Superman 2 theatrical vs Richard Donner Cut

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by crookeddy, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. arch101

    arch101 Commodore Commodore

    May 3, 1999
    Quincy, MA
    For me, personally, the Richard Lester version of Superman II has joined These Are The Voyages in the Phantom Zone. Never to be seen again.
  2. Smellmet

    Smellmet Commodore Commodore

    Aug 5, 2013
    The Northern Shires of England.
    I liked some of the extra action scenes in the big fight, and a few other extra bits, but as another poster pointed out, 'would you care to step outside' was far better. I'd love to see an ultimate cut of this movie with it spliced together. It's still one of my favourite superhero films as it stands though.
    Armus likes this.
  3. Armus

    Armus Commodore Commodore

    Feb 14, 2003
    Massachusetts, USA
    There are some YouTube vids that combine both versions. For me the ideal cut would be the theatrical version with the Brando footage in place of the Susannah York footage.

    Some website has a nice breakdown of the pros and cons of each version.

    Donner Version Advantages

    The opening sequence and Lois Lane's suspicions of Clark's true identity tie in directly with how Superman ended, and take place immediately after the first film

    Lois jumping out of a window at the top of the Daily Planet building is more dramatic than her jumping into a slightly choppy river

    Marlon Brando reprises his role as Jor-El (although had Donner been asked to finish the film in 1980, he too would have been forced to remove Brando's scenes for financial reasons)

    Lois Lane wears Superman's shirt the morning after

    Superman regaining his powers is actually explained in a way that both makes sense and has dramatic significance

    The villains have greater menace. In the Donner version Jor-El dramatically describes their criminal characteristics with no details given other than that they led an insurrection, leaving the imagination free to imagine limitless dark deeds. In the Lester version we see them kill an extra in order to snap a crystal. Thinking of Zod as someone who likes to snap crystals does not have the same impact

    The Statue of Liberty's torch is destroyed in a dramatic scene in the Battle of Metropolis sequence

    The fate of General Zod, Ursa and Non is explained

    Lester Version Advantages

    It has a more international appeal, with a key scene set in Paris – Donner's version is confined largely to North America

    Clark's revelation that he is Superman is more believable. In Donner's version, it hinges upon Clark not being able to tell the difference between being shot and not being shot. Superman should be able to notice whether a bullet has impacted on his skin or not, or made a hole in his clothes, even if he is impervious to pain

    Superman gets to spend time with his mother, not just his father

    The villain's re-carving of Mount Rushmore into their likenesses is more dramatic than their knocking over the Washington Monument

    The attack on the White House is shorter and more dramatic. General Zod does not go gun-happy with a machine-gun. This seemed out of character for the cold, calculating Zod whose only emotions are his bitter anger directed against Jor-El and his son, Kal-El

    General Zod does not get confused between Superman and Jimmy Olsen

    It does not have the time-travel reset-button ending where none of the events of the film happened. The Donner ending does not really explain how spinning the Earth back in time prevents a nuclear explosion taking place in space

    The film does not end with Clark seeking revenge on an innocent man
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019 at 12:50 AM
    suarezguy and Cutie McWhiskers like this.
  4. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    May 10, 2005
    The visitor's bullpen
    The asshole trucker? I'd hardly call that guy 'innocent'.
  5. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Commodore Commodore

    May 18, 2017
    The clinic located by the Q Continuum
    True, but it seemed out of place for Reeve's Superman to be so petty either way. Especially with all the other available chairs. So who was acting like the bigger Sheldon? "You took my spot. That's my spot." "Oh yeah?" 'Fight ya for it, rock paper scissors lizard spock". "No" *WHAP* "Yes" spins him on his chair in a near-fatal RPM then smashes him through a glass door and giving the floor a nice coat of red not-paint...

    Still, this is the same movie that - even for Donner's cut - had the misandrist Ursa kept in check by not including the scene where she responds with surprisingly delicious relish to Non's throwing the siren and it killed the boy upon its landing (good aim!) with "Who will never become a man." Didn't she break or rip off one of the barfly's arms as well? At least her kicking the astronaut in the nads was kept, but that was probably for the sake of the comedy - though that aspect probably flew over the audience's head... (Sarah Douglas was perfectly cast, as were Terence Stamp as Zod and Jack O'Halloran as Non (even I got the body language)...)

    To be brief, Superman II needed the villains to be villains and not watered down mush that Lester's version fungused them into. Give the kids nightmares, the adults are with them to console and remind them it's a movie and the adults taken in by the movie will be suitably drawn in that much more because the villains are shown to be nasty, which is what villains are supposed to be because it makes us cheer on the hero to defeat them that much more. Donner* had it right the first time...

    ...It's a shame that Donner got axed - the studio was already taking a big risk on a franchise that wasn't really done that way before... in two ways since the original aim was a "part one"/"part two" format (where part one would not have ended with the reversing the planet's rotation to ostensibly reverse the flow of time), which movies did not do back then** as well as doing a kiddie superhero on the big screen. And Donner was clearly ahead of his time in where he wanted to take his original vision. But that was not to end up being. The result is a flick put together in part by a guy who made a movie that I feel is far sillier than 1967's largely appallingly silly "Casino Royale" and decided all the comedy had to be injected. And that was nothing compared to when Superman III would hit the screens, a movie where they say Margot Kidder got the raw deal but Reeve wasn't able to escape the train wreck... all because they had no faith in Donner's trailblazing style.

    But not many had faith in Star Trek 1964 either...

    * Lester's version is so bad at times that I was cheering Zod on! And, yes, I liked S2 until finding out what Donner's vision was and it was a game changer. At least for adults, my impression is the suits still thought superheroes were just "kiddie buck rogers stuff" and with no inkling adults might appreciate it if treated well. I still adore the movie's potential and casting, but it could have been so much more taut. A hard day's night for anyone sitting through Lester's editions but to be fair, Lester was having to try and fix what was thought to be broken (but actually wasn't), trough at the time neither side had a case because they were in truly uncharted filmmaking territory as there was nothing like it as precedent (as if precedents are great, not all fads are good but people do them en masse anyway). It's always too easy to look back and conjure up ideas that may or may not be accurate based on which version we like better. Some adore Lester's version and not wrongly say Donner's was too morbid. S2 had me in love with the franchise for the longest time as well, and Lester's edition of S2 does flow fairly well (and not to mention that Lester's means to get Lois to figure out SuperClark was better, Lester's ending does work better given all the chopping up of scenes to make I and II standalone and not pt1/pt2 as intended) the obligatory sex scene was definitely better for Lester as they did it after he lost his powers, think about it or perhaps try not to because now I can't, eww...), even with its nitpicks (e.g. a little too much comedy in the big battle scene (of which some of it did work), and where did Superman's giant plastic clingwrap "S" logo used to distract Non with come from, using the physics of the Superman universe only. And was it a distraction? The multiple Superman images were holograms or what not, but Non was fighting the plastic - which was clearly fighting back, and that's something no hologram could do.)

    (youtube clips are not the best quality but at least the outfit is blue and not altered to teal for the blu-ray release,. which is weird since Superman I on blu-ray still has the properly colored outfit (blue, not teal)...)

    ** one sequel at a time, no real tightly knitted multi-part epics of the sort I'm amazed ever took off because I can fathom the flip side of the coin as movies are/were epic events and not just fodder to string audiences along for one part after another after another. That includes Star Wars since the "Episode IV" was grafted on three years later and forgetting its own continuity and early beginnings (since Leia was not originally Luke's sister and they openly frenched (get a room, even a bathroom in a bar like my ex confessed to) and it'd be 3 more years before she'd say she'd always known, which is bunkum no better than anything the maligned sequel trilogy has gotten so far but I digress...)
  6. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Commodore Commodore

    May 18, 2017
    The clinic located by the Q Continuum

    True. :)


    After seeing II, it made sense. He has the perfect commanding presence, for both I and II.

    Yeah, as the song goes, she's got legs... but it made more sense in Lester's version to get busy with each other after he lost his powers. As Superman, being faster than a speeding bullet has far more downsides regarding the laws of physics applied to a frail human body. I'd rather not go into the actual details, but given the number of times Superman or Clark revealed how strong and powerful he was, Lois would regret her want - if she were to survive it...

    100% agreed. Lester's version, from what I recall, was eerie but there was no explanation that I recall. Just another green crystal forgotten about in the corner...

    10,000% agreed BIG TIME. In my previous response I spent 30 minutes drooling over how the villains need to be shown to be badass so the audience cheers the hero on due to emotional investment in wanting these baddies dealt with. Lester's version snuffs it out way too quickly and what's left may work for someone age 9 but by age 18 a lookback reveals how underwhelming they were in the official Lester version. The trio, via Donner's edition and deleted scenes, have so much more menace that it's hard to believe this stuff was in a vault for decades. It's damn good stuff and what the movie needed TO have.

    All pluses. Especially as there's more dramatic weight accorded their sense of malevolence.

    Agreed. While everyone in Paris speaks with conveniently accented English, it doesn't break the movie and is not an unreasonable middle-of-the-road to still sell something as meaningless as "plot setup" to the viewers without getting into excessive Treknobabble. :D



    Given the claims behind the Monument's existence for it being erected, never mind Rushmore has 4x as many important heads than 1, this adds to the villainous nature. It's ironic that Lester's does better on this side whereas Donner's making the trio more vicious... combine these for an ultimate edition and voila - best villains EVER, no contest.


    And yet Lester's the one railed for injecting comedy - Donner's big battle scene may have had less comedy but the jokes in the battle aren't as grating as Zod mistaking Jimmy as Supes? :facepalm:

    Ditto. As a plot denouement for I or II depending on behind the scenes issues, the bigger issue still remains as indicated - the time travel would just reset everything and there's no sign of how Superman would do something different as he didn't know where the phantom zone portal was that the nukes opened up to make the big three "FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" (Donner would let that cheesy line, one that would almost rival "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" (in 1982 or rendered far worse in 2013) in terms of being pure Limburger (and that reference ain't Gouda...)

    So the movie would still happen again in one refreshing raspberry lemonade time loop where the ending and beginning end up being the same. So did the

    1968 movie "Head"...

    Oops, I already got to that ahead of this one. :blush:
    Armus likes this.
  7. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    May 10, 2005
    The visitor's bullpen
    The trucker clearly deserved to be taken down a peg. We can hardly blame Clark for wanting at least SOME measure of payback.

    Now, if Clark had vaporized the guy with heat vision...THAT would have been petty. But the trucker is still alive, isn't he? And hopefully learned his lesson? So in the end, no harm done.
    Armus and The Realist like this.
  8. Marsden

    Marsden Commodore Commodore

    Feb 23, 2013
    I wouldn't call the bully innocent, but that whole scene always really disappointed me. Superman beating up a Human is like that bully kicking a puppy, I don't care how evil the Human is, they simply cannot hurt Superman and he can turn them into pudding. I don't mind him facing him again, but when the guy punches him in the gut and probably breaks his hand, that should have been the end. Spinning him like that, (he should have been puking before he stopped), and the destroying the diner by sliding him down the counter was so gratuitous. Instead of that I'd have liked Superman to help the guy with the broken hand to the hospital and explain to him why it's not good to mistreat people.

    As an aside to help explain my feelings, I was at one time almost a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, I quit at brown, but even before that, ie, when you're more than a white or yellow belt, if anyone attacks you and you mess them up, the cops look at you, not the attacker. If they think you used too much force because you're trained and can really cripple someone, you could get in all kinds of trouble defending yourself with excessive force. Our master always told us to try to walk away than to fight, but never to not defend ourselves, but you can do a lot to defend yourself without resorting to fighting.
  9. crookeddy

    crookeddy Commodore Commodore

    Oct 17, 2006
    In the extras I saw interviews with Lester where he said that he didn't believe that superhero movies could be presented as serious movies. They had to be for kids, so he had to make the drastic changes he did. That opinion has been proven wrong many times, between Batman '89 and the modern era of superhero movies for everyone. Thus, the Donner version is automatically better to me. His vision of what superhero movies could be was just far ahead of it's time. Perhaps if it was allowed to see the light of day, we'd have great superhero movies before 1989.
  10. Armus

    Armus Commodore Commodore

    Feb 14, 2003
    Massachusetts, USA
    Superman III does reflects that attitude towards cartoonishness, and that was Lester all the way.
  11. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 9, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM, USA
    One thing I don't get is that, while I like a lot of it, my favorite parts of Superman II are Lex's scenes and they were supposedly all shot by Donner, Hackman wouldn't do the rest, but he's in a lot of the movie-including the Daily Planet confrontation scenes and Fortress climax that were reshot (?). And some sources also admit some scenes with him weren't Hackman but imitators, if so they did a good job of imitating and/or the footage was well-spliced together.

    There's also the claim that Hackman wouldn't shave his head or even wear a skullcap except for the one scene at the end of the first film but he is bald in the prison scene early in Superman II.

    I haven't seen the Donner cut but Lois being ruthless enough to shoot Clark, rather than risk her own life and then the actual discovery happening by accident, seems a little too mean and shock value-y.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019 at 2:41 PM
    Armus and Smellmet like this.
  12. The Realist

    The Realist Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 4, 2001
    IMO, the scene works great, much better than the Lester version of the reveal (though the existing footage in the "Donner Cut" suffers a little from being part of a screen test instead of a final, polished set take).

    As for being too "ruthless," "mean," and risking Clark's life,
    she's firing blanks. It's Clark's reaction that gives him away, not his invulnerability.

    You should 100 percent see the Donner Cut. Whether you find you prefer it or not, it's a fascinating document -- much more than minor tweaks to the theatrical version, in fundamental ways it's a completely different film.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019 at 6:57 PM
    Smellmet likes this.