Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Movie Review: Superman 2 (1980)

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as Superman and Lois Lane in Superman 2 (1980)

Interestingly, there are two different versions of the movie available. Richard Donner shot two movies simultaneously with the intention of releasing them one after another. But, once the first movie was released, there was a reported fallout between Donner and the producers. Donner was replaced with Richard Lester, who completed this movie and the inferior sequel, Superman III.

This is a review of the theatrical (Richard Lester) version. The Richard Donner version has also been restored and is available on DVD.

The movie opens with footage we saw briefly in Superman: The Movie. General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his associates, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran) are banished to the Phantom Zone by Jor-El (Marlon Brando). Zod vows to take revenge on his jailor and his future heirs.

Christopher Reeve as Supes in Superman 2 (1980)

Back to the present in Earth, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is off to Paris on one of her journalistic missions. As fans of DC comics are well aware, Lois and life threatening danger are never far apart, especially when she is away from the Daily Planet in Metropolis.

Some masked men have taken over the Eiffel Tower and are threatening to blow up Paris with a hydrogen bomb, unless they are paid a ransom. Lois, as is her wont, tries to reach these men atop the Tower, presumably to negotiate with them. In comes our saviour of the day, Supes (Christopher Reeve) and it is a good ending for Lois and not so much for the bad guys.

However, there is an unintended side-effect of this rescue. When Supes disposes off the bomb by throwing it off into space, the resulting explosion releases Zod and his fellow criminals from their prison.

Terence Stamp as General Zod with Ursa and Non in Superman 2 (1980)

The 3 Kryptonians head to Moon and start their evil shenanigans right away. After learning about Houston from the human astronauts, Zod starts his mission to take over "Planet Houston".

Clark and Lois, meanwhile are sent together to investigate the recent incidents involving honeymooning couples at Niagara Falls. Lois starts getting suspicious about Clark being Superman and tries her best to force Clark to reveal his identity. Clark proves to be too smart for such antics.

He does slip up later and is forced to disclose his true identity. Supes takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude and consummates their relationship. Supes also undergoes an operation to lose his superpowers and subsequently becomes a mortal to spend his life with Lois.

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as Superman and Lois Lane in the Fortress of Solitude in Superman 2 (1980)

This proves to be bad timing, as the 3 Kryptonians land on Earth and quickly proceed to take over the White House. Superman is forced to reconsider his earlier decision and returns to the Fortress of Solitude to recover his powers.

Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) has escaped from prison and has already trekked to the Fortress of Solitude, along with Eve Tessmacher (Valerie Perrine). He tries to bargain with Zod to acquire Australia by providing about the elusive Man of Steel. Enraged that his jailor's son is still alive, Zod is led by Lex to the Daily Planet. Lex plans to use Lois as a bait to catch Superman.

Christopher Reeve  as Superman Man of Steel vs Terence Stamp as General Zod in Superman 2 (1980)

Supes does not disappoint and a battle royale that takes places in the streets and on air across Metropolis. This is a great fight scene between Supes and 3 equally powerful Kryptonian enemies. Outnumbered, Supes has to use his wits to defeat his opponents.

This movie is as much fun as Superman: The Movie. Having explained Supes' background and powers in the preceding one, this movie focusses on Superman-Lois Lane romance. It also presents a real physical threat to the Man of Steel in the form of Zod and his cohorts.

The actors have comfortably settled in their roles and the newcomers acquit themselves nicely. 

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as the Man of Steel and Lois Lane in the Fortress of Solitude in Superman 2 (1980)

Chris Reeve continues his superlative performance as Supes and his alter ego, Clark Kent. His chemistry with Margot Kidder is palpable. Gene Hackman provides most of the comic relief in the movie and he is an absolute hoot. The script (again) by Mario Puzo gets some nice laughs through the way people on earth react to the Kryptonians' arrival and their costumes.

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Terence Stamp gives a campy but enjoyable turn as General Zod. His "Kneel before Zod" utterance has become part of the pop culture. Sarah Douglas is good as the vamp and Jack O'Halloran is adequate as the brawny but dumb Non.

It will be interesting to see Michael Shannon's take on General Zod. The trailers have indicated that Michael's version will be a more serious one.

Terence Stamp as General Zod and Sarah Douglas as Ursa in Superman 2 (1980) vs Michael Shannon as General Zod and Antje Traue as Faora-Ul in Man of Steel (2013)
 General Zod and Ursa (Superman 2, 1980) vs General Zod and Faora-Ul (Man of Steel, 2013)

Supes and Bats are referred to as "World's Finest" and true to that designation, Superman: The Movie and Superman 2 along with the The Dark Knight Trilogy are at the top of the food chain in the superhero movie genre.

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Image Sources: Warner Bros Pictures, Box Office Mojo, DC Comics, Star Warped, Superhero Shows, SupermanTV.Net, Wikia


  1. I do really need to watch the Richard Donner cut.
    Comparing theatrical cuts, I cannot decide which I like more, 1 or 2. 2 has less Luthor, General Zod, and is more fun all around, but the first one had the origin.

    The worst part about the theatrical cut are the weird, non-comic book powers they have like beams coming from their hands, Super "S" wrap thing, and a mind-wiping kiss, although I kind of liked the last one.

    Since I have written a review for this as well, that I will post later this week, I will be sure to add a link to your review on my post.


  2. This was one of my favorite films when I was a kid. Even though I haven't watched it in ages, I do remember the majority of it great detail. I'll need to set aside some time to watch it again, very curious about the Donner cut.

    1. Thanks Daniel. The Donner cut is arguably the superior version. Either ways, the film is a classic.