Film: Superman II

President: Oh, God.
General Zod: Zod.

Superman II, the first sequel to Superman: The Movie, was released in 1980 (1981 in the US).

General Zod and his two allies, convicted criminals from Superman's home planet of Krypton, are accidentally freed from the Phantom Zone. (Their imprisonment is the opening scene of Superman: The Movie.) The trio arrive on Earth, eager to conquer the planet — and Zod is all too happy to discover Jor-El's son is still alive. Amidst his battles with Zod, Superman increasingly romantic relationship with Lois Lane is also explored further.

Late into the film's production, the producers decided to can Richard Donner; while the official reason given for the Salkinds firing Donner was "he was going over budget", many of the cast and crew members suspected his firing was actually due to creative differences (Donner wanted to make the series more serious, while the Salkinds wanted it to be campier). Richard Lester — who admitted to never having read a comic book (Superman or otherwise) in his life — was hired as the director to finish out the film. While the result was still satisfying (to some extent), the cast and crew who were angry about this decision declined to return to work on Superman III.

An alternate cut of this film — "The Richard Donner Cut" — was eventually released on DVD. While several scenes had to be reconstructed from incomplete materials (in one case, a 1978 screen test between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder was used), this cut is as close to Donner's vision of Superman II that anyone will ever see.

Superman II provides examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Superman gives up his superpowers, intending to live with Lois as a ordinary human. However, he soon learns that Zod and his fellow supervillains have taken over the earth, and has to become Superman once again in order to stop them.
  • Aesop Amnesia
    • OK, why is Ms. Tessmacher working for Lex Luthor again? (Money, Dear Boy?)
      • Battered spouse syndrome? Seriously, how many women stay in situations they know are bad because they've convinced themselves they have no other option.
    • More importantly, why is Lex letting her work for him again, after she deliberately foiled his plans?
      • Because Lex's Bumbling Sidekick, Otis, was stuck in jail along with him, and Ms. Tessmacher was his only resource on the outside to help him escape.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The President.
    "I will kneel before you, if it will save lives."
    "It will. Starting with your own."
    • Th powerless Clark Kent goes back to the Fortress of Solitude to beg the spirits of his father Jor-El for help.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Played for Laughs. When Superman saves a boy who was about to plummet into the Niagara Falls, a stereotypical old Brooklyn lady exclaims: "What a nice man! Of course he's Jewish!" This can also be seen as a Shout-Out to the character's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who were Jewish.
  • And a Diet Coke: Lois is using a citrus juicer to squeeze a fresh glass of orange juice "because it's good for you"... while she's smoking.
  • And Starring: Terence Stamp gets the "And" credit.
  • Answers to the Name of God: Provides the page quote above.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Pretty much Played for Laughs by director Richard Lester, who traditionally had directed comedies. During the colossal fight scene in and over Metropolis between Superman and the three super-villains, Metropolis' day-to-day routine continues completely uninhindered. When the Angry Mob heads for Zod et al and they blow them down with their super-breath, at least two individuals continue their public phone conversations despite obvious evidence of the lethality of doing so. In fact, when Superman decides to abruptly end the encounter and retreat rather than risk further destruction and possible loss of life, the citizenry of Metropolis are frustrated and angry with him for doing so.
  • Ascended Extra: This movie is entirely responsible for raising General Zod and other minor Phantom Zone villains to "iconic Superman foe" status in pop culture, rivalling Lex Luthor, resulting in Zod's prominent roles in the later adaptations Smallville and Man of Steel. Though they remained minor villains in comics themselves until they were reintroduced in 2006, patterned after the movie versions.
  • Asshole Victim: The redneck trucker thug who beats up a depowered Clark at the diner after harassing Lois. A repowered Clark returns to the diner at the end of the film for some payback. Considering that Clark could have literally squashed him like a bug, the thug got off lightly.
  • Batman Gambit
    • Superman tricks Lex Luthor into causing the Kryptonian villains to lose their powers. The gambit came from Superman expecting Luthor to double-cross him and curry favor with the villains.
    • In the "Donner Cut," a Batman Gambit is also pulled by Lois while she's attempting to prove Clark and Superman are the same person. She pulls a gun on Clark, saying that if he were Superman it would have no effect. After getting shot, Clark pretends to stagger, but reveals that Lois is, in fact, right. When he points out that if she were wrong, he would have died, Lois then reveals the bullet she shot him with was a blank.
  • Battle Trophy: Ursa does this. See Bling of War.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space
    • Zod, Ursa and Non (well, him, not so much) had a lengthy conversation with each other about taking over the world whilst on the moon. As well as a talking to a cosmonaut.
  • Bar Slide: What Clark does to the guy in the diner who bullied him when he had given up his super powers.
  • Big Apple Sauce: Metropolis is clearly just a renamed New York in this film, with many New York landmarks.
  • Big Bad: Zod.
  • Big Eater: A running gag with Lois. She even orders a hamburger ("with everything on it") for breakfast.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The cosmonaut that Zod attacked on the moon seems to be saying, "What is your name? Identify yourself!" in unsubtitled Russian.
  • Bling of War: Ursa collects emblems from the humans she defeats while on Earth and sews them onto her outfit. Over the course of the film she steals a NASA patch (killing the astronaut who wore it in the process), a deputy's badge, some stars from White House generals... By the end of the movie her clothes are covered in it.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Superman gives up his powers to be with Lois and it backfires horribly for him.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Ursa and Non throw a bus full of people at Superman during the fight in Metropolis. He's slammed into a wall while stopping it.
  • California Doubling: Continuing the trend from the last film, it was shot in Southern Alberta, in Calgary and High River.
  • Canon Foreigner: Non.
  • Canon Immigrant / Ret Canon: It actually took the better part of thirty years for these versions of the evil Kryptonian characters to arrive in the comics. Zod, who appeared in several Silver Age comics, had turned into a clustered mess of a character with about four different versions of the character appearing between DC's 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths and 2005's Infinite Crisis, so Geoff Johns made the decision to introduce the most memorable and iconic version of Zod - that of the film - into the DCU. Ursa, in the meantime, had a basis in the Pre-COIE comics - she was Faora (presumably renamed to make a Punny Name for those that would get the joke) and was a Kryptonian murderess who hated men. However, much like Superman II's iconic Zod, she's more famous than any of the other Kryptonian villainesses, and she and Non joined Zod in the 'Last Son' story of Action Comics, before becoming one of the focuses of the 'New Krypton storyarc.
  • Can't Stay Normal: The Movie of the trope. When Superman decides to live as a normal man with his beloved, bad stuff happens.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Pretty much every second that Luthor and Zod are on-screen together.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Miss Teschmacher just disappears after the visit to the Fortress of Solitude in Superman II. And, if you are watching the original cut, where is Jor-El? It's pretty clear that the cost of Superman regaining his powers is that the essence of Jor-El contained in the crystals has to be sacrificed.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: A broadcast by the President surrendering the Earth to General Zod lets Clark know he needs to get his powers back.
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Lex Luthor and Otis are shown sharing the same cell in Metropolis Prison. They also work together in the prison laundry.
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Donner appears walking by Clark and Lois' car when they first drive up to the diner.
  • Crushing Handshake: Superman to Zod when it's revealed he actually took Zod's powers, not his own. Non does it to Luthor as well upon their first meeting.
  • Data Crystal: Kryptonian crystals made by Jor-El.
  • Deadly Disc: Ursa throws a manhole cover at Superman and knocks him into a car.
  • Death Glare: In the Donner Cut, Jor-El gave Lois one just before Kal-El depowered.
  • Decoy Leader: For the President, when Zod captures the White House. Zod correctly intuits that the first man to identify himself as the President is an imposter, because "no one who leads so many could possibly kneel so quickly."
  • Depower: Superman gives up his powers in order to have a romantic relationship with Lois.
  • Designated Girl Fight: After Ursa loses her powers, it's Lois who punches her in the face and knocks her down a chasm rather than Superman.
  • Destroy The Product Placement: One of the biggest iconic examples. Superman is thrown by Zod into a Marlboro cigarettes truck, then Zod is thrown by Superman towards a Coca-Cola sign, and finally, they wrestle under a Cutty Sark sign. It caused the initiation of congressional hearings into product placement in movies.
  • Destructive Savior: Superman avoids this by leaving the Metropolis battle, once it's clear that continuing it will just cause massive destruction and loss of life.
  • Diner Brawl: After said Depower, Clark Kent overestimates his strength and gets his ass kicked by a bullying truck driver. Once he gets his powers back, he comes back to the same diner for a little payback.
  • Disney Villain Death: Zod's crew after being depowered are knocked down a chasm or fall in while trying to fly. Deleted scenes (used in some TV cuts and the Richard Donner Cut) reveal that the villains are not, in fact, dead, and are instead arrested by the "Arctic Patrol," but in other cuts, it certainly looks like Superman lets the villains die. Not only that, but it looks like Lois commits her first murder!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Many Superman fans were upset with the final scene where Superman gets revenge on the guy who beat him up while he was powerless. Asshole Victim or not, it seems extremely out of character and petty.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: Superman does this to baffle his enemies in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Dumb Muscle: Non.
  • Easily Forgiven: Lex Luthor is a possible In-Universe example of sorts.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: The President of the United States delivers an announcement abdicating authority to General Zod, though at the end he pleads for help from Superman. Zod actually anticipates this and uses it to call Superman out.
  • Evil Brit: General Zod and Ursa.
    • Non, played by American actor Jack O'Halloran, was made a mute during production to retain the Evil Brit effect.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Zod and Ursa are baffled by Superman's devotion to humanity:
    General Zod: This "super-man" is nothing of the kind; I've discovered his weakness.
    Ursa: Yes?
    General Zod: He cares. He actually cares for these Earth people.
    Ursa: Like pets?
    General Zod: I suppose.
    Ursa: Sentimental idiot!
  • Evil Wears Black: The Kryptonian criminals wear all black.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Lois does this to Clark in the honeymoon suite. Justified in that There Is Only One Bed and at this point they are only pretending to be a couple.
  • Finger Wag: Superman issues one of these after Lex tries to double-double cross him.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Zod implies being trapped in the Phantom Zone is this.
  • Fingore: Superman reveals that Zod was the one depowered by slowly crushing his hand.
  • Flash Step: Both Superman and the three Kryptonian supervillains do this while in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Flaw Exploitation
    • General Zod realizes Superman's weakness is that he cares for the humans he's protecting. Zod and his minions start attacking and endangering the people of Metropolis. Superman finally realizes that fighting his enemies in the middle of the city is endangering innocent lives and takes off.
    • Superman himself exploits Luthor's double-dealing nature, getting him to inadvertently help Superman depower the villains.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: It's bit weird to see the American-Soviet moon expedition now, knowing that the Soviets never made it to the moon, with the Americans or otherwise.
  • Hand Signals
  • Hellish Copter: During the Army's battle with the three Kryptonian supervillains Ursa blows a helicopter away with her super breath, causing it to crash.
  • Hologram: How Lex fools the guards during his escape. Also, in the Lester cut, Lara literally pops out of her crystal projection and reaches out to Kal-El before the Depower. In the Donner cut, Jor-El comes to life momentarily to re-power Kal-El.
  • Heroic BSOD: A now-human Superman after realizing that he was responsible for General Zod conquering the world.
  • I Have Your Wife: Ursa does this with Lois Lane.
  • It Amused Me: In the Donner Cut, Zod takes a machine gun from a guard at the White House, then grins as he fires the weapon at the guards.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Trope Namer. Zod says this to Superman, as a way to get revenge on Jor-El for imprisoning him. When Superman finally does kneel, it's a trick.
  • Large Ham: General Zod.
  • Lighter and Softer: While the original movie wasn't exactly dark and moody, it sure wasn't as goofy as the sequel. The Richard Donner Cut removes most of the slapstick and lazy jokes in attempt to bring its feel closer to the franchise's roots.
    • Although the Donner cut restored some jokes, such as Luthor being even more of a Deadpan Snarker to Zod, and showing that the Fortress of Solitude does have a bathroom.
  • Look Both Ways: At some point, Clark fails to do this and gets hit by a cab. Since he's, well, Superman, he's more or less fine.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: At the end of the movie, Lois Lane can't handle being Superman's girlfriend and Secret Keeper, so he uses his Super Amnesia power to remove her knowledge of his secret identity and their relationship.
  • Magic A Is Magic A
    • Richard Donner directed the first Superman movie using the word "verisimilitude" as the production motto in scripting and crafting the film. They devoted a lot of their effort to figuring out how to have things make sense within the ludicrous framework of the premise and plot. Why doesn't Superman solve all the world's problems? Jor-El's dialogue explains (piecemeal) that there is an intergalactic rule that Superman is bound to not to interfere in the course of another planet's history, this rule having been put into place as the result of the early history of "the twelve known galaxies" being rife with warfare due to interference (presumably resulting in stringent vigilance for that sort of thing now, creating the potential for the intergalactic equivalent of an international incident). He is already bending the rules just being Superman in the first place. If the name "Superman" was invented by the media, why is there an S-logo on the outfit? The fancy traditional attire of Kryptonians included family crests in a chest insignia, and the symbol on the seal of Jor-El's clan coincidentally happens to look somewhat like an S. And so on.
    • One of Donner's criticisms of Richard Lester's Superman II mirrored the fans in that they introduced so many strange powers that it didn't make any sense because they were never introduced, including teleporting, telekinetic beams and, well, the power to pull off a cellophane "S" shield and throw it at your enemies. Donner's Director's Cut of Superman II eliminated these weird powers (along with much of the comedy). This example is especially insightful because the audience has no trouble accepting a man who can shoot laser beams from his eyes or start hurricanes with his breath, but will immediately balk when the fictional boundaries of his abilities are overstepped — even if these do not introduce inconsistencies per se. Although admittedly Superman did not start off with all his powers in the comics either.
    • One scene in the Richard Donner cut did show the Krypton Criminals using telekinesis. One of them grabbed a shotgun out of a deputy's hands telekinetically. This may have been intended by Donner, or it may simply have been the only surviving cut of this scene that they could find to put onto the DVD.
  • Magic Countdown: The H-bomb whose timer is supposedly set for 1 minute takes at least 1 minute 24 seconds to detonate.
  • Magic Kiss: The "kiss of Laser-Guided Amnesia" Superman gives to Lois Lane at the end of the movie.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: It seems Miss Teschmacher still feels a bit sore about Lex callously endangering her mother, because for the duration of her second stint working with him she's firmly in this territory.
  • Misplaced Accent: The Midwestern hick boy and the two young black kids in Metropolis all speak with totally out-of-place British accents.
  • Misplaced Vegetation / Misplaced Wildlife: When Superman goes to pick Lois some flowers, he drops into a jungle with a Blue and Gold Macaw from South America and Bird of Paradise Flower from South Africa. Either one of these two things is out of place, or he actually found a botanical garden.
  • Mood Whiplash: After Superman has been crushed under the bus that Non and Ursa threw, the people of Metropolis assume him dead and band together to attack the Kryptonian criminals... who simply stand still and begin blowing them away with their gale-force wind equivalent breath. In what is supposed to be a scene showing the utter futility of regular mortals attempting to oppose such beings, with even cars being thrown around, we have such moments shown like; a couple being blown away after coming out of a take-away, completely oblivious to everything happening, and the waitress who served them following suit (they'd forgotten their change), a guy in a telephone booth having a seemingly hilarious conversation, continuing to laugh even as the phone booth is dragged down the street, and the wigs of a man and woman being blown off. All of a sudden, it can almost be seen where the ridiculous opening from Superman III came from. In the Richard Donner cut of the film however, these scenes are left out, leaving just the destruction, averting this.
  • Monumental Damage: Mt. Rushmore and the White House. In the Donner cut, the Washington Monument gets destroyed instead of Mt. Rushmore.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Clark has this reaction upon learning that the Kryptonian villains have essentially conquered the world while he was with Lois and giving up his powers.
  • Neck Lift: Non does this to Perry White, ramming his head into the ceiling and knocking him out.
  • Neck Snap: At the beginning of the movie Non breaks a guard's neck.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The theatrical release of Superman II has some of the most egregious and parodied examples out there, including:
    • Telekinesis, used by all three of the Kryptonian criminals and Superman
    • Throwing a giant cellophane Snote 
    • Teleportation (unless it was just smoke-and-mirrors or super speed)
    • In the extended cut released for TV, Fortress-of-Solitude-Destroying Vision.
    • Erasing Lois Lane's memory by kissing her (while grabbing her face in Mr. Spock's "Forget" grip)
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In both versions, Superman tosses a nuke into outer space where it detonates, smashing the Phantom Zone and freeing the villains. The main difference is that in the Donner version, it was the same nuke Supes tossed off in the original.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: How Superman beat the villains. He got Luthor to get Zod and Co. to give up their powers, thinking he was forcing Superman to.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: General Zod describes exactly this early on, and is shown bored as hell in the White House after taking over the world. He sounds sad and disappointed when he utters the line.
    Zod: I win. I always win. Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Oddly, a child actor playing a kid in Texas, who has two lines and delivers them in a British accent.
  • One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: Ursa vs a human male.
  • Patrolling Mook: Non kills a guard with a Neck Snap, but not before the guard activates a device on his belt and raises the alarm.
  • Paying for the Action Scene: After he gives up his super powers, Superman is beaten up by a bully in a diner. After he regains his powers he returns to the bar and beats up the bully, causing minor damage. He gives a wad of bills to the diner's owner to pay for the damage.
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: When Clark Kent walks across a street and is hit by an oncoming car, he strolls on unconcerned, but the car has extensive front end damage.
  • Phantom Zone: The Phantom Zone is shattered when Superman sends a terrorist hydrogen bomb into space to explode harmlessly, and the three Kryptonian super-criminals are freed to wreak havoc upon Earth.
  • Power Nullifier: Superman became "permanently" human by absorbing an extremely large dose of red solar radiation. When the Phantom Zone villains arrive on Earth, however, he regains his powers by consuming the energy stored within the Fortress of Solitude. (This is only revealed in the director's cut; the original version has a Deus ex Machina transition between Superman staring at a crystal and reappearing fully powered).
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "General, would you care to step outside?" This also doubles as Meaningful Echo, given that a depowered Clark said almost the same thing to the trucker in the diner before getting beaten up.
  • Pretty in Mink: Miss Teschmacher wears a mink jacket in a deleted scene in the Ricard Donner. It's not Fur and Loathing, since it's established she is not actually evil. It's just part of the disguise to distract the warden and let Luthor escape yet again.
  • Product Placement: The multiple shots of the wrecked Marlboro truck pretty much became the go-to footage for news stories on product placement in the movies.
  • Reality Ensues: After giving up his godlike powers to be with Lois, the now human Clark Kent without an iota of Superman power gets his ass handed to him pretty badly by a dumb red neck trucker thug - and before that found that life without flying was a drag and that back aches are no fun. Also, no one in the diner other than Lois tries to help Clark because the mere sight of a fight scares them too much.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: When the astronaut Boris first meets General Zod on the Moon, he says several words of untranslated Russian to him (presumably it was the equivalent of "Who are you and what are you doing here?").
  • Re Cut: After nearly finishing production on Superman II, director Richard Donner was fired and replaced with Richard Lester, who reshot much of the film. The original theatrical cut is about 35% Donner footage and 65% Lester footage. In 2006, Richard Donner released his own cut of the film on DVD, which is composed of about 90% of his material, and makes use of rehearsal footage and screen tests to make up the parts he never got a chance to film properly.
  • Reset Button: Superman decides that he can't put Lois Lane in danger, so he makes her forget who he kissing her, somehow.
  • Reset Button Ending: In the "Richard Donner Cut", Superman undoes the entire movie by spinning the world back (as he did in the theatrical release of the first film), to keep Lois from knowing his identity. This is after the villains have been defeated. Word of God is that a new ending would have been written for Superman II if Donner had been kept on, as this ending had been moved up to Superman; that movie was originally intended to end on a cliffhanger with Zod and company escaping.
  • Rushmore Refacement: The Kryptonian supervillains stop by Mount Rushmore to carve something new with their heat vision. No points for guessing what.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: Superman gives up his powers so he can be with Lois Lane and what happens? Three Kryptonian supervillains who hate his guts show up and go on a rampage in his adopted home country. He just Can't Stay Normal.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The film features the Phantom Zone, but makes it out to be a one-time prison for a specific set of three villains.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Lois does this with Superman's "S" shirt of all things.
  • Shiny New Australia: Lex Luthor trades his knowledge of Superman (affinity for Lois and the location of the Fortress of Solitude) for rulership of Australia (and later Cuba as well).
  • Shout-Out: While Lex Luthor is sliding down the wall of Superman's Fortress of Solitude he says "Another small step for mankind", a reference to astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous statement upon setting foot on the Moon.
  • Smug Snake: Lex is pretty much reduced to this after being a Magnificent Bastard in the first movie.
  • Something Else Also Rises
    • Superman is setting glasses on a table and opening a bottle of champagne. He says to Lois, "I was thinking maybe we could..." and the bottle pops and overflows.
    • In a deleted scene, Superman and Lois share some suggestive dialogue... which turns out to be about baking a soufflé with Superman's heat vision.
  • Space Is Noisy: The astronauts on the Moon have no problem hearing Zod and Ursa talk.
  • The Starscream: Lex, oh so very much.
  • Stylish Protection Gear: Luthor and Teshmacher wear fancy looking outfits for their trip to the Arctic.
  • Take Over the World: Zod actually succeeds... for a while.
  • Terrible Trio: General Zod (brains), Ursa (beauty), and Non (muscle).
  • Thrown Down a Well
  • Unwitting Pawn: Lex becomes this to Supes during the climax.
  • Victory Is Boring: Zod and the other Kryptonians experience this. Zod is disappointed in how easily they took over Earth.
    I WIN!! I always win...
    Later, at the White House
    Ursa: You're master of all you survey.
  • Villain Team-Up: Lex Luthor plus three Kryptonians.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: General Zod believes this, which he considers Superman's weakness.
    This "Superman" is nothing of the kind. I've discovered his weakness. He cares. He actually cares for these people.
  • Walk on Water: In contrast to most alien visitations, when the three Kryptonian criminals touch down on planet "Houston", General Zod lands in a lake. He then proceeds, using his gravity-defying abilities, to rise above and walk on top of the surface of the lake, freaking out an onlooker nearby.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While Metropolis' location is often ambiguous in other media, this movie clearly treats it as "New York by another name".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In the Donner re-edit, the image of Jor-El gives his son a pretty good one for abandoning the people of earth to become a mortal human.
  • While Rome Burns: When Superman and the Kryptonian villains are destroying half of Metropolis in the wake of their fight there is a man in a telephone booth who laughs and talks to no one on the other end while the booth gets blown sideways down the street by super breath.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Invoked by Ursa towards Superman. We never get to find out. Fortunately Lois was there.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: General Zod tries to pull this on Lex Luthor so many times it almost becomes a Running Gag. But Lex is always able to find a way out, whether by his own wits or a timely Superman appearance.