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Film / Superman II

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"Come to me, Son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!"
General Zod

Superman II, the first sequel to Superman: The Movie and second installment of the Superman Film Series, 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's increasingly romantic relationship with Lois Lane is also explored further.

The film was mostly filmed concurrently with the first film, but due to a Troubled Production they stopped midway to focus on getting the first one wrapped up. Before resuming production over a year later director Richard Donner was fired over Creative Differences with the Salkinds, the producers, because of debates over the escalating budget and comedic elements. 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, and to keep Donner out of the loop they refilmed much of the movie under Lester so that he could get sole credit. While the result was largely seen as satisfactory, the cast and crew were angry about this decision and many declined to return to work on Superman III.

An alternate cut of this film, Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut, was eventually released on DVD in 2006. 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. The primary differences involve removing the more slapstick elements, keeping Superman's powers consistent and adding a few deleted scenes, most notably scenes of Jor-El (who was originally removed due to contractual conflicts with Brando).

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Superman II provides examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Superman gives up his superpowers, intending to live with Lois as an 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.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: When Zod demands that the President steps forward, his assistant steps forward; Zod isn't fooled, because he surrenders too quickly, which prompts the real President to step forward.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Ms. Tessmacher is working for Lex Luthor again. Lex letting her work for him again is in itself another, after she deliberately foiled his plans.
  • Aesop Collateral Damage:
    • In the Richard Donner cut, Clark regaining his powers leads to effective death of his father. In the DVD Commentary, Donner explained that the Aesop that Clark would pay a significant price for the I Just Want to Be Normal trope. The penalty was incurred by the A.I. version of Jor-El.
    • The Richard Lester cut makes the only clearly stated penalty for Clark giving up his powers the damage incurred on civilians, while Clark gave up his powers, but this is still a penalty that Clark himself did not pay. The reason that civilian casualties were absent in the Donner version is discussed under Reset Button.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg:
    • The President.
      President: I will kneel before you, if it will save lives.
      Zod: It will. Starting with your own.
    • The powerless Clark Kent goes back to the Fortress of Solitude to beg the spirit of his father Jor-El for help.
  • Aliens Speaking English: While in the first movie, it was possible that there was a separate Kryptonian language that was conveniently translated for viewers and spoke to Kal-El through a translator system, here the Kryptonian criminals clearly speak and understand English.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Zod and his minions use brutal force to take control of the White House and eventually the entire Earth when Superman is not around to stand up for American freedom.
  • 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:
    President: Oh, God...
    Zod: (correcting) Zod.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Military
    • While on duty, a Metropolis police officer uses the phrase "over and out" during an official radio communication.
    • While talking on the radio with the Metropolis airport control tower, the pilot of Air Force One says "over and out".
    • A soldier in a U.S. Army convoy uses the phrase "over and out" during a radio call to another Army unit.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Zod refers to himself and the other two becoming stronger as they approach planet Earth because it has a yellow sun. The sun isn't actually yellow in space, it's white. For that matter, it's white on the surface of the Earth too, that it's seen as yellow when it's low enough on the horizon to directly observe is due to diffraction.
  • As You Know: After the Kryptonian criminals lose their powers and are defeated by Superman, Luthor verbally explains what just happened. Superman triumphantly nods, confirming Luthor’s explanation.
  • 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. They however 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.
  • Ax-Crazy: In the "Donner Cut", Zod gets a bit of this when he invades the White House, picks up a gun from one of the soldiers and starts gleefully moving them down.
  • The Bad Guy Wins / Tyrant Takes the Helm: Very much subverted. Zod and his cohorts succeed in taking over the Earth but thanks to Superman, their rule is short lived.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Ursa picks up a snake out of curiosity, only for it to bite her. She then tosses it to the ground and (inadvertedly) activates her heat vision for the first time to burn it alive, marveling at having done so.
  • Bait-and-Switch: For a second, Superman did Kneel Before Zod, but only to grab his hand and crush it!
  • Bar Slide: What Clark does to the guy in the diner who bullied him when he had given up his super powers.
  • 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 talking to a cosmonaut.
  • Batman Gambit
  • Battle Trophy: Ursa does this. See Bling of War.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: During the last days of Krypton, General Zod and his cronies are on trial for high treason. Zod calls for Jor-El to speak on his behalf, but Jor-El says nothing and ambles away. Zod is at first aghast then furious as he's banished to the Phantom Zone. Later, once he and his cronies escape the Zone and come to Earth, Zod has one huge ax to grind with Jor-El's sole living heir, Kal-El, who's known on Earth as Superman.
  • Big Apple Sauce: Metropolis is clearly just a renamed New York in this film, with many New York landmarks.
  • Big Bad: General Zod. His motives are a bit more petty than in many incarnations, just wanting revenge on Jor-El the only way he can get it (through Superman). Though he's clearly enjoying being a Physical God on Earth who can do whatever he wants and no one can stop him.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: Lois talks about how foolish Clark must have thought she was "jumping in the river, waiting for Mr. Wonderful". Later, someone at the diner says "Oh, boy, it's Mr. Wonderful" when Lois and Clark enter.
  • Bring It
    • During the emergency address, the President attempts to call Superman for help. An angry Zod demands to know who Superman is and then addresses the camera: "Come to me, Superman, if you dare! I defy you! Come! Come and kneel before Zod! Zod!"
    • In the final scene, where Clark, upon seeing the thug truck driver’s rig parked outside, returns to the diner and tells him that he’s sitting in his favorite seat. The bully, unaware that Clark has regained full strength, dares him … and before he can do a full Oh Crap! note  is swiftly given a lesson he’ll never forget.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Superman gives up his powers to be with Lois and it backfires horribly for him.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Lex says demeaning insults to Zod when he first failed to get Superman. Zod becomes annoyed and confused over his impertinence.
    Zod: Why do you say this to me? When you know I will kill you for it?
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: Luthor's desire for a Shiny New Australia is that he has "a thing for beachfront property", which was the crux of his caper in the previous film.
  • Canon Immigrant: 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.
  • Captain Obvious: When Perry White briefs Clark on the bomb threatening Paris:
    Perry White: These guys claim that if the French government doesn't meet their demands, they've got a hydrogen bomb ready to level Paris.
    Clark: Well, jeepers Mr. White. Tha-that's terrible!
    Perry White: That's why they call them "terrorists," Kent.
  • Ceiling Smash: Non puts Perry White's head into the ceiling of his office at the Daily Planet.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The French hydrogen bomb, which Supes hurls into space, accidentally causing it to shatter the Phantom Zone and free the Terrible Trio.
    • In the Donner cut, the eastbound missile Superman stopped in the first movie is what causes the Phantom Zone to shatter when he hurls it into open space.
    • Kal shows Lois the green crystal that built the Fortress of Solitude. She later leaves it lying on the seat when he calls her to dinner, the camera lingering on it for a second or two. After Kal uses the Red Crystal chamber to turn into Clark permanently, he soon regrets it. When he makes it back to the Fortress, the green crystal starts glowing again, almost saying "Hey! I'm over here!!"
    • The molecular chamber which Superman uses to become mortal in order to fall in love with Lois, plays a crucial part in the climax when he's forced to enter it again after Luthor lets the cat out of the bag. Fortunately, Superman manages to turn the tables on Zod and his mooks.
  • 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.
    • If you are watching the original cut, where is Jor-El after Superman regains his powers? Bear in mind that this only applies if you are watching the original cut; in the Donner cut, it's clearly stated that the cost of Superman regaining his powers is that the essence of Jor-El contained in the crystals has to be sacrificed.
  • Clark Kenting: Discussed by Lois and Superman once she learns his true identity.
    Lois: Must be tough being Clark Kent, isn’t it?
    Superman: No, I really like it sometimes. Even though I do make a fool of myself. And if it weren’t for him I never would’ve met you.
    Superman: Not to me it isn’tnote .
  • Coincidental Broadcast: A broadcast by the President surrendering the Earth to General Zod lets Clark know he needs to get his powers back. In all fairness, something like this would be on every television anywhere, so Clark would pretty much see it the first time he looked at one.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The only thing that can shatter the entrance to the Phantom Zone is a nuclear explosion. Incredibly, the Zone happens to be passing by Earth just as Superman chucks a nuke directly towards it, freeing Zod and company. Bear in mind that Krypton is in a different galaxy in this continuity, so the odds of the Zone passing by Earth so closely are unfathomably small to begin with, let alone the chances of a nuke happening to hit it. With luck like that, no wonder Zod "always wins."
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Lex Luthor and Otis are shown sharing the same cell in Metropolis Prison. They also work together in the prison laundry.
  • Covers Always Lie: In 2013, Warner repackaged the Donner Cut DVD in a boxset with the first movie's Expanded Edition, and the three following installments. The back cover shows Superman flying the American flag back to the White House, which only occurs in the MIA Lester Cut.
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Donner appears walking by Clark and Lois' car when they first drive up to the diner.
  • Credits Gag: Of a sort. In the Richard Donner cut, it ends with a disclaimer, commenting about how smoking and wearing fur was acceptable at the time of the making of the film. The latter is also likely due to Donner's staunch stance against fur.
    Since the making of this film in the late 1970s, a greater awareness has developed regarding the cruelty to animals in connection with the fur business, and the health risks associated with smoking and second hand smoke. Therefore, I do not condone the use of tobacco and fur products as depicted in this film. -Richard Donner.
  • Crushing Handshake: Superman to Zod when it's revealed he actually took Zod's powers, not his own. Ursa does it to Luthor as well upon their first meeting.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The depowered Clark Kent is on the wrong end of one when he picks a fight with the truck driver in the diner. In the climax, he returns the favor.
  • Darkest Hour: Earth is effortlessly conquered by Zod and no one has any idea where Superman is.
    President: But there is one man on this planet who will never kneel before you.
    Zod: Who is this imbecile? Where is he?
    President: I wish I knew.
  • 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."
  • Deducing the Secret Identity:
    • Some time after starting to date Clark, Lois begins to notice that Clark and Superman are never in the same place at the same time. Eventually, she calls him out on this and throws herself into the Niagara River to prove her point. Clark can save her, as Clark, using a few of his Superman abilities when she's too distracted to see. Lois feels foolish, but then as they return to their hotel room, Clark trips and his hand falls in a fire, and naturally, he's not hurt at all. By this point, he just decides to let Lois know the whole truth.
    • In the film's "Donner Cut", Lois also tries shooting a gun at Clark to prove he's Superman. She uses a gun with blanks just in case she is wrong, but Clark, having never felt the pain of getting shot, isn't able to tell the difference.
  • Deliberately Distressed Damsel: Lois is this, in a failed effort to out Clark. In the Donner cut, she jumps out a window. In the Lester version she jumps into the water near Niagara Falls. In both cases, Clark manages to save her without revealing he is Superman.
  • Deliberately Jumping the Gun: Clark Kent (de-powered Superman) asks the bully in the diner to step outside so they can fight. The bully says "After you." As Clark starts to go out the bully attacks him from behind (and with surprise) and knocks him down.
  • 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 and Zod wrestle under a Cutty Sark sign, then Superman is thrown into a Marlboro cigarettes truck, and finally, Zod is thrown by Superman towards a Coca-Cola sign. It caused the initiation of congressional hearings into product placement in movies (though in the film's defense, the Coca-Cola sign is such a familar - even iconic - part of Times Square that it edges into Monumental Damage).
  • 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.
  • Deus ex Machina: The process to make Superman mortal that his mother insists is irreversible and there is no going back? Yeah, about that... The Donner Cut reintroduces a key detail that explains it: It isn't reversible, so Jor-El's spirit hologram has to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by transferring his remaining power to Kal-El.
  • 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) reveal that the villains are not, in fact, dead, and are instead arrested by the "Arctic Patrol," but in other cuts (including the theatrical and Donner 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.
  • Disappointed in You: In the Richard Donner cut, when Kal-El chooses to step into the Red Sun chamber despite Jor-El's pleas not to become human (the price he must pay for continuing to love Lois Lane), Jor-El shoots a sad disappointed look at Lois as if to ask: "How could you let him do this?".
  • Doppelgänger Spin: Superman generates duplicates of himself to baffle his enemies in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Dumb Muscle: Non is not very bright and is tall, muscular and strong even for a Kryptonian. He's even stronger than Superman.
  • Easily Conquered World: Earth falls after the Kryptonians attack a small town, deface Mount Rushmore, and attack the White House. Humanity puts up no other fight. Zod himself is suspicious—and somewhat frustrated—about how easily Earth falls. After breaking into the Oval Office, he orders the President to kneel before him. When this happens too readily, he realizes this is not the real president, but once the real president reveals himself, he kneels almost as readily. Zod spends the rest of his reign bored in the White House until Superman returns.
  • 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.
  • Enemy Mine: Lex Luthor and Superman. It lasts all of about a minute.
  • Epic Fail: The power-stripped Non jumps off a ledge... and gravity takes hold. His expression says it all before he plummets below.
  • 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 so.
    Ursa: Sentimental idiot!
  • Evil Wears Black: The Kryptonian criminals wear all black. Zod's outfit also has dark metallic red trim.
  • 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.
  • Failed Future Forecast: 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.
  • Faint in Shock: In the Director's Cut, Lois tries to force Clark to expose himself as Superman by jumping out of the window of her office right in front of him. He breaks her fall in a way that doesn't break his disguise, allowing her to land safely on top of a tomato vendor's stand on the street below. He appears back upstairs as Clark at the window by the time Lois looks up again. The (incorrect) realization that Clark isn't Superman after all, embarrassment, and the realization of how easily she could have killed herself cause Lois to pass out cold on the pile of tomatoes.
  • 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.
  • First Injury Reaction: When a Brought Down to Normal Clark Kent gets sucker-punched, he's outright addled by the injury, and doesn't fare any better in the ensuing Diner Brawl.
    Clark: Blood. It's my blood. I think... maybe we ought to hire a bodyguard from now on.
  • Flag Drop: The last heroic deed Superman performs in the movie, the one he does to seal the deal he's back to his old self, is to fly the American flag straight to the White House.
  • Flash Step: Both Superman and the three Kryptonian supervillains teleport around the room during their battle 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.

  • 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
    • In the Lester cut, Superman talks to the computerized image of his mother Lara in his Fortress of Solitude. Lara literally pops out of her crystal projection and reaches out to Kal-El before the Depower.
    • In the Donner cut, in the Fortress of Solitude Jor-El comes to life momentarily to re-power Kal-El.
    • Lex Luthor creates a laser hologram device to project images of himself and Otis playing chess. This fools the guards so Luthor and Otis can escape Metropolis Prison.
  • Heroic BSoD: A now-human Superman, after realizing that he was responsible for General Zod conquering the world.
  • I Have Your Wife: Ursa has the 3 Kryptonian supervillains take Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane along with them to the Fortress of Solitude with the intent of using her as a hostage against Superman.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Early in the film, Zod accidentally shoots himself with a shotgun. Being Kryptonian, it does nothing to him. In the Donner Cut, he seems to have gotten the hang of using a gun much better by the time the trio attack the White House as he grabs a rifle and mows down several soldiers.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: In the Richard Donner Cut, it is made very explicit that Clark can have a normal human life with one person, or he can devote his life to the entire planet. The supposition is that favoring one person above others is not compatible with being Superman. In the theatrical version, where the choice is presented by Lara (as opposed to being presented by Jor-El in the Donner version), the connection to this trope is less explicit, but it remains the case that Clark prefers being a normal person who marries a mortal woman over being Superman.
  • Idiot Ball
    • At the end, Superman kisses Lois to make her forget everything that had happened over the last two weeks instead of just letting her deal with it all like an adult. Why didn't he just do this the moment she discovered his secret identity?
    • Then there's the part where Lara's hologram tells him he can "never" get his powers back if he gives them up to be with Lois. It's bad enough he decides not to just ignore this edict; but he makes his decision to be with her so casually that he basically just shrugs his shoulders and says, "I love her," then gives them up, only to get them back via the green crystal after he learns about Zod, et. al.
  • 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.
  • Kansas City Shuffle:
    • Superman utilizes a heroic one in attempting to lure Zod and his mooks into the molecule chamber (the setup). Once Luthor spills the beans, he takes over, thinking he can operate the molecule chamber with the crystal, when Superman is apparently the only one who knows how to use the Kryptonian device, and this is the first any of the villains have heard about this.
      Superman: Try and get them all into this molecule chamber. It takes away their powers, see... and turns them into ordinary human beings. Now if you could... Shh, shh!
      Lex Luthor: General, don't go in there. It's a trap.
      Superman: Luthor, you poisonous snake!
      Lex Luthor: That's a molecule chamber. It makes people like you into people like me.
    • Zod orders Superman to go into the chamber (guessing the plan), where, unbeknownst to the criminals, he is shielded from the radiation, and Zod believes he has the advantage over Superman, until the Man of Steel crushes a powerless Zod's hand, and the Kryptonian criminals each fall into the icy chasm below. The main twist was that Superman would pretend to be weakened inside the chamber, when he was actually shielded from the red solar rays which occurred outside of the chamber, and the actual location of the molecular transformation never occurred to Zod, who wrongly assumed that Superman's isolated chamber was where the attempted removal of super powers happened.
      Lex Luthor: He switched it, he did it to them! I mean, the lights were on out here... while he was safe in there!
      [Superman nods and gives Luthor an OK sign]
  • Killed Off for Real: After having their powers drained by red sun radiation, Superman crushes Zod's hand and tosses him against a wall in his Fortress, sending him falling to the crevices below. Non tries to fly, but falls into a hole as well. Finally, Ursa is punched out by Lois, and she joins her companions. Subverted, however, in that at least some TV edits have them found by an arctic patrol team and subsequently arrested, with Luthor joining them after Superman and Lois escort him out of the ruined Fortress of Solitude. It's also subverted in the Donner Cut, as Superman goes back in time and prevents the events of the movie from happening in the first place.
  • 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.
    • When they first arrive at the White House, Zod asks the President to rise and then kneel before him.
  • Lighter and Softer: Downplayed slightly, as the film still maintains an epic tone for the most part. However, while the original movie wasn't exactly dark and moody, II has a lot more goofy slapstick courtesy of Richard Lester, though not to the extent of Superman III. The Richard Donner Cut removes many of Lester's comedic bits in attempt to bring its feel closer to the more dramatic roots of the first film, though it has some restored jokes of its own, such as Luthor being even more of a Deadpan Snarker to Zod, and showing that the Fortress of Solitude does have a bathroom.
  • The Load: Otis, Lex Luthor's overweight henchman and cellmate who keeps Luthor's hot-air balloon from taking off, prompting Luthor to leave him at the prison in order to make a successful jailbreak.
  • 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.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Though Clark’s annoyance with hearing about Superman is definitely feigned, he does seem to want Lois to fall for him as Clark Kent and not just be infatuated with Superman. This becomes especially problematic once Superman gives up his powers and is only Clark Kent.
    Lois: I don’t want a bodyguard. I want the man I fell in love with.
    Clark: I know that Lois. I wish he were here.

  • Magic A Is Magic A:
    • Richard Donner directed Superman: The 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 Kryptonian 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.
  • Mental Handicap, Moral Deficiency: Zod's Brute, Non, is described as mentally handicapped, and is a thug who can only interact with the world through violence.
  • Mexican Standoff: After a number of illusions, Superman traps Zod, only for Ursa and Non to retaliate by threatening to destroy Lois Lane. Fortunately, Superman decides to save Lois by letting Zod go.
  • 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: 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:
    • When the three Kryptonian supervillains break into Perry White's office, Non grabs White by his lapels, lifts him up and rams his head into the ceiling, knocking him out.
    • During the White House attack, Ursa lifts a soldier by his neck before throwing him vertically through a skylight.
  • Neck Snap: At the beginning of the movie, Non breaks a guard's neck as part of General Zod's plan to take over the planet Krypton.
  • 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)note 
  • 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.
    • Superman regrets his decision to become a mortal after learning that General Zod has effortlessly conquered the world:
    Clark Kent: I have to go back.
    Lois Lane: You can't go back, there's no way now.
    Clark Kent: I have to. I've gotta try, dammit, I've got to try something. Anything!
    Lois Lane: It's not your fault. You didn't know this was going to happen.
    Clark Kent: They knew. They tried to tell me. But, I didn't listen.
  • 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.
  • Nobody Poops: This becomes a problem when Luthor and Miss Teschmacher get to the Fortress of Solitude.
    Luthor: This place has everything.
    Miss Teschmacher: Wrong.
    Luthor: [Beat] Why didn't you go before we left?
    Miss Teschmacher: That was two days ago.
  • 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?
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: 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 redneck 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.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Man: The President of the United States, who immediately recognizes that Zod and his group have inhuman powers on the level of Superman and is the only one who seems to realize that the continued forces mobilizing against them are going to do nothing.
  • 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.
  • Police Are Useless: One of the guards in Luthor's prison discovers that he and Otis are missing, but doesn't bother to raise the alarm. A second guard in the watch tower is too busy watching TV to notice Luthor in the spotlight.
  • 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
    • When Superman shows up to fight the Kryptonian criminals, he says "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.
    • Just before Lois Lane punches a de-powered Ursa and knocks her into a crevasse, she says:
    Lois: "You know something? You're a real pain in the neck!"
  • Previously on…: The original cut opens with a quick repeat of the first movie's scenes of Zod's crew being condemned to the Phantom Zone and Zod vowing revenge. The opening credits then show various scenes from the rest of that movie. The Donner cut changes around the Zod scenes and removes the scenes during the credits.
  • 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.
  • Prisoner's Work: While they're incarcerated in Metropolis Prison, Lex Luthor and his henchman Otis work in the prison laundry.
  • 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. It's especially egregious as due to the threat of hijacking or pilferage (cigarettes often being seen then and now as a valuable commodity) cigarette trucks are usually deliberately unmarked.
    • Coca-Cola and KFC each appear twice. When Superman (after saving a boy from falling down a waterfall) goes behind a hot dog stand to change into Clark Kent, the stand is serving Coke products; when Superman and Zod fight in Metroville, Superman throws Zod through a neon Coke sign. Meanwhile, when Superman crashes into a car windshield, the couple in the car have KFC boxes on the dashboard; then, as the two fight through the city, it cuts to another couple enjoying KFC.
  • 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?").
  • The Reason You Suck: Lex Luthor delivers one to the three Kryptonian (yes, you read that right) villains when they gloat over their "victory" against Superman, to Zod's bewilderment
  • Recruit the Muggles: Subverted. After Superman is apparently defeated during his battle against the three Kryptonian supervillains, the normal humans watching the battle decide to attack the villains in hand-to-hand combat. They are all literally blown away by the villains' super breath.
  • 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 is... by 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.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Lex Luthor effectively betrays the human race by helping the Kryptonians against Superman by taking them first to Lois Lane and then to the Fortress of Solitude. Yet, each time Luthor no longer seems useful, Zod orders him killed. Indeed, it’s not clear if Luthor would have survived had Superman been fully defeated.
  • 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.
  • Same Language Dub
    • In the Theatrical Cut, Don Fellows (the other general) was dubbed with a deeper, unaccented voice by an unknown actor. His real voice can be heard in the Richard Donner Cut as well as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, where he played Mr. Hornsby.
    • Some of Sarah Douglas' lines were later dubbed by Annie Ross in post-production. That quip Ursa made about Earth men wearing all the medals? That was Douglas' real voice.
  • 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: Trope Maker note . 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.
  • Shooting Superman: Zig Zagged in the Donner cut. Humans do figure out that it is pointless to shoot at Zod and friends in reasonable time, but this trope does come up for Superman. Lois takes out a gun and shoots it at Clark Kent, and he so shocked that she would endanger Clark's life that he does reveal he is Superman. She says she used blanks. The event does not occur in the theatrical version.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": When Superman crushes every bone in Zod's hand into a fine powder.
  • 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 Jews: 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.
  • Space Is Noisy: The astronauts on the Moon have no problem hearing Zod and Ursa talk.
  • The Starscream: Lex, oh so very much, to the point Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and betraying everyone he allies with, sometimes apparently just for kicks.
  • Stop Copying Me: In the Richard Donner Cut, Otis and Eve would nearly almost repeat everything Luthor says. Even when he tells them to stop, they respond: "I won't repeat what you say."
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Superman makes the ill-fated decision to give up his Kryptonian powers at the worst possible time, with Zod and his associates taking over the White House and the world.
  • Stylish Protection Gear: Luthor and Teshmacher wear fancy looking outfits for their trip to the Arctic.
  • Translation Convention: Subverted with the Kryptonians, who are clearly able to talk to and understand the Earthlings. It's not clear whether the French can talk to Americans, or Lois can understand what French people are saying.
  • Take Over the World: Zod actually succeeds... for a while.
  • Taking the Fight Outside: Superman asks to relocate fights twice, once as Clark Kent and once as Superman.
    • After Superman has been de-powered, he travels with Lois Lane in Clark Kent guise. When a man acts rudely toward them in a diner, he asks the man "Excuse me, sir, would you care to step outside?" twice. As they start to go outside to fight, the man hits him from behind and knocks him down. The man then brutally beats him up inside the diner.
    • While the three Kryptonian supervillains are inside the Daily Planet building, Superman appears outside a window and says to General Zod, "General, would you care to step outside?" Zod and his minions leave the building and engage Superman in a battle that ends in a draw and Superman flying away.
  • Terrible Trio: General Zod (brains), Ursa (beauty), and Non (muscle).
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted. Superman smiles as he throws Zod down a pit to his death.
  • Thrown Down a Well: The Kryptonian criminals are all finally dealt with by being pushed/thrown/falling down the chasms in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A kid falls off the edge near Niagara Falls after hanging on the bars. All small children in the Superman movies are portrayed as naïve, so, naturally, if there's going to be a child who will need to be saved, chances are it's going to be a complete idiot.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Played with when the cab driver plows through Clark. Nobody seemed to care, nobody except the driver, who still doesn't put two and two together.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Lex becomes this to Supes during the climax. He seems like he's invoking Enemy Mine, roping Lex into a plan to help him neutralize the Kryptonian criminals. Then Lex betrays Superman, which is exactly what Superman was counting on him to do.
  • Useless Without Powers: While at his Fortress of Solitude, Superman gives up his superpowers so he can be with Lois Lane. When they return to civilization, he runs into a bully who beats him up badly. Watch it here.
    Clark: [To Lois] Maybe we ought to hire a bodyguard.
    Lois: I don’t want a bodyguard. I want the man I fell in love with.
    Clark: I know that Lois. I wish he were here.
  • 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.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: The kid in Too Dumb to Live above yells "Again! Again!" to Superman after the latter saves him from falling to his death.
    Superman: No, I'm sorry. Only one ride to a customer.
  • Wham Line: More like a Wham Gasp and a crushed hand.
  • Wham Shot: When Zod orders Superman into the depowering chamber, the whole Fortress glows red, yet the chamber stays clear. Those who remember the first depowering scene know what's coming.
  • What Ever Happened To The Mouse?:
    • After Eve Teschmacher and Lex leave the Fortress of Solitude heading south on their snowmobile, she completely vanishes from the film and is never even mentioned again. In the original ending in the script Superman put Zod, Ursa, and Non back into the Phantom Zone and put Luthor in with them, and we would've seen Eve observing them through a telescope and waving goodbye to Lex, but since this is changed in the final film it means she vanishes without explanation. Although there is the possibility that Luthor was still angry over her betrayal of him in the first film...
    • The fate of the terrorist group in Paris is never revealed. In fact, the whole incident is never mentioned again once the bomb destroys the Phantom Zone (though this is fairly easy to Hand Wave; without their bomb, the group had no chance against the police, and that's assuming Superman didn't stop by on his way back home to help gather them up).
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Averted. While Metropolis' location is often ambiguous in other media, this movie clearly treats it as "New York by another name". The Twin Towers can be unmistakably seen in several skyline shots, as well as on the poster (above). The Richard Donner Cut also clearly emphasizes the Statue of Liberty when Zod kicks Superman straight into her torch.
  • 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.
  • Winds Of Change: Unbeknownst to the world, Superman has been Brought Down to Normal, as three Kryptonian criminals wreak havoc around the world. Under the suggestion of Lex Luthor, they've gone to The Daily Planet to kidnap Lois Lane. Then, there is a gust of wind and a newspaper vendor is trying to hold his wares in place as the citizens of Metropolis all look up to see that Superman has returned.
  • Would Hit a Girl
    • When the trucker beats up Clark, Lois attacks him and he looks about to hit her before she's restrained by the cook.
    • In the Richard Donner cut, Luthor threatens to punch Miss Teschmacher a couple of times.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Invoked by Ursa towards Superman. We never get to find out. Fortunately Lois was there.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In a deleted scene, a boy tries to leave the Idaho town Zod and his group are ransacking on his horse in order to get help. Zod, who declares that nobody is allowed to leave town without his permission, orders Non to stop him. Non does this by taking the police siren he nicked off a cop car earlier and chucking it, where it strikes the boy from afar.
    Bystander: (horrified) He was only a boy!
    Ursa: (smiling) He will never become a man.
  • 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.


Superman kneels before Zod

A (supposedly) de-powered Superman kneels before Zod.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / KneelBeforeZod

Media sources: