Monday, September 13, 2004


Superman II : Whose Sequel is it anyway?

So, I knew for many years that when Richard Donner shot Superman The Movie, he was also shooting footage for Superman II, but that he was fired before S2 was completed, and replaced by Richard Lester, who is credited on the final film.

What I didn't know was that Donner had actually almost completed the film--he only stopped because it became clear that they had to focus on StM to make their release date. After Donner was let go, the script was rewritten, and Lester's brief was to shoot around the footage they could recycle. For example, Gene Hackman refused to return under Lester's direction, so all his footage was shot by Donner, with a few shots of a stunt double added as bridging scenes.

Donner's firing led to bad blood between the cast and producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. Marlon Brando, who had filmed additional scenes as Jor-El for S2, sued the Salkinds and his scenes were reshot with Lara, while Margot Kidder's role in Superman III was punitively reduced--though in retrospect, that was probably a good thing.

I have nothing against Richard Lester--hey, the man directed A Hard Day's Night, so give him his props--but Superman II suffers from ill-advised camp moments (I still cringe at the guy on rollerskates) and strange plot contrivances (laser-fingers? the ability to cause amnesia with a kiss?). It's not a bad film, but it could have been an infinitely better film.

And perhaps it still can: first check out this exhaustive comparison of Lester's version V. Donner's. And then, if you're so inclined follow the link to sign the petition to have Donner's cut released on DVD. I say "if you're so inclined" because while I honor their process, I have yet to see an online petition actually make an iota of difference. Still, it's nice to hope.

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