The Donner Cut
Superman II The Richard Donner Cut (TRDC) is the highly anticipated release of the Superman sequel as (almost) conceived and intended by the film’s original Director, Richard Donner. I say almost because Donner, who directed the first film, was removed from the project during filming and replaced by Richard Lester who is credited with the theatrical cut. Both films were to be shot back to back.

Superman II picks up where the first film left off. If you have not seen it, not to worry. There is a brief recap at the beginning of the film. As Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane grows, so does his desire to lead a more normal life. This raises some interesting questions and Superman has to make a choice between his responsibilities as the world’s savior and a chance at happiness. The paradox presents a human element to Superman and is one of the reasons why I enjoy the sequel so much. I have always found the character of Superman to be a little too perfect but this says otherwise. The other reasons I love Superman II are the supervillains. Finally, a challenge! While Superman is out romancing Lois and philosophizing, three supervillains who where imprisoned by Superman’s father escape the phantom zone and wreak havoc on the planet Houston er… Earth. This sets up a major conflict that comes to a head when Superman finally realizes that he can no longer ignore his calling.

While watching TRDC, I cannot help but think how perfectly cast the late Christopher Reeve is as Superman/Clark Kent. He is Superman. I only have one teeny tiny bit of criticism. If the effectiveness of your secret identity hinges on a single article of clothing… say glasses, it is probably not a good idea to constantly draw attention to them by pushing them up every minute or so.

If you have not seen Superman II or are a casual fan of the sequel and do not watch the Lester version religiously, you will enjoy this cut. It is by no means perfect which is to be expected since Donner was not allowed to fully realize his vision. I have read discussion boards regarding this film and it seems that hardcore fans are polarized between the two versions but I find that there is enough love to go around. It is like a great story being told by two different people. It is the same story but just a different interpretation. Much of Lester’s camp approach is removed from the film and there is a greater continuity between Superman I and TRDC. In that sense, I like this version but I cannot say that I prefer one version over the other overwhelmingly. I have a familiarity with the Lester version but I like this cut too. One of my favorite lines is removed from TRDC which is Lex Luthor’s observation on how the supervillains cannot seem to figure out the purpose of doors. I also find fault with the ending and how Superman restores order to the world not because it is lame but because it is a trick I have seen before but it seems to make much more sense than Lester’s implementation of the super kiss. Also missing from TRDC is the super tag sequence in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s swank bachelor pad (What no cable?). I am rather fond of that sequence.

If I had to choose one version over the other, I would chose TRDC but it is by no means a slam dunk and I can see how the case can be made for the theatrical cut. It is a little more polished than TRDC but I think both hold their own. In either version, Superman II is wonderful entertainment.