Thursday, December 07, 2006

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

What an odd, odd artifact. Fans of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies have heard for years about all of the footage Richard Donner shot for the sequel to his original Superman film that was cut from the film when the producers brought in Richard Lester to finish the film. Thanks to lobbying by fans and the release of Superman Returns earlier this year, Warner Brothers has done something unprecedented: They've let Donner and one of his producers put together a rough cut of the footage that was shot. The result is not quite a finished film but gives you a sense of the sequel we could have had -- essentially, it's Superman II with all of the campiness and stupid beaten out of it. And even with rough transitions, missing pickup shots and closeups, and screen test footage, it's an improvement over the version that was released; like Superman: The Movie, and unlike Lester's Superman II, the Donner cut works from within the material, rather than "above" it, and the central conceit of the Donner films -- that the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane is a tragedy, not a romance -- is much clearer here than in the released version.

It's amazing that this thing has been released -- it's not often that a piece of secret history escapes into the open.

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