Plot: What’s it about?
As Superman: The Movie was being produced, the sequel Superman II was also being filmed, both movies helmed by Richard Donner. But as the budgets rose on the shoots, the studio decided to make a switch, pulling Donner off the sequel. A lot of footage had been shot by Donner, but the studio chose to reshoot much of it, with new director Richard Lester. In addition to new footage, some finer points of the plot were tossed out, including some scenes with Marlon Brando. As fans learned of this alternate version of Superman II, rumors circulated about what was shot and excised, as well as which version would be better. Almost thirty years later, Warner releases The Richard Donner Cut, restored to Donner’s vision, or at least as closely as possible. The basic plot remains the same, but Donner’s vision is more dramatic and powerful, though some fans are sure to dislike the slower pace and reduced focus on action. But in any case, The Richard Donner Cut is finally available, so fans make their own decision on which version to support.
The fans of the Superman franchise have talked about The Richard Donner Cut of Superman II for decades, but finally, this new vision is available. I’ve seen numerous director’s cut, alternate cuts, and other manner of new edits and to be honest, few surpass the original version. In the case of Superman II however, this new version is excellent and stands as the superior edition. Donner’s vision includes some short, but crucial scenes with Marlon Brando as Jor-El, sequences which add so much to the film. Just these seemingly minor additions totally change the experience and in this instance, for the better. The film actually runs over ten minutes shorter than the original theatrical cut, but nothing is lost in the process. The basic premise remains the same, but Donner’s vision adds in dramatic moments that help flesh out the experience. A few changes here and there, which don’t derail the movie, but instead enhance it. The wait has been extensive and while some of the footage isn’t as refined as the rest of the movie, its worth the dip in quality, I assure you. This is a well crafted, impressive restoration that finally lets us see the much talked about alternate version of Superman II. Although some fans might still prefer the original, I still recommend this new release to all fans.
Video: How does it look?
The 2.35:1 HD transfer is marginally better than the standard DVD that came out as well. The movie is now over 25 years old and some look good at this age and others don’t. “Superman II” falls somewhere in the middle. Some of the scenes have a true, 3-D like quality to them and others seem to show their age a bit. As per usual, we see no signs of edge enhancement and the contrast is clean and sharp. I noticed a bit of dirt on the print from time to time, but really nothing to get all worked up about. “Superman: The Movie” looked better than this, but I’ve seen worse on HD DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack here isn’t half bad but it’s nothing compared to the modern soundtracks of today. There are a few scenes, such as when Superman blows the cars away, that really make use of the surrounds and I did notice a depth to the soundtrack that I really didn’t think possible. Like the video, the audio is over 25 years old and you can only do so much with re-mastering. Still, I’d wager to say this is the best that this movie has ever sounded, so for that we can’t complain too much.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This HD DVD contains the same extras as the standard DVD and Donner provides an audio commentary track and as expected, he is candid about the project and his feelings on how his vision was shut down in the past. In addition to covering the history behind the project, Donner also takes aim on the director who replaced him, Richard Lester. He hammers a lot of the decisions Lester made, while letting us know how different he would have handled things. The track is a little bitter of course, but still well worth a listen. Donner also provides a brief introduction, while other extras includes a brief look at the process to bring this new version to life, as well as some deleted scenes.