Superman 2: The Donner Cut

It is interesting to see just how much a director means to a piece of work and how much they can change it. This is no more obvious than with Superman 2, the Richard Donner cut shown for the first time in cinemas at the Glasgow Film Festival. Donner (the director of Superman) had finished most of Superman 2 before the producers and him had a falling out. This led to the introduction of new director Richard Lester and the need to cut out most of the Donner filmed scenes in order to not have his name on the credits. The result was that the theater release of Superman 2 was quite different to what it could have been.

A couple of years ago, Warner gave permission to fans to find the Donner scenes and paste them together with the scenes that he had not directed yet and early audition tapes from Christopher Reeve to create the Donner cut.

The story still follows Clark Kent, whose work college Lois Lane is getting closer to working out the truth: that Superman, the man she loves is in fact Clark Kent. At the same time, three Kyrptonian prisoners from the Phantom Zone are unleashed on earth including General Zod (a Krptonian rebel who wants to be ruler). The three Kryptonians all have the same powers as Superman. What will happen when it’s one super being against three?

The Donner Cut is by far superior to Lester’s. With many scenes being completely different to how they were in the theater release, they work much more successfully and feel more in place. For example, the opening first twenty minutes is drastically different in Donner’s then in Lester’s. Donner also seems to have gone with the impression that less is more in terms of special effects that as the years have gone by has been a blessing. The Donner Cut (although it is clear that some effects have been updated for it) looks less dated as skills and technology have evolved. The entire vibe of the film is also different. Although there is still a air of comedy, the film is a much more serious portrayal then Lester’s version.

It is brilliant to see Marlon Brandon (playing Jor-El, Sups’ father) reappear in the film whose scenes were again cut from the Lester version.

Even with the changing of scenes sometimes at strange times and in one scene where Clark Kent’s hair clearly drastically changes in length and style, there is little that you as a viewer would be able to not enjoy.

However there are some problems with the film that exist in the Lester version as well. The portrayal of Lex Luthor is terrible. Lex is portrayed as a bumbling, comedy jester who is there simply to make the audience laugh. As well as this he cowers under Zod, happily being his dogs body. This is a shadow of the true personality of Luthor and to me Hackman was an awful choice. The ending itself again feels like it is cheating the audience. Unfortunately this is the big change that Lester made that was far superior to Donner’s. Although you still feel cheated in Lester’s, you feel less so, leaving you wishing to having some kind of half breed between the two.

Overall Superman 2 The Donner Cut is a definite must watch for any comic book fan and film fan. We as an audience rarely get to see how much influence a director can have on a piece of work but here we can. For a Comic book fan it allows you to see like with the Adam West Batman how different two interpretations of the same character can be. It’s one flaw is that you wish it to have elements of both but that it such a small feat for such an extraordinary achievement that could only be done out of love for the film and for cinema.

Luke Halsall

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