Published Mar 06, 2013Despite a reported seventy-five percent of the film having been shot by Richard Donner simultaneous with the first Superman, Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night) is credited as sole director of the last son of Krypton's second adventure. Even if he hadn't done much other than prevent more of Donner's daft time banditry (he did), that'd have been enough to deserve the credit in my books.
Putting who filmed what aside, Superman II is still a remarkably stupid movie. Granted, it's more entertaining and less ridiculous than any other entry during the Christopher Reeve years, but being better than hot garbage doesn't make it good; it just makes it smell slightly less foul by comparison.
Further emphasizing just how superfluous the introduction of Zod and his mentally deficient minions was in the first film, the same footage is reused to start the sequel. This recycling carries on through the opening credits, with every major beat from the first film given the recap treatment, save the infamous temporal blasphemy that disrespectfully pisses all over the notion that internal plausibility matters in a comic book story.
Playing fast and loose with even the most basic sense of logic is what makes the original Superman franchise so detrimental to the credibility of comic story telling. It's just bad writing, and that comes from the team responsible for the ludicrous and inane script, not necessarily the source material.
When the film properly starts, Clark is still pining for Lois, while Lois pines for the strongman in tights who has a habit of saving her ass when it finds its way into trouble, which is often.
The first pickle the stubborn reporter needs her rump plucked from involves some French terrorists messing around with a hydrogen bomb. Why doesn't really matter – it gives Superman the opportunity to save the day, and the girl, while inadvertently and oh-so-conveniently setting the Zod squad free from their interplanetary flotsam prison.
Lex Luther is still marginally in the mix but his part is drastically reduced since Gene Hackman refused to come back to work after Richard Donner was fired. Had his unnecessary subplot been cut entirely, it wouldn't have been missed and it may have forced the writers to come up with a better ending than the lazy, "I knew you'd double cross me, so I double crossed you", gazelle dung we're forced to swallow and pretend is clever.
Terence Stamp's performance as Zod works as po-faced camp and the city-wide destruction caused by the trio of Kryptonian criminals facing off against Mr. S-chest was impressive for its time, but ultimately those meagre positives can't make up for the plethora of inconsistencies and plot holes wider than Pamela Anderson's tainted vortex.
At least Lois Lane is presented as a reporter bright enough to suss out Superman's secret identity relatively quickly this time but their subsequent romance is as frustratingly dumb, petty and inconsequential as the rest of the film.
Zack Synder should be thanking his lucky stars: it's not going to take much for his Man of Steel to be the best big screen Superman movie so far.
Superman II screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Comic Book Heroes retrospective at 1pm on March 10, 2013. (Warner)