Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Christopher Reeve Still Shines in "Superman II"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 39 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Superman II (1980)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Richard Lester
WRITERS: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman; from a story by Mario Puzo (based upon the characters and situations created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)
PRODUCER: Pierre Spengler
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Geoffrey Unsworth and Bob Paynter
EDITOR: John Victor-Smith
COMPOSER: Ken Thorne

SUPERHERO/ACTION/DRAMA with elements of comedy and sci-fi

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Terrence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, Valerie Perrine, Leueen Willoughby, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall, Marc McClure, and Susannah York

The subject of this movie review is Superman II, a 1980 superhero drama and action film from director Richard Lester. This movie is based on the DC Comics character, Superman, created by comic book writer Jerry Siegel and comic book artist Joe Shuster. Superman II is also a direct sequel to the 1978 film, Superman: The Movie.

There was some controversy surrounding Superman II upon its release. It was originally being film simultaneously with Superman: The Movie by director Richard Donner. Donner ended up being fired by the Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who controlled the Superman film franchise at the time. Some of the film Donner shot for Superman II was apparently re-shot and some of it reused. Donner’s replacement, Richard Lester, is credited as the director of Superman II. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz is credited as a “creative consultant” for his contributions to the screenplay for Superman II.

Putting that aside, is Superman II a good movie? When I first saw Superman II, I considered it to be a better movie than Superman: The Movie. I no longer think so, but more on that later.

Superman II opens by going back in time to Superman’s birth planet, Krypton, prior to its destruction. There, the criminals: General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his followers, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran), are sentenced by Jor-El (Superman’s Kryptonian father) to banishment into the Phantom Zone for insurrection and other crimes. After traveling through the galaxy for many years, the Phantom Zone, represented as a spinning, picture frame-like segment of space, is shattered near Earth by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

Meanwhile, Daily Planet reporters, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), who is Superman, leave Metropolis for an undercover story. In Niagara Falls, Lois and Clark pretend to be a married couple, which brings them closer, physically and emotionally, than they usually are. Suddenly, Lois thinks she knows Superman’s secret identity. That leads Clark to make a monumental decision just when Earth most needs Superman.

I once told a friend that I preferred Superman II over Superman: The Movie and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn over Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He responded that people liked the sequels because they were “kick-ass.” That is true, to an extent, but Star Trek II is better than the first Trek film.

At the time I first saw it, I did like the fight scenes in Superman II, but there were many other elements that caught my attention. When I saw Superman II in a theatre, there was a woman a few rows in front of me who yelled, “Superman had sex,” when the film cutaway to a scene with Lois and Clark in bed, apparently post-coitus. I think what I liked about Superman II was that it confronted me with things I thought of has wrong in relation to Superman, especially Superman having sex with Lois, which also intrigued me. However, as a film critic said at the time of the film’s initial release, Superman and Lois should not have actual physical sex, because their version of sex was Superman carrying Lois in his arms as they fly over Metropolis.

Beside the sex, I found General Zod and company to be good villains, and, in a sense, they were the beginning of a series of things that endangered all that was great and good about Superman for me. They attacked the civilians that Superman protected, were disrespectful of the President of the United States of America, and they invaded Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. All these conflicts, dilemmas, and obstacles made for an exciting movie.

Years later, I find Superman II’s occasional campy moments and scenes a bit annoying, although its mostly those featuring Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). There is quite a bit to like about this movie, but the main reason to like this is the late Christopher Reeve. Here, he is eternally youthful. As Clark Kent, he is humble and even sly. As Superman, Reeve is both a champion and a man for seasons.

Now, I think Superman: The Movie is the better film and a blueprint for what a superhero movie can be. Still, Superman II is memorable.

6 of 10

Thursday, June 06, 2013


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