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Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Jeremy Wheeler
For years, people have wondered what Richard Donner would have done differently with Superman II, held by most to be one of cinema's most beloved sequels. And how about Richard Lester, a man who has been accoladed and equally jeered since the film's release, with cinephiles never quite knowing just how much of the film was his or not. How would history see him when the dust cleared? Well, after a painstaking remastering and assembly job, the Donner Cut is finally here -- and it's simply magic. Not only does it impress technically, with long-lost film elements preening with an unexpected shine, but it flows so organically that there is no doubt that the true heir to the Superman film legacy has been found. One cannot dismiss the impact of Marlon Brando's reinstated scenes, for they do more than just act as a bridge to the first film -- they bring an emotional weight that now seems criminal to have been cut. On the other end of the character spectrum, Clark and Lois have benefited greatly from the restored footage. Back is the long-rumored window jump sequence, as well as a key Niagara Falls scene that -- despite them having to use old screen-test footage -- fleshes out their personas and the eventual reveal of the Superman identity so much more than what was eventually used. Additionally, much of the little bits of goofy stuff Lester put in is now gone, most specifically with the trio of villains, who've been given back their menace, with none of the baby noises or eye rolls that once plagued them. The director's dubious choices of silly superpowers have also been nixed, with the mystical kiss and disappearing/reappearing gags left on the cutting-room floor. Thankfully, though it's graver in its emotions and is indeed more intense, the movie is still a joy to watch -- and even more so now that the running time has been shaved off. Now, the Donner Cut is nowhere near perfect -- a few plot points are left wide open, while they also had to recycle the ending from the first film (though the way it's edited is handled in an entirely neat and visceral way). Surely nothing can take away the joy that has permeated people's minds when dealing with Lester's cut, but this version really does give it a run for its money and supplies endless food for thought on what might have happened if Donner was never cruelly cut from the franchise. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi
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