Sunday, February 18, 2007

Superman II

Superman II
dir. Richard Donner

"Oh, God."
"It's Zod."

Guest Article!
Matt Robison, NEW YORK CITY
February 17, 2006 - DVD

True fans of the original 1978 Superman film-- true fans, such as myself-- who adore it for its beauty and its taste and who are never hesitant to defend it vehemently as most obviously the greatest super-hero film of all time—well, we’ve always found Superman II to be sort of an embarrassment. It’s overly sentimental and crudely pasted together and frankly I blame it wholeheartedly for lowering the standards for embarrassing sequels to come (of which the latest, Superman Returns, surely is included). But perhaps the most disheartening thing for us (true fans) when watching Superman II is the sense of such seemingly limitless potential for the thing. Three escaped convicts from Superman’s home planet escape the Phantom Zone to wreak havoc on the Earth! Anyone, even casual, less than true fans, would assume that such an awesome plot would render the thing nearly fool proof. But Warner Brothers, it turns out, are exceptional fools. They fired Richard Donner, the original director, for reasons still undisclosed, and his replacement, Richard Lester (whose name Donner smugly claims in the commentary track not to remember), no doubt firmly misguided by the film’s producers, managed to cut together one of the shabbiest, schmaltziest super-disappointments of all time. Donner had been filming Superman and Superman II simultaneously up until the first picture was released, and it was after great financial and critical success that the company inexplicably chose to change their horse in mid-stream, leaving us with only a partial sketch of what Superman II would have been—lost, along with The Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon and quite probably the fourth season of Deadwood, forever to the annals of tragically unrealized masterpieces.

But wait.

Now after nearly 30 years, finally the original director’s cut of Superman II has found the light of day—or almost, anyway, in the shape of a DVD. The new disc does contain a film and it is approved by Richard Donner, but, weary fans be cautioned, it is also something that could hardly be thought of as definitive or even really finished. For instance, I would never show it to, say, my girlfriend. I assume that it would be like someone trying to foist on me a late record by Warren Zevon; I, who am not a true fan of Zevon but only a general, insouciant fan of Zevon, would not begin to understand the infinitesimal quirks and nuances of the thing. I can’t read Braille either. The point is that though this new (or old) version of the film does have superior pacing and marvelous taste compared to its bizarro counterpart, not to mention much, much better fight scenes, an (almost) total lack of embarrassing voice-over, a far better story and some great previously unseen footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El, it still just doesn’t quite feel like a whole movie. It is unavoidably, through no fault of the film’s sensational restoration team—who thankfully included in their added computer effects nothing nearly Lucasian in scale—missing those final finishing touches that make a film really feel over when it’s over. The ending of this version is terrific by comparison, but it doesn’t make any more sense than the other one. It couldn’t, because this version was never made properly with its own ending; it has to borrow and steal from the other films just to be coherent.

What this disc really seems for is not usurping Richard Lester’s version of the film—this by now would be totally impossible—but to serve as an outlet for properly mourning the unsung majesty of the series. We’ll never know how good it could have been, but if this disc is any indication, probably a lot better that what we got. In other words, something more than a wonderful curio. But for true fans only.


mlucas said...

Superman sucks balls. Did you see the new one? Fuck it was AWFUL! I bet all the new comic book movies this summer are gonna be diarherea. Maybe not fantastic four though.

Kalen Egan said...

No, Fantastic Four will clearly the be equivalent of "explosive diarherea." Flame on... get it??

That Guy From The Sheild said...

kalen you're really hurting my feelings, calling my new movie diarhea.

Kalen Egan said...

Dear That Guy From the Shield,

I liked you a lot better before you changed your name, when you were went by That Guy From the Commish. You weren't such a crybaby back then. What happened?


jeff said...

I used to love the Commish. Just sayin'.