Friday, December 18, 2009

“You realize, of course, if you had been wrong, Clark Kent would've been killed.”

Doing something a little bit different this time around. Remember the exceedingly disappointing Superman II? Boy, I sure do. In my review, I brought up the existence of a “Richard Donner” cut of the film, and also expressed hope that it would be a better experience.

This cut of the film was essentially spliced together from footage that Donner filmed, along with some screen test stuff and some good ol’ editing tricks to give at least a simulacrum of what Donner intended the film to be. And its purportedly been floating around for a while now, but in 2006, Warner Bros. released it on DVD, so that the world could decide what it liked better.

The Good
I am really happy that my faith in Richard Donner has not gone unrewarded. It IS a more entertaining movie. Gone are most of the complaints and grievances I had with the Richard Lester version. Gone is the Super Saran Wrap…thing. Gone is the sudden and unexplained return of Superman’s Powers. Gone is that Goddamned awful Super Amnesia Kiss. Gone are most of those little sigh inducing moments that crop up through the entire movie. Gone is the Eiffel Tower scene, but it didn’t really add anything to film anyway and the explanation for how a missile blows up the Phantom Zone prison where Zod & Co. are is tied directly to the first movie. Gone are the scenes of Non, the big bruiser getting better at heat vision and--wait, no, I actually miss that part from the Lester cut.

What is “new” is more Lex Luthor stuff. The two diner scenes are both still in, and I’m still not a fan of those. Marlon Brando is Jor-El, and the whole relationship with Superman and him is deepened and rather poignant by the end. Even better, Lois is made sharp as a whip in her early suspicions that Clark=Superman, and some of the lengths she takes to get him to admit that are quite hilarious.

Pacing on this film also feels really tight, and the movie seems to go by a lot faster than the Lester cut.

The Bad
Well, being what it is, it isn’t exactly a complete film. Can’t go back and re-shoot stuff generally, and all that. There are bits here and there that don’t really make sense, like the diner scene at the end still being retained, and there are some leaps of logic here and there (though less than the Lester cut takes).

The Verdict
The Richard Donner Cut is a flawed movie in that its more or less been Frankensteined together into its current shape. However, that shape can walk and talk, and is so, so, so much superior to the theatrical cut. Despite having the “Richard Donner” label attached, a large part of the credit also has to go to Michael Thau, the editor. The movie is also really frustrating, because it makes me wish I lived in a universe where Donner wasn’t booted off Superman II and we actually had a fun, polished, completed and most importantly, good version of this film.

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