Buy Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut [Blu-ray]
Buy the The Richard Donner Cut on DVD
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The Richard Donner cut of Superman II is an infamous legend come to
life. Director Donner shot most of the sequel at the same time as his
first blockbuster film, but somewhere along the line, the producers and
studio lost confidence and brought in Richard Lester (The Three
Musketeers) to rework the film, and receive sole credit. For years fans
speculated on how different the final film was from Donner's original
until an underground copy appeared showing a fully formed feature. In an
unprecedented move, Warner Brothers officially embraces this alternate
version. For those who have not been part of the rumor mill, know that
Donner shot all the footage with Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). You can find
blow-by-blow descriptions of what is new/changed elsewhere, but most of
the changes deal with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as the
comic-book couple. Donner's cut provides alternate scenes for how Lois
tests her hunch that Clark is Superman, the moment he reveals his
identity, and how Lois unlearns that truth. Thing is, Lester's reshots
are stronger, adding weight to the romance between the two, lifting the
picture's stature. Lester also added the dandy Eiffel Tower opening.
Donner's chief additions are in the Fortress of Solitude, where Marlon
Brando returns to teach (Susannah York, as Superman's mom, appears in
the Lester cut). The producers cut Brando's footage so they wouldn't
have to pay him millions. The Brando/Reeve scenes continue the
father/son dynamic of the first film. There is a great lesson in
editing--Lester's less is better than Donner's more--when you compare
how Kent turns back into Superman after losing his powers. The Donner
cut is completely formed but does use some rehearsal footage, new
effects, and some pieces shot by Lester. The history of cinema has many
of these stories of movies reshot, hijacked, and changed from the
original version, but here the underdog wins and Donner gets his chance
to change history, even adding a note in the end credits about the use
of fur and smoking as regrettable choices of the time.
Director Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz have a jolly good
time revisiting their past on the commentary track. You get a clearer
picture of who shot what, but the two have nothing good to say about
Lester's edition. Donner doesn't go much into why he was dropped, just a
difference of opinion and the need not to pay Brando. He also explains
why the déjà vu ending of this edition was used in the first movie and a
new ending would have been thought up for part 2. A quick featurette
looks at how Michael Thau and a small crew reconstructed the film and
compares several scenes from both versions. Also added are additional
scenes shot by Donner but not used, most with Hackman. --Doug Thomas
In the year of Superman Returns, Superman II starring Christopher Reeve
also returns - with a totally different beginning and resolution. With
Jor-El (Marlon Brando in recently discovered footage) in key scenes that
amplify Superman lore and deepen the profound relationship between
father and son. With different Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) schemes to
unmask Clark Kent as Superman. With...well, with so many changes, large
and small, that this Superman II is an eye-opening alternate experience.
Director Richard Donner began shooting his vision of Superman II while
concurrently filming Superman The Movie. Now, for the first time, his
never-before-seen vision is here. And it's a must for every Superman
fan, an important addition to the legend of the Man of Steel.
DVD special features
All new introduction by director Richard Donner (1 minute and 53
Commentary by director Richard Donner and creative consultant Tom
New featurette Superman II: Restoring the Vision (13 mins. and 18
6 Deleted Scenes (8 minutes and 33 seconds)
Lex and Miss Teschmacher head north
Lex and Miss Teschmacher head south
The villains try to enter fortress
He's all yours, boys
Clark and Jimmy
Lex's getaway (video can be viewed here)
Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Français & Español (feature film only)& German
Buy the The Richard Donner Cut on DVD
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a 2006 re-edit
of the 1980 superhero film, Superman II, by Richard Donner, who shot a
large part of the original movie before being replaced as director by
Richard Lester. It stars Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp,
Margot Kidder and Marlon Brando. The cut was supervised by Donner,
creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz (who penned the 1977 shooting script
for Superman II. on which the Donner cut is based), and Michael Thau, an
editor who worked with Donner on the 2001 DVD director's cut and
restoration of the 1978 film Superman.
Alternate scene from the Donner Cut, Lois Lane jumps from the window of
the Daily Planet to prove Clark is Superman.
Unlike many “special edition” and “director’s cuts” released over the
years, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a very different film,
despite both versions following roughly the same storyline. As much as
half of the film contains never-before seen material filmed by Donner,
including 15 minutes of Marlon Brando scenes as Superman's father Jor-El
as well as numerous new Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder scenes. Some
of this "new" material has appeared in earlier extended television cuts.
Some of the existing scenes were also replaced with alternate takes or
footage from different camera angles. There are also several
newly-filmed shots and many new visual effects. Richard Donner is
credited as director of the film instead of Richard Lester. More than
half of Lester's footage filmed for Superman II has been removed from
the film and replaced with Donner footage shot during the original
principal photography from 1977. Certain footage filmed by Richard
Lester remains in sequences that were not shot by Donner (due to the
halt in production for this film) for purposes of story cohesion. As a
result, approximately 83% of the footage in the film is Donner's
Donner's Fortress of Solitude scene
The film was released on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc on November 28,
2006. It is the only version of Superman II to be released on HD DVD and
Blu-ray format, as the theatrical cut was only released on DVD.
In 1977, director Richard Donner set about simultaneously filming an
epic two-part adaptation of the Superman comic book series. With 80% of
Superman II photographed, after having to postpone the original summer
1978 release date for Superman due to an extended shoot, filming on
Superman II was suspended in October 1978 so that Donner could focus on
completing the first film.
Following the release of Superman in December 1978, it was widely
assumed that Donner would be re-called to complete the remainder of the
sequel. However, a number of events led to Donner’s eventual replacement
as director of the movie. Most importantly, the producers (Alexander and
Ilya Salkind) announced that Marlon Brando's completed scenes for
Superman II would be excised from the movie in order to prevent them
having to pay the actor the reported 11.75% of gross U.S. box-office
takings he was now demanding for his performance in the sequel. Donner
publicly lambasted this decision, announcing that he would make the film
his way or not at all. The April 1978 issue of the sci-fi magazine
Starburst quotes Donner as saying, "That means no games...They have to
want me to do it. It has to be on my terms and I don't mean financially.
I mean control."
Terence Stamp as Zod
Tensions had existed between the Salkinds and Richard Donner throughout
the almost nineteen months of filming it had taken to complete Superman
and most of Superman II. The producers blamed the director for going
wildly over budget and schedule. Donner claims he was never given a
budget, nor a schedule. In the commentary track on the 2006 DVD release
of the theatrical version of Superman II, co-producer Pierre Spengler
recounts that Donner was indeed invited to return to complete the film
as director, but, according to an Army Archerd/Variety magazine
interview, Donner declared that if Spengler remained on the picture,
Donner himself would not return to direct. In the same commentary, Ilya
Salkind states the removal of Spengler was allegedly one of many demands
made by Donner, who, he claimed, also wanted final cut of the film and
more control over the production, demands to which the Salkinds weren't
willing to agree.
The situation finally came to a head, and on March 15, 1979, the
Salkinds decided to replace Donner with U.K.-based director Richard
Lester, with whom they had worked on two successful Musketeers films. In
1989, Donner told Starlog magazine, "… the Salkinds, for whatever
reason, chose not to bring me back. After I waited to hear for six or
eight weeks, I got a telegram that said, 'Your services are no longer
A replacement director
Lester had served as mediator (or uncredited co-producer) between the
Salkinds and Donner for a large part of the initial shoot. Suspicions
abounded at the time that Lester was being primed for taking over the
film, despite Donner's determination to complete the project at all
costs and Lester's assurances to the contrary.
Lester himself has never fully commented on his role in the
controversial production of Superman II and has refused any involvement
with the 2006 DVD re-releases, although at the beginning of an AMC
widescreen telecast of Superman II, Lester acknowledged that the sequel
was indeed "his film."
The situation was further complicated by the deaths of cinematographer
Geoffrey Unsworth on October 28, 1978 and production designer John
Barry, who died on June 1, 1979, Richard Lester's first day as director
of Superman II. Tom Mankiewicz, a key Donner ally who had re-written
both Superman scripts to comply with Donner's directive to make the
features more realistic and less camp, declined to return without Donner,
as did editor Stuart Baird, who would later go on to direct Star Trek
Nemesis. Composer John Williams also turned his attention to other
projects, such as Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and
Raiders of the Lost Ark; while the Salkinds and Lester commissioned
fellow Musketeers alum Ken Thorne to re-use Williams' themes.
An alternate Superman II
In order for Richard Lester to earn a directorial credit on the film,
Superman II had to contain at least 51% of his footage. This meant that
large portions of the film were subsequently re-written and re-shot by
Lester, with much of Donner's filmed Superman II footage excised.
Both Superman scripts were originally written by The Godfather writer
Mario Puzo, and then re-written in 1976 by screenwriters David & Leslie
Newman and Robert Benton, prior to Donner's hiring as director. When
Donner came on board in January 1977, he insisted on bringing in
screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz to re-write the script. Mankiewicz made
numerous and considerable changes to both screenplays, removing and
altering major scenes, and completely re-writing much of the dialogue.
It was this Mankiewicz script that was then filmed by Donner in 1977-78.
Following Donner's (and Mankiewicz's) removal, writers David & Leslie
Newman were re-hired by the producers to re-write the Superman II
script, even though most of it had already been filmed. Ultimately, the
Newmans did this by making Superman II as similar as possible to the
1976 script they had originally written before Mankiewicz and Donner
came on board. Scenes that had been most altered by Mankiewicz in 1977
were subject to the greatest revisions. For example, in the original
Newman draft, Superman II begins with terrorists seizing a building in
New York. Mankiewicz's 1977 re-write removed this scene entirely. Then,
the Newmans re-inserted the scene, albeit shifting the location to
Paris. The same can be said for several crucial Newman / Benton scenes,
including Lois's deliberate jump into a river near Niagara Falls
(removed by Mankiewicz – reinserted by the Newmans); Clark revealing he
is Superman by not burning his hand (re-written by Mankiewicz to have
Lois trick Clark by firing a gun with a blank bullet at him – reinserted
by the Newmans). A considerable amount of cut Newman / Benton dialogue
was also reinserted by the Newmans, almost word-for-word into the
re-re-revised Superman II script.
It has been suggested that if Gene Hackman (who had completed all of his
scenes for Superman II under Donner) had returned for any further
filming without Donner, almost all of Donner's Superman II footage would
have been scrapped. As it was, only the Gene Hackman Donner footage – as
well as Donner footage deemed too expensive to re-shoot – was destined
to remain in the finished film. (According to Ilya Salkind's 2006 DVD
commentary track for Superman II, Hackman was merely unavailable to
return to shoot his remaining scenes for the final Lester cut.)
One of the early changes made for the final Lester cut was the
elimination of any scenes involving Marlon Brando, even going so far as
to re-shoot the scene where Jor-El takes the green crystal and laying
into the starship, as millions of dollars would have been paid to Brando
for the inclusion of these scenes.
Lester's main task in completing Superman II was to film cheaply and
quickly, to avoid further budget or scheduling overruns. According to
many of the cast and crew, this entailed a noticeable drop in the
quality of filmmaking, as certain scenes were hastily re-written and
shot. Ultimately, the Newmans' campier take on Superman coupled with
Lester’s more comically-oriented sense of direction led to a Superman II
that was a huge box office and critical success, but condemned by Donner
as severely flawed. Lester has often been vilified by Superman purists
who link his assumption of the directorial reins with a general downward
spiral in the quality of the Christopher Reeve Superman films, e.g.,
Superman III was directed entirely by Lester. In a June 2006 interview
with Hotdog Magazine, producer Ilya Salkind conceded that Lester did not
share the same passion for the material as had his predecessor Richard
Marlon Brando as Jor-el
The 1980 theatrical Superman II
Filming was completed for Lester's Superman II on March 10, 1980 and was
released in Europe and Australia on December 4, 1980 and June 19, 1981
in the United States. This version of Superman II combined Donner
footage shot in 1977 with Lester footage shot in 1979. Approximately 30%
of Lester’s Superman II is Richard Donner footage.
In numerous scenes, the theatrical Superman II interweaves footage
filmed years apart. Much of this interweaving was necessitated by Lex
Luthor actor Gene Hackman's refusal to return to film any further scenes
with Lester. Thus, all Hackman footage in the film is Donner's, although
in certain scenes, a body double was used for wide shots re-filmed by
Lester. In several instances, Lester re-staged Donner-filmed scenes,
inserting certain newly-filmed shots into pre-existing material. This is
most evident during a scene in which the super-villains burst into The
Daily Planet. The scene was filmed in its entirety by Donner in 1977.
The Perry White office set was then partly re-built under Lester in
1979, the actors placed in exactly the same positions, costumes, etc.,
and new material filmed and inserted into the final film.
Donner footage in Superman II
The following is a list of all major Donner footage that was retained
for Superman II:
Lex Luthor in prison, including the escape by balloon.
The three super-villains land on the moon and kill the astronauts.
Lex Luthor at the Fortress of Solitude.
The three super-villains attack the White House and force the President
to "kneel before Zod."
A powerless Clark is beaten up by a bully in a fast-food diner.
Lex Luthor visits the super-villains in the White House.
The villains burst into The Daily Planet and chase after Superman (some
close-ups are edited-in Lester footage).
The villains return to the Planet and decide to go to Superman's polar
fortress (some close-ups are edited-in Lester footage).
The second part of the final scene at the Fortress of Solitude,
beginning with Luthor's belated arrival (some close-ups are edited-in
Clark returns to the diner and gets his revenge on the bully.
The rest of the film, including the opening scenes at the Eiffel Tower,
some part of the scenes at Niagara Falls, the scenes of the
super-villains in Midwest America and the battle in Metropolis were all
shot by Lester. Several television stations have broadcast extended cuts
over the years. These have largely featured additional Donner material
including footage of Superman destroying the Fortress of Solitude at the
conclusion of the film, as well as extra scenes between Lois and
Superman II controversies and plot holes
Critics of Lester’s Superman II, including Donner,
have stated that Lester's penchant for comedy undermined the integrity
of the film, especially when compared to Donner's Superman. Examples of
this trademark comedy are evident during scenes which feature Superman
fighting the super-villains in Metropolis. The villains attack the
citizens of Metropolis using super-breath. Several comedic sight gags
follow, including the wind blowing off a man's toupee, the ice cream
being blown off of a cone and into someone's face, a man being blown
over in a telephone booth and talking the whole time, a man with an
umbrella being spun around as if dancing (parodying Singin' in the Rain)
and a man on roller-skates rolling uncontrollably backwards across the
One particular plot hole that has frustrated the film's fans involves
the transition from a powerless Clark Kent finding the green crystal at
the abandoned Fortress of Solitude to a restored Superman’s return to
The Daily Planet to fight the super-villains. Lester shot a workaround
scene where Superman shows the green crystal to Lois Lane, who
absentmindedly places it aside without returning it to its chamber; this
explains its survival when the device is destroyed, supposedly allowing
Kent to use it to reverse his loss of Superman's powers, but there is no
indication as to how this is possible without the device itself.
Furthermore, the hologrammatic Lara flatly states that the process is
irreversible in the first place. This lack of any explanation whatsoever
as to how Superman regained his powers was frustrating to audiences.
Discussions about lost Donner footage have been raging for years, and
with the advent of the internet, numerous letter-writing and other
campaigns were instigated to persuade Warner Bros. to allow Richard
Donner to create his version of Superman II. In 2005, a fan restored DVD
known as Superman II: Restored International Cut was released. It
featured extended scenes shown in various television broadcasts over the
years and helped bring much publicity to the cause when Warner Bros.
threatened legal action over the bootleg release.
The Richard Donner Cut Buy the The Richard Donner Cut on DVD
When filming was suspended on Donner's Superman II in October 1977, the
director had completed almost all of the major character-based sequences
in the film. All scenes in The Daily Planet and most scenes set in the
Fortress of Solitude were completed. All scenes featuring Marlon Brando,
Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine and Gene Hackman were also
completed. What remained to be filmed was the villains' arrival on
Earth, and their rampage through mid-west America as well as exteriors
at Washington D.C. during which Zod announces his takeover of the Earth
from the tip of the Washington Monument. Most of the battle scenes
between Superman and the super-villains had yet to be shot, as well as
both the interiors and exteriors at Niagara Falls. Several minor scenes
including a love-struck Superman deliberately tilting over the Leaning
Tower of Pisa (later adapted in Superman III) and a scene in which
Superman warns off some English fox-hunters were also not filmed.
The new film features most of the completed never-before-seen scenes
(some scenes have been deleted for narrative/dramatic reasons), which in
many cases replace scenes re-filmed or altered by Richard Lester. These
include the original opening of the film set in the offices of The Daily
Planet. In this opening, we see Lois trying to figure out the Clark Kent
/ Superman similarities, followed by Perry White assigning Clark and
Lois on the honeymoon racket in Niagara Falls, and then Lois testing
Clark / Superman by jumping off the balcony of one floor of The Daily
Planet (a revised version of this scene appears in the Lester theatrical
The Mankiewicz script / original Donner shoot
The following is a list detailing restored or differing scenes from
Superman II that appear in the Richard Donner Cut:
Before the company logos appear at the beginning of the film, a text
reads, "The following film represents Superman II the way it was
originally conceived and intended to be filmed. Some scenes were taken
from screen tests of scenes we were unable to shoot."
Opening logos; A modern day digital Warner Bros. logo plays followed by
the DC Comics logo.
A text appears dedicating the film to Christopher Reeve.
Pre-credits; Superman reprise. The arrest of the three super-villains is
deleted, but Jor-El's role in there is restored. The scene is also
re-edited with different close-ups.
The villains' travel through space towards Earth is shown alongside Kal-El's
own travel pod several times. In the original Superman, there had been
just one fleeting glimpse of the diamond-shaped "Phantom Zone" window
during Kal-El's trip to earth.
Reprise of the Superman ending; The missiles are launched, Lex places
the Kryptonite necklace on Superman and pushes him into the swimming
pool, Eve rescues Superman and he hurls the nuclear missile into space.
Different shots and angles have been used to those in Superman.
The super-villains are freed from the Phantom Zone by the exploding
nuclear missile, and fly to the moon. Zod shouts "FREE!" This is a
combination of Donner footage and new effects, and had originally been
intended as a cliffhanger-ending to Superman.
Main Title sequence; The credits are now in the form as the ones used in
Superman with the blue letters zooming into space, instead of the flying
white titles used in Lester's cut. Marlon Brando is given third billing,
after Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve, before the main title. Richard
Donner is also credited as director for the first time and also "A
Richard Donner Film" is credited. The film is simply titled as just
Superman II and not "The Richard Donner Cut." The music is credited to
John Williams, whose score from Superman is reused in the film, as he
was not brought back for the soundtrack recording of Superman II.
Interior of The Daily Planet; Lois glances at Clark and seemingly sees
his resemblance to Superman for the first time. She draws over
Superman's picture in the newspaper, and later shows this to Clark. At
his denial, she jumps out of the window to prove that Clark is Superman.
This sequence was filmed by Donner, and features several new effects of
Clark zooming through The Daily Planet and using his super-breath and
heat vision to break Lois’ fall. Lester’s opening at The Daily Planet
and the Eiffel Tower sequence has been deleted.
Luthor and Otis in prison. This Donner scene featured in Lester’s
Superman II, with different shots being used in the new version.
Extended to include a scene in which Otis tries to pass on a rumor about
a fellow inmate being a bed-wetter, only to pass it on to said inmate.
The super-villains land on the Moon and kill the astronauts. This Donner
scene is featured in Lester's Superman II. Footage of Houston control
was never filmed by Donner, and Lester material is used in the Donner
Cut, albeit heavily re-edited. The scenes on the Moon are re-colored to
a darker blue tone to give it a more space look. The camera also spins
when the villains fly from the Moon, instead of the original pan-up. The
soundtrack in Donner's cut does not feature the echo-treated percussion
effects heard in Lester's.
Luthor's escape from prison by balloon; This Donner footage was featured
in Lester's Superman II but is expanded here to include more banter
between Lex and Otis and Lex and Eve. Arctic daytime background plates
which featured in the Lester cut replaced with nighttime city background
Niagara Falls interiors; the honeymoon couple arrive at the bungalow.
Heavily-truncated version of Lester's scene features in the Donner Cut,
which cuts away just as Lois is about go through the door into the
Luthor and Eve head north; This scene, filmed by Donner, is not in the
cut, but is in a deleted scenes section on the DVD.
Luthor and Eve arrive at the Fortress of Solitude; Lester's footage of
Superman's mother and the Kryptonian elders has been removed from this
Donner scene. Instead, Brando's Jor-El now informs Luthor of the
existence of the super-villains. This scene has been extended to feature
new sequences of Luthor and Eve's arrival at the fortress, with extended
dialogue throughout the sequence. The original release contained a joke
about Miss Teschmacher not having had a chance to visit a restroom for
two days. The new release "completes" that joke by featuring an
off-screen sound of a flush and Miss Teschmacher announcing, "I found
Niagara Falls exteriors; Clark gets a hot dog. Superman rescues a small
boy. Donner never filmed these scenes, so Lester's footage (largely
similar to original script) is used here. However, Lester's footage of
Lois’ later deliberate jump into the river to prove that Clark is
Superman has been removed (having been accomplished earlier by the
jumping-out-the building scene), as well as the scene where Clark
returns with the hot dogs. (A couple of continuity issues are seen.
First, Lois takes off Clark's glasses to wipe away the mist from the
falls, and sees the resemblance to Superman, now seemingly for the first
time. In the original version, this fit the Lester cut. In the new
version, it is a non sequitur, as Lois had already explored that notion
earlier in the Donner footage. Another oddity has Lois asking Clark to
get some orange juice, "freshly squeezed" they say together, with Clark
adding, "I know." This apparent non sequitur refers to an earlier Lester
scene at the Planet, in which Lois was actually making freshly squeezed
OJ, a scene not retained for this version.)
Exteriors; Luthor and Eve head back south in the Snowmobile, whilst
Luthor plots and schemes. This scene is not in the film, but is featured
in a deleted-scenes section on the Donner Cut DVD.
Niagara Falls bungalow interiors; Lois fires a handgun at Clark, who
admits his true identity, then Lois reveals that she used a blank
cartridge. This scene was never filmed, but one of the original Donner-directed
Kidder screen tests, which played out this scene with Reeve, is
utilized. This can be made out by Clark's distinctly different hairstyle
and glasses, and slimmer physique. Close-ups from one of Reeve's tests,
in which he played the same scenes with Holly Palance as Lois, are
edited in. Lester’s sequence featuring Clark burning his hand in the
fireplace has been deleted.
The villains arrive in Midwestern America, and meet the rangers; Donner
never filmed this scene, thus Lester footage is used here. In Lester’s
version, part of the dialogue intended for this scene was transferred to
the army general in the small town. The Donner cut features heavily
re-edited versions of the scene, removing Ursa's arm-wrestling gag from
the Lester film, Non killing a boy and Ursa's statement that the boy
will never become a man.
Fortress of Solitude interiors; Superman discusses his dual identity
with Lois, and then they make love for the first time. Lester footage is
mostly used here.
Washington monument destroyed, featuring new CGI effects footage; The
super-villains fly into Washington, D.C. as the Washington monument
crumbles. Footage of the President and his council watching these events
on TV replaces Lester version in which Mount Rushmore is vandalized, the
actual faces replaced with those of the villains (the fourth being
Fortress of Solitude Interiors: Jor-El warns Superman of the dangers of
falling in love. Superman gives up his powers and becomes a mortal. Lois
appears in this scene wearing only Superman's shirt and socks. Of note
is that Lois is never viewed in close-up in this scene. It remains
unclear whether this was an editing choice, or whether the close-up was
lost/destroyed or never filmed by Donner. Lester’s re-shoot of this
scene is scrapped entirely. There are none of the special effects
"stripping" Superman's face away layer by layer, or of his Superman
costume fading away and leaving him, in civilian clothing. In Donner's
footage, he wears civilian clothing throughout the scene (even briefly
flying across the Fortress in them), and the process in the molecular
chamber is visually uneventful. In Lester's footage, there was a clear
difference in lighting effects between the chamber as it originally
worked (intense red light inside the chamber only) and after Superman
reconfigured it (red light all over the Fortress). In Donner's footage,
there is less of a noticeable difference, as red lighting is all around
in both scenes. Significantly (especially with respect to Superman
Returns), Lois and Superman make love before he loses his super-powers,
opposite of the original version's sequence of events. This new edited
scene has now caused major fan controversy over the Donner cut.
The villains attack the White House and force the President to kneel
before Zod; this Donner-filmed scene was featured in Lester’s Superman
II. The new cut features extended footage making the scene more violent.
Exteriors. Lois and Clark drive toward the diner The Donner Cut features
a car on a snowy mountain road; in Lester's cut they are past the snowy
region. In the Lester cut, as they arrive at the diner, after Clark
grumbles that "It sure takes longer when you can't fly", and exits the
car, he goes on to whine about his back being stiff from the long drive.
That last complaint is omitted from the Donner cut. It is nevertheless
apparent that the former Superman has actually become the nebbish Clark
Kent personality he once pretended to be, and Lois, as the stronger
personality, must literally lead him by the hand.
Clark is beaten up inside the diner by a truck driver named Rocky, and
hears the President relinquish his powers to Zod. This Donner-filmed
scene featured in Lester’s Superman II.
Luthor visits the villains inside the White House and offers them the
son of Jor-El; this Donner-filmed scene featured in Lester's Superman
II. This scene is now featured before Clark's return to the Fortress of
Solitude, contrary to Lester's version. Also, Luthor sarcastically says
to Zod that Superman is the son of a baseball player named Jor-El.
A bruised Clark arrives at the Fortress of Solitude and screams for his
father, after which he discovers the green crystal which he uses to
reactivate the Fortress. Jor-El appears (both in his normal disembodied
head form and in full corporeal form), and 'dies' in order to restore
his son's powers. The full meaning of Jor-El's somewhat cryptic
statement in Superman, that "The son becomes the father and the father
becomes the son", finally becomes clear.
The Daily Planet interiors; Lois, Perry and Jimmy Olsen wait for
Superman. The villains burst into The Daily Planet, and Superman finally
appears. A new Donner scene in which Perry White paces around replaces a
similar re-filmed Lester scene. Many of these Donner scenes featured in
Lester's Superman II, though certain shots were re-filmed by Lester. In
the Lester shots, Jimmy Olsen's curly hair is noticeably thicker on top,
and Lois's hairstyle is straighter. They alternated with Donner shots
featuring Gene Hackman.
Superman arrives at The Daily Planet stating, "General, haven't you ever
heard of freedom of the press?" deleting the original, more aggressive
line: "General, would you care to step outside?". The Lester version,
however, was a more close-up shot, and the "Freedom of the press" line
sounds like an overdub. This was possibly done to avoid a repeat of the
gag of characters "stepping outside" through a highrise window - made
necessary because of the inclusion of the original Donner segment of
Lois testing Clark by stepping out the Daily Planet window at the
beginning of the film.
Superman and the super-villains fight in Metropolis. Superman flees the
city. Most of these scenes were never filmed by Donner. The new cut
combines Lester footage (re-edited to remove slapstick sight-gags,
although the backwards roller skater highlighted in the Lester version
is still briefly visible in one shot), original Donner footage, and new
special-effects sequences. Lester scenes featuring Lois leaning out of
the office window with a rather insensitive female co-worker have been
replaced with original Donner footage. Another added scene is Jimmy
re-entering the office with Perry's coffee and Lex stealing it out of
his hand. Jimmy argues that the coffee was "the Chief's" and Lex
counters calmly with "The Chief's got it."
The super-villains return to The Daily Planet. Luthor offers them
Superman's home address now in exchange for Cuba. These Donner scenes
featured in Lester's Superman II, though certain shots were re-filmed by
Lester. The Lester shot where Ursa seizes Lois is omitted and is
replaced by Zod asking Luthor if would like anything more to which
Luthor replies, "Cuba."
The group arrives at the Fortress of Solitude, and the super-villains
break through its defenses. This Donner footage has only ever been seen
in rare extended television cuts. This scene is not in the Donner Cut,
but is in the deleted scenes section on the DVD.
Body-double scenes for Hackman's Lex Luthor (facing away from the
camera, with overdubbed voice) were excluded from the new version.
Lester's battle scene in which Superman throws his "S" at Non and
transforms into many different holograms is replaced with Donner's scene
of Superman only trying to negotiate with Zod.
Superman tricks the villains into losing their powers. Superman crushes
Zod's hand. Lester's Superman II contained this Donner footage, though
certain shots were Lester inserts (Lois Lane has noticeably different
hair and make-up in the Lester re-shoots).
Luthor is taken away by the Arctic patrol, while trying to plead with
Superman to not let them take him back to prison, counting down the
percentages he could offer him from 3-2-1. Superman shouts, "Blast off!"
In wider shots the three powerless Kryptonians are also seen being taken
away by the police. This Donner footage has only ever been seen in rare
extended television cuts. This scene is not in the Donner Cut, but is in
the deleted scenes section on the DVD.
Superman destroys the Fortress of Solitude. This Donner footage has only
ever been seen in rare extended television cuts.
Outside the Fortress, Lois and Superman agree to end their relationship.
This Donner footage has only ever been seen in rare extended television
cuts, and here is trimmed and re-edited. The kiss scene was also
featured on the back of the theatrical Superman II DVD case which was
released in 2000.
Superman takes a weeping Lois home, where Superman says a final goodbye
to Lois. This Donner footage has only ever been seen in rare extended
television cuts. Only the end shot where Superman leaves the roof was
shown in Lester's Superman II.
Superman turns back time to reverse the devastation of the planet by the
super-villains, re-imprison them in the Phantom Zone, resurrect the
destroyed Fortress of Solitude (not shown in film), and wipe Lois'
memory of Superman's secret identity. Part of this sequence was used as
the ending for Donner's first Superman film, but no replacement scene
was written. Includes previously unseen footage of Jackie Cooper as
Perry White brushing his teeth.
Although the "turning back time" sequence appears to be a rehash of the
original film's ending, the original plan was to have a cliff-hanger
ending on Superman and, as Donner notes in the DVD special, have the
turning-back-time sequence conclude Superman II. (Lester concluded II
with the "kiss of forgetting"; in the DVD extras Donner states he
believed "Clark should never kiss Lois, only Superman should kiss
The Daily Planet interiors; Lois has a feeling she may have missed
something important, and asks Clark to get her a pizza (the Lester cut
had her asking for a hamburger). Perry also pantomimes a sense of
puzzled deja vu as he reads the paper.
The Daily Planet interiors; Clark bumps into Jimmy, then into a rude
man, reminding him of unfinished business (see below). This Donner
footage has only ever been seen in rare extended television cuts. This
scene is not in the Donner Cut, but is available to view in a deleted
scenes section on the DVD.
Clark gets his revenge on the bully in the diner. This Donner-filmed
scene was featured in Lester's Superman II. The inclusion of this scene
in the Donner Cut creates a continuity error as references are made to a
previous encounter which the patrons remember, even though Superman has
turned back time.
The scene where Superman returns the U.S. Flag to the White House and
apologizes to the President has been deleted. In the DVD specials, Mr.
Thau concedes that it is a nice, patriotic ending, but would be at odds
with Superman having turned back time.
The text stating "Coming Soon: Superman III" is deleted.
Creating the Donner Cut
“ The fans pounded at Warner Brothers....emails and home video and the
head of the studio, and so Warners finally...called me up and said ‘What
do you think?’ and I said ‘Well, let’s see what we can find.’ ”
— Donner Cut editor/producer Michael Thau telling a reporter from
IESB.net in July 2006 that the film had come about largely as a result
of fan pressure.
The prospect of creating a Richard Donner cut of Superman II did not
begin to gain momentum until the 2001 restoration of Superman for DVD.
At this time, six tons of footage for Superman and six tons of footage
for Superman II was discovered in vaults in England by Michael
Thau, including much "lost" footage filmed by Richard
Donner. Soon after, Donner was approached by Warner Bros. to do an
extended version of Superman II, but remained reluctant to revisit the
movie. In May 2001, he told the website IGN, "At the time, the studio
wanted me to go back in and re-cut the film and add anything I wanted to
add or do anything I wanted to do. Quite honestly, I was done with it. I
Nonetheless, fans continued to campaign for the film. Ultimately, three
websites were instrumental in creating the momentum that finally led to
the creation of the Donner cut. The first was Capedwonder.com, run by
Superman collector Jim Bowers. In 2004, Bowers published numerous stills
from "lost" scenes in Richard Donner's Superman II, seemingly providing
definitive proof that Donner had filmed far more footage than the
Salkinds or Richard Lester had initially been prepared to concede.
Secondly, the website Supermancinema.co.uk provided fans with detailed
breakdowns of the theatrical Superman II, identifying Donner footage
within the film, and also providing speculative lists of just how much
lost Donner footage might actually exist. Finally, on June 19, 2004, the
Planet of the Apes fansite TheForbidden-Zone.com organised hundreds of
fans to e-mail or write letters directly to Warner Bros. president Jim
Cardwell, demanding that the studio allow Donner to release his version
of Superman II. This effort was the first to elicit a positive response
from the studio, with many of those who wrote receiving a letter
stating, "Warner Home Video is supportive of an extended version of
Superman II on DVD. However, there are complex legal issues that need to
be resolved before the film can be re-released. Warner Home Video is
presently addressing those issues."
Other than Donner's reluctance to re-visit the project, these legal
issues were ultimately the greatest obstacle towards creating a Donner
Cut. The required footage was still owned by the Salkinds, and issues
relating to the use of Brando's filmed footage in Superman II remained
unresolved. Issues relating to whether Richard Lester or Richard Donner
would be credited as director of any new cut also remained to be
addressed. It was not until legal negotiations surrounding the use of
certain Brando footage in the film Superman Returns that the key issue
of whether Brando's filmed Superman II footage could be used was
resolved. In November 2006, Donner Cut producer Michael Thau told
American Cinematographer magazine, "Marlon Brando's estate made a deal
with Warner Bros. to license some of his footage for Superman Returns.
This later led to the studio going back to his estate for our re-cut of
Superman II. If that footage couldn’t be used, it wasn’t worth doing the
Work finally began on the project in late 2005, though without Richard
Donner. At the Director’s Guild screening of the Donner cut in November
2006, Michael Thau underlined Donner’s reluctance to involve himself in
the project, telling the audience, "Dick (Donner) was doing (the film)
16 Blocks at the time and I was always trying to lure him in with, you
know ‘Dick, here’s a piece of candy, come in to the cutting room.’ and
he said ‘No, no, no..."
Thus, mixed emotions invariably followed the initial announcement in
January 2006 that a new Superman II was being worked on, primarily down
to the news that Richard Donner was having little or nothing to do with
the re-edit. In a January 2006 interview with the website IGN, he
stated, "They're doing it. I'm not doing it...I don't even want to see
it until it comes out in the theater...I'm too far away from it now." A
month later, when asked about the new Superman II cut, Donner told the
website Dark Horizons, "I would never shoot like that now in a million
years, I mean it was a different way, a different style, different
Over the years, Donner has frequently proclaimed diametrically-opposing
views with regards to the possibility of re-assembling his Superman II —
often stating that he would like to do it, other times stating that he
would not. In June 2006, Michael Thau finally confirmed that Donner had
finally decided on a far closer involvement with the project, also
bringing in writer Tom Mankiewicz to assist in its creation. In an
interview with the magazine Movie Magic, he stated, "When I’d get a cut
on a scene, I’d show it to Dick and he’d say, 'I don’t like that line;
that reading’s not good,' and so on. With Dick it’s always, 'Make it
In August 2006, Thau confirmed that the entire film, rather than simply
featuring new material, would be re-cut from the original camera
negative (including the small number of Lester scenes remaining in the
film). The Donner cut comprises Donner Superman II scenes edited by
Stuart Baird in 1977-78, 1980 Superman II theatrical scenes cut by John
Victor Smith, as well as a large amount of new material edited by
In an interview with Now Playing magazine, Thau noted, "A lot of scenes
that had been already cut, that Richard Lester had interwoven new
material in — and there was a lot of them — I unwove that material and
recut those scenes, basically from scratch a lot of times. I also had to
deal with negatives that had already been cut. And when I wanted to
recut it, and Lester had already cut it in a different way, I'd have to
unwind that. It was a complicated jigsaw puzzle sometimes, to put it
back the way I envisioned Dick would want it cut. We only used the
Lester footage when there was material when they had not been able to
shoot, and to keep some continuity to the story."
In a June 2006 interview with the website Amazon.com, George Feltenstein,
Senior Vice President of Warner Home Video's Catalog Marketing division,
“ We have been getting for years and years and years letters begging us
to release the Donner cut of Superman II, and this year we bit the
bullet and we've created what is ostensibly a new film, although the
footage is all footage that was shot years and years and years ago. But
it was sitting in a lab and never assembled. And for those of us were
very saddened and touched by the loss of Christopher Reeve — to see
footage you've never seen of him before, and a whole different take on
the Superman II story, is really thrilling. ”
The film opens with highlights of events from the first movie: Jor-El
condemning three Kryptonian villains, General Zod, Non, and Ursa, to the
Phantom Zone and sending his son, Kal-El, to Earth in a rocket ship, the
launching of the two XK-101 missiles, Superman being trapped in the
swimming pool by wearing the Kryptonite necklace by Lex Luthor and being
rescued by Ms. Teschmacher, and Superman diverting the XK-101 missile
programmed to hit Hackensack, New Jersey into outer space.
The Phantom Zone drifts through space towards Earth because the shock
waves after the destruction of Krypton sends it on a new course, and the
XK-101 missile explodes near it, causing shock waves that destroy the
Phantom Zone, freeing the three villains, who then head toward the Moon.
In The Daily Planet, editor-in-chief Perry White reads an article by
Lois Lane about Superman thwarting Lex Luthor's attempts to level most
of California. When Jimmy Olsen remarks to Lois Lane that Clark Kent has
not been around to see Superman in action, Lois suspects that Clark is
Superman. She confirms this belief when she draws clothes that Clark is
wearing on a picture of Superman; the posture of both looked almost the
same. Lois, noting the uncanny resemblance, realizes who Superman is and
even teases him when he arrives that she knows his true identity. She
tries to prove it by jumping out of a window in Clark's presence to call
his bluff. Instead Clark races outside at super-speed and uses his
super-breath and heat vision to slow her fall and open roof curtains to
act as a trampoline. Lois bounces off them and lands in a fruit stand.
By the time she looks up, Clark has already raced back up to the window
and looks down, appearing not to have done anything at all.
General Zod, Non, and Ursa arrive on the Moon and kill all astronauts on
a joint NASA-Soviet moon expedition. They note that they have become
more powerful from how easily they have killed all of the moonwalkers,
having acquired more powers from being closer to a yellow Sun. They
decide to fly off to Earth, which they believe to be called 'Houston',
upon overhearing radio transmissions between the moon mission and
mission control in Houston, Texas.
In prison, Lex Luthor devises a plan with Otis to break out. When Otis
reveals to Luthor that Superman always flies north to escape radar
detection, Luthor decides to track him down using a 'black box' he has
created that detects alpha waves. Luthor finally breaks out of jail with
the help of Ms. Teschmacher using a hot air balloon, but leaves Otis
behind as his weight holds the balloon down. Using the black box device,
he goes north to the Fortress of Solitude. Luthor, activating the
Fortress control panel, then learns from hologram recordings of Jor-El
about the three Kryptonian villains who have escaped. He decides that he
will collaborate with the Kryptonian villains to defeat Superman and
take over the world.
Meanwhile, Clark and Lois have arrived at Niagara Falls, Ontario to
investigate a 'honeymoon racket' assigned to them by Perry White. Lois
sees a boy falling over a railing and calls for help; Clark, outside of
anyone’s sight, transforms into Superman to rescue him. Later, in their
suite, Lois decides to try to prove again that Clark is Superman,
suspecting that it is far too convenient that Clark disappears every
time Superman appears. She points a gun at Clark and, despite his urges
not to do it, fires a shot. She looks with amazement as Clark, who is
unharmed, then removes his glasses and, giving Lois a stern look, says,
"If you had been wrong, Clark Kent would have been killed." Lois, in a
humorous twist, reveals that she has used a blank in her gun.
The three Kryptonian villains arrive on Earth in a small town in Idaho,
where they declare their reign over the entire planet to the townspeople
after using their powers to easily stop incoming military forces. They
then fly to the White House and easily defeat the military defenses that
are protecting the President of the United States. Afterwards, General
Zod forces the President to kneel before him in submission by
threatening everyone’s lives. The President kneels with despair, praying
for Superman, wherever he is, to come to the rescue.
Meanwhile, Superman takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude, where he
confesses his love for her. They eventually retire to his bedchamber and
make love. Kal-El then speaks to his father through hologram about his
desire to give up his responsibilities as Superman so he can live a
normal life with Lois. Jor-El criticizes Kal-El for his decision, but
nonetheless offers him a choice. In order for him to relinquish being
Superman, he must enter a crystal chamber and be exposed to harnessed
rays from the Krypton red sun. He will, therefore, lose his powers
permanently and no longer be invulnerable as he has been before. Despite
his father’s pleas to reconsider, Kal-El enters the chamber without
hesitation and undergoes the de-powering process, which culminates in
the destruction of the crystal control panel.
When Clark and Lois visit a diner, Clark, now powerless, finds that he
can’t even handle a bullying customer named Rocky, who easily beats him
up. Clark's mood is worsened when he watches the President announcing
his surrender to General Zod on the diner’s TV. Suddenly, the President
pleads for Superman, to which General Zod calls out a challenge for
Superman to come fight him. Clark realizes that he has to return to the
Fortress and find a way to have his powers restored.
Lex Luthor finally arrives at the White House and offers the three
villains a way to find Superman, who he notes is the son of Jor-El,
their imprisoner, in exchange for possession of 'beachfront property':
Australia. Luthor agrees to help the three villains and hopefully find a
way to have Superman defeated.
Meanwhile, Clark arrives back at the Fortress, now a darkened sanctum,
and calls out to his father for help. Dreading that there may be no hope
left, he then notices the green crystal glowing among the remains of the
destroyed control panel – the same crystal that has called out to him in
the first movie. He uses the crystal to activate the panel, and once
more, Jor-El emerges in hologram. He tells Kal-El about his terrible
mistake and offers him one last resort to regain his powers – he will
channel all of his remaining energy to his son, thereupon dying. Jor-El
bids farewell and emerges in full body and spirit; upon touching Kal-El,
he restores his son’s powers and dies by fading away. Kal-El emerges
once again... as Superman.
The Kryptonian villains attack the Daily Planet and confront Perry
White, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane. Luthor advises them to take Lois as a
hostage, informing them of her close relationship with Superman.
Suddenly, Superman appears, taking up Zod’s challenge to fight. An epic
and destructive battle ensues in Metropolis between Superman and three
villains of equal power and strength. Finally, Ursa and Non throws a bus
at Superman crashing him into a building. Superman, to the people of
Metropolis, appears to be dead, and they try to attack the villains, who
blow them back with super-breath (with much less slapstick than the
Richard Lester version). Superman emerges alive, but flies off,
seemingly in defeat.
Luthor offers the villains the location of the Fortress of Solitude, in
exchange for Cuba. The villains fly north with Luthor and Lois. When
they arrive at the Fortress, they confront Superman and Zod threatens
Lois' life to force his surrender. However, they also betray Luthor and
plan to kill him as well. Luthor seemingly sides with Superman, who
tells Luthor about trying to trick the villains into entering the
de-powering chamber. Luthor, however, double-crosses Superman and warns
Zod of the trap. Zod decides to spare Luthor's life and agrees to the
term of his demands. Luthor then informs them of how to activate the
de-powering process and is ordered to activate it himself.
With Lois' life being threatened, Superman has no choice but to enter
the de-powering chamber. After the de-powering process, Superman emerges
with a look of weakness and hopelessness on his face. Zod orders him to
kneel and take his hand in submission. Much to everyone’s amazement, and
Zod's painful surprise, Superman crushes his hand, picks him up, and
throws him across the room. Zod falls down into the abyss below. Luthor
then realizes that he himself has been double-crossed into tricking the
villains, since Superman has switched the process so that the
de-powering rays have been set loose in the Fortress, while Superman has
been safe inside the chamber. Non leaps toward Superman, only to realize
that he can't fly and fall into the abyss as well. Lois then lands a
punch on Ursa, knocking her off her platform into the pit.
Superman and Lois leave Luthor stranded in the Fortress and fly away.
Superman then uses his heat vision to destroy the Fortress (it has been
shown in a cut scene that Luthor has been arrested and taken away by
police prior to this). Lois, while showing that she still loves
Superman, realizes and agrees that he must continue to serve humanity,
conforming to his father's wishes. After Superman flies her home, Lois
begins to break down in despair. Although life would never be the same,
she heartbreakingly assures Superman that she can be trusted to keep his
secret identity, which Superman acknowledges consolingly, and he flies
Superman, realizing that life with Lois can never be, decides to turn
back time, flying around the Earth at tremendous speed and reversing
events that have occurred throughout, such as the destruction and mayhem
done to Metropolis during Superman's battle with the villains and the
shattering of the Phantom Zone that releases the Kryptonian villains, as
well as Lois' knowledge of his secret identity. The status quo is
finally changed back to normal, although both Lois and Perry White seem
to experience a sense of déjà vu.
Clark, now with his powers restored as Superman, goes to the diner and
confronts Rocky, who is more than willing to pick a fight with him. Much
to everyone's surprise, this strange, young man handles the bullying
customer like a little child, eventually felling him across the counter
and sending him crashing into the pinball machine, knocking him
unconscious. Clark then offers to pay the owners of the diner for the
damage. With those around wondering how the stranger was able to beat
the bully, Clark simply replies: "Oh, I’ve been... working out."
Superman then flies away from and around the Earth and into the reaches
of space. Glancing around, he catches the audience's gaze, and flashes a
smile (this is the signature clip used in all four of the Reeve Superman
Richard Donner from the extras
Buy the The Richard Donner Cut on DVD