As successful as Superman was, I don’t think there was any doubt that a sequel would be made. The funny thing is, the sequel was actually being filmed at the same time as the first movie but was put on hold before it was finished, as the studio wanted to get the first movie finished and see how it did before they completed work on the sequel. Now I don’t remember if I saw this in theaters but I do remember watching it on TV with my dad years ago and the kid in me thought it was awesome to see Superman fighting some other Kryptonians who were just as strong as him. So let’s see if this feeling still holds up with today’s movie, Superman II.
The plot: On Krypton, General Zod, Ursa, and Non break into a facility, killing the guard and breaking one of the crystals inside, but they are quickly captured, where a trial is held and they are banished to the Phantom Zone. Years later, Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet only to learn that a terrorist group has taken hostages at the Eiffel Tower and threaten to blow up Paris with a hydrogen bomb if their demands aren’t met. When he learns that Lois Lane has been sent there to cover the story, Clark quickly leaves the building before changing into Superman and flies off towards Paris. In Paris, Lois arrives at the Eiffel Tower but when she hears about the bomb, she sneaks into the Eiffel Tower and climbs underneath one of the elevators so she can get closer to the terrorists for a better story but her purse strap gets snagged on one of the struts, trapping her underneath. The terrorists release the hostages and send them down in one of the elevators while sending the bomb up on one of the others, which happens to be the one Lois is trapped underneath. When the terrorists leave the elevator, the police detonate explosives the placed in the junction box, sending the elevator crashing down but accidentally causing the bomb to be activated. Superman arrives in Paris and quickly flies down and stops the elevator from crashing, rescuing Lois, then flies the elevator car up into space to let it explode safely. When the bomb explodes, it sends shockwaves out that knock Superman back but he quickly recovers and flies back to Earth. However, the shockwaves also strike the Phantom Zone prism as it flies by Earth, freeing Zod, Ursa, and Non. The three Kryptonian fly to the moon, where they proceed to attack and kill three astronauts before flying down to Earth. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor and his henchman Otis, make plans to break out of prison, with Eve Teschmacher’s help by piloting a hot air balloon, but Otis’ weight is too much for the balloon so Luthor kicks the ladder off, leaving Otis behind as he and Teschmacher fly off. Clark and Lois are sent on assignment to Niagara Falls, posing as newlyweds to expose a honeymoon scam. While they are walking by the falls, Lois starts to get suspicious about Clark when Superman shows up to save a boy who fell off the railing and Clark is nowhere to be seen. At the same time, Luthor and Teschmacher head north and eventually reach the Fortress of Solitude, where Luthor learns of the existence of Zod, Ursa, and Non. Learning that there was a chance the three could escape the Phantom Zone, Luthor realizes that the strange alpha waves he had been detecting were the criminals and makes plans to contact them. Back at Niagara Falls, Lois voices her suspicions to Clark about his being Superman and decides to jump in the falls to prove her theory. As she makes her way down the river, Clark rushes along the bank and tries to save Lois without revealing his secret identity, eventually using his heat vision to sever a tree branch for her to use to stay afloat before she is able to get to shore. As she is chastising herself back in their hotel room, Lois asks Clark to hand her a brush and as he moves towards her, he trips over a bear-skin rug and his hand falls into the nearby fire. When Lois checks his hand and realizes it is unharmed, Clark finally comes clean and Lois says that he probably did so subconsciously. Realizing that they need to talk, especially after Lois says that she loves him, so he takes her to the Fortress of Solitude so he can explain everything. Meanwhile, Zod, Ursa, and Non arrive in the small town of East Houston, Idaho and quickly take over the town. When the military arrives to deal with them, the three Kryptonians easily defeat the military and then head to Washington to force the President to surrender. Back in the Fortress, Superman speaks with the image of his mother and learns there is a way to remove his powers and make him mortal, so he can live his life with Lois, but she cautions him that the process is irreversible. Clark agrees to go with it and enters a chamber that is filled with red solar radiation, removing his powers from him. Lois is shocked that he gave up his powers for her as the two end up sleeping together before making the journey back to Metropolis. When they stop at a diner to eat, Clark gets into a fight with a man harassing Lois and ends up getting beat up. As Lois helps him to his feet and tends to him, they see a televised broadcast of the President surrendering to Zod before pleading for Superman to help them. As Zod comes on camera and calls out Superman, Clark realizes the danger that he has placed on the Earth by surrendering his powers and decides to head back to the Fortress to see if there is anyway to get them back. Making his way up North, he finds the Fortress apparently destroyed by the process that removed his powers and calls out to his father, only to notice the green crystal that built the Fortress glowing on the ground. Meanwhile, Luthor arrives at the White House and informs Zod that Superman is the son of Jor-El, which angers Zod and the three Kryptonians head to Metropolis and attack the Daily Planet to draw him out. As they threaten Lois and Perry, Superman, having regained his powers, appears outside and draws the three villains outside to fight. The three Kryptonians battle with Superman throughout the city, and Zod takes advantage of Superman’s weakness by constantly attacking the people in the city. Realizing the battle couldn’t continue without hurting someone, Superman flies away, drawing reproach from the crowd below. Zod returns to the Daily Planet to declare his victory and tells Non to kill Luthor but Luthor says he knows where Superman is going and so Zod tells Non to stop and they take Luthor and Lois to follow after Superman. When they arrive at the Fortress, they renew their attack on Superman, who manages to use several tricks in order to grab Zod but Non and Ursa grab Lois and threaten to rip her in half unless Superman releases Zod. Superman reluctantly does so and Luthor approaches the group, only for Zod to say that he has outlived his usefulness. Luthor approaches Superman to ask for his help and Superman tells him to get the Kryptonian into the chamber so they can steal their powers. Luthor immediately warns Zod of the trap and Zod forces Superman to go into the chamber and then tells Luthor to activate the chamber. The room is bathed in light and when Superman exits the chamber, Zod orders Superman to kneel before him and swear fealty to him. Superman kneels but when he grabs Zod’s hand, Superman easily crushes it before picking him up and tossing him into a wall, where Zod falls into a crevice. Non tries to attack Superman but when he tries to fly, he fails and falls into another crevice while Lois knocks Ursa into a third crevice. Luthor realizes that Superman had switched things so that he was protected in the chamber while Zod and the others were exposed outside and Superman admits he knew that Luthor would try to double cross him which is why he didn’t tell him the truth. Superman flies Lois back home, and supposedly takes Luthor back to prison, and the next day, Clark goes to talk with Lois at work. Lois admits how hard it is knowing that he will always be flying off to save people and she can’t react any differently to him at work or outside without accidentally revealing who he is or how she feels about him. Clark kisses her and uses the kiss to wipe her memory of the last few days so that she doesn’t remember that he is Superman. Clark then leaves to go get Lois a hamburger and ends up running into the man who beat him up, where he easily beats the man this time. Superman then flies an American flag back to the top of the White House, apologizing to the President for being late and promising he will be there they next time they need help, then flies off to orbit the Earth.
Superman II met with high praise from the critics, holding an 87% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The humor occasionally stumbles into slapstick territory, and the special effects are dated, but Superman II meets, if not exceeds, the standard set by its predecessor.” The movie was about 75% filmed at the same time that Superman was filmed but when the studio went to finish the movie, director Richard Donner was no longer directing it as he was fired over disagreements with the studio. However, there were roughly 24 minutes of unused footage that Donner shot which were incorporated into an alternate DVD release titled the Richard Donner cut. While not as successful as it’s predecessor, the movie was still a box office success, earning $190.4 million off of a $50 million budget.
Ok, child me kind of died a little inside because this didn’t really hold up over time. Still, it wasn’t that bad of a movie. The acting was good, with Christopher Reeve (Clark), Margot Kidder (Lois), and Gene Hackman (Luthor) doing great jobs reprising their roles. I also liked Terrence Stamp (Zod) and Sarah Douglas (Ursa) but my favorite was Jack O’Halloran (Non), as his child-like innocence mixed with the Kryptonian powers made for some great, and sometimes funny, scenes. The story was pretty good though, as I haven’t seen the Donner cut, I am curious to see how the two versions compare and differ. However, one thing I didn’t like is the additional powers they seemed to give Zod and the others, such as the finger beams or the somewhat telekinetic powers they had. Also, and I apologize if this upsets anyone, but what was up with the stupid expanding chest shield thing that Superman threw at Non? The special effects honestly didn’t stand up to the test of time, as they truly look dated when watching it now. Still, this is a fun movie to watch and honestly better than some of the more recent efforts.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5