As you head to the video store this week, perhaps in search of the new "Superman Returns" release on DVD, you may notice another Man of Steel ripping his shirt open on the rerelease of "Superman II." The old Christopher Reeve sequel has been re-cut under the direction of Richard Donner, still stinging, apparently, from being yanked off the project partway through its production in the late '70s.
Donner actually started making both "Superman: The Movie" and its sequel at the same time, the norm for franchise pictures today. But various disputes estranged Donner from his producers, who brought in Richard Lester to take over. Donner has long seethed over Lester's changes to his material. The advent of the Internet lent voice to those who agreed. This version is his attempt to show how it might have looked had he retained control.
One thing is certain: It couldn't have looked worse.
The story of the original is basically unchanged. Three deviants from the planet Krypton, led by General Zod (Terence Stamp), escape their confinement and handily take over Earth with their combined superpowers. Superman (Reeve) must thwart them. Evidently, because of the lag in filming, there are continuity issues with Reeve's bulk and Margot Kidder's hair within scenes of the original. I saw it multiple times growing up and never noticed. But you'll notice the changes in the new version.
Because there was no chance to re-shoot anything, Donner was left to work with what he had, whether cheap present-day special effects or test scenes. All were used, often to no purpose other than to remove as much Lester material as possible. The resulting farce (Superman pouting, for instance) makes a ludicrous sham out of Donner's accusation that the Lester version was too comic.
Sad the world might lose a harmlessly entertaining action flick for this wreck. If "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut" shows us anything, it's that initiatives generated on the Internet should be taken with a grain of salt, and there comes a time when you need to let things go. * Wayne Melton S