Superman II is a 1980 superhero film credited to being directed by Richard Lester. It is a direct sequel to the 1978 film Superman and stars Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, and Jack O'Halloran.
The film is infamous for being the only Superman film to be filmed by two directors. For this reason, Superman II 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 were shot by second director Richard Lester, who had been an uncredited producer on the first film. However, in order to receive full director's credit, Lester had to shoot up to 51% of the film which included refilming several sequences originally filmed by Donner. According to statements made by Donner, roughly 25% of the theatrical cut of Superman II contains footage he shot, including all of Gene Hackman's scenes.
Superman II was released in Europe and Australia on December 4, 1980, and in other countries throughout 1981. Selected premiere engagements of Superman II were presented in Megasound, a high-impact surround sound system similar to Sensurround.
In 2006, a re-cut of the film was released titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. The new version restores as much of Donner's original conception as possible, with approximately 83% of his footage included. Some of Lester's theatrical footage was retained to fill-in gaps in the story line that Donner had not been able to film before his firing.
Prior to the destruction of Krypton, the criminals General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran) are sentenced by Jor-El to banishment into the Phantom Zone for insurrection, among other crimes. After traveling through the galaxy for many years, the Phantom Zone is shattered near Earth by the shockwave from the harmless detonation of ahydrogen bomb, which had been launched into space by Superman (Christopher Reeve) after foiling a terrorists' plot to blow up Paris. The three Kryptonian criminals are freed from the Zone, finding themselves with super-powers granted by the yellow light of Earth's sun. After attacking human astronauts on the moon and the small town of East Houston, Idaho (which they mistake as being Earth's capital city, due to NASA's transmissions), the three travel to the White House and force the President of the United States (E.G. Marshall) to surrender to Zod on behalf of the entire planet during an international television broadcast. When the President pleads for Superman to save the Earth, Zod recognizes Superman as "the son of our jailer" and vengefully demands that Superman come and "kneel before Zod!".
Prior to Zod's arrival, the Daily Planet sends Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) to Niagara Falls. Lois becomes suspicious that Clark is Superman and tries to lure him into revealing his identity by throwing herself into the Falls, but Clark manages to save her with subtle use of his powers. That night, Clark accidentally falls into the room's fireplace when trying to recover Lois' fallen hairbrush; when Lois discovers his hand is unburned, Clark is forced to admit he is Superman. He takes her to his Fortress of Solitude near the North Pole and shows her the traces of his past stored in the energy crystals of the Fortress, one of which is the green crystal that created the Fortress and opened Superman's contact with his parents. Superman decides to transform himself into a human by exposing himself to Red Kryptonian sunlight in a crystal chamber, giving up his powers to become romantically closer to Lois despite the pleas of the artificial intelligence of his mother, Lara. After spending the night together, the two return to populated areas by automobile, and learn of Zod's conquest of the world. Realizing that humanity cannot fight Zod themselves, Clark decides to return to the Fortress to try to reverse the transformation.
Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who has escaped from prison, finds and infiltrates the Fortress before Superman and Lois arrive, learning of Superman's connection to Jor-El and General Zod. He offers to lead Zod to Jor-El's son in exchange for control of Australia. The three Kryptonians form an alliance with Luthor and go to the offices of the Daily Planet where they abduct Lois. Superman arrives, after having found the green crystal and reversing the transformation process, and battles the three in Metropolis. Zod realizes Superman cares for the innocent humans, and takes advantage of this weakness by threatening bystanders. To protect the city, Superman flies off towards his Fortress, but Zod, Ursa, and Non pursue, carrying Lois and Luthor (who guides them to the Fortress). Upon arrival, Zod declares Luthor has outlived his usefulness and plans to kill both him and Superman. Superman tries to get Luthor to lure the three into the crystal chamber to depower them, but Luthor, eager to get back in Zod's favor, reveals the chamber's secret to the villains. Zod forces Superman to seemingly again undergo the process, only to realize too late that Superman, fully expecting Luthor's treachery, had already altered the process to expose everyone outside the chamber to the red light, removing the Kryptonian criminals' powers while leaving his own intact. After easily defeating the trio, Superman returns Luthor to the authorities and flies Lois to her home.
At the Daily Planet the following day, Clark kisses Lois, using his abilities to wipe her mind of her knowledge that Clark and Superman are the same person. Superman restores the damage done by Zod. As he replaces the flag on top of the White House, Superman promises the President to never again abandon his duty, and flies into the sunrise for further adventures.
Non (Jack O'Halloran), General Zod (Terence Stamp, center) and Ursa (Sarah Douglas).*Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman: Born on Krypton and raised on Earth, Superman is a being of immense strength, speed and power. Morally upstanding and instilled with a strong sense of duty, Superman tirelessly uses his formidable powers, which he gets from the Earth's yellow sun, to protect the people of his adoptive homeworld. His alter ego is mild-mannered Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. Superman's abilities include: X-ray and heat vision, vast strength, speed and invulnerability, super-intelligence, flight and the hitherto unknown ability to throw the 'S' symbol from his costume as a plastic trapping device of some description.
- Margot Kidder as Lois Lane: Feisty and intelligent ace reporter for the Daily Planet and Superman's love interest. Lois, who's madly in love with Superman, is a driven career journalist who lets nothing stand in the way of breaking the next big story and scooping rival reporters while ignoring the potential consequences that sometimes put her in peril.
- Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor: Evil criminal genius and Superman's arch-nemesis. Armed with vast resources and scientific brilliance, Luthor's contempt for mankind is only surpassed by his hatred for Superman. Luthor strikes a bargain with the three Kryptonian criminals in an effort to destroy Superman.
- Ned Beatty as Otis: Luthor's incompetent henchman.
- Jackie Cooper as Perry White: Mercurial editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet newspaper and Lois and Clark's boss.
- Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen: Teenaged photographer at the Daily Planet.
- Terence Stamp as General Zod: The ruthless, arrogant and megalomaniacal leader of three Kryptonian criminals banished to the Phantom Zone and unwittingly set free by Superman. Zod, upon landing on Earth and gaining the same super powers as Superman, immediately views humans as a weak and insignificant sub-species and imposes his evil will for world dominance. However, his arrogance causes him to quickly become bored with his powers and he is almost disappointed at how little of a challenge humans are. His insatiable lust for power is replaced however by revenge when he learns that the son of Jor-El stands in the way of his absolute rule of the planet.
- Sarah Douglas as Ursa: Zod's second-in-command and consort. Ursa's evil will and power-lust are equal to and sometimes surpass those of General Zod himself. Her contempt and utter disregard for humans as well as her twisted taste for wanton destruction make her a deadly adversary. She has an inclination to collect insignia and heraldry from people she defeats or dominates, such as the NASA patch on an astronaut's EVA suit, or police badges.
- Jack O'Halloran as Non: The third of the Kryptonian criminals, Non is "as without thought as he is without voice." At 7 ft (2.1 m) tall, Non is a formidable hulking mute, who easily matches Superman's strength but has the intelligence and sometimes curiosity of a child and communicates only with guttural grunts and growls. Though he lacks the mental ability to use his powers effectively, he does however possess the same taste for destruction as his Kryptonian companions.
- Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher: Lex Luthor's beautiful assistant and girlfriend.
- Susannah York as Lara: Jor-El's wife and Superman's biological mother.
- E. G. Marshall as the President of the United States.
Gene Hackman, Valerie Perrine, 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 sourced from Richard Donner's original shoot. Where additional shots were needed for continuity, Lester used body doubles in place of the original actors. Marlon Brando's scenes were excised entirely, due to the high fee the actor had demanded for the use of his footage in the film.
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 few actors who held a neutral point of view in the Donner/Lester controversy.
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.
The filming of Superman II originally commenced in April 1977, shooting simultaneously with the first Superman movie, but due to the huge shooting schedule and production logistics, filming was halted in October 1977 for the original director, Richard Donner, to concentrate on finishing the first Superman instead. After the release and huge success of Superman, the decision was taken to complete Superman II but with Richard Lester as director. Lester, famous forThe Beatles film A Hard Day's Night, had previously worked for the Salkinds prior to this production, directing such films as The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), as well as serving as an uncredited Line Producer on the first Superman movie. The reason cited for the replacement was due to off-screen problems, between Donner and the Salkinds. Richard Donner had argued with the producers over their attempts to make the film "morecampy", in his opinion, which led to his removal and replacement on the project by Richard Lester.
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 Bros. 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 made the scapegoat.
To avoid paying Marlon Brando another high fee, the producers decided not to use his already shot scenes for Superman II, which had included some key plot explanations. Gene Hackman meanwhile declined to return for any re-shoots, in support of Richard Donner being fired, which meant the number of his scenes were cut down in the final cut (a body double was used in some shots).
In June 1979 production on Superman II officially recommenced with Richard Lester as director. Principal photography began at Pinewood Studios in August 1979 with a revised screenplay, which added several newly conceived scenes, including Lois jumping into Niagara Falls and the the Eiffel Tower bomb sequence. Location shooting took place in Canada, Paris, Norway and St Lucia, while Metropolis (which was shot in New York for the first movie) was filmed entirely on the back lot at Pinewood. Superman II finally finished filming in March 1980.
Despite all the difficulties of the production, and with only a few noticeable shifts in tone between the two directors' scenes (Lester's approach is lighter and more slapstick, as opposed to the verisimilitude Donner fought to bring to the film), 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 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.
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 and was last seen in Australia on the Ten Network. This version includes a montage of Japanese tourists taking photos at the beginning of the Niagara Fallsscene (the initial expanded US ABC and Canadian CBC telecasts, though edited differently, were derived from the European/Australian TV edit). Australians will notice scenes they originally viewed at cinemas in the deleted scenes menu on DVDs and notice some of the one liners they originally heard placed back in the Richard Donner cut.
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 had 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 supermanhomepage.com, 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 theSuperman 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 calledSuperman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Following the original Superman II script, the Donner Cut features less than 20% footage filmed by replacement director Richard Lester and restores several cut scenes, including all the Marlon Brando footage and Lois jumping out of the Daily Planet to try and get Superman to reveal his identity to her. It also restructures the beginning of the movie so that the outer space detonation of the Hackensack-bound nuclear missile from Superman: The Movie is responsible for releasing Zod and his companions from the Phantom Zone (and not the blast from the Eiffel Tower H-Bomb). The originally intended ending for Superman II, which was used instead for the climax of Superman: The Movie (where Superman reverses time) was also restored for the Donner Cut, and incorporates footage Donner had shot in 1977 for this ending of Superman II.
As John Williams chose not to return to score the film due to obligations with other projects, (such as the Star Wars film series), 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). The soundtrack was released on Warner Bros. Records, with one edition featuring laser-etched "S" designs repeated 5 times on each side.
Unlike Superman, Superman II controversially did not open simultaneously around the world and had staggered release dates in an attempt to maximize its box office returns. Originally opening in Australia on 4 December 1980, followed by selected European countries, it would be a further six months before it premiered in America, on June 1, 1981 at the National Theater, Broadway.
The sequel to Superman received much praise from critics. It holds an 88% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the summary saying, "The humor occasionally stumbles into slapstick territory, and the special effects are dated, butSuperman II meets, if not exceeds, the standard set by its predecessor."Roger Ebert, who gave the original film very high acclaim also praised Superman II, giving it four out of four stars, claiming that "Superman II begins in midstream, and never looks back..."
Superman II was a box office success scoring the highest-grossing opening weekend up to that time and became the 3rd highest grossing film of 1981. It grossed $108,185,706 in the US, reaching blockbuster status. The film also received recognition from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. It won Best Science Fiction Film. Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were nominated Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively. Ken Thorne also received a nomination for Best Music.
British cinema magazine Total Film named Terence Stamp's version of General Zod #32 on their 'Top 50 Greatest Villains of All Time' list (beating out the #38 place of Lex Luthor) in 2007.Pop culture website IGN placed General Zod at #30 on their list of the 'Top 50 Comic Book Villains' while commenting "Stamp is Zod" (emphasis in original).
Anti-smoking campaigners opposed the film as the largest sponsor of Superman II was the cigarette brand Marlboro, who paid $43,000 (approx £20,000), for the brand to be shown 22 times in the film. Lois Lane was shown as a chain smoker in the film, although she never smoked in the comic book version. A prop included a truck signwritten with the Marlboro logo, although actual vehicles for tobacco distribution are unmarked, for security reasons. This led to a Congressional investigation.
In 1984, when Superman II premiered on television, 24 minutes were re-inserted into the film (17 minutes on ABC). 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 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace — that question was answered in the extended versions. The ending of the extended cuts also has Superman, with Lois standing beside him, destroying the Fortress of Solitude.
- In the ABC-TV version, Superman passes a Concorde jet on his way to Paris. This is not in the video release and was actually an outtake from Superman: The Movie as a bridge between Superman saving Air Force One and his conversation with Jor-El after his first night. Alexander and Ilya Salkind appeared as pilots in the deleted footage.
- At the end of the film, Clark Kent bumps into a large bald guy, which reminds him to go to the diner to face the obnoxious trucker who beat him up earlier.
- Superman destroys the Fortress of Solitude.
- The Phantom Zone villains land outside the Fortress of Solitude with Lex Luthor and Lois Lane, trying to figure out how to get in.
- Extended scenes of the three Kryptonians invasion of the White House, with Zod using a gun and Non frightening a dog.
- Superman cooks souffle using his heat vision, during dinner with Lois at the Fortress of Solitude.
- Extended discussion between Zod and Ursa on the moon.
- The three Kryptonian villains are arrested in the TV version.
Much of the added footage was later restored for the 2006 Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
Also, there were various edits due to content issues:
- Much violence in the opening White House scene was left out.
- Much of the bully's line in the bar ("I don't like your meat anyway!") sounds like ("I don't want your meat anyway").
- About 35 seconds of the "battle of Metropolis Road" (Superman flying over Metropolis River) was deleted.
- Some language and profanity were re-dubbed.
During the 1980s, CFCF12 cable 11 screened an edition of Superman II that was differently edited to that to the one shown on in the United States on ABC. This particular version has only been screened once in Canada. The first Canadian broadcast of Superman II had an additional few seconds of dialogue as Luthor and Miss Tessmacher were stopped on a snow bank admiring the Fortress of Solitude. In the first U.S. broadcast (the same evening), the scene begins abruptly as Luthor starts the snow mobile immediately after the dialogue sequence.
Scenes seen in the Canadian version but not in the ABC version include:
- A little girl watching the destruction of East Houston by the Kryptonians on TV.
- Longer conversation between Lois and Superman after he destroys the Fortress of Solitude.
- Lex Luthor taking Perry White's coffee during the Times Square battle.
- Lex and Miss Tessmacher admiring the Fortress of Solitude.
- Lex's negotiating with Superman after they leave the fortress is longer.
All the footage mentioned that had been added for various network telecasts were incorporated into an even longer cut of the film that aired in some countries in Europe (the other U.S./Canadian cuts were derived from this version). Prepared by the Salkinds' production company, it is this 146-minute version that some Superman fans remastered from the best-possible materials into a professionally-made "Restored International Cut" DVD for availability on one of the many Superman fan sites. However, such plans backfired when Warner Bros. threatened legal action against the bootleg release. The RIC, like the longer version of Superman, may still be found on Internet forums and in science fiction conventions.
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 (in the year 2000), 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. This was facilitated in the "Last Son" storyarc, for which Richard Donner served as a writer.
Additionally, in the animated series Young Justice, in the episode "Satisfaction" of its second season, Lex Luthor appears briefly talking to one of his assistants on the phone, who is called Otis, as a reference to the character in the films.In the television series Smallville, much of the imagery and concepts of the first two Salkind/Donner Superman films has been revived as a conscious homage to the film series by the show's creators. These include the ice-crystal Fortress of Solitude, the spinning square in space to represent the Phantom Zone, and the continued presence of the deceased Jor-El as a disembodied counselor and teacher to young Clark/Kal-El. Terence Stamp, who played Zod in the first two films, now provides the voice of Jor-El for the series, and Christopher Reeve made two appearances on the show as Dr. Virgil Swann, a crippled scientist who had acquired knowledge of Krypton to pass on to Clark, before his death in 2004. A section of John Williams's Superman theme was included when Reeve made his first appearance, and was later used in the series finale. Margot Kidder, Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), and Helen Slater (Supergirl) have also made appearances on the show. Annette O'Toole (Lana Lang in Superman III) plays Martha Kent.