What do fans think of the Richard Donner cut?
I just finished watching it and I am still gathering my thoughts and putting together a brief little write up.
While I work on this, to those that have seen it, what did you think?
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
First of all let me point out that, after watching the special features on this disc, it is quite evident that Richard Donner still has a lot of very bad feelings about his experience with Superman II - and rightfully so. This was a very personal and important project to him, and it was yanked out from under him.
The first two films in the series were actually shot simultaneously - not back-to-back as some have thought - and so this was a pretty shitty deal to say the least. Richard Lester was brought in, and he drastically changed many parts of the script - including both the beginning and the ending - and made the movie into what people know and remember it as today...which is actually a pretty awesome movie in my opinion.
Now Richard Donner and a team at WB have sorted through more than 6 tonnes of raw film and put together the closest we will ever come to seeing his original version of the film.
It's very rough around the edges...I'll just get that out of the way right away. A few of the scenes he hadn't gotten to shoot yet, so they actually just cleaned up screen test footage between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder and made it look as if it fit into the film.
Because there are switches back and forth between Donner's and Lester's footage, the editing comes across as quite sloppy. Well...not so much sloppy, as abrupt. There aren't any of the transitional scenes that you would normally see in a feature length film, so there are parts where we jump between totally different conversations without any real reason. Donner also admits that he tried to use as little of Lester's footage as possible, saying that he quite literally found it "painful" to watch. At one point he even references it as "the footage shot by that other director...I've forgotten his name on purpose."
I imagine that MANY people are going to be very, very angry with the ending. Why? Well, if you don't want it spoiler, don't read any further...
...basically, when the films were originally being shot simultaneously, at the end of the first Superman, Superman actually did manage to throw the missiles into space and save Lois. The travelling back in time scene was actually meant for Superman II, and it was how Superman made Lois forget that he and Clark Kent are the same person. They have restored it into this version. As a poster on IMDb said, it kind of gives off a "this is how hesolves everything" vibe.
Faults aside, there is some gold in this. As in, on par with the magic that is found in the original film and that was missing from Lester's, making it simply a great action film rather than giving it the timeless feel of the first. One of these scenes includes a redoing of Lois' "test" on Clark when they're in Niagra Falls. This is the aforementioned scene which is put together with a couple of different screen tests between Reeve and Kidder. Regardless of the changing hairdos, it's a wonderfully acted scene.
Another fantastic scene is a kiss had between Superman and Lois near the end of the film, just outside of the Fortress of Solitude. There's something about the way it is shot that is truly romantic, and probably one of the best on-screen kisses I have ever seen.
Other things that are restored include Marlon Brando's presence, which is added back in and gfreatly changes the plot, as well as explaining some things in Lester's cut that don't make any sense at all. As well, there is a chronology problem that is fixed, and lets the revelation in Superman Returns make a bit more sense.
When all is said and done, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a very flawed film, but it is not without its magic. I personally loved it, and to be entirely honest I prefer it to the Lester cut when looking at it in terms of "concept over execution". The story, character development and overall feel of the movie is much better.
If WB had allowed Richard Donner to complete this back in 1978 when he was filming this and the original together, I think it could have been a 2-part film that truly did stand the test of time. Instead, we now have a timeless first film, as well as a fairly good glimpse of what could have been.
8 / 10
Get the red out!
While I did like the "missing" Brando scenes much better then the replacement scenes that were used in the movie, I have to say that I still like the theatrical version much better. I think the additional scenes between Reeves and Kidder were really good and the extra "one liners" from Hackman were great. The "turn back time" ending is much more powerful and better fitting in the original Superman movie. If Donner's version of this movie was going to effect both Superman and Superman II this much, I'm glad he was taken off the film.
I like both versions of the movie, but even with the editing decisions, lack of some sequences and the fact that it's imperfect, I love the Donner cut.
Yes, the Donner cut does have it's problems, for me they were:
1) The fight in Metropolos, the Houston Idaho sequence and a couple of other areas had too much Lester footage taken out, so it doesn't flow as well as it should. It holds together, but a few more scenes could have been re-inserted.
2) The turn back time ending -- well, it was how it was originally supposed to be done. There is no call to re-edit Superman I, so you kind of have to take it as it is. I'm sure if Donner had the actors available today, he and Tom Mancewietz (spelling?) would have come up with something else, but watching the footage of the actors doing things in reverse is worth having him turn back time twice, so I'm glad it's there.
3) In some parts you can really tell that the films look a lot different, the most obvious is when you cut from the screen test to Houson, Idaho. It looks like completely different films.
However, Donner's cut is, to me, vastly superior because you can take those three issues above and apply them to Lester's cut:
1) Lester did NOT have to remove so much of Donner's footage. I don't think there was a lot of bad blood between them (as compared to the Salkinds). Lester wanted the director credit, which is under-standable but he really whacked and had the screen-writers re-write too much. What I don't understand is why, if it was so over-budget already, did Lester re-shoot so much? Clearly there was more Donner footage he could have used and still gotten a director credit. It seems like they re-shot too much.
And guess what? As much as I like Superman II, the 1980 version looked like 2 or 3 movies pasted together. Thank goodness they have enough footage to make a very coherant story (except for Brando not being there); but it's so easy to tell that this was filmed by different people who did it completely different.
Lester's Paris sequence, the jokes in the Metropolis fight and the tone of the Houston, Idaho fight are completely different from other parts in the movie. The most glaring for me is the fight in the Fortress of Solitude when Lester did the arrival, cellophane weapon, hide and seek and some other stuff and Donner's footage is the molecule chamber stuff. Completely different tone and feel in the same action sequence, and as a kid I could recognize that.
2) Quite frankly, the Super-kiss at the end of the movie is worse than using the turn back time stuff. I don't think that was one of the super-powers that Jor-El taught his son in the first movie. That was really, really lame.
3) See #1 above. Lester's sequences were more comedic and played for camp and Donner's were more serious. Completely different tone and it's easy to see in the movie. Word is that Donner was offered a co-credit for Superman II, after he was fired so he watched the finished movie. He got to the Paris sequence and stopped there and said "No, I don't want my name on it". I never liked the Paris sequence because it was just done so badly.
1) Margot Kidder over-acts
2) Every person in the sequence is a one-dimensional character (The terrorists, the government official, the hostages (WTF, nuns and a Japanese guy with a camera -- that is stereotypical beyond belief. Hello cliche?) )
3) Paris was evidently having a bad weather day because it was overcast like anything...really it looks dull on film
Anyway, as much as I think that Lester is talented, he was completely the wrong person for this job. If he had started the franchise, then it would be ok. But basically, he was taking over for someone who successfully set the tone for the franchise and to splice out more than was needed to make his film and to change the emphasis of the message, that is why his film is not as good (to me).
I listened to some of the commentary. I can't really blame Donner for still being mad. He obviously is a fan and loved doing the film and he had to fight the producers the whole way. He should have either been allowed to finish, or fired at the start. Cutting him off 7/8 of the way through the 2 movies was not good. Although there were a lot of other reasons III and IV were bad, you can see how the franchise started going south once he left. Superman II would have been even better if Lester had simply finished the film instead of re-doing major portions of it and it would have held up better.
I'd be bitter too if I was Richard Donner, because the guy gave his whole heart to the project. I think the most telling example of where he was right and the producers were wrong is not including Brando in Superman II. WTF would you not, when he was an integral part of the story. Yes, he was demanding too much, but you cut yourself out of a huge part of the story and even Lester left the whole thing out (he finds the crystal and then abra-cadabra! He's Superman again, with no explanation).
Lester version 7.5/10
Donner version 9/10 (no minuses for things he could not re-shoot)
Heavy Metal War Machine
One easy way to spot Lester footage:
Gene Hackman never worked with Lester. Lester used a body and voice double.
If you clearly see Hackman, Donner shot it.
I just watched it, and enjoyed it.
It was certainly better than the Lester version.
It's still a bit imperfect. Some of the special effects haven't aged well, although to the film's credit (maybe not so much) I couldn't tell which scenes were only screen tests.
But I just didn't care for the idea that Superman can never find love, which doesn't seem all that sensible to me. And kinda kills plots for the next Superman movies.
* Edit. Still a fun movie. I agree with the 8/10.
So far I'd rank the Superman movies as follows.
1. Superman Returns.
3. Superman 2- The Richard Donner Cut
4. Superman 2- The Theatrical Edition
5. Superman 3
I've never seen Superman 4, and I never intend to, so that remains unranked.
Last edited by Mister Mets; 12-01-2006 at 09:48 PM.
Incidentally, I don't think there was any bad blood between Lester, and Donner.
The problems were with the producer of the film, who had a significant portion of the film reshot so Donner wouldn't be able to have Director credits (which would give him a bigger salary)
Newsarama had a story with a screenwriter on the film who saw the gory details.
I don't know....
I disliked Superman Returns so much that it has cooled me on watching any superman films for a while.
I felt the same way after the last Star Wars film.
Superman II: The Richard Donner cut.
Well... what to say about it.
Is it better than the theatrical cut... yeah, but no by much.
First, Lester and cohorts didn't really change the ending of Superman II. Donnor and the others did that when they decided to put the ending of Superman II in Superman because they weren't sure if they could finish Superman II and wanted the most spectacular optic shot they had created to be seen, and Superman is all the better for it. The thing is though, that the result would be they had to think of a new ending for Superman II, and the kiss as Donner says in the commentary or the documentary, was actually thought up as a possibility before Lester took over filming Superman II.
And this is logical; you can't have the exact same ending in both movies, which is exactly what the decision for using it in the Donner cut creates.
Further, I'm glad the turning back time ending is used for Superman I and not II, because for II it makes no sense, and this is one of the most glaring in Donner's cut. Why in blazes does Superman destroy the Fortress; if moments later he reconstructs it when he turns back time? Shouldn't he have waited with destroying the Fortress until AFTER he turned back time? Similarly, we see Superman turning back time, but not what he does to prevent the villains from escaping this time around. More so, the scene where Superman returns to the diner dressed as a Clark/Superman hybrid is in this cut after the turning back, right up to and including his line of having worked out and the owner commenting he just finished repairing the damage? What's the point of that? If he turned back time, the fight with Rocky never happened; no damage, and no need for Superman to "explain his sudden increase in strength", because nobody ever saw him get his ass handed to him: never happened.
The Jor-El scenes though, are damn good. The way Lois gets Clark to say he's Superman is also better than the theatrical. The jumping out of the window versus the river doesn't matter to me; equally well done... except Lois' wardrobe is better in the jumping out of the window scene.
In the end I think the best Superman II movie would be somewhat of a merger between both movies. The ending of the theatrical, Jor-El and Superman reveal from Donner, the hokey scenes deleted from the super fight (as Donner did) and you'd have the best version.
Yeah, Donner bashed the Salkinds a lot in his commentaries, but I don't recall him ever saying anything about Lester personally. Just his work, and even that was in the "well, it's not how I would have done it" vein.
Originally Posted by Cyberman
Yeah, it sounds like Lester was as much a victim of the Salkinds' shonkiness as anyone. Donner could probably relate, to a degree.
Originally Posted by Sean Whitmore
Crusader of Justice
I was thinking that too. I wonder if enough material exists that they could restore the originally intended ending for the first film. If they did that it would make more sense
Originally Posted by 3D Master
The original intended ending exists for the first film; the first film's ending has simply been extended with Lois dying and Superman turning back time. Originally Superman simply saved the day, sent the nuclear missiles into space and it would be finished.
Originally Posted by dancj
Last edited by 3D Master; 12-07-2006 at 01:45 PM.
True Metal of Steel
Listen to the commentary for the Donner Cut, you may end up feeling sorry for Lester.
Originally Posted by Sean Whitmore
Fish Emerald Slicer
I enjoyed this version a great deal as I did the theatrical version. It wasn't quite the intended version though and as Donner shot more and more and finished it, (if he'd been allowed that is) then it would have evolved and changed on the go as indeed the first did.
So I look at this as a little like the recently released Smile by Brain Wilson, it's not the 1967 Beach Boys version, that will never be. But it's close. This is a little close but still.
I wish Donner could have had his dream back in the day and gone on to make all those sequels he lovingly talks of in the audio c.
I was a little reluctant to watch this but once I bit the bullet it was special enough to warrant the not quite it aspect.
I was reminded of the Spider Pit Sequence in King Kong and the remake of it on extra bit on the recent King Kong DVD. I enjoyed it but it made me desire the actual version even more and drove me mad in the end.