TV Cream

Films: S is for...

Superman II

Richard Lester’s own justification of the Middle-Film-In-A-Trilogy-Is-Best theorem (we’re not counting Superman IV, here, obviously). Freed of the pondering pretentiousness of the first episode we get fun from the first frame here. There’s’ loads more Lex Luthor – the only reason to watch any of these things – Superman getting a bit of a doing and Richard Griffiths. All good stuff. Of course, the first part had Harry ‘Superman’ Andrews and the third part had Richard Pryor’s giant comedy cowboy hat, but this is where it’s at.



  1. An Overaged Jimmy Olsen

    November 30, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I think there’s less Lex Luthor because Gene Hackman walked off the film a little way into shooting, you can spot his embarrassingly obvious double as he’s always filmed from behind. Richard Donner came up with his own re-edited version of this recently partly because he wanted to make General Zod less funny, which is a terrible idea, Zod being funny is one of the best bits. Anyone who says Terence Stamp is a lightweight actor has never seen how great he is in this.

    You can tell how expensive this was due to the way over the top product placement throughout (even for cigarettes! Nick O’Teen must have been delighted!).

  2. Richard16378

    September 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    I did wonder why Lex Luthor vanishes from the plot for a long time after his jailbreak.

    The first 2 Superman films were made back to back to keep continuity tight.

  3. Glenn A

    November 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I think Lois Lane makes these films, which is why the third one isn’t as good as she’s only in it for five minutes. Margot Kidder portrays Lois Lane well as an opinionated, independent woman who gets into as many scrapes as Superman.
    In real life Margot Kidder was hit by the curse of Superman, a horrific car accident in 1990 nearly killed her and then mental illness saw her become a down ands out. However, last I heard she’s on the fan convention scene and also a bit of a political activist.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    August 6, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    The first film is excellent, but Superman 2 goes one step further and there’s more action. I can’t think of any film I enjoyed as much in the eighties and absolutely love how Lex Luthor’s character was expanded into a collaborator of General Zod, and how he tries to play off Zod and his comrades against Superman as Lex Luthor is really only interested in Lex Luthor. Also the sets in the Arctic and on Krypton are right up there with Star Wars.
    Then, of course, they had to make another one, which while it’s OK( Richard Pryor and the good Superman/ bad Superman are the best bits), it’s no match for the first two films.

    • richardpd

      August 6, 2019 at 10:57 pm

      I agree, the first one is great but the second takes thing a bit further.

      Plenty of good moments to fill up a slow bank holiday afternoon, the oddly British accented kids, the gratuitous product placement during the fight, Ursa nicking badges off everyone she fights, The Average White Band’s Pick Up The Pieces on constant play at the diner etc.

      Also endless debates with fellow film buffs about how it would have been if Richard Donner hadn’t been sacked. I know he had his alternative cut for the DVD but I presume he had to use footage shot by Richard Lester.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    August 7, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    @richardpd, another highlight for me is when Clark/ Superman loses his powers, gets into a fight with a redneck lorry driver who’s widely disliked in the diner and loses, and then goes back to sort him out at the end. I doubt think there’s one dull moment as a few people said the love scenes in the original film were a bit slow and smaller children obviously found them boring.

  6. Sidney Balmoral James

    January 24, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    Production of this film was VERY complicated. In fact, I think they started filming both films together (the producers of course had form here, as they had shot so much footage for the Three Musketeers in 1973, that they were able to produce two films – although this then led to them being sued by actors who had only been paid for one film!), and then things went a bit awry, with Richard Donner being replaced with Dick Lester when a lot of the film was already shot (all of Hackman’s scenes were shot by Donner, for example; I’m not sure he walked off, so much as had completed his bits). It’s incredible that the film is so good given this chaos – like Ernie’s wig, you can’t see the join (okay, apart from the long stretch without Hackman). There’s not much of Valerie Perrine ‘though. The Eiffel tower sequence is a cracker and the whole film makes modern superhero films with their CGI and general air of smugness look very pallid.

  7. Richardpd

    January 24, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    I assume they were supposed to be filmed back to back to make continuity tight.

    The original cut of Superman was shorter than what is normally shown on TV as they weren’t sure how well it would do at the cinema.

    Some of the footage was reinstated later on but some of it was incorporated into Superman II.

    I’m sure someone knows better than me!

    • THX 1139

      January 25, 2021 at 12:49 am

      The Salkinds (producers) told everyone involved they were making one epic movie, and paid them for one movie, then split it into two to make more profits. Naturally, there were complaints, not least because the Salkinds had pulled the same stunt with The Three Musketeers a few years before. When Richard Lester was brought in to shoot extra footage, there was a lot of resentment and Gene Hackman told them where to go (hence his terrible double). Margot Kidder also thought they were treated shabbily, and was given a cough and a spit in Superman III to put her in her place. I love the first Superman movie, and enjoy II and III, but there was some dodgy shit going down behind the scenes.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    January 24, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    @ Richardpd, Superman 2 was completed in 1980 and I think production started shortly after Superman was released. Both are classics and both were massive successes, but the first one is more like how Superman became Superman and the second is a continuation of the first from where the villains are exiled from Krypton and are seeking their revenge on Superman, the son of Jorel. Also the second has more action.

  9. Glenn Aylett

    January 26, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    I could add the sets in both films are true works of art, and also a credit to the then struggling British film industry as sets like Lex Luthor’s hideout in an abandoned railway terminal were created at Pinewood Studios. Even if you don’t like the Superman films, the set designs and special effects were the best I’ve seen since Star Wars.

  10. Sidney Balmoral James

    January 27, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Final comment, well question really: how come Richard Donner never made another film as great as Superman? It’s pretty nigh faultless, and beautifully shot – maybe it’s ultimately more Geoffrey Unsworth’s film rather than Donner’s. Nothing else Donner has directed has come close.

    • Richardpd

      January 28, 2021 at 11:00 pm

      You might be right, but Lethal Weapon seemed to be Richard Donner’s return to form film.

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