Movie Name: Superman II
Studio: Dovemead Ltd.
Genre(s): Comic Book/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Release Date(s): December 4, 1980 (Australia)/June 1, 1981 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
A nuclear explosion in space has freed Kryptonian criminals General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran). Empowered by the yellow sun of Earth, Zod, Ursa, and Non intend to make Earthlings their slaves. Earth looks to Superman (Christopher Reeve) for help, but Superman has his own problems. Lois (Margot Kidder) has discovered his true identity, and Clark has given up his powers to live as a human…will he be able to stop the Kryptonians who have enlisted Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) for help?
Directed by Richard Lester (who took over for Richard Donner), Superman II is a superhero follow-up to Superman. The film was released to positive reviews, but the film faced production problems when Donner was removed from the project after almost completing the film (leading to the release of Superman II: The Donner Cut in 2006).
I vividly remember going to see Superman II in the theater. Next to the Star Wars movies, it was the most exciting movie as a kid (ok, maybe with Raiders of the Lost Ark). I can remember watching it with amazement but also that weird familiarity with the characters. Rewatching Superman II, it is a kid’s movie and fun (but it is also hasn’t aged well).
The movie’s plot is solid, but the script is a little questionable. It is a different more simple Superman than the current Superman and the script reflects it. The basic plot plays with the ideas of Clark Kent and goes for levity (despite starring psychopathic alien killers). The dialogue is intentionally corny but funny in the corniness (like a guy saying “I know some judo” when threatening to take on the Kryptonians to defend Superman).
Christopher Reeve was the Superman of the time. He has the Superman look and the goofy Clark Kent look. I always found Margot Kidder a bit off-putting and chainsmoking Lois Lane (but she works here). Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran are good as the villains who seem out of place in the script. Gene Hackman’s part is minimized due to the leaving of Donner and sometimes required a stand-in (which also resulted in the disappearance of Valerie Perrine’s great Ms. Teschmacher).
The movie’s effects are dated. As a kid I thought they were amazing, but here the chroma-key effects look like choma-key (like the Niagara Falls part). It also suffers from some weak editing and not very observant choices in visuals and sound…like the English kid in Podunk Idaho (“please Mr. General let my father down”)…plus weird Superman powers like duplication, the disappearing cellophane S, and the “super kiss”…it just seems like cheap ways to write their way out of plot traps.
Superman II can be enjoyed in the simplicity of the movie and taking it at the time it was made. I love Superman II despite its multiple flaws because I loved it as a kid. Richard Lester took over the franchise at this point and made Superman III which further compounded the problems of this movie with a lot less likeable cast. Superman II will always be a classic…Superman III released in 1983, not so much.