Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Superman-a-thon Part 2: Superman II (1980)

[Author's Note - These links will become active as the blogs are written: Superman and the Mole Men (1951), Superman (1978), Richard Donner Cut (2006), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), Superman Returns (2006)]

After the supreme success of the first Superman movie, a sequel was obviously on the horizon. And so two years later, Superman II came out. This film was produced almost completely simultaneously with the original film and as such, there is very clearly a continuous story in place.

General Zod, who wound up in the Phantom Zone in the early part of the first movie, is the main villain in this one. The film starts with parts of the first scene of the first Superman movie, followed shortly after by Zod and his two minions' escape from the Phantom Zone, which gets destroyed by a hydrogen bomb that Superman found in Paris and threw into space.

Let me get to the Kryptonian villains' actors/actress. Terence Stamp does an incredible job as General Zod. One of my concerns for the upcoming Man of Steel film is that Zod's stoic nature and generally threatening nature will not be exuded as well. I mean, heck, Stamp is in a really light-hearted film and yet his performance is enough to draw your full attention. That is strong stuff.

Sarah Douglas and Jack O'Halloran did a decent job playing Ursa and Non, but the two are more notable for when they stand behind Zod. Douglas' lack of understanding of why people care about each other makes her feel very much like a one-dimensional, one-off monster in Power Rangers. And Non, while having an intimidating look, is best known as the guy who doesn't talk, so not much can be said.

Going back to the plot, Superman's rescue of Lois in Paris leads to Perry White assigning Clark Kent and Lois Lane to Niagara Falls. While there, she becomes suspicious of Clark being Superman when Superman saves an idiot kid from falling off the Falls while Clark is missing.

She sends herself off the falls to try to prove it, but Clark is able to use his heat vision at a distance to give her a branch to grab. It's not until they're in the hotel room and he inadvertently falls into the fireplace without burning that he has to finally admit who he is.

Meanwhile, Zod and his crew discover their yellow sun-enhanced abilities and go on a rampage through a town and take a town in Idaho, believing it to be the national capitol thanks to NASA transmissions. They finally realize where they have to go and head to D.C. to take over the White House.

In an additional plot thread, Lex Luthor organizes a way out of prison with Otis and Miss Teschmacher. Teschmacher gets a helicopter to fly the other two out, but thankfully for the audience, Otis is so dumb that he gets caught and we get to avoid his idiocy for the rest of the film.

Meanwhile, once Lois knows of Superman's identity, he flies her to the Fortress of Solitude. It's here where we get one of the film's missteps.

There is this issue where Superman can't be with Lois and remain Superman, according to his mother's entry into the crystals. There's no real reason given. I guess it's that dumb 'Man of Steel, Woman of Paper' crap, but it's never explained fully.

Clark chooses Lois and goes into a Red Sun Radiation chamber to strip him of his powers. Unfortunately, their joy is short-lived, as General Zod has convinced the U.S. to surrender in order to protect lives. Seeing the danger (and getting his ass kicked at a diner in the process), Clark decides to head back to the Fortress to find a solution.

(Another question: If the Fortress is at the North Pole, how did they drive to the diner? And how did he get back to the pole so quickly?)

Lex Luthor explains who Superman is and explains that he knows how to draw him out, so that Zod can get revenge on the son of Jor-El.

Upon taking the Daily Planet hostage, Superman arrives just in time to save Lois... HOW? There is no explanation given as to how he undid a PERMANENT process. It's explained in the Richard Donner cut, but it's largely ignored here.

After losing initially due to the constant need to save innocent bystanders (who are really idiotic at times during this fight), Luthor leads the trio and hostage Lois to the Fortress, where Superman tries to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, Lois as a hostage complicated matters and he has to give up.

Luthor temporarily seems to want to protect him, but he double-crosses him when he mentions the Red Sun chamber. But Superman double-crosses everyone when it turns out he reversed the chamber to shoot outward and strip the trio of their powers. How he did this and why Lois and Lex aren't crushed by the radiation are never brought up, of course.

The movie ends with an ending nearly as scientifically insane as the reversing time thing: Lois is sad that she can never be with Clark, so he kisses her... and the kiss erases her memory of the last few days. HUH?

This film is rife with questions left unanswered and scenes that feel spliced together. This film is clearly not one vision. When Donner got replaced by Richard Lester, Lester had to cut a lot of Donner's content in order to get top billing. (51 percent of the film had to be shot through him.)

As such, much of the linear story that Donner had put in place was altered through these changes, and frankly, most of the changes were adding in those dumbass hostages and some REALLY questionable effects (oh, and the kiss. That was his as well.)

Nonetheless, the film is still really strong at its core and there is a good story in place regarding Superman's desire to help the world vs. his alienation from the human race. It's not as good as the original, but it's solid and I put it about on par with Batman Forever. I give it 7.6 out of 10 and 3 stars out of 4.

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