Cruising to the climax of Superman II, starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Terence Stamp.
So when we last left Clark, he had lost his powers and been called out on TV by General Zod like Stone Cold Steve Austin calling out the Undertaker (and before any wrestling fans decide to correct my obviously deficient knowledge of the Stone Cold/Undertaker relationship, keep in mind that A: it’s a joke, and 2: I haven’t paid real attention to wrestling since the days of Mr. Wrestling 2 and Skandar Akbar the Oil Rich Arab, so I really don’t care).
Clark hitchhikes back up to the North Pole and finds the deserted, darkened Fortress, where he gives the following heartfelt, persuasive speech to try to get his powers back.
“Father? Mother? Boy, I really wish you could hear me, because I need you. You see I… I, uh… I failed. FATHER!”
Somehow, despite such impassioned oratory, the house fails to turn back on and no holograms appear. But the tube of Prell, forgotten in a corner, starts to glow. Did I miss something in that scene?
At the White House, Zod and crew are bored. They have no more challenges. But then Luthor shows up and tells them that he can help them find the son of Jor-El, in exchange for Australia. It’s a good scene, more entertaining than the Clark and Lois drama and less slapstick than Lex with his minions. It’s fascinating to watch Luthor manipulate these clearly more powerful, but not very bright beings. Even Zod, who exhibits occasional flashes of cunning, finds himself having to ask Luthor for help, though he clearly hates it.
So Lois, Perry and Jimmy are having a conference in Perry’s office, wondering where Superman is, when the Kryptonians arrive and trash the newsroom. There’s a funny throwaway where Lois tells Jimmy to “Quick, take a picture!” as Non is smashing Perry’s desk preparatory to smashing Perry. And then Luthor strolls in to take charge of the situation.
Lois is pretty angry to see Lex, even though the two never met in the previous film. In fact, Lois has never been shown to have even heard of him. Maybe she covered the trial or something, but it feels more like the filmmakers once more letting the audience’s knowledge and expectations do part of the script’s work for it. Zod asks where the son of Jor-El is, and Lex explains that he’s got a thing for Lois, so as long as they have Lois, Superman will come to them. Zod thinks it’s an okay plan, so he orders Lois to be held, and the rest killed, starting with Lex.
But then, miracle of miracles, Superman shows up with his powers restored, although we were told just a while ago that the process was “irreversible.” Newsroom Bill Cosby is skeptical.
And now, the big fight we’ve all been waiting for. And wow, is it a mixed bag.
Zod starts things off by throwing a big prefab wall from a construction site at Superman, who belatedly realizes that there are people in the street below, so maybe this wasn’t the best place to make his stand. When he zaps the wall with his heat vision, he discovers that maybe it was actually made out of C-4, because it blows way the hell up. And unlike Ursa walking calmly through a rocket barrage with only a little blinking, Superman flinches away from the explosion big time. He’s such a sissy.
Down in the streets, people are rooting for Superman. A cabbie with dust covering his windshield says, “Man, this is gonna be good,” then acts like he’s going to turn on his windshield wipers so he can watch the fight from inside the cab. But they cut away before the gag pays off. It’s such a throwaway, they literally threw it away.
There’s some poorly executed flying and aerial fisticuffs, and then Zod uses his heat vision to blow up some cars, a neat sequence that ends when Superman uses a truck mirror to reflect the rays back at him.
He follows this by using Freeze Breath to cool down a big rig that’s threatening to explode. Hey, he actually used an honest-to-goodness power out of the comics. What the hell?
Next, Non tackles Superman and they crash into the sewers or something. We hear the sounds of a titanic struggle while the ground shakes and manhole covers blow off, then Non crashes up through the ground then all the way through a skyscraper, and the fight is actually turning pretty good.
And then it starts to get lame again. Superman wrestles with Zod, and throws him off with this dainty little kick that would look lame in a normal fight, let alone a struggle between super-titans.
Then Supes throws Zod into the Coca-Cola sign atop Times Square, and there’s seriously a ton of product placement in this fight. Oh, and one of the extras really looks like a young Mel Gibson.
Ursa and Non decide to throw a bus at Superman, a bus bearing an advertisement for Evita at the Broadway Theater. You know, the famous Broadway theater district in… Metropolis.
After Superman is hit by the bus, the crowd thinks Superman is dead and decides to attack the trio. They grab fallen rocks and chunks of wood, whatever weapon is at hand, a bit that was “homaged” in Sam Raimi’s Spider-man years later. The Kryptonians fend off the crowd with super-breath, leading to a string of goofy sight gags like toupees being blown off and a roller skater being pushed backwards down the street.
Superman crawls from the wreckage and flies away. The three criminals return to the shattered newsroom in triumph, but Luthor berates them for having failed to kill Superman. Then he offers to lead them to Superman’s home.
The trio, plus Luthor and Lois, land in the shattered Fortress. Superman appears and the battle starts anew, only this time, it consists almost completely of new made-up powers like Superman enveloping Non in a giant version of his “S” shield.
Then there’s a beam duel of telekinesis rays, followed by a weird teleporting chess game in which Superman creates illusory duplicates of himself.
Superman offers a strange aside that he “used to play this game at school.” Would this be Kryptonian school? When he was a baby? Or did he play it at Smallville Elementary with the other teleporting kids? Bad enough that the filmmakers have to create this bogus new power, but the line just adds injury to insult. It’s insanely stupid.
Superman ends up choking Zod, but the other two grab Lois, so Superman surrenders. Then he tries to talk Luthor into helping him get the Kryptonians into the molecule chamber. Luthor of course betrays him, so Superman is forced into the chamber for a second time. But this time, he has rigged it to keep him safe while irradiating everyone outside. He crushes Zod’s hand and lifts him into the air, and we see that it really is warm in the Fortress.
He should talk to Lois about getting some dress shields, seriously. The villains are thrown into chasms to drown in the icy waters of the Arctic,but it’s done all slapsticky, so it’s funny when they die. Then Superman takes Lois home, leaving Luthor in the Fortress. Now is that really a good idea?
The next day, Clark and Lois talk, and Lois is really upset, though I’m not sure why. She is upset that she has to pretend not to have feelings for him, which is silly. They could easily pretend that Clark and Lois are an item; really, the only thing they won’t be able to do is have sex, but Lois seems to think that’s the deal killer. When Clark says he doesn’t know what to say, Lois says, “Just say you love me.”
And just like before, when he asked her for the same favor, Clark doesn’t say it. These are two really screwed-up, selfish people.
But Clark does kiss her.
And it’s strange to realize that, for an ostensibly romantic relationship, this is the only time we ever see them kiss. Lois has kissed his hand, and he has kissed the top of her head, but they have never been shown kissing each other. And even this time, it’s not a real kiss, but a Hypno-Kiss, which somehow erases Lois’s memory of the past few days.Â Cop to the out.
So everything is back to the status quo, and all that’s left is the epilogue, where Superman delivers a new flag for the roof of the White House. How patriotic.
Then Superman flies up into orbit for the obligatory smile at the camera and we’re into the end credits. And like the previous film, the credits are all slitscanned. But unlike the previous film, there are no additional sparkles to enhance things. Apparently, they didn’t save quite enough money by kicking Brando to the curb, and had to economize on the credits as well. Also in the credits, there’s this.
No date promised, but even before Superman II opened, they knew it would be big enough to merit a third installment. Would it take the series to new heights, or would it follow the path of most third installments and signal a drastic slide in quality?
You probably already know the answer to that, but be here next Monday to see all the gory details. And drop by tomorrow for some closing thoughts on the first two films.
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