Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
Donner Cut
Directed by Richard Donner
Produced by Pierre Spengler
Michael Thau
Written by Mario Puzo
Tom Mankiewicz
Music by Ken Thorne
John Williams (themes)
Release Date November 28, 2006
Running Time 116 minutes
Budget $55, 000,000
Box Office
Film Series
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Superman Superman III
Superman Returns

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is a 2006 superhero film directed by Richard Donner. It is a re-edited director's cut of the 1980 film Superman II and serves as an alternate sequel to the 1978 film Superman starring Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Margot Kidder, Sarah Douglas, and Jack O'Halloran. It makes use of much of the original footage filmed by Donner in 1977 before he was replaced as the director.


On the distant planet Krypton, Jor-El condemns criminals General Zod, Non, and Ursa to the Phantom Zone. The scene now follows the three super villains as they witness the destruction of Krypton from inside the Phantom Zone. The resulting explosion bumps their floating prison, and changes their trajectory, so that they set on the same course as the ship that is sending Kal-El to earth.

The film then shows flashbacks to the first Superman film, The launching of the two XK-101 missiles; Superman being trapped in the swimming pool with the Kryptonite necklace by Lex Luthor, being rescued by Eve Teschmacher and Superman diverting the missile into outer space. The Phantom Zone drifts towards Earth and the missile hits it, freeing the villains, who upon seeing Earth, fly towards it. After a successful escape from jail, Lex Luthor finds and infiltrates the Fortress of Solitude, learning of the impending doom brought by General Zod. He resolves to meet up with Zod, and begins to track his approaching alpha wave signal using the same tracking device he used to locate the Fortress.

At the Daily Planet, Lois Lane suspects that Clark Kent is Superman. She tests Clark by jumping out of a window, but Clark uses his powers to save her while appearing to have done nothing. Perry White sends Clark and Lois to Niagara Falls. Superman's rescue of a small boy renews Lois' suspicions, and she tricks Clark with a gun loaded with blanks into admitting that he is Superman. Meanwhile Zod, Non and Ursa, arrive on the moon and ruthlessly attack some US astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts, learning of their superpowers. They fly towards the 'Planet Houston', where they intend to rule as 'Gods'. They destroy a small town, then travel to Washington to force the President to surrender to General Zod on behalf of the entire planet. When the President pleads for Superman to save the Earth, General Zod demands that Superman come and kneel before him.

Superman, unaware of the arrival of General Zod, takes Lois Lane to his Fortress of Solitude. After spending the night together, Superman decides to transform himself into a human by exposing himself to red Kryptonian sunlight in a crystal chamber. The two return to society and learn of Zod's conquest of the world. The pair stop at a truck stop on their way home and Clark, without his powers, is beaten by a trucker named Rocky. Realizing that humanity is helpless, Clark returns to the Fortress to reverse the transformation. Having anticipated this decision, Jor-El's artificial intelligence reveals it has been programmed to deal with this situation by sacrificing the remaining Kryptonian energy it needs to continue operating. Thus to restore Clark to his superpowers, it must be joined with him (by taking the physical form of Jor-El and touching him on the shoulder), making a reality of the Kryptonian prophecy concerning "the father becoming the son" and rendering the Fortress of Solitude obsolete.

Lex Luthor arrives to the White House informing General Zod that Superman is Jor-El's son, and that he has the ability to find him, in exchange for control of Australia. He takes the three Kryptonians to the Daily Planet where they abduct Lois. Superman arrives and a fight ensues in Metropolis. After he is almost killed, Superman realizes he can't win and flies off towards his Fortress, with Zod, Ursa, and Non in pursuit. At the Fortress, General Zod forces Superman to again undergo the transformation process. The three villains realize too late that Superman has altered the process to expose everyone outside the chamber, removing the Kryptonian criminals' powers. He defeats Luthor, Non and General Zod with ease. Lois gets her revenge on a powerless Ursa by decking her, forcing her to join Non and Zod underwater. Superman now turns his eyes on the unnecessary Fortress of Solitude and destroys it with his heat vision. He then repeats the time-traveling flight from the end of the first film, so that the Kryptonians never escaped the Phantom Zone, Lois never found out he was Superman, the Fortress of Solitude was never destroyed, and Lex Luthor never escaped from jail. He then returns to the truck stop, whit his powers and easily beats the obnoxious trucker.



In 1977, Donner set about simultaneously filming an epic two-part adaptation of the Superman comic book series. With about 3/4 of Superman II filmed, after having to postpone the original summer 1978 release date for Superman due to an extended shoot, filming on Superman II was suspended in October 1978 so that Donner could focus on completing the first film.

Following the acclaimed release of Superman in 1978, it was assumed that Donner would be recalled to complete Superman II. However, the producers (Alexander and Ilya Salkind) announced that Marlon Brando's scenes would be excised from the movie in order for them to avoid having to pay the actor a reported 11.75% of gross U.S. box-office takings. Donner publicly spoke out against the decision, stating that he would make the film his way or not at all. Tensions had existed between the Salkinds and Richard Donner throughout almost all of the filming of Superman & Superman II. The Salkinds were irate that the director went over budget and schedule. Donner claimed he was not given a budget or a schedule.

In 2006 Superman II, co-producer Pierre Spengler recounted that Donner was indeed invited to return and complete the film, but, according to an Army Archerd/Variety magazine interview, Donner declared that if Spengler remained on the picture, Donner himself would not return to direct. Ilya Salkind stated in 2006 that the removal of Spengler was allegedly one of many demands made by Donner, whom, he claimed, also wanted final cut of the film and more control over the production, demands to which the Salkinds were not willing to agree.

The situation finally came to a head, and on March 15, 1979, the Salkinds decided to replace Donner with U.K.-based director Richard Lester, with whom they had worked on two successful Musketeers films. In 1989, Donner told Starlog magazine, "… the Salkinds, for whatever reason, chose not to bring me back. After I waited to hear for six or eight weeks, I got a telegram that said, 'Your services are no longer needed.'"

Tom Mankiewicz, who sided with Donner and previously re-written both Superman scripts to comply with Donner's directive to make the features more realistic and less "campy", declined to return without Donner, as did editor Stuart Baird and actor Gene Hackman. Composer John Williams also turned his attention to other projects, such as The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

After its release, critics of Richard Lester's Superman II, including Donner himself, have stated that Lester's penchant for comedy undermined the integrity of the film, especially when compared to Donner's Superman. Examples of this trademark comedy are evident during scenes which feature Superman fighting the super-villains in Metropolis. The villains attack the citizens of Metropolis using super-breath. Several sight gags follow, including the wind blowing off a man's toupee, the ice cream being blown off of a cone and into someone's face, a man being blown over in a telephone booth and talking the whole time, a man with an umbrella being spun around as if dancing (parodying Singin' in the Rain) and a man on roller-skates rolling uncontrollably backwards across the pavement.

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