 documentary "You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman" (included in the DVD set "Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition"), Sarah Douglas says she was the only cast member to do extensive around-the-world press tours in support of the movie, as she was one of the only actors who held a neutral point of view in the Donner/Lester controversy.


Rhea Perlman and John Ratzenberger both make cameo appearances in the film. They would later appear on the long running sitcom "Cheers" from 1982-1993.

Richard Donner briefly appears in a "walking cameo" in the film. In the sequence where the de-powered Clark and Lois are seen approaching the truck-stop diner by car, Donner appears walking "camera left" past the driver's side. He is wearing a light tan jacket and appears to be smoking a pipe. In his commentary for "Superman II", Ilya Salkind states that the inclusion of his cameo in that scene is proof that the Salkinds held no animosity towards Donner, because if there were, then surely they would have cut it out. Conversely, Donner has used his inclusion in the scene to debunk praise heaped on Lester around the release of the film where Lester took credit for the intense nature of the "bully" scene in the diner, pointing out that he (Donner) filmed the scene and not Lester.

Controversy and cult status

Off-screen problems hampered production of this movie: like other Salkind productions such as "The Three Musketeers" (1973) and "The Four Musketeers" (1974), this was filmed at the same time as the first Superman movie to be a direct sequel. Director Richard Donner argued with the producers over their attempts to make the film "more campy," in his opinion, which led to his removal and replacement on the project by Richard Lester. Following that, Gene Hackman declined to return for any reshoots by Lester, which cut down the number of scenes in which he appears in the final cut (or with a few scenes where a body double was obviously being used).

Another reason behind Richard Donner's removal may have been that the Salkinds were upset that Donner went over their originally planned budget for the movie. Warner Brothers ended up getting more and more involved in the race to complete the film, allowing the studio to receive more profits from the film's box office take than the Salkinds had originally agreed to. With their power slipping away, Donner was unfortunately made the scapegoat.

Despite all the difficulties, and with only a few noticeable shifts in tone between the two directors' scenes (Lester's scenes tend to be more campy and humorous), it was noted by critics to be a remarkable and coherent film, highlighted by the movie's battle sequence between Superman and the three Phantom Zone prisoners on the streets of Metropolis. Scenes filmed by Donner include all the Gene Hackman footage, the moon sequences, the White House shots, Clark and the bully, and a lot of the footage of Zod, Ursa and Non arriving at the Daily Planet. Since the Lester footage was shot almost two years later, both Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve's appearances look different between the Lester and Donner footage. Reeve appears less bulked up in Donner's sequences (filmed in 1977), as he was still gaining muscle for the part. Kidder also has dramatic changes throughout; in the montage of Lester/Donner material, shot inside the Daily Planet and the Fortress of Solitude near the movie's conclusion, her hairstyle, hair color, and even make-up are all inconsistent. Indeed, Kidder's physical appearance in the Lester footage is noticeably different; during the scenes shot for Donner she appears slender, whereas in the Lester footage she looks frail and gaunt.

Marlon Brando's scenes, including some key plot explanations, were excised from the second film, for budgetary reasons (as noted in the DVD special in "The Richard Donner Cut"). Thus Brando was totally absent from the Lester cut of the film.

The original script had the nuclear missile from "Superman: The Movie" releasing Zod and companions from the Phantom Zone, instead of the Eiffel Tower bomb. In "", the nuclear missile scene has been restored, and all scenes involving the Eiffel Tower plot were removed.

In the years since the film's release, the controversy continues to be fueled, while the film itself has achieved cult status. In 1983, Alexander Salkind's production company pieced together an "Expanded International Cut" of the film for television using approximately 24 minutes of footage not shown in the theatrical release, some of which was original Richard Donner footage shot before Richard Lester became director. The "new" footage expanded on the film's many subplots, including a further explanation of the villains' task on Earth, Superman and Lois' romance and an alternate ending involving Lex Luthor, the three Kryptonian villains and the final fate of the Fortress of Solitude. This 146-minute expanded version was released throughout Europe and Australia in the 1980s (the initial expanded U.S. ABC and Canadian CBC telecasts, though edited differently, were derived from the European/Australian TV edit).

In 2005, several Superman movie fans attempted to bring the film closer to Donner's original vision by creating their own professionally-made video restoration of the "International Cut" and offered free DVDs of it on one of the many Superman fan sites, but their efforts were thwarted by Warner Bros., who reportedly threatened legal action.

All four Superman films received Special or Deluxe Edition releases in 2006 coinciding with the release of "Superman Returns". It was confirmed that Ilya Salkind has released Donner's footage for a separate "Superman II" disc and that Donner was involved in the project. According to an interview conducted by website, Ilya confirmed that Time Warner now owns all of the footage shot for 1978's "Superman", 1980's "Superman II", 1983's "Superman III", 1984's "Supergirl" and 1987's "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" including distribution rights. Special Edition restorationist Michael Thau worked on the project alongside Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz, who supervised the "Superman II" reconstruction. Despite some initial confusion, Thau confirmed that all the footage shot by Donner in 1977 was recovered and transferred from England. The new edition was released on November 28, 2006 and called "". The new cut also features less than 20% footage filmed by replacement director Richard Lester.


As John Williams chose not to return to score the film due to obligations to other producers, Ken Thorne was commissioned to write the music upon Williams' recommendation. However, the score contains frequent excerpts from Williams' previous score to the first film. Thorne wrote minimal original material and adapted source music (such as Average White Band's "Pick Up the Pieces", which appears both in the diner in Idaho as well as during Clark's second encounter with Rocky, the bullying truck driver).

In relation to other Superman films & comics


In the version of the film planned by Richard Donner, Superman flies around the Leaning Tower of Pisa at incredible super-speed, accidentally causing it to stand up straight. This was dropped by Richard Lester, but re-used in "Superman III", where Evil Superman straightens the Tower of Pisa on purpose.

The idea, not the entire story point, of Superman and Lois having sex is in the back-story to "Superman Returns".


Clark also uses the rare "super-kiss" to make Lois forget he is Superman. While this was a real power Superman had in the comics, it was rarely used, and eventually removed.

After attacking the White House, Lex Luthor enters the Oval Office to make a deal with the Kryptonians. By the end of the scene, he is sitting behind the President's desk. In the comics, Lex Luthor ran for President of the United States and won.

In 2006, the Superman comics themselves adapted elements from the Superman movies, specifically the ice-like look of Krypton, and Jor-El banishing the criminals to the Phantom Zone. Ursa and Non made their first ever appearances in the comic book continuity.

ee also

*List of films recut by studio

External links

*imdb title|id=0081573|title=Superman II
* []
* [ The Superman Sourcebook, at The Thunder Child]
*rotten-tomatoes|id=superman_ii|title=Superman II
* [ Movie Reviews (Christopher Reeve Homepage) - Superman II]
* [ Superman Homepage: Superman II - Movie Synopsis/Review/Critique]
* [ Chris Reeve - Page 2]
* [ The Superman Super Site - Superman II]
* [ II Times the Superman II: A close comparison of the Lester and Donner versions.]

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