REVIEW: Superman II: Special Edition DVD

Superman II: Special Edition
The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection, Discs 5 & 6
Superman: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition, Discs 5 & 7

This marks my 50th review here on The Film Frontier, most of them within the last year or so. Up this time is Superman II: Special Edition.

Superman II Special EditionMost of the drama of Superman II, of course, occurred behind-the-scenes. The Salkinds tapped Richard Lester to replace Superman director Richard Donner, and there’s been controversy ever since.

Having listened to various tellings of the Donner vs. Salkinds/Lester story on Superman: Special Edition, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, this Superman II: Special Edition release, and various other places, all I can say is, enough already. Can’t we just watch the movie(s)? I really don’t care anymore whose fault it was. The fact is, it happened. Move on with your lives.

As far as the movie goes, this theatrical version of Superman II benefits from being a completed film, while The Richard Donner Cut had to make some necessary compromises. Which is better?

It’s still hard to say. My heart wants to go with the Donner version, but is it really the promise, the idea of the Donner version that I love, rather than the rough cut seen on that DVD?

No matter which version you prefer, the theatrical/Lester version of Superman II holds up well. Minus the controversy, it was fun to watch it once again.

Lots of bonus features on this Special Edition. Only one deleted scene, though. Shot by Lester, it explains a comment made by Donner on Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut commentary (that’s what I get for watching that one first). The Donner Cut itself, of course, includes a number of once deleted scenes, as well as additional deleted scenes available separately on the disc.

Other bonus features on the Special Edition include the vintage Making of Superman II television special, which unfortunately runs slightly too slow, effectively deepening everyone’s voice. In fact, I’d say that Christopher Reeve actually sounds a bit more “Super” with a deeper voice. It’s not too annoying, though, and certainly isn’t worthy of a recall on the part of Warner Home Video as some have called for. It’s just a bonus feature, folks, and it’s more than watchable.

I remember hating the Superman 50th Anniversary television special when it originally aired. Nearly twenty years later, watching it on DVD, I still hate it. Though I now, at least, recognize host Dana Carvey. Lots of other SNL cast members also appear. However, the special just isn’t as funny as it thinks it is. Think SNL on a bad season – a really bad season.

The highlights of the bonus features are a new documentary, First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series and the remaining eight Famous Studios Superman movie cartoons from the 1940s, which are influenced greatly by the still-in-progress World War II.

Many of the key Superman features we take for granted, including flying instead of leaping, were actually established by this cartoon series. The popularity of these cartoons forced the comics to follow along and make Superman fly. So much for being the one, true record of Clark’s adventures. I love seeing how the various Superman incarnations on different forms of media inspire one another.

Executive Producer Ilya Salkind and Producer Pierre Spengler provide the commentary track for the film. Considering the beaten given to them by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz in the expanded Superman and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut commentary tracks, it is only fair that they respond.

Though I enjoyed Salkind on Superman and Superman III, I found his ramblings on this one to be tiresome. For example, I just don’t care to hear his insight on the phrase “worked like dogs” (which he uses in reference to those involved on the first film) which he questions since he’s never seen dogs work very hard, except police dogs.

Forget the commentary and controversy. Just watch the movie and the cartoons. They’re still terrific.

Movie: 9 (out of 10)
Video Quality: 10
Audio Quality: 9
Bonus Features: 8
Overall Experience: 9