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Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980)

Superman II (original title)
Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth.

Directors:

Richard Donner, Richard Lester (uncredited)

Writers:

Joe Shuster (characters), Jerry Siegel (characters) | 4 more credits »
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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Superman II (1980)
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Directors: Richard Lester, Richard Donner
Stars: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gene Hackman ... Lex Luthor (archive footage)
Christopher Reeve ... Clark Kent / Kal-El / Superman (archive footage)
Marlon Brando ... Jor-El (archive footage)
Ned Beatty ... Otis (archive footage)
Jackie Cooper ... Perry White (archive footage)
Sarah Douglas ... Ursa (archive footage)
Margot Kidder ... Lois Lane (archive footage)
Jack O'Halloran ... Non (archive footage)
Valerie Perrine ... Eve Teschmacher (archive footage)
Clifton James ... Sheriff (archive footage)
E.G. Marshall ... The President (archive footage)
Marc McClure ... Jimmy Olsen (archive footage)
Terence Stamp ... General Zod (archive footage)
John Ratzenberger ... Controller #1 (archive footage)
Shane Rimmer ... Controller #2 (archive footage)
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Storyline

Before Krypton exploded and Jor-El put his baby son, Kal-El, in a rocket ship to Earth, the benevolent ruler was forced to banish three irredeemable criminals to another dimension called The Phantom Zone. The trio's leader, General Zod, vowed revenge. Later, of course, Kal-El grew up to become Superman, Earth's mighty champion. A battle with the criminal mastermind, Lex Luthor, ends with Superman hurling a nuclear warhead into space where it explodes, but not harmlessly. Instead, it frees the Kryptonian threesome from their other-dimensional prison. They soon discover they have almost unlimited power (the same powers, in fact, as Superman), which they use to take over the Earth. Meanwhile, the intrepid reporter, Lois Lane, learns that her bumbling colleague, Clark Kent, is really Superman, a revelation that leads to him bringing her to his frozen Fortress of Solitude and renouncing his powers in order to make love to her. It is only when Superman and Lois return to civilization that ... Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

As Originally Conceived and Intended


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for sequences of action violence, some language and brief mild sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

28 November 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut See more »

Filming Locations:

Calgary, Alberta, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$54,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

SDDS | Dolby Digital | DTS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After the President kneels to Zod, the scene switches to a car (presumably with Clark and Lois in it) as they drive through the snow and then up to the diner. The trumpet music playing is a jazzed up version of the track "The Planet Krypton" from John Williams' score from Superman (1978), a theme that you hear many times throughout the franchise. See more »

Goofs

In the hotel/Tuxedo scene where Clark and Lois are discussing whether he is Superman or not, several times Clark's hair changes from being dry and long, to being shorter and with a lot of hair gel. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jor-El: I ask you now to pronounce judgment on those accused. On this... this mindless aberration, whose only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction; on the woman Ursa, whose perversions and unreasoning hatred of all mankind have threatened even the children of the planet Krypton; finally, General Zod. Chief architect of this intended revolution and author of this insidious plot to establish a new order amongst us... with himself as absolute ruler. You have heard the ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the Warner Bros./DC Comics logos, there is an on-screen dedication "in loving memory" of Christopher Reeve, "Without whom we would have never believed a man could fly". See more »

Connections

Version of Supergirl V: Deadly Seduction (2015) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Only a hint
20 December 2006 | by jaywolfenstienSee all my reviews

Richard Donner's cut of Superman II is not the definitive answer to "what if Donner had been allowed to finish Superman II?" It is not a stand alone, completed, film so much as it is an abstract representation of where he intended to go. Remember, we are dealing with a reconstruction of an incomplete 25 year-old film. It's a jig-saw puzzle with a few pieces missing, jimmy-rigged with whatever the filmmakers could use to complete it.

But if you can look past inherent flaws that comes with the circumstance – obvious dubbing issues, inconsistent special effects, glaring continuity errors, a recycled resolution, and lack of an original score – look past all of that, look to the underlying vision, and you'll see something special.

First and foremost, the return of Marlon Brando's scenes, a presence sorely missed in the theatrical cut of Superman II which allows the characters and story arcs that started in the first film to come full circle. At last nonsensical dialogue from the first film clicks into place – "the father becomes the son, the son becomes the father" – it gains a meaning in a touching exchange between Jor-El and Kal-El. In the Lester cut, Kal-El consults his mother in the fortress of solitude, and somehow it lacks the emotional punch that the exchange should have. Here, though, in the Donner Cut, Marlon Brando's voice rings with fatherly love, and across time and space the essence of the father reaches out to the son. A love that allows Jor-El to guide Kal-El even from his Kryptonian grave. And after 25 years it finally makes sense how Superman regains his powers after sacrificing them to live with Lois Lane.

Marlon Brando as Jor-El by itself makes the Donner Cut worth the price of the rental. I mean, how do you cut out Marlon Brando? Especially when his character is integral to not only the plot, but to the titular character's arc? Anyway, I particularly liked the restoration of how Lois initially suspects Clark's identity. A passive comment by Jimmy Olson makes her pause and ponder the paradox of Clark disappearing when Superman appears, and she draws a suit, hat, and glasses over a newsprint picture of the Man of Steel. In the Lester version, Lois' eventual revelation feels more chance driven, and even when they have direction it's as though they beat around the bush. It's anti-climactic, and lacks a fulfilling payoff.

In Donner's version, by contrast, the challenge is more direct. A one on one battle of wits with Lois fighting to conclusively prove that Clark is Superman, while he makes clever use of his powers to keep his identity hidden – early on Lois throws herself out a window. And instead of Superman flying to the rescue, Clark uses his super-breath to slow her descent, and his eye beam to unlatch a canopy to break her fall. She lands safely, and lo and behold Clark hasn't moved from the window 50 floors up. "Lois! What have you done?!" Point: Superman and Richard Donner.

The exchanges are just more fun in Donner's version – it's like a cat and mouse game that escalates until the eventual pay off in a scene that Donner, sadly, never shot. Reconstructed from screen tests, gaping with continuity errors, but it's remarkable the power that still underlines the moment when Clark is finally caught red handed, and removes his glasses. Subtly transforming from Kent to Superman right before our eyes – it finally feels like the pivotal moment it should be, and resonates more deeply because the previous scenes support and sustain it. I guess what I'm getting at is, once again, the arc feels more natural, more complete.

Gone are as many as the throw-away Naked-Gunesque sight gags as Michael Thau could afford to cut. And what a difference that makes to the overall tone of the movie. Of particular note: the battle over Metropolis that finally feels like the epic brawl it should be. Other than a few additions, the major difference between Lester and Donner's version lay in the editing. And yet I cheered every time Superman sent one of the villains flying through a building or a sign as though watching this sequence for the first time – I was thrilled when the villains created a powerful wind to stop the mob and the focus stayed on the destruction at hand – cars crashing into buildings and other cars – and not wigs and silly phone booth conversations. The villains are more threatening, more intimidating, and the battle appears more destructive now that their powers weren't used to generate jokes.

While I'm hesitant to say the humor in Donner's film is more sophisticated (the Donner cut does have toilet humor not present in the Lester cut), I will say Donner's jokes are better planned and executed. At least in his version most of them have proper build up and pay off.

Finally, the issue of complaints: were this another film under another set of circumstances, I would have room to complain. It does have flaws, yes. As mentioned above, the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II looks like a jigsaw puzzle that was finished with "whatever." Unlike Superman, Donner could not turn back time and finish shooting with the full resources he needed to do the job right. The disclaimer before the film clearly states it's a representation of the Donner concept. Nothing more.

Like I said, this is only a hint of what could have been. And that's more than we should reasonably have hoped to get.


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