Sunday, July 27, 2014

Superman II (1980) Review:

When Superman (1978) arrived in theaters Christopher Reeve had become one of the biggest names around. With his portrayal of the iconic American hero and all around good guy Clark Kent / Superman, Reeve had solidified that he was in fact the original Superman (even though there were portrayals before him). Two years later fans received a delightful second entry in the life of the man of steel. For this particular installment, there are a number of additions to the original story that was told in 1978. Much of it greatly increases the depth of the main leads but there are also a couple of errors that weren't addressed.

Silly Lois, still getting into trouble I see,...
Viewers begin the story with the reintroduction of General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his cronies being banished to the phantom zone. Then skip ahead to current time where Superman is doing his usual business of saving people and accidentally releases Zod and his buddies from the phantom zone. However, Kent doesn't know this. Instead, as the Zod crew begin wreaking havoc on Earth, Kent is too busy being caught up on Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Among all this though, Kent as an individual goes through quite a character arc thanks to the three writers behind the screenplay. One of which worked on two of the Godfather films and the other wrote for Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

The best subplot to the writing is the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Over time Lois begins realizing the patterns at which Superman appears, making her suspicious of coworker Clark. This happens gradually and finally when it hits, it's very sudden. Perhaps too quickly, but by that point viewers will be too invested into what is going on, that it won't matter. This is a pivotal point because it tests Clark to see how well he can be as himself. Unfortunately, with this rich character development comes flimsy loophole endings that are not expanded upon. There are certain things in movies that shouldn't go assumed. Not every audience member may understand, which would have them looking other places for answers. If something is going to be done for a reason, there should be an explanation behind it.

Other than this particular issue, there really isn't much to see that's wrong.  Even though the director had changed due to friction, the playout feels very much like the last film. The tone did not change and neither did the characters. Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Gene Hackman all play their roles like they had never left the set. Terence Stamp as Zod and his followers also give likable performances, even for villains. What Stamp does that makes Zod so interesting is how he speaks; it sounds so pompous. Zod's henchman are cool too. Ursa being quite a powerful woman and Non just for being brute muscle every time and any time he's on screen.

The original Superman vs Zod showdown
The practical effects are consistent and continue to be effective. Along with that are the action sequences that increase in damage and uniqueness. Surprisingly even the style of cinematography was changed. Robert Paynter took over. Although it was executed differently, the shots and overall image still look grand and beautiful. Perhaps the most astonishing is that John Williams did not return to compose. Yet, Ken Thorne (who just passed away this year) the replacement  composer, did a respectable job filling in. Thorne maintained the Superman theme and continued the upbeat feel of the tracks. Well done.

The development in its characters is done exceptionally. Sadly the buildup is so good that its justification for various actions feel flimsy, like that of its predecessor's finale. Other than that, it is worthy of a superman sequel from its production design, music special effects and cast.

Points Earned --> 8:10

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