HD DVD Review : Supmerman II Richard Donner Cut
"Thank God for the Internet," Director Richard Donner says of the grass roots movement that made this film possible.
According to the featurette Superman II: Restoring the Vision, they had to sift through several tons of film that arrived by truck from Warner Brother's studios. Superman II is almost 30 years old so much of the film suffered moisture damage. The restoration effort involved baking every roll of film to remove moisture and then viewing and cataloguing every scene for continuity. What a project!
Richard Donner has directed many of the films we love - not necessarily great films but films that have a way of getting our affections like the 1976 Omen, Ladyhawke, Lethal Weapon and recently 16 Blocks. It's a widely held opinion that none of the other Superman films starring Christopher Reeve ever reached the same level of the first. What if Richard Donner had been able to complete Superman II instead of being dumped from the project?
· Actors: Christopher Reeve, Marlon Bando, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Terrence Stamp
· Directors: Richard Donner
· Format: AC-3, Director's Cut, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
· Language: English
· Region: 0
· Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
· Studio: Warner Home Video
· DVD Release Date: November 28, 2006
· Run Time: 116 minutes
The Movie: No Spoilers
Superman II, like the sequel to any comic book film, is really where the 'fun' begins. The back-story is done, we're familiar with the characters, so Superman II is free to dive right in with familiar faces. The credits are similar to Lester's Superman II, recapping events in the first film. But the shots are all different - the Donner cut uses different angles but tried to stay true to how Donner envisioned the Shakespearian tone of the Krypton authorities condemning General (Terrence Stamp) Zod and his cohorts to banishment from the doomed planet. The special effects have been touched up, particularly where space is visible, and look great on HD DVD. Although the effects look great for a 30-year-old movie, they remain true to the film's era. Unlike certain movies by George Lucas, none of the touch ups scream - "21st Century CGI!"
After recapping the first Superman and witnessing Zod's escape from the two-dimensional prison, we're re-introduced to
I won't give away what happens in the opening scenes, but the extent to which Lois is willing to go to prove
In keeping with Donner's more personal vision of the characters there is more - much more - interaction between Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve. The scene where Lois and Clark are in the hotel room at
The movie is a must see for fans of the film or Reeve. It's definitely a different movie than the one released to theater, and is a very strong piece in every way except one. The ending is terrible. I won't give it away but it's one of those cheap endings that removes validity from the film. You just have to block it out and not let it ruin your enjoyment of what's good about the rest. This wasn't Donner's choice for an ending. What we get is something cobbled together from a combination of Superman I footage and Lester's work.Video
The video on a 720P HDTV using the HD DVD version of the film was excellent. It should be, from the amount of work they put into the production. As expected though, some scenes looked inconsistent. Some of the video was taken from Lester's version, some from screen tests; but despite the variable image sources the picture looks pretty good overall. Scenes of the Krypton convicts battling Superman along the night skyline of Metropolis (
I found the audio in this film to exceed what I've come to expect from 25 plus-year-old films that get the 5.1 treatment. The Dolby Digital soundtrack sounds excellent through most of the movie. There are only a few spots where the sound isn't crystal clear. The audio received almost as much attention to detail as the video, and it shows. The effects during the battle scenes didn't fail to give my subwoofer plenty of rumble and the echo-chamber effects were a real standout when in the Fortress of Solitude. The soundtrack is actually better than the 2001 restoration of the original Superman on DVD.
Superman II: Restoring the Vision: This half hour long featurette is mainly interviews with Donner himself and production staff. It also shows footage of the restoration process. It's interesting mainly because Donner has a real take no prisoners personality. He spares not for a moment his contempt for the old production from Warner Brothers and their moves that kept him from completing Superman II. In one scene Donner even refuses to utter the name Richard Lester. You can tell he's a passionate man, at one point he appears truly touched by the outpouring from fans on the Internet to get the Donner cut released.
Introduction By Richard Donner: A few minutes of Donner thanking the fans that made this possible, and letting us know what we're in for.
Deleted Scenes: I scanned through it, just a few extended scenes they decided not to use and mostly they were probably right not to use them.
None of the special features appear in HD.
Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz: Usually audio commentaries are terrible exercises of