Reviews: Superman II

I liked the Lester version better.

When I was fourteen, this movie was released in theaters, and there were a number of scenes I loved. Lois nearly getting killed trying to the story about the terrorists in Paris. Clark faking his clumsiness in way that has him wrecking a cab and sticking his hand into a fire (this blew his secret identity), the whole subplot investigating the low quality of honeymoon sweets near Niagara Falls, and I even loved the messages to Clark from his biological mother. It turns out these were all filmed under the direction of Richard Lester after Donner was sacked. If Donner's cut were the one shown in theaters, I would not miss any of these scenes, but I like the one I saw first better. Assuming that if take the commentary with comments from executive producer Alexander Sulkind (on the theatrical version) and the commentary by Donner (on his version) as collectively containing truth, the real mistake might have been that Donner would not make any more Superman movies. Donner emphasized that he wanted to spend money to keep footage of Brando and even pay more to re-shoot some of it: which is consistent with the story that what they really did not want to do was give Brando a larger budget. In fairness, the combined budgets of ET, Star Wars, Blade Runner and the Alien add to less money than the budget for Superman II, and it can be understood why the producers would not want to spend for a cameo. Salkind actually said Donner wanted extreme creative control, including demanding they fire the producer—Pier Spengler. Salkind thought it was more important to keep his friend as producer than to keep the director. Alexander Salkind also gave the impression that he and llya Salkind conceived to the project and wanted to run it themselves—did not want the director calling all the shots. Donner probably wanted a larger budget, and wanted to completely control the movie, and with Superman II, they did okay not using him, making a movie that not that different from the one Donner imagined. With Superman III and IV, letting Donner run the show might have been a major improvement, and in both cases someone else insisted on running the show. If they had caved in to him on three, they would have him for later movies. I think they improved the movie, but firing a director is usually a bad move.

Verdict: Watch both movies, and decide for yourself which is better.