Yeah, right, see! I didn’t do the “Shoe-perman” gag. Well, not until just then, anyway…
I suppose I should have worn some trackie bottoms for today’s photo, but I don’t own any. I rail against such fashion nightmares. See what I did there?
1978’s Superman The Movie remains my favourite Superman movie despite various sequels, remakes and whatever the hell Superman Returns was (a requel, I think my old colleague Nick Setchfield has suggested). Superman 2, though, is a lot of fun and – I’d argue having seen the Donner Cut as well – better than the version Donner was planning on making.
If that statement sounds a bit mystifying, here’s a quick history lesson. Richard Donner directed Superman The Movie. The original plan was that he would shoot Superman The Movie and Superman 2 back-to-back, and the two movies were plotted as one big two-parter. Donner even shot a lot of footage for the sequel (including all the scenes featuring Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor), before he fell out with the producers and left the project. Beatles movie director Richard Lester was then hired, and his new version of Superman 2, while incorporating the Donner footage, was significantly different to the version Donner had planned.
(It’s actually even more complicated than that, as Donner himself changed the ending of Superman The Movie from what he had initially planned. In the first draft of the two movie’s joint plot, Lois didn’t die at the end of the first film, and Superman didn’t turn back time until the end of the second movie, in this case to change history so that Lois never found out he was Superman. The way the Zod, Ursa and Non escaped the Phantom Zone was different, too.)
Anyway, years later, a “Donner Cut” of Superman 2 was released on DVD (and now Blu-ray) which pieced together his version of the sequel from the footage he had shot (a lot of which wasn’t used in the Lester version). This included Marlon Brando returning as Jor-El, rather than being replaced by Susannah York as Lara for some contractual reason or other.
Even allowing for the necessarily choppy and incomplete nature of the Donner Cut, it’s easy to extrapolate what the final final would have been like… and in all honesty, I think the version we got was better. Severely flawed, but much more fun. Lester’s slapstick comedy may have grated at time (and his work on Superman 3 proves that when he wasn’t straitjacketed by another director’s vision, his own vision was woefully lightweight and silly), but he also brought more pace and quirky comic book action to the film. The terrorist attack on the Eiffel Tower that opens the film is far more exciting than Donner’s decision to have Lois throw herself out of window of the Daily Planet offices to prove that Clark is Superman (a deduction that seems to come from nowhere).
If anything, Donner’s version of Superman 2 feels oddly like Singer’s Superman Returns; a little too reverential and stiff and pompous. Somehow, almost by accident, the behind-the-scenes traumas instead produced a film that benefitted rather than suffered from the clashing styles of its two directors. Don’t get me wrong: I think the Donner Cut would have been a perfectly decent sequel; I just think that personally I prefer the mongrel version.
I wouldn’t recommend it as blueprint for producing great sequels, though… Look what happened to X-Men: The Last Stand.
Still no broadband. Still tethering my phone. Everything takes so loooonnnngggg!
See you tomorrow.
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