17 January 2007 | slightlymad22
If you haven't seen The Donner Cut, you haven't seen Reeve's finest acting as Superman.
Most movie fans know that Richard Donner began shooting Superman I&II simultaneously, and that he was fired after the first was completed to be replaced by Richard Lester. Lester re-shot most of Donner's footage, re-working scenes and dialogue and finishing the second film as well as time, budget, and his own talents allowed.Compared to the first, it was badly paced, choppily edited, and filled with horribly out of place attempts at comedy. Superman's showdown with Zod and his henchmen in downtown Metropolis was still (and in many ways, is still) the greatest superhero battle ever captured on film, but the rest of the film was weak and uneven in comparison. The result was an entertaining enough follow-up, but one was until now left to wonder what might have been had Donner had the opportunity to finish the film properly.
In an unprecedented move, Warner Bros. recently allowed Donner to re-master and edit all of his original Superman II footage. Most of the footage had survived, and some parts had to be filled in with segments from Donner's re-shoots and even a couple of full dress screen tests.
The result is, while a bit rough around a couple of edges, remarkable. The new version is paced much better, and gone are the more cringe-inducing moments from the theatrical cut (like Superman's amnesia kiss, or Clark's bumbling around like a buffoon and falling into a fireplace). More importantly, however, is the dramatic weight that some of the restored scenes add to the film. A wonderful father/son dynamic is revealed as Superman and Jor-el (Marlon Brando, appearing in previously unseen footage) find themselves at odds over the last son of Krypton's proper role on Earth. In the theatrical cut, when a de-powered Clark returns to the fortress of solitude in a quest to regain his powers, he finds the glowing green crystalline equivalent of a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. In The Donner Cut, Superman's powers are not restored without a price.
If you haven't seen The Donner Cut, you haven't seen Reeve's finest acting as the son of Jor El. We also get more Gene Hackman and the delightful Valerie Perrine.
The action scenes are as punchy as as ever, and again, campier comedic elements have been removed. The new ending will definitely divide audiences. I won't spoil it here, but it certainly is different, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet.
Here's hoping that in the future, the Man of Steel's cinematic exploits continue to be steered by class directors such as Richard Donner rather than hacks such as Sidney J. Furie or Richard Lester.