Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980/2006)

2986690_640pxStarring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Marlon Brando, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, E.G. Marshall, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Clifton James, Marc McClure

Directed by Richard Donner

Expectations: I’m so excited.

threehalfstar


So all those problems I wrote about in my review for the theatrical version of Superman II? Gone. The Richard Donner Cut is head and shoulders a better film, reconstructing the original vision for the follow-up story to the first film perfectly. It’s a true shame that Donner wasn’t allowed to finish this at the time, as it really could have led to a much better Superman series if they let him continue making them after the first two films. Donner expresses a long-gone desire for doing this in the “Making Of” featurette on the DVD, and you can see the pain in his eyes. Even so many years later, it’s still a sore subject.

Watching the two versions of Superman II shows perfectly how editing and context can completely change scenes. Where certain scenes in Superman II feel long and out of place, within the context of the Donner cut they make sense and work naturally with the flow of the movie. The story slowly builds, where in the theatrical cut everything seemed to slowly go nowhere. So much of the first hour of that movie is painfully disjointed, a result of the producers and Richard Lester needing to rewrite key scenes and doing a poor job of it. I find it interesting that without prior knowledge of what was what, I took the most issue with the two main sections they added: the Eiffel Tower and the extended Niagara Falls bits. I guess this doesn’t bode well for the upcoming re-watch of Lester’s Superman III, does it?).

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Superman II (1980)

Superman-2-posterStarring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, E.G. Marshall, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Clifton James, Marc McClure

Directed by Richard Lester

Expectations: I’m so excited.

twohalfstar


If I didn’t already know that this film had a troubled production, the end result would speak for itself. Superman II feels like a direct sequel to Richard Donner’s original film AND a completely different movie from a different team, which makes it quite an odd watch. You’d think after such a massive success as Superman there’d be no way they could botch a sequel this bad, but they indeed managed the impossible. To know the story behind the film’s production only adds to that fire, giving birth to all sorts of “What might have been?” frustration. But it’s not all bad, as when Superman II decides it actually wants to be a Superman sequel, it’s pretty damn great. I’m now even more excited to see the Richard Donner reconstructed version, which I hope rectifies a lot of what felt so wrong about this one, especially in the first hour or so.

The plot of Superman II was set up (in part) during the opening minutes of the original film, as Jor-El imprisoned the evil General Zod and his minions Ursa and Non. But this time around, the producers didn’t want to pay Marlon Brando so he is completely excised from the film. Consequently, the scene plays out different than you might remember it, but the result is the same: the Kryptonian baddies are locked inside the Phantom Zone for all eternity. Well… until Superman throws a hydrogen bomb connected to an Eiffel Tower elevator into space. The detonation breaks them free and soon they come to Earth, each sporting powers equal to that of Superman himself. Uh oh.

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Young Guns (1988)

Starring Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Jack Palance, Terry O’Quinn, Sharon Thomas Cain

Directed by Christopher Cain

Expectations: Low. I’ve seen this one before and did not enjoy it.


I thought maybe this would be one of those movies that would get better with an appreciation for shitty movies. Unfortunately this is not the case, as Young Guns is not quite trashy enough to ignite the B-Movie torch and light my way through this tortured mess. It starts out well enough with an interesting and enigmatic opening of purple-tinged film grain and the silhouettes of our main characters, but just a couple of cuts later we’re treated(?) to close-ups of the stars as their names come on-screen in the most obvious, dumb way possible. Like Batman and Robin, at least Young Guns has the decency to let everyone know what they’re getting into. I should’ve stopped it right then and there, but I have an obligation to finish the filth and deliver something resembling quality content here at Silver Emulsion, regardless of the quality of the film.

I watch a lot of slow-moving B-Movies where their budgets don’t allow much to actually happen beyond a few people talking about something that you really should be seeing. Young Guns is like the opposite, where it’s almost all things happening but very little explanation, and what is there is so mind-numbingly boring and unengaging that I literally zoned out immediately whenever someone started talking. This happened the last time I watched it too, and I went in aware of this and actively tried to avoid it. I was simply unable to; it’s not my fault, it’s just a shitty, poorly constructed movie.

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The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Anthony Ruivivar, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp

Directed by George Nolfi

Expectations: Super low. I thought the trailer was laughable, but others talked me into seeing it.


For most people I imagine this will satisfy and delight, but for me, a hardened sci-fi nerd with a distinct love for Philip K. Dick, it didn’t cut it. There’s very little in the film that feels even remotely connected to an idea Dick may have had, and that is much too great of a transgression to forgive in my book. When dealing with one of the greatest minds of classic sci-fi, you’d think he’d get more respect from Hollywood, but once again his story is co-opted into mainstream drivel for the masses. At least this time around it is successful in translating itself into a moneymaking mainstream film, which, oddly enough, might do some good for Dick’s name.

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