Picking up where "Superman: The Movie" left off, three criminals, General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa, (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O'Halloran) from the planet Krypton are released from the Phantom Zone by a nuclear explosion in space. They descend upon Earth where they could finally rule. Superman, meanwhile, is in love with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), who finds out who he really is. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) escapes from prison and is determined to destroy Superman by joining forces with the three criminals. Written by
Keith Howley <email@example.com>
For those who are into the comic book movie craze today, this one is one of the best comic-y movies from the beginning of the summer blockbuster heyday. The original Superman is really an excellent film with solid, honest direction by Richard Donner. Donner shot around half of this sequel and his scenes are all excellent (Note: Every Gene Hackman scene was shot by Donner - Hackman refused to return to production after Donner was fired).
There is still much hope that Donner's footage will re-surface. Most importantly of all there are vital scenes with Marlon Brando returning as Superman's father, Jor-El and giving his "life" to save his son and save the planet from the evil villains he vanquished from Krypton. It would also be interesting for audiences to see the difference between Donner's scenes and the ones re-shot by Lester.
The characters are great. Superman, played by Christopher Reeve, is in solid form and he and Lois are given the opportunity to enhance their relationship from the original story. Jackie Cooper is once again great as Perry White, the chief editor of the Daily Planet.
What makes this movie move is the villains. Gene Hackman is funnier and still up to no good and the villains from Krypton are menacing. His dialogue is truly witty and Hackman's timing is perfect. Terence Stamp is the power hungry General Zod, out for revenge against the son of Jor-El. Stamp plays it straight and his scenes directed by Donner show a true megalomaniac. Jack O'Halloran is solid as the hulking Non.
Best of all is Sarah Douglas as the cold and evil Ursa in a truly underrated performance. She is the most curious and most interesting of the bunch. She collects badges as trophies for her conquering of earth, wearing them to mock human hierarchy. Ursa seems to be a forerunner of all of the sexy female superwoman today, but her role is not overstated and stale. She is not given gratuitous cleavage shots or anything of the sort. Ursa is a beautiful vamp and a tease, and if anything we wish she would have more screen time. Sarah Douglas constantly gives us hints as to Ursa's wishes, and we can only try to surmise what evil plans she is up to.
The music is John Williams' score from the first film, but used differently. Not sure if much of the music is original. Ken Thorne does a good job here of accenting cuts with Williams' original score (Williams too refused to return after Donner was fired.) Some great cues are Superman returning to fight the villains, which is wonderfully heroic; Ursa's shocking appearance to both the astronauts on the moon (a violent scene that uses the darkest motifs from Krypton in the first film); and the whole Metropolis battle in the end, which is well supported by the music.
The effects are very good for 1980. I keep reading how people are unhappy and always apologize for the FX in any movie more than a couple of years old. This one is solid and for the film it serves, does well. The only major goof is when Superman delivers the American Flag at the end - The water fountain in front of the White House is clearly a model with "frozen" bursting water! The scene in the de-powering chamber is not well-handled either.
Overall, this is a very entertaining film, and really amazingly considering it is obviously the work of two directors. Of all the comic book movies made from the 60s thru the 90s, this one definitely rates in the top five along with the first Superman, the first two Batmans. Supermans 3 and 4 were really poor. It is too bad that Christopher Reeve did not make more good Superman films. This one has some camp, but it's way too entertaining and it's the only sequel to still have the flavor of the original. And please, let's see a special edition DVD with all of the missing Richard Donner footage!!!!!
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