I touched on this in another article, but decided to get into more detail. The first Superman film was amazing, just very well done. In fact, in that movie it takes over an hour to get to really see Superman in action, and yet we don’t seem to care. The story is so well done that we’re invested even if the main plot hasn’t even come close to starting. Superman II was the follow up and had lots of problems. Today I am going to talk about the classic version we all saw in theatres, not the Donner recut which is actually better. I saw this film in theatres, and hated it. Well, most of it. This weekend I watched the film again, to see if I was just being picky when I first saw it. I was very young when this came out. I admit, I hit the fast forward button a few times. I will be fair and point out where cut scenes explain my complaints if it applies.
Before I begin let me stress I am not saying the film was horrible, it’s not Superman III or, god forbid, Superman IV bad. I just had a lot of issues with it. Here are my top 5 :
#5. Pointless Eiffel Tower scene
This is straight up nitpicking because this scene is here for a reason, just not a reason which serves the main plot of the film except to get it started. The whole opening of the movie involved a nuclear bomb attached to an elevator in the Eiffel Tower. Lois sneaks aboard, and to be fair, this is the one time I like Margot Kidder’s Lois. I always preferred Teri Hatcher, or forgive me even Erica Durance, over her performance in this film. I don’t know, she always seemed a little old and way to whiny. Of course this was the silver age Lois, so I should give her a break. I did hate that she was a smoker. Getting off track, the point is Lois is saved by Superman who takes the elevator into space and lets it explode. The explosion frees the Phantom Zone prisoners, but originally it wasn’t supposed to be the elevator that did that. It was a nuclear missile from the first movie which was supposed to do that, which makes the whole Eiffel Tower scene a tacked on moment to get the plot going, which of course is never mentioned again. Not a bad scene, just ultimately pointless (and gone from the Donner cut by the way).
#4. Superman does not kill!
This is more nitpicking because it can be explained away. But again I am taking these complaints from the movie as is presented, not the explanations from other sources or cut scenes. I love the scene in the end when Superman defeats the three, the way he outthinks the villains was great. But there is one problem. The way it was originally presented, it almost looks like the three get killed. They fall into the ice and vanish, never to be heard from again! Now if you watch the Donner version you see an extra scene showing the three being turned over to the authorities, alive and well. WHY WAS THIS CUT FROM THE OTHER VERSION? It was obviously filmed, why not use it? The way the scene is it almost seems like Superman kills the three, which he would never do.
#3. Weird powers
What is it with strange powers the Kryptonians have in this movie? I say Krytonians because even Superman isn’t immune. We see him morph into his costume in midflight at one point. But Zod walks on water, levitates a gun and summons it to him, and the three somehow use their vision powers to change the faces on Mount Rushmore. Yeah, where did these strange powers come from? Did the creators know that Superman had established powers; you can’t just make stuff up because the effect is either really cool or hard to accomplish any other way. The biggest problem with powers is, how did Superman get his powers back anyway? A deleted scene restored in the Donner version explains it more, and since the scene involved Marlon Brando it was removed. Fine, but an explanation other than him staring at a magic crystal would have been nice. We cut from that to him appearing in Metropolis, like nothing happened. And of course the worst weird power of them all, that damn memory erasing kiss! Originally the reversing time bit from the end of the first movie was supposed to be used, but when it got put at the end of the first film they needed something else to be the reset button. I just wish they had thought it out, I read that this power was in the comics but that doesnâ€™t help make that moment make any more sense. Does Lois realize days have passed? What exactly has she forgotten? Explanation please!
#2.That whole Niagara Falls scene
Now we get to the real problems. I once heard Margot Kidder herself say their sleeping together was probably a mistake, so who am I to disagree? Having Clark and Lois sleep together was a big mistake. I complained about Superman Returns and the fact that in the end Clark and Lois still weren’t together, so I like them as a couple. But seeing them lying in bed was, wrong somehow. It doesn’t help that the scene before it had Superman give up his powers for Lois. Does that seem right? I realize the chamber is a plot point for the end of the film, but I don’t understand why Lois lets him make this sacrifice. She fell in love with him because he had powers! Why would she want him without powers? More than that, why would Superman give up his powers for a woman who loves him with powers?? I donâ€™t recall a scene were Lois said she would love him, if he were ordinary and had no powers at all. Now of course the modern version of Superman would have Lois falling in love with Clark, but this was pre-crisis so I can overlook that. This worst part is this is all so boring, and contrived by the way. Why would Perry White send Clark and Lois, his two top reporters, to Niagara Falls to pose as a married couple for some lame story? The film finally makes Lois have a brain and figure out Clark is Superman, but why is she suddenly aware of it now? Lois throws herself into a river to prove it, but Clark goes out of his way to save her without turning into Superman. This would have been great, and make perfect sense, if the next scene didn’t have Clark reveal he was Superman anyway!! That river scene is so pointless! It’s boring, forced, and ultimately meaningless because Superman gets his powers back, easily, anyway and the whole thing gets the magic rewind button treatment in the end.
#1. That damn diner fight
If I hated the Niagara Falls scene, the scene that follows it almost ruined the whole movie for me. Ok, before everyone comments that this is an important scene…yes I understand that. But I hated this scene as a kid, and it still doesn’t thrill me as an adult. The setup is simple, Clark has given up his powers and they wander into a diner. A jerk customer makes a move on Lois, and attempting to defend her Clark gets his ass handed to him to by the jerk. Ok, this is where the scene loses me. First of all, why is Clark acting like wimp? Does he need his powers to be able to defend himself (yes I know this was pre crisis as I said and Clark was a wimp in that time, but in this point in the film he should be acting like a capable person). Second, do we need to see Clark get beaten up like that? Third, after he is beaten like a wimp we have a bloody Clark watch the TV and finally, and I mean finally!, realize what was going on with Zod. I get the importance of the scene, Clark realizes he has been selfish and he belongs to the world and has to go back…etc etc. I would have done it like this, have Lois proceed to stand up for herself and beat the jerk. Clark just stands there, realizing how helpless he is without his powers while Lois has to stand up for herself. Then he notices the TV and realizes what a mistake he made. Having Clark bloodied just seem a bit much. This exact kind of thing was also done in Spider-Man 2, and handled much better. The worst part is the follow up scene. At the end of the movie, Superman has his powers back. What does he do? He goes to the diner and gets revenge on the jerk. While the guy deserves his comeuppance, something about the way the scene is handled feels out of character. Clark goes out of his way to find this guy and fight him? I would have had him come across him accidentally, say the guy was robbing a bank or something and Superman stops him. If this were another film it might have worked, but Clark is Superman he doesnâ€™t have to prove anything! The way the scene is plays it almost makes Clark look a jerk in my opinion. I hated that scene as a kid and continue to hate it to this day.
I did love some of the stuff in this movie. Gene Hackamn was great as Luthor with some real funny lines, the final fight was really good…that moment when Superman takes Zod’s hand and crushes it always brings a smile to my face. Overall though, I found this movie to be slow and even depressing at times. Just not what I want from a Superman movie. Hoping the new one next summer is finally the Superman movie I have always wanted to see.