Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) Movie Review

Title: Superman II.
Rated: PG.
Director: Richard Donner & Richard Lester (Uncredited).
Story by: Mario Puzo.
Screenplay by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman & Tom Mankiewicz (Uncredited).
Release Date: 2006 (Originally released in 1980).
Runtime:  115 min (The Richard Donner Cut).
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Romance.
Cast: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, and many more!
Budget: $54,000,000 (estimated).
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Following tension and drama with original director Richard Donner that led to his replacement, the theatrical version was thus released under the supervision of director Richard Lester in 1980. It is only in 2006, coinciding with the release of Superman Returns (2006), that director Richard Donner’s cut was released on DVD and Blu-ray. Despite not being completely accurate to his vision, mostly due to scenes not having been shot, this re-edited director’s cut remains an alternate version yet the closest take on the original script planned for the sequel of Superman (1978). With Superman now fully introduced to the world, his next adventure leads him to ponder his role on Earth and evaluate his desire for happiness, while acquainting him to his father’s archenemies.

What is Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) about? Before Krypton’s demise, Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sentenced criminals General Zod (Terence Stamp), Non (Jack O’Halloran), and Ursa (Sarah Douglas) to eternal banishment within the Phantom Zone. Stuck in limbo for over thirty years, travelling across space, they are coincidentally freed by a missile diverted by Superman (Christopher Reeve) and originally launched by Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). While the extraterrestrial trio look to conquer Earth, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) go on a trip to resolve his latest and ultimate dilemma: sacrifice his powers to live a human life and focus on his relationship with Lois Lane or remain the hero of the weak people of Earth. Unfortunately, his decisions will also determine the fate of the universe and he must now determine his role in the future of humankind.

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For a good chunk of the movie, romance is the pivotal theme in Superman’s latest journey. With Lois Lane desperately trying to prove that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same, a rather unnatural relationship is built around both lovebirds, with some truly awkward banter added to the mix, consolidating their bond to the point where the Big Blue Boy Scout wishes to put behind his duties as Earth’s guardian to embrace a normal life with the love of his life. While his father serves as the voice of reason in the Man of Steel’s life through a hologram, it becomes clear that Superman still has plenty to learn as a superhero and the only way he’s learning anything is the hard way, that is, to face General Zod and his goons to understand his true place in the world of humans.

While The Richard Donner Cut does steer away from the abundance of comedy found in the theatrical version, the campy humour is still very much present, robed in some melodrama to remind viewers of the gravity of Superman’s journey of self-discovery. His bond with his father is also key to better understanding his adulthood transformation. With the additional footage with Jor-El, the theme of father and son is crucial to understanding Clark Kent’s predicament. While the internal conflict is somewhat explored, the movie doesn’t delve much deeper, preferring a more superficial action element by bringing in General Zod, Non, and Ursa’s relentless terror to Earth. Withal, Lex Luthor brings in a more comedic form of villainy, easily diffusing the tension throughout the movie with his silly yet evil plans. The overall tone thus captured by this director’s cut remains loyal to the first movie’s spirit.

Unfortunately, this movie is riddled with incoherence on many fronts, inevitably pulling the viewer out of the moment on several occasions. The most noteworthy story-telling decision that never should’ve been integrated is its ending, one that simply makes no sense whatsoever and ultimately nullifies this movie’s whole raison d’être. Instead of allowing Superman’s character to learn from his actions and to embrace his mistakes, he reverts to a ridiculous solution that forces you to wonder if he’s even learned anything from his encounter with General Zod. While this director’s cut doesn’t fix all the problems in the theatrical cut, it also doesn’t answer all the questions it asks, leaving behind many plot holes.

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Just like the story and its direction, the special-effects used in this sequel have an uncanny charm. They don’t necessary capture the DC superhero’s complete range of strength and powers, but it at least allows viewers to distinguish Kryptonians from humans without much effort, whether it’s through super-breath, flight, or unparalleled strength. With John Williams’ iconic score used strategically to empower dramatic sequences, it is difficult to not let those relatively epic moments take ahold of you even if the movie’s epic scope struggles at times to show itself, especially with the choppy editing that is omnipresent throughout the movie. Nonetheless, in the same respect as the first movie, this sequel does a good job in giving viewers the entertainment they are hoping for.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) is a decent director’s cut completing the original director’s two-part vision with a story centered around Superman’s love life and his servitude to humankind.

Superman II (1980) is available for purchase and on select streaming services.

Have you read any Superman comics?
Have you seen Superman II (1980)? Will you? What did you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!



26 thoughts on “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) Movie Review

  1. I watched both the theatrical and the directors cut and I have to admit, I like the theatrical version better. I was expecting to like Donner’s version better (talk about foreshadowing Zak Snyder!) but I liked how things were handled in the theatrical better. I did not like Luthor’s descent to Campy humor, but that’s what he was at that time I’m afraid.

    I did like how Donner tied the 2 movies together, made things feel more like one big story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really is amazing that Warner Bros has such a history with having tensions with directors/producers, giving birth to all this “director’s cut” stuff hahah I felt the same about Luthor since the first movie but then just convinced myself that that was how Luthor was perceived for the live-action movies. It would take them time before getting it right (e.g. making Luthor like in the comics or animated series).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sure I enjoyed it when younger, but this is another example of an older movie I have no desire to rewatch. So I appreciate being able to relive a little through your review without having to take the time to actually sit through it. 🙂 Glad you got some enjoyment out of it, even if it could’ve been better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahaha I can’t blame you there. I’ll probably have an even TOUGHER time convincing you to try the next two Superman movies too. 😉 I do look forward to torturing myself though. 😀 Also glad to spare you the trouble of going through these once again. I wouldn’t pressure anyone to try these out. They aren’t what Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is for me. 😀 Thank you for reading, Todd!


  3. I’m sure I haven’t watched this one. I like the concept superhero still need to learn more thing but it would irritate me if few things are unclear and illogical. Why would they give up power for normal life, can’t they balance it? They are superheroes after all! Great review!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have seen the theatrical and Donner cut version of Superman 2 and I have to say I still prefer the theatrical version. The director’s cut has some nice scenes added but they don’t really seem to fit into the story well, and you can see why they weren’t included in the movie. Superman 2 looks a bit dated now, but I still have a soft spot for it, especially the battle in Metropolis between Superman, Zod, and Co!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ll have to make it my duty to check out the theatrical cut again the next time I rewatch these Superman movies just to properly determine which one I prefer. I usually always prefer the director’s cut because of how accurate it is to the original idea but it’s true that sometimes, the original idea isn’t always the best one! And like you, I do feel like this one’s a bit dated but the Superman vs. Zod and co. fight will always be, at least, nostalgic! Thanks for reading, Paul!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This review made me think of art in general. How different people (directors in this instance) can tell the same story in such vastly different ways. Isn’t it amazing? The only problem is that they might have some different ideas than you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmm I really need some help here: is this 4/5 or 4/10? 😜 I think I’ve seen the theatrical version in bits and pieces as a kid, but to be honest, these Superman movies were what put me off from the character for years 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This movie is best seen more as a “what if” than an actual movie. That said, I generally prefer this over the theatrical cut. I believe the best version of Superman II would be somewhere between the two cuts, generally favouring the Donner cut for most scenes that exist in both, while making further edits to remove some of the weirder comedy from the Lester footage. Also, it’s worth looking into the history of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies in general. The disputes between the directors and the Salkinds, the on-set troubles with Richard Lester (Superman II and III), and the giant question mark that is the Supergirl movie … the behind the scenes stuff is almost as entertaining to read about as it is to watch the first couple of movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with you. It would’ve needed another version that takes the best of both worlds but that’s probably never going to happen. The behind-the-scenes really does sound intriguing. Especially when Warner Bros tend to often have these kinds of issues… See Zack Snyder’s Justice League, for example hahaha


  8. Some great thoughts Lashaan, I find the Dinner Cut to be more of a curiosity and a tease at what could have been had Donner been able to complete the film. The tone is certainly more serious and the best thing about it really is the restoration of the Marlon Brando/Jor-El scenes.

    Yet, I find myself watching the theatrical cut more as despite it’s flaws it does have a certain charm to it and as at least a complete film whereas the Donner Cut does feel as you say, a bit choppy and hampered by having to ‘fill the gaps’.

    Oh and I can’t wait to see what you think of Superman III, if you’re not a fan of camp humour/goofiness it’s going to be INTERESTING!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, my friend! It’s amazing how much creative differences can exist between directors and producers. I think Donner would’ve needed a bigger budget to really get something more in line with his vision but it was indeed fun to see how he would’ve preferred it to go down (although I’ll never get behind his repeat-ending…).

      Bro, I’m very curious about Superman III and IV. Those are the ones I barely have a memory of. I don’t even think my kid self saw any scenes of them. If what I hear is right, my reviews will be… unforgiving. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I expect that your review of Superman IV is going to be BRUTAL. It really isn’t very good despite noble intentions…fun fact though, it was one of my early cinema experiences as I saw it when it came out in 1987 and actually remember being sat there enthralled (alas it doesn’t hold up but at the age of six I was oblivious to awful special effects and other negatives).

        Superman III has some good moments but as much as I’m a fan of Richard Pryor as a comedic legend it goofs things up a bit too much.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh man, that sounds so funny. I can only imagine how amazed you must have been as a kid too! I definitely fear that it won’t get any mercy from me too hahah I actually have zero memory of any scenes in them so I really look forward to properly watching them next! 😛

        Liked by 1 person

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