SUPERMAN IIWarner Bros. Pictures
1980
PG

“You will bow down before me, Jor-El! Both you and then one day, your heir!”

Taking up a few months after the first movie left off, a trio of Kryptonian baddies, banished to the Phantom Zone at the start of the previous flick (don’t worry, it’s recapped for you here as well), have escaped and, led by the nefarious and power hungry General Zod, have their sites to conquering Earth. That’s pretty affluent, but Zod has another errand to run…getting back at the guy who jailed them in the first place- namely Jor-El. Only thing is, Jor-El blew up with the planet, so he’s going after the next best thing…Kal-El, aka Superman! And with a giddy Lex Luthor, who has a beef with Mr. Blue Tights as well, joining up for the ride, and Supes just losing his own powers (all because of a woman…isn’t that just the way it goes?), there’s no telling what wackiness will ensue! Unless, of course, you’ve watched this about a bajillian times as I have…

Man. Did this sequel have enough problems. First, Marlon Brando sues over his percentage of the profits of the first film, even though he had less screen time than Jimmy Olsen. Which is why I consider the decomposing gastropod a wanker. Hence the lack of Jor-El in this sequel. Add to that the removal of director Richard Donner because he disagreed with the producers’ desire to make the movie more campy (don’t get me started), and his replacement Richard Lester (who’s movie credits up to then included mostly 60s comedies with Peter Sellars and The two Beatles movies) taking over, much to the begrudging of the cast (Gene Hackman refused to come back for reshoots under Lester, which resulted in less screen time than last, and the use of an obvious body double in some scenes).

When this first came out, I loved it to death. Like the first movie, I would watch this whenever it came on HBO. To my innocent 9-year-old mind, it was just as good, if not better, than the original. More fight scenes! More Superman! More cool effects! Could have done without that sappy love angle, but then again Supes made up for it by breaking out of that cootie-infested nonsense. Remember…I was 9.

Watching this movie now, after age and jaded perception have been set, I still enjoy this sequel. There’s a few more points of dissidence with this than the last movie, but they’re mostly where suspending my disbelief is stretched to the near-breaking point. Like, for instance…my understanding is that, in the vacuum of space, specifically on the moon, sound waves are impossible to pick up. Why are the baddies conversing with each other? Let alone breathing. I don’t care how super you are, anything that requires oxygen to survive wouldn’t last a minute out there. Sure, their physiology could withstand the cold vacuum of space, but…co’mon. Then there was the snake that bit Ursa. She felt it when she wasn’t supposed to. Skin’s supposed to be super-resistant to things like that. Maybe it was a magical snake, which is one of the things Superman and (assuming) other Kryptonians on Earth are susceptible to. And don’t get me started on the giant cellophane “S” that Supes tosses out during the battle in the Fortress Of Solitude.

On the less geeky sides of things, there is a noticeable campiness here as compared to the first. I mean, yes, there was camp in the first one. But it was a comic book type camp. Here, there are moments, mostly in Lester’s contributions, where it seems the wackiness was deliberately thrown in for camp effect, which just detracts from the overall enjoyment. For instance, when the Unwholesome Trio defeat Supeman in Metropolis, and the crowd of people gather together in an inspiring yet ultimately suicidal attempt to take the three of them down, and they were pushed back by the baddie’s collective superbreath (hoping they popped a mint before doing so)? That scene draaaaaaags on for several minutes. And during that long exhale session…well, you just have to watch it to see what I mean. I kept expecting the Keystone Kops to be part of that crowd.

In any case, regardless of the gripes, Superman II is still one fun ride. Definitely heads and shoulders better than the following sequels. Still, can’t wait until all of the original footage is placed back…I’d like to know how it would have looked if the producers didn’t try to stick their meddling noses into the film…