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Old July 9 2013, 05:26 AM   #1
Agent Richard07
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Superman II (The Donner Cut)

I finally got around to seeing this and I didn't think it was an improvement over the original.

What I didn't like…

- It felt rushed for some reason and it didn't feel as grand or as epic as the first. Reminds me of Men in Black II which people jokingly call "Men in Black 1.5". Some people online suggest that maybe it was because this cut was made from a lot of a lot of unfinished material. That fact wasn't noticeable since it was edited well, but it was clear that something was missing, making the movie feel "off" and a lot smaller in scope.

- I miss the Paris scenes.

- They undid everything with time travel again. I can't believe they did that. This alone is enough to sink the movie.

- Clark going after that trucker in the diner at the end seemed mean since time was turned back. I suppose you could argue though, that the trucker was a mean bastard anyway and had it coming.

- Not so much a dislike, but did Superman just leave Lex in the fortress when he destroyed it?

What I did like…

- The inclusion of Jor El.

- I quite enjoyed seeing Lois figure out that Clark was Superman. That part unfolded better in this cut.

- Lois in a Superman nightshirt.

- I liked seeing Clark get his powers back. It was a little more than just a handwave here.

In the end, I prefer the original cut for feeling bigger and more like a complete movie. Ideally though, it might be nice to see a cut that includes the best of both. Paris, Jor El, seeing Clark getting his powers back, Lois figuring things out Donner-style and no turning back time.
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Old July 9 2013, 06:51 AM   #2
Dorian Thompson
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Excellent idea for a thread. It's interesting that you mention the time travel turn back, because in the beginning, when Donner was directing both I and II and they were being filmed simultaneously, the writers hadn't intended for Superman to turn back time at the end of the first film. Lois didn't actually die. When it became clear they wouldn't finish II in time for I's scheduled release and the problems happened with Donner/Brando, the ending for one was changed because it wasn't deemed "dramatic" enough. At least that's the case according to Donner in an interview I watched.

You see, I liked Clark going after the trucker even though it was kind of mean because it made him seem less than a perfect boy scout. Or maybe I'm just vicious, LOL. Why not go after him after he was humiliated?

- I liked seeing Clark get his powers back. It was a little more than just a handwave here.
That's the scene that sold this cut of the movie for me. Admittedly, I'm the world's biggest fan of Brando's work, but seeing Jor El in the flesh (or was he a ghost)? and able to touch his son gave me shivers. The son becoming the father, the father becoming the son, Jor El using every last bit of the power within him to make his son whole again and forgiving him for not listening to him--this scene makes the Donner cut worth the price of admission to me. Kal El lost his father for good just because he made a mistake. Steep price to pay.

No, Supes didn't leave Lex in the fortress. He called the arctic police, didn't he? I assumed they'd taken him. Of course, the Donner cut does feel a bit incomplete due to some of the editing and unfinished material, but I'm so glad I saw it.
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Old July 9 2013, 07:50 AM   #3
MacLeod
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

On balance I would say the Donner Cut is the better film. Sure it's not perfect but then again what film is. As stated above I too had heard that the time-travel reverseal was supposed to be used at the end of the 2nd film and not the first film.

From what I heard they were filming I and II together but the studio wanted to get the first film out so they suspended filming the scenes for the 2nd film and focused on the first film. Whih of course meant some modificatons to get it ready in time.
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Old July 9 2013, 08:21 AM   #4
Dick Whitman
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Here is an idea. The 2 versions are a time loop. The Donner Cut happens in which he turns back time and than events repeat themselves slightly differently in the Lester Cut. Think the TNG episode Cause and Effect. There is a sense of Deja Vu but not complete memories. In Donner's Cut Lois seems to have a vague sense of something happened at the end. Perhaps Superman's memories are only partial. He tries going to his mother for approval the second time. He finally excepts things as they are.

I long had the theory that Lois just plays along with the "magic kiss " thing. Knowing its the only way they can move on. When its revisited in Superman IV this was hinted at. When he reveals his secret she has total recall of Superman II but seemingly he does it again. BUT later when she is worried that Superman died she shows up at Clark's apartment. She pores her heart out explaining how much she cares about Superman and before she leaves she tosses Clark the cape! As a kid I never fully understood that. But its clear that she knows and that he knows she knows.

Last edited by Dick Whitman; July 9 2013 at 05:24 PM.
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Old July 9 2013, 08:33 AM   #5
Dorian Thompson
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

I like that idea, Don Draper.
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Old July 9 2013, 10:37 AM   #6
AllStarEntprise
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

I prefer the original theatrical version (Donnor/Lester) to be honest. The Donnor Cut is hurt by the fact that it's an incomplete film that has been edited together from scenes shot by Donnor and others by Lester to complete it. However the Jor-El scenes do help tie the movie together better when it comes to the mythos of Superman. Also the fight scene in Metropolis had some extra oomph to it. Like when Superman was sent spiraling in to the statue of liberty.

The time travel fix of things was kinda lame but I blame that more on Donnor being fired before he could finish his original film, and had to edit an ending together decades later.
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Old July 9 2013, 12:19 PM   #7
Nagisa Furukawa
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Agent Richard07 wrote: View Post
- They undid everything with time travel again. I can't believe they did that. This alone is enough to sink the movie.
When the two films were being shot as one, the ending to the first film was supposed to be Superman stopping the missiles, but one of them letting out Zod and co. as a cliffhanger. The second film was then to be the only film with a time travel reset button ending (which makes more sense than just to save Lois, it's to undo the lives lost and damage done by the Phantom Zone criminals), but when the Salkinds decided to stop filming both movies at once, Donner decided to use time travel as the ending to the first film and reshoot a new ending to Part 2 after Part 1 was released. However, since he never got to do that, the only ending for the "Donner cut" was the original ending shot before they decided to use the idea elsewhere. I don't much like it in either film, but for the "here's what could've been..." version this is, it was unavoidable.

Ideally though, it might be nice to see a cut that includes the best of both. Paris, Jor El, seeing Clark getting his powers back, Lois figuring things out Donner-style and no turning back time.
Such edits do exist online...
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Old July 9 2013, 12:24 PM   #8
Zaku
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

A detailed comparison between versions

http://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=4165
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Old July 9 2013, 02:39 PM   #9
Christopher
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Here's my review from my blog:

I don’t remember the final Richard Lester version too well, but from what I do remember, I’d have to say that TRDC is, for the most part, a far superior movie and a much better companion piece to S1. The arc with Superman and Jor-El across the two movies is very strong and emotional and gives the story an effective core. The Clark-Lois material is stronger and more unified than what replaced it in Lester’s version. The Kryptonian villains are very effective, especially with Lester’s comedy beats trimmed out in this version. ...

Even the Lester material deserves some credit. Lester was responsible for the Metropolis battle between Superman and Zod’s trio, and it remains the first really successful cinematic depiction of a comic book-style superbrawl — though, again, it’s stronger and more focused in the Donner/Thau version with the comedy beats removed. It even features the kind of thing I love to see — a scene where the common people believe that Superman has been killed (for some reason, since he’s obviously survived much worse than a bus crashing into him) and they band together en masse to charge the superpowered villains. That kind of scene, of ordinary people discovering their own heroism through their affection for the superhero, was better developed in the first two Spider-Man films, but this was a significant precedent.

It’s still not a perfect film. I still think there’s too quick a turnaround from Clark/Superman giving up his powers to getting them back, but it’s the nature of feature films to be compressed, I guess. I’m still not crazy about the wacky, comic-relief Luthor; at least in S1 he had his moments of menace amid the comedy, but here he comes off more as a smarmy con man than an aspiring mass murderer. No fault to Gene Hackman, who gave a memorable comic performance, but the conception of the character was just too comic to be credible as Superman’s greatest enemy.

...And, sad to say, I think The Richard Donner Cut falls apart completely after the climax in the Fortress. I don’t agree with the editorial choices made here. First off, they cut out the scene where Luthor and the defeated villains are taken away by the Arctic patrol or whatever, so it seems as if Superman destroys the Fortress with the four villains still inside, killing them. That’s completely out of character.

And the decision to restore the “turn back time” ending to S2 just plain doesn’t work. The original plan, I believe, was to have Lois die in the climax of the second film, motivating Superman to this extreme action. But they decided, even before they finished making S2, that they’d move that ending to the first film so that it would end with their biggest bang. And they planned to come up with a different ending for S2. That’s what they would’ve done even if Donner hadn’t been replaced with Lester. And that’s what they should’ve done here. They should’ve accepted that S1 ended the way it did and constructed this film to work as a companion piece to its final form, not to some hypothetical original version that never existed. Because, given that Superman already turned back time to save Lois’s life in the last movie, it’s not only repetitive but silly to have him do it again merely to erase her memory. It’s like it’s become casual to him, his go-to solution for any inconvenience. ”Oops, I spilled my coffee! I’ll just rewind the planet a few minutes so that never happened.”

What I would’ve preferred, given the available material, would be for the film to end right after Lois says, “There he goes, kiddo — up, up, and away,” with the pullback from her balcony. Or maybe cut from that to the scene in the original S2 where Superman puts the flag back up at the White House. Sure, it’s an ambiguous ending, Lois still knows his secret, but so what? The next two films in the series were no good*, and Superman Returns can’t really work as a followup to this continuity no matter how much it pretends to be, so I see no need to be beholden to their version of events. And the goal of this project was to make this film as true to Richard Donner’s vision as possible, and Donner never made any subsequent Superman films, so why worry about followups? There’s really nothing to be gained as far as this film is concerned by arbitrarily erasing Lois’s knowledge of Superman’s identity. Ending it with her wistful “up, up, and away” would be a great, bittersweet conclusion, and an emotionally honest one, with no super-powered cheats to restore the status quo ante.

Sure, we’d lose the scene where Clark goes back to get revenge on the bully from the diner, but I would consider that a major plus. Superman just wouldn’t be that petty, period. (Well, the Superman of the ’50s and ’60s comics might, given that he was always playing mean tricks on Lois and Jimmy for convoluted and nebulously benevolent reasons, but it seems totally wrong for the wholesome, iconic Superman Reeve created.) Not to mention that if he turned back time as in this version, then the initial diner incident should never have happened anyway so he’s just beating a guy up for no reason.

So if I watch this movie again in the future, I’m going to stop it as the camera pulls away from Lois’s balcony at around 1:45. That’s a perfect ending to the Donner duology. The rest is just a mishmash I can do without. TRDC is a good movie up until that point, so there’s no need to ruin it by going further.


*Actually I later revised my opinion of Superman III -- I think it holds up pretty well. Here's what I had to say about reconciling it with my preferred twist on the Donner Cut: "I think it fits fine, since we see so little of Lois here that it’s possible she’s just pretending not to know. If anything, it makes her subtle jealousy toward Lana at the end work better, since otherwise Lois would’ve had no reason to be interested in Clark."


And here are my comments about the Lester cut of S2 once I subsequently rewatched it:

Cutting out Marlon Brando was clearly a bad move. It’s fishy from the start, when the recap of the first film under the titles manages to exclude all images of Jor-El even during the destruction of Krypton, and when the trial of the three villains is retconned to having an anonymous voice pass sentence on them. (And the attempt to depict their “crimes” is baffling: Zod walks into a room, breaks one crystal, and then the room turns into their trial chamber? So they were sentenced to the Phantom Zone for petty vandalism?) More importantly, it badly undermines the plotline of Superman giving up his powers for Lois and then trying to get them back. In the original Tom Mankiewicz version of the story, that’s a continuation of the Superman/Jor-El relationship, the son defying the father and asserting his independence. It’s a strong confrontation where the risks, motivations, and consequences are far more clearly spelled out. And later, when Jor-El sacrifices himself to restore Superman, it’s a meaningful climax with real consequences. It makes sense: there is a way to restore Superman’s powers, but at great cost, and it can only happen once.

But in the Lester version, that whole arc becomes feeble. It’s not so much the replacement of Jor-El with Lara that ruins it; if anything, Lara was unforgivably marginalized in the original film and this could’ve been a good showcase if she’d been written more strongly, if a real relationship had been established with her son (although it still wouldn’t have been as strong and unified an arc across the two films). The problem is that the writing simplifies the tensions and difficulties spelled out in the original version and makes the whole thing so much more cursory. Things aren’t explained as clearly and the emotions are far more superficial. ”Ma, I love her.” ”Okay, but you have to give up your powers for her.” ”‘Kay, fine.” ”Cool, go into that chamber.” I don’t recall precisely, but I’m pretty sure the Jor-El version at least offered some explanation for why he had to give up his powers to be with Lois.

And then there’s how he gets his powers back — he goes to the Fortress, yells futilely, then sees the green crystal and picks it up… and then later he suddenly has his powers again! It’s too random, too easy, with no consequences, nothing sacrificed. And since Lara had clearly said that there was no going back once he gave up his powers, the ease with which he recovered them feels like a cheat and makes Lara come off as a liar.

Of course one can complain about the excess of comedy beats in the Lester version, and that’s valid, though it’s nowhere near as bad as the third and fourth films. Most of the East Houston sequence was annoying and unnecessary — though I almost liked the running gag about Non struggling to make his heat vision work, since at least it gives him some personality. And the comedy intrusions in the Metropolis battle, particularly that whole extended product-placement scene set outside a KFC, undermined the intensity of that sequence.

But the other thing that struck me the most here was how much Lois was weakened as a character in the rewritten scenes. The Donner version of S2 opens with Lois simply looking at Clark Kent and noticing that he resembles Superman. Unlike virtually every other incarnation of Lois Lane, she is actually perceptive enough not to be permanently fooled by a pair of glasses. Then she does an experiment to test her notion, drawing Clark clothes onto a photo of Superman. Thus convinced, she dramatically risks her life to prove her conclusion, jumping out a window to force Clark to change to Superman and save her. He manages to save her without revealing his identity, and she’s left uncertain, but ultimately clings to her conviction when Superman shows up at Niagara Falls, and then she enacts another bold ploy to force the truth from Clark, shooting him with a blank so he thinks he’s been exposed and gives himself away. Throughout, she’s perceptive, strong-willed, and in control.

But in the Lester version, she’s so much less of all of those things. She doesn’t even begin to suspect the resemblance between Clark and Superman until she accidentally gets a glimpse of him without glasses. Instead of being observant and deducing that they’re the same man, she stumbles upon the discovery. She then tests it in a variation of the window-jump scene from the Donner version, but instead, she merely jumps into the rapids — still dangerous, true, but not as extreme and unambiguously life-or-death a gamble, and it’s not that hard for Clark to rescue her while still remaining Clark. And at that point, Lois is completely convinced she was wrong, and doesn’t even suspect anything further until Clark “accidentally” stumbles over the rug and his hand lands in the fire. Lois is taken completely by surprise. They rationalize the stumble by suggesting that maybe Clark subconsciously wanted her to know, but that makes Clark the initiator and leaves Lois far more passive. All in all, she’s a far less impressive character in this version. (Not to mention that the shot of Clark taking off his glasses and changing his bearing to become Superman without changing clothes is far less impressive in this version, because his back is to the camera.)
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Old July 9 2013, 05:38 PM   #10
Dick Whitman
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

I think his motivations for turning back in at the end of the Donner Cut were more than erasing Lois's memory. Its about undoing everything. Zod never took over the world. I think the original intention with how it was written was it was a what-if or imaginary story. Everything that happens in the film is extreme for a typical Superman story of the time. Lois learning the secret, giving up his powers. But even more villains taking over the world. You never saw that in the comics, he would fight and defeat the Phantom Zone villains before they got that far.

I am not saying this was a good idea. Its an odd approach for a second film. Its sounds more like an episode of a long running tv series. Maybe they were counting on how well known the Lois/Superman/Clark relationship was. So they decided to show what if all the preconceived rules are broken but lets undo it at the end. They never had the intention of changing the status quo permanently. You never would have seen that back than.
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Old July 9 2013, 05:43 PM   #11
davejames
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

I absolutely love the added Jor-El scene and the Superman/Lois breakup scene at the end (which makes her emotional breakdown later on feel a lot more natural), but ultimately I still think the Lester version works best.

And frankly, it's a lot less cheesy as well. For all the good it does, the Donner Cut also throws in the flushing toilet in the Fortress, Lois jumping out a window, extra slapstick between Lex and Otis at the prison, and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't really work.
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Old July 9 2013, 06:12 PM   #12
Christopher
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Donald Draper wrote: View Post
I think his motivations for turning back in at the end of the Donner Cut were more than erasing Lois's memory. Its about undoing everything. Zod never took over the world. I think the original intention with how it was written was it was a what-if or imaginary story. Everything that happens in the film is extreme for a typical Superman story of the time. Lois learning the secret, giving up his powers. But even more villains taking over the world. You never saw that in the comics, he would fight and defeat the Phantom Zone villains before they got that far.
Even so, the point is that even before they made the second film, or at least before Donner was fired, they'd already decided to put the turn-back-time ending in the first film and come up with a different ending for S2. So even if Donner had stayed on the film, S2 would not have ended with time being turned back. Thus it was misguided for the Thau "Donner Cut" version to reconstruct it according to that rejected idea. It didn't accurately reflect what the film would have been if Donner had stayed on. And it makes it impossible for the Donner Cut to truly work as a companion piece to the original film, because of the redundancy of both films having the same ending.


davejames wrote: View Post
And frankly, it's a lot less cheesy as well. For all the good it does, the Donner Cut also throws in the flushing toilet in the Fortress, Lois jumping out a window, extra slapstick between Lex and Otis at the prison, and a bunch of other stuff that doesn't really work.
As I said above, I think Lois jumping out a window is much bolder and more effective than the rapids sequence they replaced it with. It was a test that was far more conclusive (or so she thought), and it showed how completely sure she was in her convictions. Lois is a far weaker character in the Lester version, far more passive and less intelligent, and that's the thing that damns it most of all for me.
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Old July 9 2013, 06:16 PM   #13
Dorian Thompson
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

So many good scenes in both versions. If TPTB had, at the very least, kept the Jor El scenes--showing him in flashback at the beginning, kept the scene where Jor El instead of Lara explained to Kal El why it was impossible to join with an Earth woman and continue to guard humanity and, most poignant, Jor El making the final sacrifice to make his son whole thus demonstrating his unconditional love--it might have been the best of both worlds.

But the Salkinds didn't want to pony up for Brando even though Superman I ended up making a fortune. Chintzy cheapskates.
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Old July 9 2013, 06:37 PM   #14
Dick Whitman
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

I agree with that. If the Salkinds had payed Brando to include his footage, I doubt there would have been as much demands and curiosity too see a Donner Cut. It still would have been different but his absence is the glaring hole in the released film. There are fan cut which combine both versions.

I am not happy with some of the choices made with the Donner Cut either. I am just happy we got any at all. Reading about those scenes for many years I figured we would never see any of it. I hate to say it but I remember my first thought when I heard Brando died. I suspected the door had opened for his footage to be released. His family would not have had the animosity toward the original situation and would be happy to get a fair and reasonable payment.
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Old July 9 2013, 07:16 PM   #15
Agent Richard07
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Re: Superman II (The Donner Cut)

Dorian Thompson wrote: View Post
It's interesting that you mention the time travel turn back, because in the beginning, when Donner was directing both I and II and they were being filmed simultaneously, the writers hadn't intended for Superman to turn back time at the end of the first film. Lois didn't actually die. When it became clear they wouldn't finish II in time for I's scheduled release and the problems happened with Donner/Brando, the ending for one was changed because it wasn't deemed "dramatic" enough. At least that's the case according to Donner in an interview I watched.
MacLeod wrote: View Post
From what I heard they were filming I and II together but the studio wanted to get the first film out so they suspended filming the scenes for the 2nd film and focused on the first film. Whih of course meant some modificatons to get it ready in time.
I really should read up on the filming of these two movies. The whole things sounds like its own convoluted time paradox. I'm guessing that big chunks of the second movie were reshot?

Dorian Thompson wrote: View Post
No, Supes didn't leave Lex in the fortress. He called the arctic police, didn't he? I assumed they'd taken him.
It's a reasonable assumption, but we didn't see it, so it looked like Supes just left him there when he destroyed the fortress. I heard that there's a cut scene where Zod, Ursa and Non are taken away but for some reason it's not in either cut of the film. Don't know if anything like that was shot for Lex though. If they didn't have footage of him being taken away by the authorities, I wonder what else could have been done in editing so that it didn't look like he was killed when the fortress was destroyed.

Donald Draper wrote: View Post
Here is an idea. The 2 versions are a time loop.
As mentioned, that's not a bad idea.

Nagisa Furukawa wrote: View Post
Ideally though, it might be nice to see a cut that includes the best of both. Paris, Jor El, seeing Clark getting his powers back, Lois figuring things out Donner-style and no turning back time.
Such edits do exist online...
I wouldn't mind tracking that down at some point. Add the best of both along with the extended scenes and you probably have yourself a 4-hour movie.

Christopher wrote: View Post
As I said above, I think Lois jumping out a window is much bolder and more effective than the rapids sequence they replaced it with.
The rapids sequence was the kind of spectacle that you need for a major motion picture, but I too preferred seeing her jump out of the window.
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