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A Super Sequel, But Not Invincible,
This review is from: Superman II [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This sequel to 1978's "Superman" was planned from the beginning, tying into the fate of the three Kryptonian criminals banished by Superman's father Jor-El in the original. Most people know how "Superman II" had a troubled production, with original director Richard Donner fired by the producers, Richard Lester brought in as his replacement, John Williams bowing out as composer, and Marlon Brando's scenes cut because of a contract dispute. Mario Puzo's story, which logically continues the plot that began in the first "Superman", keeps the film together and makes it far superior to the subsequent sequels, but the viewer gets the feeling that the film could have been better.
The original "Superman" was over two and a half hours long as it recounted Superman's origin and introduced all the characters. By comparison, "Superman II" runs at a lean two hours and gets straight to the action. Superman (Christopher Reeve) saves reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Paris from nuclear terrorists. He tosses a detonating H-bomb into outer space, unwittingly freeing three renegade Kryptonians, the megalomaniac General Zod (Terence Stamp), the sadistic female Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and the brutish mute Non (Jack O'Hallorhan), from their imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. The evil Kryptonians, possessing all of Superman's powers under Earth's yellow sun, set out to conquer Earth and seek revenge on the son of their jailer, Jor-El.
Meanwhile, criminal genius Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) escapes from prison, determined to seek revenge against Superman. He tracks down Superman's Fortress of Solitude and learns of the Kryptonian outcasts. At the same time, Lois learns that Clark Kent is really Superman. The two profess their love for each other and Superman volunteers to give up his powers using a Kryptonian device so that he and Lois can be together. All of the various sub-plots combine in an entertaining climax that is the kind of over the top action taken straight out of a comic book. As for the denouement, it is surprisingly sad and moving.
It's nice to see a comic book movie that combines special effects, action sequences, AND a story about human relationships. The actors are well cast and play their parts well. The script can be funny, touching, and thrilling. Most "Superman" stories suffer from the realization that Superman is more powerful than any of his enemies. Here, the Man of Steel is pitted against three villains with all of his powers, and so he must use his wits and courage to defeat them.
However "Superman II" has many weaknesses that keep it from reaching its full potential. There are some moments of corny slapstick injected into the film that just don't work. Some scenes seem to have been cut out, leaving many plot holes. It is never fully explained how Superman gets his powers back. Valerie Perrine's Eve Tessmaucher and Ned Beatty's Otis are brought back only to disappear again. Superman and the evil Kryptonians display powers never shown in the comic book or previous film. And how did the Kryptonian villains learn to speak English? The jumpy plot raises several questions, which are never answered.
Little problems abound. John Williams's soaring music is muted by Ken Thorne's lacklustre work, the title sequence is simply a rehashing of clips from the first film, and Marlon Brando's Jor-El is absent, unfortunate considering the Kryptonian criminals are motivated by revenge against him.
All in all, "Superman II" is a fun film and better than most sequels (certainly better than "Superman III" and "IV"), but it could have, and should have, been better. The epic grandeur and awe from the first "Superman" is missing. Unfortunately, the ultimate legacy of the "Superman" series is the law of diminishing returns.