Superman II (1980)

Film: Superman II
Release: 1980, theatrical
Starring: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder
Directed by: Richard Lester
Previous in the series: Superman The Movie
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When Superman saves Paris from a hydrogrenbomb by throwing it into space, the explosion coincidentally frees three menaces of his homeplanet Krypton from the phantom zone. Meanwhile on Earth, Lex Luthor escapes from prison to get revenge on Superman

Hans' thoughts:

This one is pretty different from the previous one. While the previous one was a very basic Superman story that could have found in the fleischer bros. cartoons or the old comics, this one is based heavily in the lore. General Zod (who we saw being sentenced by Jor-El in the very first scene of Superman The Movie) is the main villain, making Supermans adversary someone just as powerful as himself. The stakes are higher, the fights are bigger, the special effects are more frequent. Unfortunately this movie, while good, suffers from the story being a mess. I'm sorry to say that there is just way too much going on in this movie. We have 3 plots going on at the same time, first off you have the invasion of General Zod and his two followers Ursa and Non. This one continues theme of the audience learning more about Krypton, unfortunately the actors assigned to it is kinda, odd. Ursa being the most interesting doesn't show much emotion, Non doesn't speak at all instead making a lot of weird faces and grunts, and then Terence Stamp chewing scenery as much as he possibly can as General Zod. They all speak in monotone voices, but the voice Stamp gives Zod is just way too weird. At any moment I'm expecting him to twirl a menacing mustache and tie Lois Lane to some railroad tracks. The second plotline is Lex Luthor escaping from prison to take revenge on Superman. Unfortunately, a lot of what made Luthor fun to watch in the first movie was the banter between him and his subjects. In this one he is very much in the background, although he's still by far the most well-written and fun of the villain characters. He has that kind of Jack Sparrow vibe of an incredible ego where he's definitely the most fun character but him being alone just doesn't give actor Gene Hackman enough to work with. Then there's the last plot thread of  Lois Lane discovering the identity of Superman. On one hand it's nice to see them finally confessing their love and there's some very funny moments between actress Margot Kidder and lead Christopher Reeve. It also serves to give a reason for why General Zod's story is put on the backburner for a good chunk of the second act. On the other hand, the pay off is just not there. We get all this investment and time into the development between the two romantically involved characters but then a cheap flip of a switch sort of undoes everything and puts it back to status quot.  Finally there's the special effects. Everything in this movie is bigger, there's more fighting, more action, more explosions, tons and tons of reaction shots. Great stuff. But again there's a problem: Some of the powers are just not explained. Well okay, why they have the powers IS explained but the characters all display powers that are either only used once or were never used by Superman in the previous movie. For all the gripes I give this movie, please don't be scared away. It's actually a very good movie, and still at the top of the line of superhero movies. It's just less Superman The Movie or The Dark Knight and more X-Men 2 and Spider-man - quality vise that is.
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