Superman II (1980)

(Second viewing, On DVD, May 2017) I’m old enough to actually have memories of the promotional material for Superman II (including, if I’m not confabulating, a View-Master disc about the movie) but revisiting the film much later is like seeing it for the first time. The way it is tied to the first film is impressive—although even a quick look at the fascinating making of the movie reveals that it was nearly all shot at the same time as the first one, then largely reshot when Richard Lester took over Richard Donner as a director. Compared to the first film, Superman II does seem a bit less serious and more overtly comic: However, this may make the sequel more even toned than the first film. (But not entirely, as there are a number of gruesome deaths in the film, such as the one of the astronauts, that are almost immediately glossed over.) The inclusion of super-powered villains makes for good spectacle, especially once the film gets down to its showy New York City street fight—with plenty of blatant product placement! The movie does have a few high notes along the way: the de-powering of Superman doesn’t last long nor mean much, but it’s a nice thought and does mark a high point in the Superman/Lois Lane romance. This being said, there are enough plot holes and dumb choices left and right to baffle anyone. Never mind the trips to/from the supposedly isolated Fortress of Solitude, the regrettable exclusion of Miss Teschmacher from much of the story (although literally jettisoning the Ned Beatty character was the wise choice), the abundance of material for the whole “Superman is a Shmuck” thesis or the suddenly ludicrous “Cellophane shield” superpower. Christopher Reeves is once again very good both as Superman and Clark Kent, while Margot Kidder does seem even more comfortable as Lois Lane. Gene Hackman is welcome as Lex Luthor (arguably better here than in the original) while Terrence Stamp is memorable as the British-accented Zod. Superman II, like its predecessor, is now almost charming in its period blockbuster aesthetics—it’s got grand ambitions, but the special effects are often primitive considering the technology of the time and it doesn’t quite have full control over its tone given the various hands that interfered with its production. Still, it’s got a heart and a certain faux-naïve earnestness. If you’ve seen and enjoyed the first one, the second is mandatory viewing.

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