Superman II (1980) Directed by Richard Lester. With Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Terrence Stamp, Margot Kidder, Sarah Douglas, Jackie Cooper and Jack O’ Halloran.
After a quick read-up on the considerable troubles that plagued the production of Richard Donner’s Superman II, its very existence ought to come as a surprise – so it will seem like a minor miracle to then discover that it’s actually one of the most fun, endearing super-hero films ever made.
Original Superman director Richard Donner was hired by the studio to oversee the first two films, until his stewardship was abruptly ended and British director Richard Lester was hired to complete the shoot for ‘II‘. With two starkly contrasting visions, it ought to have spelt disaster, but what we have is a slightly disjointed, yet fully entertaining blockbuster sequel that takes full advantage of the opportunity to tell a new and interesting Superman story outside of the usual Kryptonite woes that bother our boy in blue.
Posing the triple threat are a trio of Kryptonian villains with powers equal to those of Superman. Led by Terrence Stamp’s General Zod, the strikingly attired threesome add welcome new interest as they come to earth to conquer and rule while Superman takes both eyes off the ball, planting his gaze squarely at Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane. The film successfully builds on the relationships from the first film, and although the change of director does create a slightly uneven tone, Lester’s scenes being more light and comic than Donner’s – overall it hangs together well. There are subtle inconsistencies with things like wardrobe and body doubles for actors like Gene Hackman, who quit the project when Donner was fired, but these are minor details that are never distracting enough to derail the immense fun and charm brought to the screen by Christopher Reeve and a top-notch cast.
Superman II was very much the Avengers Assemble of its day – wildly ambitious and hugely popular, but with more heart. It might be sneered at by younger audiences who like their blockbusters set to stun in terms of special effects, but there’s no denying that this is a fun, well thought out sequel with a sense of freedom the original film did not possess. 5/5