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VINE VOICEon December 3, 2006
Having just watched the Richard Donner version of "Superman II" twice (once with his commentary with 'Creative Consultant' Tom Mankiewicz), I can say that I prefer the Donner version, over Richard Lester's...but with reservations.

Other reviewers point out redundancies, over-long scenes, and character development problems in the Donner version, but these aren't really fair arguments; what you see are the basic scenes, originally shot; Donner, himself, admitted that had he continued on the film, he would have had to do reshoots of several key scenes, and, of course, would have been involved in the editing process (which couldn't be accomplished to the same degree, in the 'restored' edition). The 'turning the world back' resolution was intended for "Superman II"; when the Salkinds chose not to end the first film with a cliffhanger ending, Donner shot the Lois 'death' scene, and Supes turns back time to save her...so repeating the same resolution in "Superman II" was simply a case of using the original film conclusion, which Donner would have changed, had he continued with the film.

There are plotholes, and leaps of logic; as the film stands, Luthor is apparently in the Fortress of Solitude when Superman destroys it(!); Clark's 'revenge' against the diner bully makes no sense, since, after winding back time, the original confrontation never took place; indeed, the Jor-El 'farewell' scene would have been unnecessary, as well, insomuch as Supes rewound time back to before he lost and regained his powers. And what ever became of Miss Teschmacher?

All this having been said, there are moments where I think Richard Lester's lack of understanding of Superman and his Universe makes me stand in Donner's corner; he introduced abilities Supes never had (Saran-wrap symbols...what exactly were they supposed to do?...the 'Kiss of Forgetfulness'...turning Metropolis citizens into comic buffoons, during the climactic brawl...the whole British-accented town sequence, when Zod 'introduces' himself to the world). Other critics have panned Brando's 'Jor-El' in the Donner sequel, praising the Salkinds for dropping him, and increasing Susannah York's involvement, but she seems totally out-of-place as the 'final authority' figure in the Lester version. Maybe he was overpriced, but I think Brando was essential, and the film certainly would have been big enough to offset his paycheck.

I think the Donner version has more 'heart', and reverence to Superman, than Lester's broader, more comic 'take'. Even with the abrupt transitions, logic lapses, rough edges, and redundant resolution, a vision of what "might have been" emerges, and it was a pretty terrific film!
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on October 10, 2006
I'm really begging with Amazon to not confuse The new Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, with the original Superman II: Richard Lester version because both of these are completely different films & should be treated as such.

1st thing people who truely think that Richard Lester is a great director & did a great job on SII need a reality check. All he did was take an already great script done by SUPERMAN I creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz, and 70-80% shot by Richard Donner shift around some stuff & make the film (all the actors were there for him, a donkey could have done it).

Lester would also add some unneeded slap stick humor (e.g. Metropolis fight scene where the three super villains use their super breath to blow out the Metropolis civilians where after an unneeded and very cheesey moment of slap stick bad homage to Charlie Chaplin stances take place & the earlier scene of when the supervillains are introduced by duking it out in the American wild west???).

Lester would be found out as a director in the poor Superman III where his slap stick humour would basically ruin the film but not to say his version of Superman II is bad but it just doesn't compare to the brilliance of number 1, especially after repeated watchings II just seems like a poor boys substiute!!

Donner on the other hand had completely different thinking for II it was meant to be on the same epic scale & feeling a I & in quality terms match it if not even better it. Also around 30% of the Lester film uses Donner's footage whilst in the SII:DC it uses around 80% footage & will feel like a completely different film.

Having already seen some of the new scenes, e.g. Lois jumping out of the window of The Daily Planet to proove that Clark is Superman, The fight with The Super Villains over Metropolis, some of the new Brando scenes, & Lois's tearful farewell, it's obvious that this film will be entirely different from the original theatrical realise of SII & should be treated as an entirely different film not put as if it's just a normal directors cut of an already realised film!!!

Please Amazon originally the link was seperate so why change it???
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on November 29, 2006
Don't believe the naysayers. 95% of people like myself who saw the first Superman II, loved it, but had problems with some of the stupid humor, will love this version. Obviously, you can't go back and fix everything. For those who complain about the screen test footage, it's been over 25 years people!!! I for one am absolutely stunned by what was saved and the quality of it. And where there is an opportunity to have an alternate take of the same scene, it's in here. I had heard over 50% of the film would be new. Well, with the alternative takes, it seems like more like 80% of the film is new! And I have gone back and looked at Lester's Superman II again, and there is no comparison. Practically every single dumb humor moment that was in Lester's Superman II has been cut and has been replaced with Brando footage as the film was originally intended. It's like cutting out the Jerry Lewis humor and replacing it with Lawrence Olivier. If you liked the opening ten minute credit sequence of Lester's Superman III, then I guess you might like Lester's version better. But I think for 95% of Superman fans it's not even a debatable subject.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT:

I will not mention what new Richard Donner footage there is, (you should enjoy that for the first time yourself) but for those of you who want to know exactly what "dumb humor" or illogical stuff that has been cut from Lester's version that IS NOT in Richard Donner's version, read on below...

Lois' chain-smoking orange juice squeezing scene. - Gone!

Zod raising farmer with silver beam from his finger. - Gone!

Ursa beating farmer at arm wrestling. - Gone!

Almost all jokes relating to Non's dumbness including his inability to use heat vision like the others. - Gone!

Lame wise-cracking bell hop at Niagara Falls "have a happy.... whatever" - Gone!

Superman steps into molecule chamber with Superman suit on, and exits wearing street clothes? - Gone! (Now he enters and exits with street clothes. Some scenes appear to have been reshot with a body double for Reeve.)

During super fight, long extended scene with earthquake going on while Superman and Non fight underground and humans on surface bounce around like bowling pins had been drastically reduced.

During super fight, all jokes relating to villains blowing at humans are gone, (ice cream cone in face, toupee falling off, laughing man falling over in phone booth and continues to talk - all gone. The rollerskating backward guy is seen only briefly if you look for him, but he's not at all obvious like before.

Ursa hits Non accidentally with flag pole and kid on street says, "Wow, home run....." - Gone!

Three villains each using their silver beams against Superman at the Fortress of Solitude. - Gone!

Superman throwing a red "S" at Non at the Fortress of Solitude.. - Gone!

Superman playing stupid Krypton "hide and seek" superpower game at Fortress of Solitude with villains. - Gone!

There are a few jokes that were cut that could have remained, but after looking at Lester's Superman's II again back-to-back with this new version, like I said, there's no comparison. Buy it now.
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on November 23, 2006
Widely regarded as one of the best superhero sequels ever, director Richard Lester's 'Superman II' had the daunting task of living up to the legacy of the original film, despite having major restrictions placed on it. For instance, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were not available for additional scenes, thus much of the film had to be re-cut and Brando had to be removed entirely for legal reasons. Lester had to incorporate footage shot by original director Richard Donner with newly shot scenes, while keeping the tone of the sequel consistent. The end result is a sequel that's almost every bit as good as the film that spawned it. Christopher Reeve even said that this was his favorite of the Superman movies.

In recent years, the revelation of all the behind-the-scenes drama of Donner's dismissal from the franchise has unfairly placed Lester's version in a negative light. Some fans even went as far as to state that the new Superman II-The Richard Donner Cut was the definitive sequel before even having seen it! While which 'Superman II' is superior remains subjective, the simple fact is that the Donner Cut is a close approximation of his original vision rather than a fully realized film, since he had only shot around 70% of the footage. The rest was spliced together from screen tests, new shots using body and voice doubles, and footage from Lester's version. This is not unlike what Richard Lester had to do to finish his sequel. Thus, both films can and must co-exist since there are shared footage and scenes unique to each version that simply work better. For instance, terrorists hijacking the Eiffel Tower is simply more of a job for Superman than Lois jumping out a window. Consequently, Donner's Brando footage better illustrates the father/son motif established in the first film than Lester's re-shoots with Superman's mother.

As for the extras in this re-release, WB has compiled an impressive array of rarely seen material. There is a commentary by the producers, a 1981 'making of' special hosted by Chris Reeve, 8 Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons plus a retrospective, deleted scenes, and perhaps the most eclectic...the 'Superman 50th Anniversary' TV Special. Produced in 1988 by the 'Saturday Night Live' crew, this special was widely panned originally but had since become a hot commodity on the bootlegging scene. With appearances by classic Superman and SNL alumni, this special can be better appreciated now in hindsight for its quirky blend of comedy and nostalgia.

In closing, despite its shortcomings, 'Superman II' set forth a benchmark in the superhero film genre by showing how a sequel can take off the "kid gloves" and come out swinging once the exposition is firmly established in the original. Knowledge of the off-set controversy should only enhance our appreciation of the final film the cast and crew put together because it really is a classic sequel.
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on November 30, 2006
I have been a big fan of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies for the longest time. Every moment in them, even in the two later sequels that lacked always had a special place with me and my childhood. Everyone knows the story of what happend with Richard Donner and why he was removed from the directors seat. But no one expected this version to actually see the light of day. Was it worth the wait? That's a matter of opinion but I thought it was really great.

The reviews are pretty mixed and for good reason. Those in love with the regular version of Superman II may not like some of the changes in this film as it does lack the comedy and sight gags that the original version had but if you look at this film without referencing the regular version, its pretty good.

Moments like Lois jumping out of a window at the Daily Planet and the gun shot moment in the hotel at Niagra Falls were nice additions. As well as some of the opening moments and the conclusion of the movie which differed greatly from what we saw previously. All nice changes and work well.

I for one was glad to see things such as the Cellophane S and the KFC worker telling the guy she had his change, removed from the movie. While fun situations they just didn't seem to fit into the whole nature of the film in it's original intention. Which wasn't to be a comedy flick but a good continuation to the first film. Marlon Brando was a nice addition actually. Im not a big fan of his generally but his moments really added something that the other didn't. Clark yelling at his father for help and shouting that he loves Lois really made this all more believable. There was a lot of nice touches that really belonged in the series and now we finally get to see the original vision for the first time.

Some omitions I was a bit sad to see go. I did love the moment where Lois jumps into the river to prove that Clark was Superman. The whole rescue scene was fun. And I was sad to see a lot of the Idaho scenes were cut out like the little boy being abused by Zod. Some moments seemed to be resolved too quickly like the confrontation with the county police and their car. It was a nice touch in Lesters version with the siren being ripped off. Here it just seemed to be over passed to fast.

A real problem is the movie can seem to drag on at points. Lex learning about the villans is cool to see and all but unneccesary as we really know enough about them that its not really needed for the audience. Some of his playing with the crystals too seemed to drag on for a bit. So be prepared for some long periods of talking and story building but the movie is still under 2 hours so nothing that really over the top.

For the most part I would say this was pretty good and definitely a version I would have loved had it been what we originaly saw. You have to go in with a grain of salt here as first of all not all of the footage was recovered and more importantly we are all so familiar with the version of the movie we did get originally that its hard to just forget it and the moments we loved in it. If this had been the version we saw first we would have loved this just as much. In a way I do wish that there could be a way to mix and match the two versions. There were some things I loved that were left out of this one but so much that I thought was great in this one.

Overall I say definitely get this one. If you are a fan of the Superman films this is a must have. Your expectations shouldn't be so high that this won't meet them, but do go in with the thought that this is using lost footage from 1980 that has to be put upon us after such a long time of seeing the other. If you see this as a fresh and new follow up to the first, you will truly see why this was so much fun.

Its up to you though when all is said and done. If you are expecting the comedy and slapstick moments of the orginal as well as everything you remember just with some additions, then you may not like this. If you want to see the original vision and a brand new alternative vision of what the follow up to the first could have or should have been (depending on your opinon of it) then I say its more then worth it. You can never have too much Superman in your DVD collections. And you can also buy the Superman II Deluxe edition if you want the regular as you remember it. But I do think people are missing out if they don't check this out too. Its pretty good and I don't think people will regret checking it out.
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VINE VOICEon February 3, 2006
It's very rare for a sequel to eclipse its predecessor (The GODFATHER and X-MEN series feature examples along with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and SPIDERMAN 2) but this movie comes close to being a better picture than the classic superhero movie that preceded it two years earlier, almost - but not quite.
Perhaps it is the fact that the two were originally shot back-to-back (before the Salkind brothers fired Director Richard Donner and brought in Richard Lester) but this movie shares a tone and panache of the first movie in the series that the subsequent films lacked. I suppose it is no surprise then that the upcoming (at the time of writing) big screen SUPERMAN RETURNS takes place after this entry thereby totally negating the slapstick SUPERMAN III and horrendous SUPERMAN IV.
At the beginning of the first movie we saw Superman's father Jor-El prosecute three criminals and send them out hurtling into space. These events are recounted at the beginning of this movie, and I still remember watching the opening in a darkened theater one night in the early 1980s, wondering if the first movie had accidentally been placed in to the projector.
These three criminals are led by the excellent Terence Stamp (who would later provide the voice of Jor-El in the SMALLVILLE television series) as Zod and included the very sexy Sarah Douglas as Ursa. They subsequently make their way the Moon and after decimating an Apollo crew head for Earth marveling at their superhuman abilities.
Meanwhile on Earth, after rescuing Lois Lane (played by the very appealing Margot Kidder who was the focus of a schoolboy crush on my part) from a hostage situation in Paris, Clark Kent is having an increasingly difficult time trying to keep his identity a secret. Then when Lois learns the truth the two get together, which forces Clark to turn in his powers - just at the very moment that Zod and his companions are arriving to wreak havoc.
Add to the mix Gene Hackman reprising his role as Lex Luthor (who has some of the best lines in the movie) and what follows is a highly entertaining action movie. Will Clark be able to get his powers back? Will he be able to defeat three with the same powers he has and will he be able to exact some payback on that guy at the diner who beat him up when he was powerless Clark Kent? My favorite scenes in the movie are those that center on the battle between Superman and the three supervillains as they duke it out on the streets of Metropolis (actually filmed in England on the studio backlot). The special effects look a little hokey today and the modelwork is very noticeable in some scenes, but this is good old fashioned fun and probably one of the best comic book movies ever committed to celluloid.

SPECIAL EDITION DUE IN 2006
Unfortunately the same attention was not given to this movie as its predecessor when the series was released on DVD. Whereas the first movie featured googles of documentaries and even an audio commentary (both worth checking out), this movie's DVD release was limited to the theatrical trailer. With this in mind it might be worth waiting for the special edition planned for June 2006.
The special edition will feature the theatrical version of Superman II on one disc, along with option to play deleted footage and two different commentary tracks, one with Lester and the second with actors Margot Kidder, Sarah Douglas, and Gene Hackman. The second disc will feature the restored Richard Donner version, along with a commentary track by Donner (who was so good, entertaining and informative on the SUPERMAN DVD.) I notice that another reviewer has already provided a comprehensive list of the cuts made so I will not repeat them, but I am particularly looking forward to seeing more of Ursa and Luthor.
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on November 8, 2006
attended last week's world premiere screening of the much anticipated Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Like many Supe fans, I'd been looking forward to this for a LONG time. However, I'm here to tell you to lower your expectations on this one. It's simply not as good as the released version finished by Richard Lester.

After seeing the Donner version, I watched the Lester version again to make sure I could coherently compare the two versions. I concluded there are several very serious problems with the Donner version, and I'll lay these out, alerting you to spoilers.

First, a few comments about the original Superman 1, so you understand where I'm coming from. IMO, the first film had several major tone shifts. The Krypton section was very serious, bordering on pretentious. Brando played Jor-El not like a man, but as a demi-god, cold, aloof and superior. The Smallville section (my favorite portion) evoked Frank Capra-John Ford Americana, human and emotional. And the Metropolis section started as an enjoyable comic book, but then degenerated into goofy camp as Lex Luthor's ridiculous plan unfolded, and Gene Hackman mugged and played Superman's arch-enemy for laughs. For me, the Luthor characterization and earthquake plot ruined what I thought what could have been a fine film. And I totally didn't buy Superman turning back time, which I thought was a complete cop-out. All real Superman fans know that Supes can't do that (and even if he could, he wouldn't)! So that's the "baggage" I bring to this review.

On to Superman II. As most fans of the series know, Brando filmed scenes for the Fortress of Solitude sequences, but they were dropped when he demanded more money, and redone with Susannah York as Lara. Donner's version restores the Brando scenes. I found these restored scenes too long and not very good. The truth is, Brando did these films for the money, and basically walked through his role. I doubt that there is any survey of Brando's work that mentions Jor-El as one of his memorable performances. It seemed that Donner wanted to include every frame of Brando, so there's a lot of repetition. For example, Superman II now opens as Part 1 did, with Jor-El sentencing the 3 villains to the Phantom Zone, reciting the litany of their crimes. When Luthor plays back the recording crystals in the Fortress of Solitude, he gets the exact same explanation by Jor-El, about the villains. Hearing this information twice is boring and unnecessary. Later, Jor-El interacts with his son. But the tonal shifts of the first film come back to undermine the second one. Brando's pompous interpretation of Jor-El simply doesn't mesh well with Reeve's everyman version of Supes. These actors are in two different movies. Lester got around this by using Lara instead, in a performance that we can now see had more humanity than Brando's, but was light enough to maintain the comic book tone. Lara is sympathetic and basically supportive regarding her son's conflict about love vs duty, and this serves the story well, providing the emotion the story needs at this point.

SPOILER. In Donner's version, Jor-El is judgmental and dismissive to his son which, although is true to his characterization, does not make Superman's ultimate decision to give up his powers believable. But Donner's worst choice is in the placement of this scene. In Lester's version, Superman talks to his mom about his conflict, then gives up his powers BEFORE he sleeps with Lois. The implication is that Superman can't have sex with a human unless he surrenders his super powers (no doubt, his super orgasm, going faster than a speeding bullet, would be fatal!). But Donner has the sex scene first, and then has Superman talk to Jor-El and give up his powers.

This begs the question, if Superman can have sex with a human, why give up his powers? It makes no sense! Changing the order of these scenes completely undermines the human story and conflict at the core of the film. Later, when Clark returns to the Arctic in hopes of restoring his powers, there's yet another scene with Jor-El, who says "I knew this was going to happen," followed by some ridiculous mumbo jumbo in which Jor-El somehow transfers his spirit into his son to restore his powers. It's supposed to be moving and emotional, but it's not because there's no human relationship between Jor-El and Kal-El to begin with. Richard Lester simply showed us Clark finding the green power crystal and left the rest to our imagination, keeping the tone of the entire film light, like a comic book. Donner, however, adds in elements of pretension, and even said in the panel discussion afterward that he was trying to make a movie about the father-son relationship. But it doesn't work, and it doesn't belong because Superman II isn't a movie about father and son, it's about a man who has to decide between what he wants for himself and his responsibility to the world.

Almost every scene in Donner's version goes on too long. There's usually an extra unnecessary beat at the end of scenes. There's more Luthor and Otis, more Luthor and Miss Teschmacher, more Luthor with the villains, all which slow down the pace for the sake of marginal gags. If you like Hackman's Luthor, you may enjoy this. But I didn't.

There is a nice alternate version of the scene in which Lois throws herself into the river in an attempt to prove Clark is Superman. Donner's version takes place at the Daily Planet, where Lois jumps out the window - same gimmick, different execution. And the screen tests on the Superman 1 DVD are turned into the revelation scene at Niagara Falls, which works pretty well.

SPOILER. Finally, we have a major cop-out with the ending. After the villains have been vanquished and we're back at the Daily Planet, Lois tells Clark that his secret is safe with her. But rather than giving Lois the "magic kiss of forgetfulness" to erase her memory, Superman once again turns back time, using the same footage from Part 1. He turns back time so far that the villains end up back in the Phantom Zone, meaning that the entire movie never happened! This is followed by the final denouement from the released version, in which Clark Kent returns to the diner and takes down the bully who beat him up. However, because time has been turned back, Clark had never been here before, so this makes no sense either! There's also another serious lapse of logic regarding the time reversal which requires too much explanation, but it will be obvious to most viewers.

Most of the music is recycled from the first film. This didn't bother me, but someone else who was there said that the cues kept reminding him of the scenes from Part 1 in which they originally occurred.

All in all, the Donner Version is an interesting curiosity, with some good moments among a lot of misfires. But personally, I'm glad we have the Richard Lester version, which is more coherent tonally, makes more sense, and is more entertaining. Superman completists will no doubt want this DVD for the collection. For everyone else, I suggest you rent it before you buy it.
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2001
Much of Superman II was filmed simultaneously with the first movie. The original plan was to have Superman I end with a cliffhanger: The nuclear missile that Lex Luthor set for Hackensack New Jersey, which Superman diverted into outer space, explodes, shattering the Phantom Zone and setting the three Kryptonian criminals free. Then the action would freeze-frame, and the screen would flash with "Next Year, Superman II."
Time constraints and studio politics put an end to that scenario. As the first movie was hastily completed to meet the release date, Superman II was put on hold. Then, director Richard Donner was fired, and replaced with Richard Lester. Even though 70% of the second film was complete, much of Donner's footage was reshot by Lester. In the final film, about one-third of the remaining footage is Donner's. All scenes with Gene Hackman, Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, or E. G. Marshall were shot by Donner. In addition, the scene at the diner where Clark gets attacked was shot by Donner. As sequences for Superman II were filmed as much as two years apart from each other, there are glaring continuity problems in the film. Lester set a different tone than Donner, opting for slapstick humor over the verisimilitude of the first movie. Also, because of legal difficulties, all footage with Marlon Brando was removed, including a moving scene where Jor-El sacrifices his remaining spirit to return Superman's powers (rather like God touching the hand of Adam). Anyone who has seen the original script for Superman II knows it would have been a better film if Donner had remained at the helm.
So, how is Lester's Superman II? Pretty impressive overall. There is ample character development, particularly in the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle, and plenty of action to keep the viewer satisfied. The visuals are mostly on the same level as the first movie, although the destruction of the Phantom Zone and the defacing of Mount Rushmore look pretty cheap. John Williams' excellent score is cannibalized by Ken Thorne, conducting what sounds like a high school orchestra. So, overall, while entertaining, the movie lacks the epic scope of the first film, and is far less memorable.
The letterboxed DVD looks fine is unspectacular. The sound is flat and unimpressive. Warner has packaged the DVD in their usual cheap snapper case.
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on March 31, 2007
I was disappointed when I bought this version, when I recorded the Superman 2 version on ABC way back in the late 80's. VHS tapes don't last, so I wanted the UNCUT version of Superman 2 on DVD. I wasted my money.

Vital scenes are cut from the DVD:

1) Superman saves the boy at Niagra Falls. He goes back to the hot dog stand and meet up with Lois, changes back to Clark Kent and walks away from the hot dog stand with a proud and humourous smile on his face (knowing that he saved the boy).

2) Flying to Paris.....and it shows him passing the Concorde in the sky.

3) A prison scene with Lex and Otis, about Otis going "pssh", which Otis mentions he had wished before they left the cell, even though it means something else. Funny scene.

4) Miss Teschmacher needed to go to the bathroom at the Fortress of Solitude, where she says she thinks she found it. And Lex says, "she found it."

5) And finally, the ending where Superman defeats the 3 supervillains, Lex shows more interest in befriending Superman (which he doesn't), the cops show up at the Fortress to arrest Lex, and Superman destroys the Fortress Of Solitude.

There's more from the ABC version, but too difficult to explain.

Just to say, the Lester cut wasn't worth the price! I don't know about the Donner version, but the DVD creators destroyed this movie....and who knew a TV version would be so much better!
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THE STORY: Continuation of the first Superman film has the thee Kryptonian villains encased in Jor-El's "Phantom Zone" mirrored prison escaping thanks to a convinient plot device and after some tomfoolery on the Moon they trio heads to Earth... to take it over, of course! It's up to our caped boy scout in blue to put a stop to the triple-terrors.

THOUGHTS: I suppose it's because this is the version I grew up with that I prefer it over the "restored" version that surfaced a few years back. The film is fun and exciting regardless of which version you prefer, but you can clearly see that the series was already trending towards a more light-hearted slant. This regrettable decision on the part of the producers sadly went full bore bonkers with the terrible idea of teaming up poor Christopher Reeve with Richard Pryor in the third installment. Ack.

THE DVD: The video & audio are good here and everything looks and sounds as it should. If you're a big Supes fan and have a Blu-ray player then skip the DVD version and upgrade to hi-def. Better picture, better sound, better everything. Otherwise, I advise saving yourself a few bucks and buying a used copy.
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