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Superman II

Entry updated 12 July 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (1980). Dovemead/International Film Production. Directed by Richard Lester (but see below). Written by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman (and, as "creative consultant", Tom Mankiewicz) from a story by Puzo. Cast includes Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Jack O'Halloran, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp and Susannah York. 127 minutes. Colour.

Originally to be shot back-to-back with Superman, Superman II changed directors after conflict between the previous director, Richard Donner, and the producers, Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler. Superman II as released was claimed to have been 25% Donner's work and 75% Richard Lester's, but the actual proportions of surviving footage may favour Donner, evidence for this being presented in the re-edited Television issue of Superman II: the Richard Donner Cut (1980), which restores much of Donner's original "lost" footage and drops some of Lester's.

The film as released is certainly a harlequin, with some plot inconsistencies (the roles of some actors, like Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, were clearly chopped off at the knee), partly through Mankiewicz's refusal to work with the new director. Certainly in its pace and its Comics-based pop-art ironies it shows the clear input of Lester, maker of, inter alia, the Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night (1964). A trio of criminals exiled from the planet Krypton find their way to Earth, which they attempt to take over using their Superpowers. Superman, who finally stops them, has first to restore his own powers, lost through his love for Lois Lane. (Apparently the condition of Superhero, like that of priest, requires celibacy.) The protracted finale is choreographed with skilful comic-strip glee: the mythic dignity of the first film is lost, but enough wit takes its place – including the parallel between an impotent Superman and an impotent USA – for the film to be good value. Superman was to be further demystified in Superman III (1983). [PN/JC]

see also: Supergirl; Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.


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