Monday, 31 October 2016

Superman II (1980)

"Well, geez, Mr. White! That's terrible!"

"That's why they call them 'terrorists', Kent..."

I'll come back to the Richard Donner cut later; this blog post is about the theatrical release credited to Richard Lester; a straightforwardly directed, action-packed and, without comparing it to the other cut, magnificent film with only two drawbacks, both of which are arguably excusable in context.

This is 1980; to produce a superhero film that is both excellent viewing for a wide audience- with romance as well as thrills- and to remain broadly faithful to the spirit of the comics while doing this is  a considerable achievement. Mario Puzo's script (what a writer to get!) respects the characters on their own terms while giving us a truly epic tale of a god who gives up his powers for love and ultimately gives up his chance of happiness for the greater good. We're halfway to the cliche that is a Christ metaphor but it isn't overdone. I'm not sure that Superman's regaining his powers is adequately explained- finding the crystal at the Fortress of Solitude is not really enough- but I suppose we don't have to be splinter anything. More problematic is the reset button at the end, both in narrative terms (it renders the romance between Lois and Clark meaningless after all they've been through and all the weight that was placed upon it) and in terms of the simple fact that the main female character has her freedom of action taken away be a man to the point of altering her memory, which is undoubtedly a kind of violation. Still... it's only 1980.

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder are superb as individuals and, just as importantly, together; they carry this film. Terence Stamp is an effective if actually underplayed villain; I would have liked a little more overacting for a part like this. It's surprising to see Clifton James from Live and Let Die here... in Idaho??? Is the state really as southern as its being portrayed here?

All that notwithstanding, though, this is easily the best superhero film up to this point and arguably for many years after. The bar is well and truly set.

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