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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Richard Lester
Cast:
Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, Jack O'Halloran, Valerie Perrine
Writing Credits:
Jerry Siegel (characters), Joe Shuster (characters), Mario Puzo (and story), David Newman, Leslie Newman

Tagline:
The three outlaws from Krypton descend to Earth to confront the Man of Steel in a cosmic battle for world supremacy.

Synopsis:
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.

Box Office:
Budget
$54 million.
Opening Weekend
$14.100 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$53.472 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 126 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 11/28/2006

Bonus:
DVD One
• Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Ilya Salkind and Producer Pierre Spengler
• Deleted Scene
• Trailer
DVD Two
• “The Making of Superman II” Vintage Special
• “Superman 50th Anniversary” Vintage Special
• “First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series” Featurette
• Eight 1940s Famous Studios Superman Cartoons


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EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Superman II: Special Edition (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 15, 2006)

After the success of 1978’s Superman, the eventual appearance of a sequel was more than probable - it was absolutely inevitable. The film’s 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 1981’s 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 Beatles’ movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help!.

SII finished without any cooperation from original stars Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. Actually, the former’s work had been completed, but he doesn’t 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 mélange 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. I’d 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 and a montage of shots from the first film, it’s 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, Lois’ 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 Superman’s homeworld - ringleader General Zod (Terence Stamp), man-hating Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and moronic beast-man Non (Jack O’Halloran) - are freed from their prison due to the blast’s 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 - Superman’s alter ego - go on an exposé trip to Niagara Falls. While there, Lois develops of 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. There’s 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 that’s 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 “comedic” results for far too long. This doesn’t 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 foreigner’s 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 “country” that I still can’t believe they didn’t edit him out of the movie.

The one apparent attempt at “authenticity” 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, James’ presence may be due to that filmmaker’s influence, but his over-the-top southern goofiness doesn’t help SII, and the small town scenes are some of the movie’s 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 O’Halloran 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, that’s not totally true, as Superman featured a different kind of emotional tone, most of which related to Supes’ 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 won’t discuss them in detail, but SII often makes less sense than most fantasy films, and that’s saying something. There are huge gaps that go unexplained, and while I’m 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 that’s even before I get irritated with some of the liberties taken for the Kryptonians’ powers; since when could they shoot beams out of their fingers?

Despite the variety of concerns found during Superman II, I still think it’s a very solid piece of entertainment. Yes, it’s disjointed and erratic, but it also provides some solid action pieces and possesses an emotional resonance unusual for this sort of film. It’s a step below the original film, but it’s a small step.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

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. Across the board, the transfer seemed quite good.

Sharpness was solid, as the majority of the film appeared accurate and well-defined. A little softness affected some wide shots, but this examples were minor. Most of the flick was concise and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I noticed only a little edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed absent. No distractions from specks, marks or other debris marred the presentation.

Colors appeared good. They came across as reasonably lively and vivid, as I noticed no issues connected to the hues. Black levels were acceptably deep and firm, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. Overall, I found a lot to like about the image.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Superman II. 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. Surround usage seemed good but not tremendously involving; the rears offered general reinforcement of the forward spectrum but didn’t provide a whole lot of unique activity. Nonetheless, they made the entire package appear acceptably broad.

Audio quality was fine. 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 didn’t 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 worked better, as they seemed clear and distinctive. They showed good bass when appropriate and only suffered from a smidgen of distortion. Music also displayed nice range and delineation. The mix didn’t excel, but it was well above-average for its age.

How did the picture and audio of this 2006 DVD compare to those from the original 2001 release? Both fared better here. The image was crisper, cleaner and better developed, and the sound seemed livelier and more dynamic. Both elements boasted notable improvements.

The old disc came with virtually no extras, whereas this Special Edition adds a bunch. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary with executive producer Ilya Salkind and producer Pierre Spengler. Both sit separately for this edited track. The piece looks at controversies related to the change in director from Richard Donner to Richard Lester, and it gets into connected issues. We also learn about music, effects, and other technical elements related to the movie.

I really enjoyed the commentary these two did for Superman, so this one comes as something of a disappointment. While we do get a reasonable amount of information, the track just never really takes flight. It starts well with notes about the producers’ side of the controversies, but it becomes defensive before long, and much of the time we just hear defenses of various choices. Some gaps appear that leave the impression remarks have been edited out; during some of the juicier moments, the conversation will stop cold. This is still a useful piece, but it falls short of expectations.

DVD One also includes both the film’s trailer and a Deleted Scene. Called “Superman’s Soufflé”, this 36-second clip offers Superman’s first attempt at cooking. It goes for a comedic bent and isn’t anything special.

As we shift to DVD Two, we open with two “vintage specials”. The Making of Superman II runs 52 minutes and 12 seconds as it presents movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Salkind, Spengler, producer Alexander Salkind, director Richard Lester, matte artist Ivor Beddoes, special effects supervisor Colin Chilvers, and actors Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, and Gene Hackman. The show looks at the movie’s story and characters, stunts and fight choreography, performances, the work of the art department and costumes, locations, sets and matte paintings, various visual effects, editing, and other technical topics.

Usually “vintage” shows like this serve to do little more than promote the film at hand. Happily, “Making” proves more useful than that. We get lots of great footage from the shoot, and the information provided fleshes out the production well. I especially like the glimpses of the different sets and models. This is a solid program.

For the next “vintage special”, we find the 48-minute and seven-second Superman 50th Anniversary. Originally aired in 1988, Dana Carvey hosts this look at the character’s milestone. We find clips from various Superman projects and interviews. We hear from Reeve, actors Kirk Alyn and Jack Larson, mentalist The Amazing Kreskin, musician Lou Reed, journalist Jimmy Breslin, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and artist John Byrne. Hal Holbrook appears as the lead in “An Evening with Superman”, and we also get characters played by Fred Willard, Carol Leifer, Jan Hooks, Peter Boyle and others, all of whom pretend to live in Metropolis or otherwise have a connection to Supes.

“Anniversary” plays things mostly for laughs. Even the speakers who don’t appear in character act as if Superman really exists and reflect on his work and existence. This motif starts as silly and doesn’t improve from there. I like the compendium of pieces from the various movies and comics, but the goofy premise makes this a less than useful program. A more straightforward view of the subject would have worked better.

A new featurette shows up via First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series. The 12-minute and 50-second piece features notes from filmmaker’s son Richard Fleischer, author Leslie Cabarga, cartoon historian Jerry Beck, animator/director Myron Waldman, Superman: The Animated Series director Dan Riba, animator’s son Leonard Grossman, S:TAS writers/producers Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, DC Comics librarian Allen Asherman, and writer Roger Stern. The piece looks at the history of the Fleischer Studios, their various innovations and the tone of their work, their involvement with the Superman series, cast and audio, and reflections on Fleischer’s nine Superman shorts.

“Flight” provides a solid examination of its subject. We learn a lot about the Fleischer Studios and their impact on the Superman series. The show gets a little fluffy and praise-heavy at times, but it offers enough nice details to work.

If you want to see the Fleischer shorts, you’ll have to head back to the four-DVD set for Superman. Here we get Eight 1940s Famous Studios Superman Cartoons. These include “Japoteurs” (9:09), “Showdown” (8:23), “Eleventh Hour” (8:58), “Destruction Inc.” (8:34), “The Mummy Strikes” (7:49), “Jungle Drums” (9:01), “The Underground World” (8:16) and “Secret Agent” (7:39).

While these are fun to see, don’t expect them to live up to the high quality of the Fleischer shorts. These come across as a bit shoddier and cartoonier. They lack the same drama and fine-tuning found on the Fleischer efforts. They’re still entertaining, though, and they make a nice addition to the package.

By the way, it’s good to see that the folks behind this DVD didn’t worry about political correctness and included World War II cartoons that portray the Japanese in a stereotypical light. This may seem crass today, but history shouldn’t be censored to match subsequent concepts.

“Eleventh Hour” does prompt this question, though: if Supes got involved in the war effort against Japan, why did he restrict himself to basic sabotage? He could’ve ended the war in short time. Of course, Supes never did this because it couldn’t match the real world, but it creates a lack of logic nonetheless.

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 very good picture and audio as well as a smattering of generally interesting extras.

This is the Superman II for fans to own, and that goes for all the folks who already have the original DVD. This special edition offers notable improvements in terms of picture, audio and extras. It’s a strong upgrade.

To rate this film visit the original review of SUPERMAN II

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