So last time, we discussed the fact that Richard Donner was not credited as director of the sequel, that credit going to Richard Lester instead. However, that does not mean that there are no Donner-directed scenes in the film.
For instance, all of the Gene Hackman scenes were filmed during the production of the first Superman and directed by Donner. Like this one.
Luthor and Otis escape from jail, using a pretty ingenious hologram projector, which hints at a more comic-book-style Luthor. But then, it’s back to slapstick once we join the boys outside.
Miss Teschmacher shows up in a hot air balloon, and they cut Otis loose because the balloon doesn’t have enough lift to carry him. Bye bye, Ned Beatty. We’ll all miss you.
Clark and Lois are posing as honeymooners in Niagara Falls, assigned to expose a “honeymoon racket.” Please try to contain your shock, but apparently, facilities at major tourist attractions sometimes overcharge. I know, right?Â And of course, Clark flirts as much as he can, but gets nowhere.
But later, as they’re out at the falls, where Lois is taking pictures with her very professional Polaroid, she gets a glimpse of Clark’s face without the glasses and begins to suspect something’s amiss. Within a couple of minutes, a kid has fallen over the railing and down the falls, and it’s up to Superman to save the day (with some fairly badly executed flying effects-okay, maybe not so much bad as dull). And this time, Lois can’t fail to notice that Superman just happens to be in Niagara Falls and Clark is not around.
Meanwhile, Lex and Miss Teschmacher use Luthor’s alpha wave gadget to find the Fortress of Solitude, where Lex just coincidentally runs across a recording of Lara telling Clark about the three criminals trapped in the Phantom Zone (with no more Brando as Jor-El, they had to refilm his scenes using Susannah York instead). Lex is thrilled at the possibilities, because he suddenly realizes that, just by coincidence, he’s been picking up three other alpha wave signals on his gadget. That must mean the Hole in the Zod Gang are here on Earth!
So Lois decides to prove Clark is Superman by jumping into the river herself, forcing Clark to change to Superman to rescue her. But clever Clark uses his heat vision to knock down a branch that she can use to save herself. The ruse works. As she’s being dragged free of the water, Lois says, “You’re what I thought was Superman?”
And what Clark should be saying at this point is, “You’re what I thought was a smart, professional reporter?” But I guess that ship sailed after the Paris mess.
The three criminals land on Earth, or what General Zod believes is called “Planet Hooston.” And he walks on water, because we haven’t had any overt religious symbolism in this movie yet.
And now comes a double-dose. Because in the next scene, Clark inadvertently reveals his secret, then admits to Lois that he is Superman. And she spends basically the entire scene on her knees.
Wow, religious symbolism and sexual innuendo in one gesture. At least the movie’s efficient.
Meanwhile in the Bad Guy B-Plot, Zod and crew encounter a sheriff and deputy, and look who the sheriff is!
Okay, if you’re not a child of the 70’s, then this may not mean much to you. But this is Clifton James, and the sheriff he’s playing here is basically the same character he played in two different James Bond films (Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun). So at the time, there was a little feeling of, “But of course,” when you saw this guy playing a small-town sheriff. I guess Andy Griffith wasn’t available.
The deputy threatens the group with a shotgun, and this is the point at which the filmmakers begin to invent new Kryptonian powers, which will continue through the film. Zod uses his heat vision to make the deputy let go of his shotgun (even the wooden stock glows red-hot), but then also uses telekinesis to float the gun to him.
The other villains also get their small chances to demonstrate evil, and I’ve got to say, one thing Terence Stamp does really well is this exasperated eye roll at his underlings, as if he’s sometimes saying, “I’m not with them.”
Superman takes Lois to the Fortress of Solitude, and for some reason, she seems to like the ice cave look. Superman goes grocery shopping and visits a tropical island for some kind of rare tiger lily before returning to the Fortress to fix dinner with Lois (bet he forgot to pick up condoms, though–just saying).
Meanwhile, the three criminals overcome the nearest American small town, which, according to a news report, is named “East Houston, Idaho.” Get it? They came to “Planet Hooston,” but landed in the wrong Houston. Which would be funny if it weren’t so ridiculous, because really, couldn’t they have seen the major population centers from space and known that this was nothing like the most major city on the planet? Meanwhile, Ratzenberger’s voice is playing in the background as some kind of TV control room guy or something, and I have officially watched this movie too many times.
And then the Army comes to the rescue with the most motley operation imaginable.
A mismatched set of soldiers, raggedly marching down the road, with one jeep and one sorry helicopter among them.
And even then, given the remote location of the town and the difficulty in mounting a well-coordinated military strike, you can explain away the sorriness of the force involved as a local National Guard detachment or something, except for one huge problem: this tiny, haphazard operation is apparently commanded by a freaking four-star general! A general who claims he only reports to the President! I mean, I know this thing was written during the Carter administration, but even then, things couldn’t have been this bad in the Army. Could they?
When the helicopter attacks, though, there’s a nice moment where the Kryptonians don’t flinch under rocket bombardment from the helicopter. The only thing that rings a little false is the way Sarah Douglas blinks as she’s walking through the flying dirt, which is a tiny objection to a pretty good scene. And when she uses her superbreath to down the copter, it’s kind of sexy.
After dinner, Superman gives a symbolic spurt from a champagne bottle (like the one he did as Clark when they first met last movie, only this time on purpose)…
then he and Lois make goo-goo eyes at each other while exchanging romantic dialogue. Then Lois says she’s going to “change into something more comfortable,” and I wonder if that phrase still carries the same cultural connotations today? I’m so out of touch.
In the 70’s and into the 80’s, “changing into something more comfortable” meant changing into sexy lingerie. It was a TV safe way to say, “Let’s have sex now.”
And a little while later, Lois returns in her super-sexy gyaaaahhh…
I guess that’s supposed to be sort of sexy. I mean, backlit like that, it’s at least kind of see-thru, although hers is not the kind of body you want to see through to.
And I don’t mean to slam unnecessarily on Margot Kidder. It’s just that, between the way Margot Kidder looks, and the way she acts, and the way the part is written, there’s nothing in there that convincingly explains why Superman is so completely smitten by her. She has nice eyes, but otherwise she’s pretty plain, and her character is by turns cynical and idiotic. So why is Superman so desperate to get with that?
And he is desperate. As she returns, Clark is talking to a recording of his mother, who says that in order to get busy with a mortal woman, Superman must give up his powers. Although it’s never spelled out, nor even really hinted at, this seems to be a nod to the “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” problem written about by Larry Niven and depicted more graphically in the deleted scenes of Hancock.
Clark doesn’t even hesitate (because he’s a 30+-year-old virgin and really horny). He gives up his powers immediately, and the machine even takes away his costume.Â Then he and Lois share an awkward scene where she kisses his hand but not his lips, and he says, “Just say you love me,” but she doesn’t reply (because she’s probably already having second thoughts about normal Clark). Then they walk arm in arm to the superbed for Clark’s deflowering.
As Clark and Lois bask in the afterglow, the Krypto-Trio attack the White House where they find the President, played by E.G. Marshall in a really bad hairpiece.
But the scene is pretty well played, ending in probably my favorite line of the entire film, when the President kneels and says, “Oh, God,” at which the general corrects his pronunciation to “Zod.”
Later Clark and Lois are on their way back from the pole. They have somehow managed to acquire new clothes and a car, and Lois seems to be having serious buyer’s remorse over the whole “being in love with a non-Super Man” thing. She still claims to love him, but she doesn’t look too thrilled with the choice he made, and now she’s sorta stuck with him for a while. They stop into a diner for some dinner, another Donner-directed scene. You know this, because he pulls a Hitchcock and walks past the car as it’s parking.
Clark encounters a belligerent trucker in the diner and gets beaten up very badly. And then, to make the moment even more special, he sees a report on television about Zod and His Amazing Super-Friends having taken over the world. He decides he has to go back to the Fortress, even though his mother told him the process was irreversible and the control panel in the Fortress blew up. After all, what do women know about science?
Next Week: The Big Climax!