Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Lester|
|Produced by||Pierre Spengler|
|Story by||Mario Puzo|
|Music by||Ken Thorne|
|Edited by||John Victor-Smith|
|Box office||$190.4 million|
Superman II is a 1980 superhero film directed by Richard Lester and written by Mario Puzo and David and Leslie Newman, based on the DC Comics character Superman. It is a sequel to the 1978 film Superman and stars Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, and Jack O'Halloran. The film was released in Australia and mainland Europe on December 4, 1980, and in other countries throughout 1981. Selected premiere engagements of Superman II were presented in Megasound, a high-impact surround sound system similar to Sensurround.
In 1977, it was decided to film both Superman (1978) and its sequel simultaneously, with principal photography beginning in March 1977 and ending in October 1978. Tensions arose between Richard Donner and the producers in which a decision was made to stop filming the sequel, of which 75 percent had already been completed, and finish the first film. Following the release of Superman in December 1978, Donner was controversially fired as director, and was replaced by Richard Lester. Several members of the cast and crew declined to return in the wake of Donner's firing. In order to be officially credited as the director, Lester re-shot most of the film with a new alternate opening and ending for which principal photography began in September 1979 and ended in March 1980.
The film received positive reviews from film critics who praised the performances from Reeve, Stamp and Hackman, the visual effects, and humor. It grossed $190 million against a production budget of $54 million. A sequel, Superman III, was released, for which Lester returned as director.
Before the destruction of Krypton, the criminals General Zod, Ursa and Non are sentenced to banishment into the Phantom Zone. Years later, the Phantom Zone is shattered near Earth by the shockwave of a hydrogen bomb, thrown from Earth by Superman. The three criminals are freed and find themselves with superpowers granted by the yellow light of the Sun.
The Daily Planet sends journalist Clark Kent—whose secret identity is Superman—and his colleague Lois Lane to Niagara Falls. Lois suspects Clark and Superman are the same person after Clark is absent when Superman appears to save a falling kid. That night, when Clark recovers his glasses from a lit fireplace, Lois discovers that his hand is unburned, forcing Clark to admit he is Superman. He takes her to his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic, and shows her the traces of his past stored in energy crystals. Superman declares his love for Lois and his wish to spend his life with her. After conferring with the artificial intelligence of his mother Lara, Superman removes his superpowers by exposing himself to red Kryptonian sunlight in a crystal chamber, becoming a mortal. Clark and Lois spend the night together, then leave the Fortress and return from the Arctic by automobile. Arriving at a diner, Clark is beaten up by a truck driver named Rocky.
Meanwhile, the Zod gang, after becoming accustomed to Earth, travel to the White House and force the President of the United States to surrender on behalf of the entire planet during an international television broadcast. When the President pleads for Superman to save the Earth, General Zod demands that Superman come and "kneel before Zod!" Clark and Lois learn of Zod's conquest and, realizing that humanity alone cannot fight Zod, Clark tries to regain his powers.
Lex Luthor escapes from prison with Eve Teschmacher's help, leaving his accomplice Otis behind. Luthor and Teschmacher infiltrate the Fortress of Solitude before Superman and Lois arrive. Luthor learns of Superman's connection to Jor-El and General Zod. He finds Zod at the White House and tells him Superman is the son of Jor-El, their jailer, and offers to lead him to Superman in exchange for control of Australia. The three Kryptonians ally with Luthor and go to the offices of the Daily Planet. Superman arrives, after having found the green crystal that restores his powers, and battles the three. Zod realizes Superman cares for the humans and takes advantage of this by threatening bystanders. Superman realizes the only way to stop Zod and the others is to lure them to the Fortress. Superman flies off, with Zod, Ursa, and Non in pursuit, kidnapping Lois and taking along Luthor. Upon arrival, Zod declares Luthor has outlived his usefulness and plans to kill both him and Superman. Superman tries to get Luthor to lure the three into the crystal chamber to depower them, but Luthor, eager to get back in Zod's favor, reveals the chamber's secret to the villains. Zod forces Superman into the chamber and activates it; however, Superman crushes Zod's hand and tosses him into a crevice. Luthor deduces that Superman reconfigured the chamber to expose the trio to red sunlight while Superman was protected from it. Non falls into another crevice when trying to fly over it and Lois knocks Ursa into a third. Superman flies back to civilization, returning Luthor to prison and Lois home.
At the Daily Planet the following day, Clark finds Lois upset about knowing his secret and not being able to be open about her true feelings. He kisses her, using his abilities to wipe her mind of her knowledge of the past few days. Later, Clark returns to the diner and has a rematch with Rocky the truck driver and defeats him easily. Superman restores the damage done by Zod, replacing the flag atop the White House and tells the president he will not abandon his duty again.
According to the 2006 documentary You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman, Sarah Douglas was the only cast member to do extensive around-the-world press tours in support of the film and was one of the few actors who held a neutral point of view in the Donner-Lester controversy.
Richard Donner briefly appears in a "walking cameo" in the film. In the sequence where the de-powered Clark and Lois are seen approaching the truck-stop diner by car, Donner appears walking "camera left" past the driver's side. He is wearing a light tan jacket and appears to be smoking a pipe. In his commentary for Superman II, Ilya Salkind states that the inclusion of his cameo in that scene is proof that the Salkinds held no animosity towards Donner, because if there were, then surely they would have cut it out. Conversely, Donner has used his inclusion in the scene to debunk praise heaped on Lester around the release of the film where Lester took credit for the intense nature of the "bully" scene in the diner, pointing out that he (Donner) filmed the scene and not Lester.
Principal photography for both Superman films began on March 28, 1977 at Pinewood Studios for the Krypton scenes, but by May 1977, production had run two weeks behind schedule. It was reported that Donner had developed tensions with the Salkinds and Pierre Spengler concerning the escalating production budget and production schedule. Donner responded by claiming he was never given a budget. In July 1977, Richard Lester—who had previously directed The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) for the Salkinds—came on board the project as an uncredited associate producer and intermediary on Superman to mediate the relationship between Donner and the Salkinds whom were no longer on speaking terms. Prior to this, Lester had won a lawsuit against the Salkinds for money still owned to him from making the films, but the assets were held in legal entanglements in the Bahamas. The Salkinds then offered to compensate him if he would help on the Superman films, in which Lester became a second unit director where he and Donner formed an effective partnership. By October 1977, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, and Valerie Perrine had completed their scenes as they were all under contract to finish both pictures. Nevertheless, with months left of filming, the Salkinds had halted filming Superman II and focus on finishing Superman by which Donner had already completed 75% of the sequel. During the pause in filming, the Salkinds agreed to a negative pickup deal with Warner Bros. granting the studio rights to foreign distribution and television airings in exchange for more financing.
Following the release of Superman in December 1978, Spengler encountered Variety columnist Army Archerd at a Christmas party that, in which he confirmed that while there had been tension between him and Donner, he was proud of the film and looked forward to working with him on the sequel. Archerd then contacted Donner in which he responded "If he's on it—I'm not." Two days after the first film's general release, Brando had sued the Salkinds for $50 million claiming he had never received his percentage of the film's gross and filed a restraining order to prevent the use of his likeness. While his restraining order request was thrown out, Brando received $15 million from the settlement. Following this, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind announced that Marlon Brando's completed scenes for Superman II would be excised from the movie in order for them to avoid having to pay the actor the reported 11.75% of gross U.S. box-office takings he was now demanding for his performance in the sequel. In addition to this, Ilya Salkind had also claimed Brando was removed due to creative differences, in which he suggested to his father: "What if it's the mother [instead]? She talks about love to her son. And it kind of made sense creatively....Jor-El had done his thing if you want." Donner publicly lambasted this decision, in which he told Variety, "That means no games... They have to want me to do it. It has to be on my terms and I don't mean financially. I mean control."
As Donner had become unavailable during the European promotional campaign for Superman, the Salkinds approached Guy Hamilton to take over directional reins for Superman II since Lester was filming Cuba (1979) at the time. However, Hamilton was unavailable, but by the time Superman II was ready to begin filming, Lester had completed Cuba and was available to direct. Eventually, on March 15, 1979, the Salkinds decided to replace Donner with Richard Lester. Donner recalled that "One day, I got a telegram from them saying my services are no longer needed and that my dear friend Richard Lester would take over. To this day, I have not heard from them." Ilya Salkind countered, "Dick Donner said, 'I will do the second movie on my terms and without [Pierre] Spengler'...Spengler was my friend since childhood and my father and I were very loyal guys. We said no, and it really boiled down to that."
The decision to replace Donner was controversial amongst the cast and crew. Creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz was approached by Terry Semel, then a Warner Bros. vice president, to return for the sequel, but he declined out of loyalty to Donner. He recounted "I have a lot of respect for him. [referring to Richard Lester] Friendship is more important than anything. And Dick [Donner] brought me on the picture and my loyalty was with Dick and I couldn't believe that they fired him." Editor Stuart Baird also declined to return for the sequel. Gene Hackman declined to return for re-shoots, which necessitated the need for a stand-in actor and a voice double for several scenes.
To replace Mankiewicz, Superman co-screenwriters David and Leslie Newman were then brought back to re-tool the script constructing a new opening and ending. The new script featured newly conceived scenes such as a new opening involving Superman thwarting the nuclear terrorists at the Eiffel Tower, Clark rescuing Lois at Niagara Falls, and a new ending in which Clark causes Lois to forget his secret identity through a hypnotic kiss. Furthermore, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth had died before the release of Superman. With Lester as director, he was not sympathetic to Donner's filmmaking style commenting "I think that Donner was emphasizing a kind of grandiose myth. There was a kind of David Lean-ish attempt in several sequences, and enormous scale. There was a type of epic quality which isn't in my nature, so my work really didn't embrace that...That's not me. That's his vision of it. I'm more quirky and I play around with slightly more unexpected silliness." Lester then brought on cinematographer Robert Paynter to have the film evoke the garish color scheme of the comics. Another replacement happened when set designer John Barry suddenly collapsed on the nearby set of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and died from meningitis. Peter Murton was then hired in Barry's place.
Before filming was to begin, Christopher Reeve was initially unavailable as he had accepted to star in the romantic fantasy film, Somewhere in Time, five months into the production shutdown by which his contract to shoot both Superman films back-to-back had expired. Reeve had claimed that twelve hours after his casting was announced, he received a letter from the producers to be available for Superman II on July 16, which was only five days after he was to finish filming Somewhere in Time. In March 1979, the Salkinds filed suit against Reeve alleging he had breached his contract by walking off the sequel. Furthermore, Reeve had held reservations with Lester and the Newmans' script following the departure of Donner. During the renegotiation of his contract, Reeve agreed to the financial terms, but demanded more artistic control.
Filming for Superman II re-commenced in September 1979 at Pinewood Studios. The remaining sequences left to be shot included the scenes of the super-villains in Midwest America and the battle in Metropolis. With Brando cut from the film, the decision was made to re-shoot the scene in which Clark confesses his love for Lois and surrender his powers. Another scene, as written in the film's original shooting script and shot, was to have Jor-El restore his superpowers by reaching out to him in a tableau reminiscent of the painting, The Creation of Adam, but the younger Salkind felt it was over-the-top. The first scene was re-shot with actress Susannah York taking Brando's place while the restoration of Superman's powers would take place off-screen. Location shooting took place in Canada, Paris, Norway and St Lucia, and the Metropolis scenes—in contrast to the first film where they were filmed on location in New York—were filmed entirely on the back lot at Pinewood. Throughout filming, Lester caused tensions as he opted to retain his directorial technique for his three-camera setup, which frustrated the actors as they did not know when they were being filmed for their close-ups. Filming was completed on March 10, 1980.
Due to budgetary reasons and actors being unavailable, key scenes filmed by Donner were added to the final film. Since the Lester footage was shot two years later, continuity errors are present in the physique and styling of stars Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve. In Donner's footage, Reeve appears less bulked as he was still gaining muscle for the part. Kidder also has dramatic changes throughout; in the montage of Lester-Donner material, shot inside the Daily Planet and the Fortress of Solitude near the movie's conclusion, her hairstyle, hair color, and even make-up are all inconsistent. Kidder's physical appearance in the Lester footage is noticeably different; during the scenes shot for Donner she appears slender, whereas in the Lester footage she looks thinner.
Before the film's release, Warner Bros. had appealed to the Directors Guild of America to assign the appropriate co-director credit, in which they argued Lester could not be credited unless he shot 40 percent of the film. Although Lester had earlier thought he would not be credited, he approached Donner to see if he wished to be credited as co-director, in which Donner replied, "I don't share credit".
Composer John Williams was originally slated to score Superman II in which he was given a screening with Ilya Salkind and Richard Lester. When Salkind left the projection room, Williams and Lester fell into an argument, and when Salkind returned, Williams told him that he "could not get along with this man". To take his place, Richard Lester's frequent composer Ken Thorne was selected to score the sequel. Thorne wrote minimal original material and adapted source music, such as Average White Band's "Pick Up the Pieces", which appears both in the restaurant in Idaho and during Clark's second encounter with Rocky in the Alaska diner. The music was performed at the CTS Studios, Wembley, London in the spring of 1980 by a studio session orchestra (rather than the London Symphony Orchestra, who had played for the first film). The soundtrack was released on Warner Bros. Records, with one edition featuring laser-etched "S" designs repeated five times on each side.
A complete score was released in 2008, as part of Superman: The Music--1978-1988, an 8-CD box set released by Film Score Monthly, with a limited edition of 6.000 units.
On October 30, 2018, as part of Superman's 80th anniversary, La-La Land Records released Thorne's expanded orchestral score for the second and third film into the expanded archival collection.
During a preview of the finished film, Warner Bros. executives had hoped to maximize its box office returns by releasing the film in every part of the world during their peak movie-going period. The film premiered in Australia on December 4, 1980, which was followed with Christmastime releases in France, Italy, Spain, and South Africa. The film opened in the United Kingdom and West Germany in Easter 1981. On June 1, 1981, the film premiered at the National Theater in New York City, and received its general release in 1,354 theaters in the United States and Canada on June 19—six months after its release in other parts of the world.
To promote the film, The New York Times reported that Warner Bros. had licencees for 34 products including posters, Pepsi-Cola, pajamas, and T-shirts with Superman carrying the American flag. They had also enlisted their publishing division to produce calendars, pop-up books, a film novelization, a behind-the-scenes book, and a children's dictionary.
Before production on Superman II resumed in 1979, the Philip Morris Company had paid $40,000 (approx £20,000) for their Marlboro cigarette to appear in the film. Lois Lane was shown as a chain smoker in the film, although she never smoked in the comic book version. A prop included a truck sign written with the Marlboro logo, although actual vehicles for tobacco distribution are unmarked, for security reasons. This led to a congressional investigation.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who gave the original film very high acclaim, also praised Superman II, giving it four out of four stars. He wrote in his review, "This movie's most intriguing insight is that Superman's disguise as Clark Kent isn't a matter of looks as much as of mental attitude: Clark is disguised not by his glasses but by his ordinariness. Beneath his meek exterior, of course, is concealed a superhero. And, the movie subtly hints, isn't that the case with us all?" Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded three-and-a-half out of four stars and declared it "better than the original." Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times called it "the most interesting 'Superman' yet," adding, "This film's fun comes from character, dialogue and performance, not effects. There are, of course, enough effects to fill a dozen Saturday matinee serials but they aren't necessarily the film's deliciousness." Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times, wrote that "Superman II is a marvelous toy. It's funny, it's full of tricks and it manages to be royally entertaining, which is really all it aims for." She further praised the performances of Reeve and Hackman and found the direction between Donner and Lester to be indistinguishable. Similarly, David Denby, reviewing for the New York magazine, praised the film's light approach by crediting Lester for the film in particularly Hackman's performance. Tom Mankiewicz, who had served as creative consultant for the first film, shot back in a mailed letter writing, "Just for the record, Gene Hackman did 100 percent with Dick Donner and it was all written by me", but New York never issued a correction. Reeve said that Superman II is "the best of the series".
British cinema magazine Total Film named Terence Stamp's version of General Zod No. 32 on their 'Top 50 Greatest Villains of All Time' list (beating out the No. 38 place of Lex Luthor) in 2007. Pop culture website IGN placed General Zod at No. 30 on their list of the 'Top 50 Comic Book Villains' while commenting "Stamp is Zod" (emphasis in original).
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86% based on 50 reviews with an average rating of 7.5 out of 10; the site's critical consensus says, "The humor occasionally stumbles into slapstick territory, and the special effects are dated, but Superman II meets, if not exceeds, the standard set by its predecessor." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 87 (out of 100), indicating "universal acclaim".
On its opening weekend, Superman II broke the box office record with a first day gross receiving $4.4 million. The next day, it grossed $5.6 million, which at the time was the highest-single box office day, surpassing the record previously set by Star Wars (1977) at $4.5 million. The film grossed $108.2 million in the United States, with its worldwide gross at $190.4 million.
|1982||Saturn Awards||Best Science Fiction Film||Superman II||Won|
|Best Actor||Christopher Reeve||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Margot Kidder||Nominated|
|Best Music||Ken Thorne||Nominated|
As with the first film, Alexander and Ilya Salkind prepared a version for worldwide television release that re-inserted unused footage (in this case 24 minutes) into the film. It was through this extended version that viewers first caught a glimpse into the Superman II that might have happened had Richard Donner remained as director. In fact, a majority of the added footage was shot by Donner before Richard Lester became director. This footage (or alternative takes of it) would be recycled into the Richard Donner cut of "II".
17 of the 24 added minutes were utilized by ABC for its 1984 network premiere. Subsequent ABC airings of the longer version would be cut further for more advertising time. The full 146-minute extended cut was shown internationally, including parts of Canada.
The added footage offers an alternative ending to the film. In the theatrical cut, it is implied that Superman has killed the three Kryptonian villains (going against the strict code that Superman does not kill). In the extended ending, a U.S. "polar patrol" is shown picking up the three Kryptonians and Lex Luthor, after which Superman, with Lois standing beside him, destroys the Fortress of Solitude.
Among the other "lost" scenes:
Some telecast versions remove the following for content:
Among the footage seen in the international/Canadian telecasts:
It should be mentioned that some Canadian telecasts were slightly cut for time.
In 2004, the fan-restored DVD known as Superman II: Restored International Cut was released through many Superman fan sites. It featured extended scenes pulled from international television broadcasts over the years, in which Warner Bros. threatened legal action over the bootleg release.
During the production of Superman Returns, Warner Bros. acquired the rights from Marlon Brando's estate to use the late actor's footage from Superman into the film. Shortly after, Ilya Salkind confirmed that Donner was involved in the project to re-cut Superman II using Brando's unused footage. Editor Michael Thau worked on the project alongside Donner and Tom Mankiewicz, who supervised the Superman II reconstruction. Despite some initial confusion, Thau confirmed that all the footage shot by Donner in 1977 was recovered and transferred from a vault in England.
The new edition, titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray on November 28, 2006. In order to make Donner's vision of Superman II feel less incomplete, finished scenes by Lester that Donner was unable to shoot were incorporated into the film as well as the screen tests by Reeve and Kidder for one pivotal scene. The film also restores several cut scenes including Marlon Brando as Jor-El, an alternate prologue and opening sequence at the Daily Planet that omits the Eiffel Tower opening from the original, as well as the original scripted and filmed ending for Superman II featuring Superman reversing time before it was cut and placed at the end of the first film.
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