The meta-human heritage of the Last Son Of Krypton is tested as never before when a series of misadventures unlocks in Superman a very human emotion - love. Superman's love for journalist Lois Lane reaches a seemingly impossible peak, but requires the ultimate sacrifice - as the incompatible molecular structure of Kal-El and Lois would gravely complicate the inevitable bearing of children, Kal-El must be purged of his superpower, to live as a mortal. Kal-El, despite the pleas of the spirit of his long-lost mother, willingly agrees, and now a normal human being, consummates his love for Lois - a decision that dooms the Earth as three criminals from Krypton, freed from their extra-dimensional prison, lay waste to the planet in a path of conquest aided by the planet's most arrogant criminal, Lex Luthor, who intends to smoke out Superman for his destruction - unaware as he is of The Man Of Steel's helplessness, a condition that only one last hope can rectify.
Directed by: Richard Lester
, Richard Donner
. Starring: Gene Hackman
, Christopher Reeve
, Ned Beatty
, Jackie Cooper
, Sarah Douglas
, Margot Kidder
, Jack O'Halloran
, Valerie Perrine
, Susannah York
, Clifton James
, E.G. Marshall
, Marc McClure
, Terence Stamp
. Music by: Ken Thorne
Following the success of Superman The Movie, Superman II picked up where the first film left off. And despite the firing of director Richard Donner & Editor Stuart Baird, the deaths of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth & production designer John Barry, and the unavailability of composer John Williams, director Richard Lester and the rest of the cast and crew still make Superman II a splendid film. Indeed, Superman II nearly equals the first film in terms of story and entertainment value.
Christopher Reeve proved he was the Man of Steel in Superman The Movie and here he improves upon the role. Reeve has some great moments as Superman during the films opening sequence in Paris and later during the more romantic scenes with Lois. Reeve proves to be exceptional in the films action sequences and, as in the first film, Reeve makes you want to believe a man can fly. As Clark Kent, Reeve also does well especially in the diner, his return to the Fortress of Solitude to regain his powers, and in the final scene in the Daily Planet. All in all Reeves' improves in the role and would continue to do so. Margot Kidder, like Reeve, improves in her role as Lois Lane. Her Lois is full of spunk and its fun to watch the chemistry between the two. She also handles the emotional scenes very well especially during the Niagara Falls hotel scene where Clark is forced to reveal that he is in fact Superman. Kidder is arguably at her best as Lois and considering her lack of appearance in the following two films, this is probably the definitive performance of any actress as Lois.
The rest of the cast lives up to the standards they set in the first film. Gene Hackman returns as Lex Luthor and while his role is reduced, he still manages to bring humor and menace to every scene he's in and he remains a delight to watch. Jackie Cooper and Mark McClure return in their roles of Perry White and Jimmy Olson, respectively, and do very well considering their limited appearances. The same can be said of Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine in their roles as Luthor's dimwitted Hench-people. E.G. Marshall does well in his brief appearance as the President. Clifton James returns in a role more appropriate for his J.D. Pepper character from the 007 films and he seems out of place in this film. Susannah York appears once again as Superman's mother and her scenes in the Fortress during the lead up to the depowering scene are at times touching to watch, though it would probably have been better if Marlon Brando had appeared as originally planned.
But the film really belongs to three other people besides Reeve and Kidder: Sarah Douglas, Jack O'Halloran and Terence Stamp as the villains from krypton. Stamp has a lot of menace and screen presence and is highly believable in the role of evil General Zod. Sarah Douglas brings menace to the role of Ursa and one never doubts her ability to kill someone. Jack O'Halloran's Non is also a great character and is at times menacing despite being used for comic relief every so often. Together they form one of the best groups of villains ever put on film.
The films writing isn't as good as that of the first film, but the films story is somewhat of an improvement over the original films. One has to keep in mind that Donner had shot a large amount of material for the film that in is this film (specifically the scenes with Hackman, the Moon attack, and White House surrender) and that Lester had to film new material to bridge the sequences together so that he would get his credit for director (long story believe me). Despite the obvious tone differences, the footage shot by Donner and Lester are edited together into a seamless film. While at times the film is too campy during the Houston, Idaho sequence and during the insert shots during the battle over Metropolis, the film has a sense of both seriousness and fun that at times lacked in the first film. The romance between Lois and SupermanClark is especially well handled and serves as a high point of the film.
The special effects are hit and miss at times. The flying sequences are well done most of the time but there is some obvious use of dolls during some sequences that serve as a bit of an annoyance. The scene on the Moon is especially well done in terms of special effects as is the de-powering scene in the Fortress. Overall the special effects aren't quite as good as those in the first film but they're still good enough.
The music of the film is a bit of a disappointment. John Williams proved to be unavailable to do the score and composer Ken Thorne was brought in to do the music. Instead of creating an original score and infusing elements of the original Williams score, he simply rehashes it. The effect is an overall disappointing score that seems to fit the scenes of the original film throughout. For better or worse, this film has a Ken Thorne score and exactly how good or bad his rehash of the Williams music is has been, and will be, a matter of debate.
Overall, Superman II is an enjoyable film. While at time too campy at times and suffering from a bad rehash of the first films score, this film still has many things going for it. With grand performances from the leads, good performances from the supporting cast, great villains, a well handled love story and a nice mixing of two director's visions this film is one of the best Superhero films there is. While not as good as Superman The Movie, this film deserves a high ranking in terms of best Superman films out there.
Review by Matthew Kresal from the Internet Movie Database.