Superman II 1980
It was Monday night after I had gotten home from work, I still had the stack of Superman DVDs 1-4 sitting on top of the computer, and we had just finished watching the latest Simpsons Christmas episode on Hulu. I thought it was so funny, yet so wrong that Jena laughed the hardest at the part where all the Ralph clones fall out of the back of the truck on fire. Anyway I thought it was a great time to pop in the Superman II DVD, the Richard Lester cut rather than the Richard Donner cut as it was the only version available at the rental store. I am very curious to see how many differences there are in the Richard Donner cut considering that a large portion is basically the same, only with a more serious tone. Though I must admit I did enjoy a lot of the humorous bits in this version.
The thing I noticed throughout the movie was how much more attention Jena paid to the movie than she did with the original Superman movie. There was a lot more action in this movie and much less drawn out exposition. There were a few short spots where she lost attention but quickly got back into it. She was cheering for Superman through a lot of the early action sequences, and she kept asking “Is Superman dead?” during the first battle with the Kryptonians. She didn’t ask in a serious way, but more of a curious way. She seems to be old enough to realize that Superman is just a pretend character on TV and not real. I also thought it was interesting that at first she thought the Kryptonians were superheroes instead of the villains.
As I said earlier, I enjoyed the movie although I spent more time enjoying it for the camp value than the actual value as an entertaining movie. I especially recognized the scene pointed out by Family Guy where Superman peeled the S off of his chest and it wrapped around the guy for just a few seconds. Through the whole movie I thought the brute was the same actor who played Jaws until I just now looked it up. He may not have been the same actor, but he totally felt like the same character. Of course with some added comic relief moments, which I imagined were necessary since they left Otis behind in jail. And after being exposed to quotes of “Kneel before Zod” in other movies such as Mallrats it only became funnier and funnier every time Zod himself uttered that phrase. Of the three, Ursa struck me as the most interesting of the Kryptonian villains, and not just because she was the only woman. It was partly because I hadn’t seen her character referenced in a more recent comedy like the other two, but I also liked one of the little character traits where Ursa collected the badges from the various people they encounter and wear them on herself as a kind of trophy. It was a very minor thing, but it just struck me as interesting for whatever reason.
Aside from the cellophane S, there were a ton of extra powers the Kryptonians had that weren’t in any of the various Superman incarnations that I’d ever seen. Like the telekinesis or whatever it was that the villains used which reminded me a lot of the Zero Point energy that Syndrome used in The Incredibles. And of course there’s the amnesia kiss that Clark gave Lois at the end of the movie so the moviemakers didn’t have to deal with her knowing Clark’s secret in the next movie which they even advertised at the head of the end credits. Why not just go over the top and take a cue from Wayne’s World, a movie that came out years later, and doodly doo the ending away as just a dream. Besides, this version of Lois was smart enough to figure out Clark’s secret after a little more than one movie. Most Loises took several seasons of a television series to get it through their thick heads.
Another thing I found interesting was the solution that I’ve seen in other versions of Superman, well at least Smallville, where they avoided the question of a superpowered manhood and a mortal woman by removing his superpowers before they got into bed together. And again I’m reminded of conversations just like this from movies like Mallrats. Which led to the first connection that I noticed between this movie specifically and Superman Returns as the likely moment where Lois got pregnant with Superman’s child, but that’s something I’ll leave until I actually watch that movie again for this blog.
While the effects were the same caliber as the first Superman movie, they felt a lot more dated in this version. The big fight scene had most of the big hits feeling limp. Lazily being swung around to barely connect with a flying kick or punch that sent the other guy flying off at a similarly lazy pace until they crashed into something spectacularly. I understand that it’s from the limitations of the time, but they had the same limits in the first movie and I just don’t remember having as much disbelief as I did with this movie. My best guess was because the first movie realized a lot of their limitations and didn’t try to accomplish something beyond their means. I understand the need to make the fights bigger, but I felt like they made them too big for the special effects to handle.
As I said near the beginning, I did enjoy watching this movie. It made me laugh a lot, sometimes in the right places, and sometimes in the wrong places. But regardless of where it came from, a laugh is a laugh in my book. While I am looking forward to trying to find the Richard Donner version of this movie, I’ve still got Superman III and IV due back at the rental store so I’ll be watching those next. I’m vaguely familiar with the other two movies and I’m not sure if I should be looking forward to or dreading the fact that the quality of the movies goes sharply downhill from here. Look for those reviews coming up next week on Sunday and Thursday. Until next time, this is Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie nights. Don’t forget to leave a comment, if you’ve seen both, let me know which version you think is better. This version, or the Richard Donner version. And as always, I’d love to hear what movie you think I should watch next.