Back to the baddies—with Superman out of action, the President of the United States transfers his power to General Zod.Let’s also not forget that Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) escapes prison with the help of Miss. Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). Lex is able to locate the Fortress of Solitude (because he’s just that damn smart) and learns everything there is to know about Superman…his strengths and weaknesses.
I remember as a young teen anxiously awaiting for Superman II. Sequels were just not a common occurrence at this time in cinema—though Empire Strike Back would come out the year prior. Expecting a great film akin to Empire, I remember being sorely disappointed by Superman II. What new director Lester did right was bring back all the main characters and revisit the Zod story. He also captured the comic book feel in his storytelling—slightly surrealistic and full of comic book danger and embracing the ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way.”
My first disappointment was essentially taking Superman away in the film’s first half. I love love stories, but it was just too easy for Clark to give up his power…and responsibility to be with Lois. We finally embrace the idea of Superman in the first film, and now is he not only mortal but the Fortress of Solitude (to me, cooler than the Bat Cave) is destroyed. This bad storytelling device also happened in The Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and I hated it just as much.
“How is it that the Warner Brothers wanted to spend less money on a guaranteed blockbuster?”
It was also clear to me that Superman II was different cinematically. The production values were downgraded…it looked cheap as hell. How is it that the Warner Brothers wanted to spend less money on a guaranteed blockbuster? Everyone looked like they were flying on wires. The battle on the moon felt like a bad James Bond movie. There’s a great deal of laziness in the storytelling. The holographic recording of Clark’s bio-mom, Lara (Susannah York), warns that a nuclear explosion in space can destroy the Phantom Zone. That’s awfully specific, right? It feels those narrative problems are solved as easily as the random alligator repellant Batman packed in his Bat Utility Belt. The restoration of Superman is equally lazy and makes no dramatic sense at all.
I’m sure I liked Superman II as a teen, but honestly, it’s not a film I like going back to nor recommend to others. In 1981, seeing movies on videotape was hardly a thing, and video rentals were non-existent. My good feelings for the film come from my desire to see more and more Superman stories on the big screen and as the franchise evolved, my love and excitement for more Superman movies soured over the years. Let’s not forget that Star Wars was helmed by one man, George Lucas. Superman, on the other hand, is helmed by corporate suits. That said, Christopher Reeves will also be the high standard for Clark Kent, and I wish there were a place for Gene Hackman in the MCU.
"…next chapter in the saga and picks up by pulling loose threads exposed in the first film."