Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, Jack O'Halloran, Valerie Perrine
Jerry Siegel (characters), Joe Shuster (characters), Mario Puzo (and story), David Newman, Leslie Newman
The three outlaws from Krypton descend to Earth to confront the Man of Steel in a cosmic battle for world supremacy.
Once again mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), hiding his identity as Superman, must fight for law and order. This time around, a triumvirate of nasty villains from the planet Krypton break free of their dimensional prison and hightail it to Earth, where they enjoy the same superpowers as Superman. Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) has discovered that Superman and Clark are the same person, so Superman debates whether to give up his abilities to become a normal man and share his life with Lois. Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night) takes the helm for this sequel, which is arguably the equal of the original hit film.
$14.100 million on -unknown- screens.
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 126 min.
Release Date: 5/1/2001
• Cast and Crew Filmographies
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Superman II (1980)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 17, 2006)
After the success of 1978ís Superman, the eventual appearance of a sequel was more than probable; it was absolutely inevitable. The filmís producers were so certain that the first movie would do well that they tried to make the sequel simultaneously, and the original flick includes a title notation that proclaims the upcoming release of Superman II.
The production team nearly paid for that chutzpah as the road to 1981ís SII was much rockier than originally anticipated. From what I understand, the simultaneous shooting schedule was shelved midway through the event to make sure that the first movie would be ready for a Christmas 1978 release; much of SII had been filmed but that project went on the back-burner. However, when the second flick was ready to go, director Richard Donner was summarily canned from the sequel and was replaced with Richard Lester, best known for the Beatlesí movies A Hard Dayís Night and Help!.
SII finished without any cooperation from original stars Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. Actually, the formerís work had been completed, but he doesnít appear in the sequel because he wanted more money than the producers were willing to pay. As for Hackman, he refused to return for the remaining shoot because of the cheesy manner in which Donner was axed; as such, all of his shots in SII came from the original Donner set.
Thus Superman II is an odd mťlange of elements that probably should fall flat on its face. However, the sequel actually offers a very entertaining experience that stands nicely next to the semi-classic original. Iíd give the first movie the edge in quality, but both are quite similar in that regard, and any arguments that SII actually tops the first flick will be entertained.
In the sequel, we get to the action much more quickly. After a brief reintroduction to some Kryptonian villains who were banished to the Phantom Zone at the start of Superman and a montage of shots from the first film, itís straight to excitement as terrorists take hostages at the Eiffel Tower and threaten to blow up Paris with a hydrogen bomb. Naturally, this attracts the attention of Superman (Christopher Reeve), especially since his favorite human, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), is in France to cover the potential catastrophe. As usual, Loisí journalistic ambitions get the best of her and she becomes endangered in an attempt to get closer to the story.
Of course, Supes saves the day; he rescues Lois and then transports the activated bomb into outer space, where it harmlessly explodes. Or maybe not. Those baddies from Supermanís homeworld - ringleader General Zod (Terence Stamp), man-hating Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and moronic beast-man Non (Jack OíHalloran) - are freed from their prison due to the blastís shockwaves. Soon they realize that they have super powers, and they head to Earth to wreak havoc.
All while this starts to occur, Lois and Clark Kent, Supermanís alter ego, go on an exposť trip to Niagara Falls. While there, Lois develops the theory that Clark and Supes are the same dude, and she eventually is proven correct. Once this happens, the relationship between the two starts to intensify, with ramifications that negatively affect the safety of the planet.
Parts of SII do indeed resemble the cobbled-together mess that the movie should have been. Thereís a tentative balance between comedy and drama, with the former element often becoming more prominent than it should have been. Some parts of SII take the campy path thatís ruined many other film adaptations of comic books; while the movie offers some good humor, too much of it was forced and tedious. Take, for example, one battle scene between the villains and Superman. When one of the baddies uses his superbreath to blow around residents of Metropolis, we have to watch the ďcomedicĒ results for far too long. This doesnít serve the story and it all seems lame and excessive.
Some of the scenes that take place in the western part of the US also suffer, but for different reasons. SII was mainly shot in England, and those sequences really do look like a foreignerís idea of America. Worst of the bunch is a young boy played by one of the most British-seeming kids in history; he does such a horrible job of acting ďcountryĒ that I still canít believe they didnít edit him out of the movie.
The one apparent attempt at ďauthenticityĒ was to use Clifton James as the sheriff of the small town. He played an extremely similar role in two Bond films; his Sheriff Pepper showed up in both Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun. Since Guy Hamilton directed both of those movies and also had a brief attachment to the Superman series, Jamesí presence may be due to that filmmakerís influence, but his over-the-top southern goofiness doesnít help SII, and the small town scenes are some of the movieís weakest.
On the other hand, at least those segments let us see more of the villains, all of whom add immensely to the film. Stamp is a consistently malevolent joy as Zod; he provides just the right mix of superiority and disgust as he romps through his scenes. Douglas makes for a wonderfully sexy and scary baddie of the dominatrix variety, and OíHalloran seems appropriately tough but brainless as Non. All in all, they make for a solid trio, as each complements the other.
I also liked the emphasis on the relationship between Lois and Supes. These aspects gave the sequel an emotional depth that fails to appear in the first movie. Actually, thatís not totally true, as Superman featured a different kind of emotional tone, most of which related to Supesí frustration at the limitations of his powers. Nonetheless, I thought the nuances of the relationship were better developed in the sequel, and they added a lot of range to the film.
Unfortunately, they also led to a variety of plot flaws. I wonít discuss them in detail, but SII often makes less sense than most fantasy films, and thatís saying something. There are huge gaps that go unexplained, and while Iím usually willing to ignore quite a lot of problems if I like a movie, some of the defects found in SII really grated on me. And thatís even before I get irritated with some of the liberties taken for the Kryptoniansí powers; since when could they shoot beams out of their fingers?
Despite the variety of concerns found during Superman II, I still think itís a very solid piece of entertainment. Yes, itís disjointed and erratic, but it also provides some solid action pieces and possesses an emotional resonance unusual for this sort of film. Itís a step below the original film, but itís a small step.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-
Superman II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although not a bad picture, SII offered a fairly lackluster presentation.
Sharpness seemed acceptable for the most part, as the majority of the film appeared fairly accurate and well-defined. However, some softness could interfere on occasion, and much of the movie featured a gauzy, ďglowingĒ appearance, particularly during shots of Margot Kidder. This seemed to be intentional, I must acknowledge, but it made the overall image look somewhat fuzzy at times. Moirť effects cropped up on a few occasions, and I also saw a few jagged edges and some edge enhancement.
Print flaws were also a sporadic concern. Some examples of grit, speckles, and nicks appeared at times, and effects-intensive shots displayed somewhat heavier concerns, but the defects remained fairly light throughout the film. For its age, the movie seemed acceptably clean.
Colors were affected by the glowing look of the movie, and they appeared somewhat pale at times. I think a comic book film like this should probably go with more intense colors, however, so the light and airy hues seen during SII came off as a bit drab and lifeless. They worked decently well, however, and I saw no significant problems with them, although some shots of red lighting were too strong and heavy. Black levels appeared fair at best. They werenít terribly drab or flat, but they could have used greater intensity. Shadow detail also seemed somewhat muddy and uncompelling, though low light situations remained acceptably clear.
Ultimately, Superman II offered a frustrating transfer. At times, it looked very good, as it occasionally showed very positive clarity and definition. However, it also often seemed rather flat and messy. This was an unexceptional transfer that merited a mediocre ďC+Ē.
While fine for its era, the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Superman II also seemed fairly erratic, especially when compared against its predecessor. The first film boasted an absolutely stunning Dolby Digital 5.1 remix that this one couldnít approach in terms of scope or quality. Actually, the presence of a simple 2.0 track for SII seemed odd since the flickís original theatrical release used a six-track recording. Why weíre saddled with the lesser mix makes no sense to me, and it was a disappointment.
For what we get, however, the soundtrack of SII compared favorably to other mixes of the era. The soundfield was largely oriented toward the front spectrum, where I heard fairly good atmospheric delineation. The forward area provided a nice range of effects that broadened the action well, and music seemed to show good stereo separation as well. The effects spread in the front could be inconsistent; some scenes appeared better defined than others, even though they showed similar forms of action. Surround usage seemed good but not tremendously involving; the rears offered general reinforcement of the forward spectrum but didnít provide a whole lot of unique activity. Nonetheless, they made the entire package appear acceptably broad.
Audio quality was fair. The movie featured a very high number of looped lines, so dialogue often came across as rather awkward and unnatural. A lot of the speech simply didnít fit in well with the action. However, the dialogue may have been a bit thin, but it remained consistently intelligible and relatively clear, with only occasional bouts of edginess. Effects also came across as moderately drab, though they lacked distortion and they generally represented the appropriate objects with decent accuracy.
The track largely stayed in the midrange, with flat highs and little bass, and this made the score seem somewhat lackluster. While the music appeared acceptably well-defined and didnít come across as harsh, it still was a bit bland and drab. Ultimately, those characteristics defined the soundtrack for Superman II, and although it seemed fine for its era, it still didnít provide a terribly exciting auditory experience.
Even less compelling are the extras found on Superman II. After the treasure trove that appeared on the DVD for Superman, we get almost nothing here. All we discover are the filmís theatrical trailer and Cast and Crew filmographies for Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, and director Richard Lester. As often occurs on Warner Bros. DVDs, many more participants are listed but no entries can be accessed.
The lack of supplements seems even more disappointing when one considers the intriguing history of the production. While the extras on the Superman DVD offer some insight into the second filmís problems, they donít go into detail, and this is a subject that should have received greater attention. It also would have been good to see additional footage shot for the movie, some of which appeared during TV broadcasts. Unfortunately, nothing of that sort can be found here.
Despite some of the disappointments that accompanied this DVD, I still think itís an acceptable package. Superman II remains a flawed but fun film, one that often balances comedy and action with romance and drama. It can be a tentative mix, but for the most part, it worked well and created an interesting program. The DVD offered decent but unexceptional picture and sound plus almost no extras. No, the DVD of Superman II isnít as good as Iíd like, but with a list price of only $19.98, itís a worthwhile purchase for fans.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1666 Stars
| Number of Votes: 36