Superman II (1980)

“Think of it: three — count them — three supervillains, each one with the same powers he has, each one totally dedicated to corruption, violence, and evil.”

Superman II Poster

Synopsis:
Superman (Christopher Reeve) gives up his special powers to be in a relationship with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) — but when three super-criminals from Krypton (Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, and Jack O’Halloran) descend onto Earth and terrorize its citizens, the world desperately needs Superman’s help.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, despite the fact that this sequel to Superman “got better reviews than the original”, it never quite “reaches that [film’s] high level” — however, it remains a fun, must-see flick in its own right. Directed by Richard Lester, it’s more humorous and less of an outright epic than the first Superman, instead exploring the ramifications of Superman’s decision to give up his superpowers to be with Lois Lane (though why one must be predicated upon the other is just one of several plot devices best left unquestioned…). Naturally, just at that moment, the world turns out to need Superman more than ever, given that three malevolent villains — “evil Terence Stamp, striking-looking Sarah Douglas, and brute Jack O’Halloran” — have, in a stunning special effects sequence, been accidentally released from their time warp prison “cell” and descended onto Earth.

The “battles of muscles and wits between Superman and the three villains” — both in Metropolis and back at Superman’s fortress — are indeed “spectacular”, and constitute the highlights of the film. Stamp and Douglas in particular, with ice water running through their veins, are delightfully malicious; in their shiny black skintight outfits, they stand out as two of cinema’s most memorable baddies. Meanwhile, Gene Hackman has fun reprising his role as Lex Luthor, who — after escaping from prison near the beginning of the film (fortunately, Otis gets left behind) — shows off his skills as an intergalactic negotiator extraordinaire; amazingly enough, he never seems even slightly intimidated by the villains’ ability to decimate him at will (now THAT’s an impressive ego!). Note that one of the film’s most satisfying moments comes near the end, when, having “regained his strength”, Superman “exacts satisfying revenge” at a “snowbound bar” — you’ll be rooting for him like you never did before!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent
    Superman II Reeves
  • Terence Stamp as General Zod
    Superman II Stamp
  • Sarah Douglas as Ursa
    Superman II Douglas
  • Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor
    Superman II Hackman
  • Impressive special effects
    Superman II Effects
  • The exciting Metropolis battle
    Superman II Metropolis

Must See?
Yes, as a successful and most enjoyable sequel.

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One Response to “Superman II (1980)”

  1. NOTE: It’s rather difficult to assess this film, in a way, given the fact that there was so much going on behind-the-scenes: Richard Donner, who directed the original, had filmed a good deal of this sequel, only to be fired by the producers. Richard Lester was then brought on board. Much of the sequel was then re-written and re-shot, apparently with the idea of a different ‘vision’. Rumor has it that the Donner version is somewhere out there, and is a better film. Since I wasn’t so keen on the original, that’s not of much importance to me – at the moment, anyway.

    At any rate, this version of the sequel is not a must. Aside from the fact that the members of the evil trio are set up (though they were introduced at the start of the original) and used well, there’s not all that much that impresses here (unless you’re in it for the ‘bang-up’ stuff at the end, but newer special effects films are doing that kind of thing in more interesting ways). I think the film is actually a bit of a mess, with an uncertain tone and an unsatisfying script.

    Part of the problem is simply bad plot structure (or re-writing, as the case may be). There are two major goofs here: Superman gives up his powers in order to become human and live in love with Lois Lane. His mother tells him that turning into a human “cannot be undone”. This turns out later to not be true. (Dumb.) Then, Lois claims to be in love with the new, totally human Clark Kent – when she was never, ever in love with Clark and ONLY in love with Superman! (Dumb.) It would have been much more interesting were she to forfeit their love and encourage him to remain as Superman – if only to help the world!

    And, wait a minute, isn’t Superman’s mom dead? (Do these people from Krypton ever die?) Or aren’t her hologram messages pre-recorded? Why then does she suddenly chat with her son in real time? (Dumb.) My favorite bit re: mom is her convenient explanation that the evil trio could only…only be released from their ‘prison’ as the result of a nuclear explosion in space. And, gee, guess what happens? {NOTE: There’s not a frame of dad Brando anywhere, by the way. Court case was going on, so…]

    I hadn’t seen this before now. But, as opposed to my post on ‘Superman: The Movie’, my main thought here is not that my instinct is to shy away from films that are mainly designed to make money. It’s just hard to recommend films that come off to me as shoddy – and this one does.

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