Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth.Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth.Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth.
Other superheroes have floundered at the box office, and maybe this is to do with lack of affinity between the makers and the source material. Certainly, the Superman films are tongue-in-cheek but never so that they're disrespectful to their content or their audience. The Crow was a good example of the "graphic novel" set, and the Batman series did well under the underrated Michael Keaton, but floundered under the flat Val Kilmer and increasingly childish set-pieces. The less said about "Batman and Robin" the better.
Of course, Superman had his own "Batman and Robin" in the guise of "Superman VI: The Quest For Peace", a movie made four years after the third and with seemingly a fraction of the budget. But Superman II was the series at its' peak. The theme music, a startling Star Wars sound-a-like by John Williams, fades to edited recaps of the previous film. These involve Superman as a baby being sent from the destruction of his home planet and are cleverly spliced together so as to avoid having to pay Marlon Brando any more royalties. (Yet we do see Brando's hand. Surely that's worth half a million?). 20% of this movie was shot alongside the 1978 vehicle and so we get reminded in this sequence of the three Kryptonian villains, about to be accidentally released by Superman in a h-bomb explosion.
This was still in the days when films were properly constructed to allow for a genuine build-up, a fully-formed middle and a proper end. Even minor players, such as Perry White (Jackie Cooper) have great lines and characterisation thrusted upon them. This may be just a "fun" movie, but it is lovingly put together, not "thrown together" as many films are. All the actors are wonderful, Christopher Reeve is just right as Superman, Margot Kidder is the definitive Lois Lane (despite almost drowning in soft focus for her close-ups) and Gene Hackman is, of course, absolutely hilarious as Lex Luthor.
But my favourite player in this sequel is Terence Camp as General Zod. Terence plays Zod exactly the same as he plays Bernadette in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and makes great work of the lead villain that must be, in Hollywood circles, always English. "Why do you say these things when you know I will kill you for it?" he minces to Hackman with great effect.
Of course, now twenty years old, this film is less "You'll believe a man can fly" than "You'll believe a man can swing on wires in front of an unconvincing backdrop" but this is still wonderful entertainment. Maybe the middle section, with Clark getting cut to ribbons after being thrown through a plate glass window is a little violent, as is the confrontation between Superman and the trio of villains. There's also the nagging feeling that this section is the biggest single example of product placement ever seen on film. Or is it coincidence that a Superman who featured in a comicbook anti-smoking campaign (against "Nick O'Teen", no less) is continually thrown into a Malboro van? Even Zod gets to know "things look better with Coca-Cola" as he is unceremoniously hurled into a neon sign for the corporation.
But these are minor gripes, and how anyone can hold them against such a harmless film is beyond me. Superman II isn't Citizen Kane by any means, but I defy you to sit through this movie and not love it.
- Dec 31, 1999