Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mario Puzo (Story and Screenplay), David Newman (Screenplay), Leslie Newman (Screenplay), Jerry Siegel (Characters), Joe Shuster (Characters)
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Jack O'Halloran, Jackie Cooper
After watching Richard Donner's cut of Superman II, I have to say that overall I think it is a better film than Richard Lester's cut. It is quite a bit darker and often much more serious. Several things also seem to make much for sense in this cut of the film. There are a few things that are a little off in the film and at least one thing that I don't like at all. However, if Donner had been allowed to make this 25 years ago it probably would have come across even better.
Be warned, from here on out there may be spoilers for both cuts of Superman II and possibly for the first Superman movie.
The films starts off with a quick recap of Superman (1978), slightly changing the ending so that one of the missiles from the end of the first film releases the villains from the Phantom Zone instead of the bomb from the Eiffel Tower sequence. Of course this means that the entire Eiffel Tower sequence is removed but I didn't really miss it because it is simply not necessary in this cut of the film.
Also the way Lois Lane discovers that Clark is Superman is drastically different in this version of the film. The first thing she does is throw her self out of a window on a high floor of the Daily Planet. Clark does manage to save her without revealing his secret but she still suspects so while at Niagra falls she decides to shoot him. I think this plays out a lot better than the way Lester had her find out at Niagra falls in his version. This scene also had to be put together with screen test footage because Donner was never able to actually shoot it for real. It is rather obvious when they switch to screen test footage but I don't think that it takes away from the film at all.
Now here comes the part where I think this version really shines over Lester's cut of the film. The scenes where Superman loses and then eventually regains his powers are much different in Donner's cut. In Donner's cut Superman giving up his powers is a much darker scene than it was in Lester's cut. Superman practically yells at Jor-El wanting to know when he gets what he wants and how much he is going to have to sacrifice before he gets to have happiness of his own. In this scene we also finally get so see Marlon Brando in his scenes that were cut from the original release of Superman II. The appearance of Brando as Jor-El in this film gives this scene so much more meaning.
This cut of the film also gives us one major thing that the original cut lacked; we finally get to see how Superman gets his powers back after sacrificing them to be with Lois. It is an extremely touching scene between Superman and Jor-El. Superman is almost ashamed for giving up his powers for what he now sees as selfish reasons but Jor-El had anticipated this and is able to give his son the last of his own powers so that he can be Superman again. However this means that Superman will no longer be able to speak with his father again. Superman made a costly mistake and he must truly pay for that mistake to regain his powers. It is an extremely powerful and emotional scene.
The other thing that I like better is the final battle scene in the Fortress of Solitude. This scene flows a lot better in this cut of the film. I never understood the game of 'Kryptonian Hide and Seek' that Superman plays in the original cut of the film. It made no sense to me. That just doesn't seem like one of Superman's powers to me. So, thankfully they removed that part of the movie.
There is one thing I don't like about this film though and that is the ending. I just don't much care for the turning back time ending of the film. And not just because it is the same way the ended the first one because I know that is not how Donner originally intended to end the first film. I don't like it for the same reason I didn't like it when they did it in the first film; Superman being able to turn back time just seems like a cop out ending to me. If Superman can turn back time why doesn't he do it all the time?
Overall I think there is a place for both cuts of this film. Both have there good parts and there bad parts. However I think that Donner's cut is the better film and probably would have been even better had he been allowed to make it 25 years ago instead of having Lester take over directing the film.