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'Superman II' - The Film

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'Superman' - The Film | 'Superman II' - The Film | 'Superman III' - The Film
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On Krypton, these villains were uncontrollable. On Earth, each of them would have [Superman's] identical powers.

Superman II was the troubled sequel to the highly successful film Superman. Originally intended to be made at the same time as Superman, to make best use of sets and cast and to make two films relatively cheaply, its journey to the screen was stalled and beset with problems.

Filming of Superman II was interrupted when it became obvious that Superman would miss its intended release date. Despite being at least 75% complete, filming Superman II ground to a halt in late 1977 in order to finish making Superman. When filming resumed in 1979 the director behind the film was different, the script had changed and many of the scenes already shot were re-filmed.


Kal-El/Superman/Clark KentChristopher Reeve
Lex LuthorGene Hackman
General ZodTerence Stamp
UrsaSarah Douglas
Lois LaneMargot Kidder
Jor-El (Donner version only)Marlon Brando
Lara (Lester version only)Susannah York
Miss TeschmacherValerie Perrine
OtisNed Beatty
Perry WhiteJackie Cooper
Jimmy OlsenMarc McClure
NonJack O'Halloran
Sheriff of East HoustonClifton James1
American PresidentEG Marshall
TerroristRichard Griffiths2
Rocky (Diner Bully)Pepper Martin
Man Outside DinerRichard Donner (Cameo)

The main cast had all previously appeared in Superman, with only minor characters appearing in Superman II for the first time.

The Salkinds

The Salkinds, the production team behind Superman II, planned to film Superman and Superman II at the same time to make better use of sets and actor availability. It was known that the stars of first two Superman films, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman, would have very limited availability and would not be able to return to their roles. Their scenes were filmed first. Indeed, Marlon Brando spent less than two weeks filming his scenes for Superman, Superman II and the scenes which would later be used as part of Superman Returns.

The Salkinds were father and son team Alexander and Ilya Salkind, with their partner producer Pierre Spengler. Ilya worked as the artistic producer. Spengler, a childhood friend of Alexander's, managed the budget, and Alexander worked to raise the necessary funds. The script was based on the one written by Mario Puzo, writer of The Godfather, that Superman was created from, with rewrites by Robert Benton and David and Leslie Newman.

Director Enquiries: Guy with two Dicks

During the course of the making of Superman II between 1975 and 1980, three separate directors were hired at different points to make the film:

First Director: Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton, who had directed four James Bond films3 as well as popular war films, was originally hired to direct both Superman and Superman II in 1975. Unfortunately Hamilton was forced to pull out of directing and he was replaced with director Richard 'Dick' Donner.

Second Director: Richard 'Dick' Donner

At the time he was hired, Richard Donner was a fairly inexperienced director whose only major film to date was the highly successful The Omen. He agreed to direct both Superman and Superman II for a $1 million dollar fee. Donner's first act was to bring Tom Mankiewicz on board as a creative consultant to re-write the script. Filming on both Superman films began in early 1977, however the delay had meant that even before Donner was brought in to replace Hamilton, the film had already cost over $6 million and was behind schedule.

Making both films at the same time was quite a stressful experience for all concerned. Costs spiralled higher than expected and clashes between the director and producers were common. Filming ran over budget and behind schedule, and the Salkinds were forced to sell shares in Superman to Warner Brothers in order to raise the funds to continue making the film.

The vast majority of Superman II was filmed by Donner during the initial filming of Superman. The main sections yet to be completed were the special effects-heavy, costly fight sequences: the Battle of East Houston and the Battle of Metropolis4.

Donner was an artistic genius with an artistic temperament. He had a reputation for destroying telephones and regularly had rows and arguments with his editor Stuart Baird. He also argued often with the producers, especially Pierre Spengler, who was in charge of the budget. Eventually experienced director Richard Lester was hired to mediate between the producers and Donner. After the success of Superman he said that he would only finish making Superman II on certain terms. Chief of these terms was that he wished to fire his boss, producer Pierre Spengler. It is alleged that he referred to the Salkinds in interviews in derogatory terms and did not respond to their attempts to contact him. These acts ensured that he was not asked to return to direct Superman II.

Third Director: Richard 'Dick' Lester

At the time he was brought in to work as a mediator between the Salkinds and Donner, Lester was a more experienced award-winning director. Lester had worked with the Salkinds before, on the action films The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers back-to-back in 1973-4. He had previously made several successful films. These included the 1960 Academy Award-nominated The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. He was also famous for directing the Beatles' films A Hard Day's Night and Help!5. Lester had a reputation for finishing his films on time and within budget, something the financially-stretched Salkinds were desperate for. It was Lester who halted filming on Superman II to concentrate on finishing Superman. Lester felt that if Superman was a failure, then the cliffhanger ending would be irrelevant if Superman II was never made. Instead, the proposed ending for Superman II, where Superman controversially time-travels by flying around the Earth, was added to the end of Superman.

Superman II After Suspension

After the huge success of Superman in cinemas, work was set to resume on finishing Superman II. However, after the trouble haunting the making of Superman, the Salkinds were determined to avoid repeating the experience. Richard Donner, when interviewed during the success of Superman, is believed to have said that he would only make Superman II on his own terms. This led the Salkinds to hire Richard Lester to replace Donner as director for Superman II.

When filming Superman II resumed, Lester had some major problems to overcome. Shortly after the release of Superman the visionary cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth had died. On his first day as director on Superman II the production designer John Barry died. The loss of two of the most valued members of the team behind Superman marred the experience of filming and prevented Superman II from being made to the same high standard as the first film.

There were also several key changes that needed to be made to the script. Firstly Marlon Brando was written out of Superman II, as a purely financial exercise. The producers realised that should any scenes containing him appear in the film, Marlon Brando's contract stated that he would receive 11.75% of the profit. It was simply cheaper to re-film his scenes using Susannah York as Lara, Superman's mother. Initial filming on Superman II had been done to a script in which Superman ended on a cliffhanger with the release of the three Kryptonian villains, with Superman II following on immediately after. As this scene had been dropped from Superman, a new introduction to Superman II needed to be written.

As Tom Mankiewicz, the Creative Consultant who had worked for Richard Donner, chose not to return to work on Superman II, the previous writing team of David and Leslie Newman were re-hired to rewrite the script accordingly. They removed many of Mankiewicz's changes to their original re-write based on Mario Puzo's script, and restored many of their scenes that Mankiewicz had removed. This included the beginning where terrorists with a nuclear bomb seize the Eiffel Tower – in their original script, terrorists with a nuclear bomb seized a building in Metropolis.

Lester chose to re-shoot several other scenes for Superman II that Donner had already filmed. It is alleged that this was to allow him a 'Directed By' screen credit: in order to earn a directorial credit, at least 51% of a film's footage needs to have been filmed under the direction of the director concerned. In fact, Donner has said that representatives for Lester asked whether he wished to have a co-directed credit for the film, but Donner declined.

All the scenes containing Gene Hackman, however, had been filmed by Donner. Hackman did not return to finish filming Superman II. Many people believe that this was in protest against Donner not being rehired to finish Superman II. However, the producers have stated that this was because Hackman was simply unavailable and working on other projects. During the initial filming of the first two Superman films by Donner, it had been known that Hackman would have very limited availability, and so it was a priority for all his scenes to be filmed first. Hackman not returning to Superman II was therefore not unexpected6 as most of the scenes for which he was needed had already been filmed.

As Superman II was largely re-shot, several deleted scenes from Donner's version existed in the archives. Some of them were broadcast as added scenes for Television Editions of both Superman and Superman II, but most of the scenes were not seen for over 25 years.

Creation Of The Richard Donner Cut

There are two main versions of the film Superman II: the Richard Lester and Richard Donner cuts. The Richard Lester cut is the version of the film that was released in cinemas in 1980 and is 122 minutes long.

After the release of the Extended Edition of Superman on DVD in 2001, which included several previously deleted scenes, an Internet campaign to see the Richard Donner cut of Superman II was launched by Superman fans. At first Donner was reluctant to be involved, and although all the scenes that Donner had shot were still safely in storage in the studios in England, it was unknown whether it would be possible to use any of the crucial and previously unseen Marlon Brando footage.

The filming of Superman Returns, which also used this footage, was the starting point for negotiations to take place with Brando's estate. Permission was given for Brando's performance to appear. Donner, however, remained reluctant to become directly involved; most of the restoration work was done by Reconstruction Editor and Producer Michael Thau. Finally in 2006, after a wonderful example of an Internet campaign at work, Richard Donner's 111-minute-long Cut of Superman II was released as an alternative version of Superman II.

Sadly, how original director Guy Hamilton would have made Superman II will never be known.


The two versions of the film broadly have the same plot, but there are important differences. Some of these are trivial; the order in which scenes appear also is different between the two versions and the scenes themselves are of different lengths. Other differences are quite noticeable. These plot reviews therefore contains spoilers. Some Richard Lester footage remains in the Richard Donner version and some of the footage in the Richard Lester version, including all scenes containing Gene Hackman, were filmed by Richard Donner.

Plot Summary

The storyline common to both versions of the film is:

Before the destruction of Krypton, General Zod, Ursa and Non are caught and sentenced to be jailed in the Phantom Zone. Before this is carried out, General Zod swears vengeance, promising that Jor-El and his heirs will one day kneel before him. Several years later, Superman throws a nuclear weapon into space. The explosion releases General Zod, Ursa and Non. They then fly to the Moon, kill a few astronauts and cosmonauts, and then fly to Earth.

Lex Luthor escapes from prison with the help of Miss Teschmacher and, having tracked Superman's flights to the North Pole, heads north and discovers the Fortress of Solitude. He learns of the existence of General Zod, and heads south having detected General Zod's presence on Earth.

Clark Kent and Lois Lane investigate corruption in a hotel for newlyweds at Niagara Falls. Lois sees Superman save a child from falling to his death when Clark is not around, and suspects his secret. Later, he confirms his identity to Lois. He takes her to the Fortress of Solitude in the North Pole, sacrifices his powers in a crystal chamber to lead a normal life with her, and spends the night with her. Giving up his powers, it is stressed, is entirely irreversible.

General Zod, Ursa and Non, meanwhile, devastate the village of East Houston and fly to the White House, causing chaos on the way. They force the American President to kneel before Zod. They also request that Superman, too, kneels before Zod. Having gained control over the Earth, General Zod is later approached by Lex Luthor, who informs him that Superman is the son of their jailer, Jor-El. His knowledge about Superman is given in exchange for ownership of Australia.

The now-human Clark and Lois, unaware of world events, drive to a diner where a rather unpleasant character called Rocky beats up Clark. They then learn of General Zod's conquest of the Earth and Clark returns to the Fortress of Solitude to try to become Superman again, even though he was told it would be totally impossible. Lois returns to Metropolis where she is captured by Zod, Ursa and Non who had been led to her by Lex. Superman appears, with his powers restored. After a fight in Metropolis, which endangers the lives of the civilians living there, Superman flies to the Fortress of Solitude. He wishes to confront the villains somewhere where no one else could get hurt, planning on luring Zod, Ursa and Non into a trap.

With the help of Lex, Zod, Ursa and Non pursue, bringing Lois with them. Superman surrenders. He informs Lex he plans to get his countrymen into the crystal chamber to strip away their powers. Lex double-crosses Superman, who is then led into the crystal chamber. He comes out humble, defeated, and kneels before Zod. It is then revealed that he had reversed the crystal chamber, stripping away the powers of the villains outside whilst staying safe and protected inside. Zod, Ursa and Non fall to their deaths in the Fortress of Solitude. Lex is then abandoned at the North Pole, while Lois is returned to Metropolis. Clark Kent later returns to the diner where he was attacked and humiliates the bully who attacked him.

Scenes Unique to the Richard Lester Version

  • Before the destruction of Krypton, General Zod, Ursa and Non attempt to cause chaos by destroying a crystal
  • Terrorists plant a nuclear bomb on the Eiffel Tower, which Lois Lane investigates and is endangered by. Superman rescues her and throws the bomb into space. The explosion releases General Zod, Ursa and Non from their imprisonment
  • Lex Luthor learns of the existence of General Zod from an image of Lara, Superman's mother
  • After returning from Paris, Lois suspects Clark's secret and jumps into a river expecting Superman to save her, but Clark manages to ensure she comes to no harm while preserving his identity
  • Clark trips and falls into a fire and, when he is unscathed, confirms his identity to Lois
  • General Zod, Ursa and Non deface and re-carve Mount Rushmore with their own images
  • The now-human Clark Kent returns to the Fortress of Solitude to try to become Superman again, even though he was told by Lara, his mother, it would be totally impossible. Fortunately he finds a crystal
  • With the help of Lex, General Zod, Ursa and Non bring Lois with them to the Fortress of Solitude. They fight, with Superman initially having the advantage, until they threaten to kill Lois unless Superman surrenders
  • Lois returns to Metropolis and has her mind wiped with a kiss
  • Superman promises the American President that he won't let the world down again

Scenes Unique to the Richard Donner Version

  • Jor-El condemns General Zod, Ursa and Non to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone
  • Several years later Lex Luthor plans to use two nuclear missiles to make a fortune. Superman sends one of the nuclear missiles into space, which explodes near the Phantom Zone, releasing General Zod, Ursa and Non
  • As little time has elapsed since the events portrayed in Superman, Lois Lane continues thinking of how Superman and Clark Kent are never in the same place at the same time, and notices their physical similarities. She throws herself out of a window at the top of the Daily Planet building in front of Clark, expecting him to turn into Superman to save her. Clark is able to subtly use his powers to ensure that she survives without revealing his true identity
  • Lex Luthor learns of the existence of General Zod from an image of Jor-El, Superman's father
  • Lois again suspects Clark's secret and pretends to shoot him, using blanks. Clark automatically assumes that he has been shot and confirms that he is Superman to Lois
  • Superman, after a discussion with his father Jor-El, sacrifices all his powers to lead a normal life with Lois. Losing his powers, it is stressed, is entirely irreversible
  • General Zod, Ursa and Non demolish the Washington Monument
  • Clark returns to the Fortress of Solitude to try to become Superman again, even though he was told it would be totally impossible. Fortunately his father had foreseen this possibility and sacrifices the last of his existence to restore Kal-El's powers, fulfilling the prophecy that the son becomes the father and the father the son
  • Superman destroys the Fortress of Solitude
  • Lois returns to Metropolis, but the following day Superman spins the Earth back in time to ensure that none of the events of Superman II happen, and General Zod, Ursa and Non are again imprisoned in the Phantom Zone

At the end of Donner's version of Superman II, Clark then returns to the diner where he was attacked. He humiliates the person who in the alternate timeline bullied Clark, however, due to time travel, in this new timeline the bully had never seen him before. Superman II – The Richard Donner Cut therefore ends with Clark Kent attacking an innocent man.

Which Version is Better?

This is a question that boils down to personal preference. Both versions have advantages and disadvantages, although the Lester version, as the one seen in cinemas, is widely considered the true version of Superman II, with the Donner version an exciting alternative.

Donner Version Advantages

  • The opening sequence and Lois Lane's suspicions of Clark's true identity tie in directly with how Superman ended, and take place immediately after the first film
  • Lois jumping out of a window at the top of the Daily Planet building is more dramatic than her jumping into a slightly choppy river
  • Marlon Brando reprises his role as Jor-El (although had Donner been asked to finish the film in 1980, he too would have been forced to remove Brando's scenes for financial reasons)
  • Lois Lane wears Superman's shirt the morning after
  • Superman regaining his powers is actually explained in a way that both makes sense and has dramatic significance
  • The villains have greater menace. In the Donner version Jor-El dramatically describes their criminal characteristics with no details given other than that they led an insurrection, leaving the imagination free to imagine limitless dark deeds. In the Lester version we see them kill an extra in order to snap a crystal. Thinking of Zod as someone who likes to snap crystals does not have the same impact
  • The Statue of Liberty's torch is destroyed in a dramatic scene in the Battle of Metropolis sequence
  • The fate of General Zod, Ursa and Non is explained

Lester Version Advantages

  • It has a more international appeal, with a key scene set in Paris – Donner's version is confined largely to North America
  • Clark's revelation that he is Superman is more believable. In Donner's version, it hinges upon Clark not being able to tell the difference between being shot and not being shot. Superman should be able to notice whether a bullet has impacted on his skin or not, or made a hole in his clothes, even if he is impervious to pain7
  • Superman gets to spend time with his mother, not just his father
  • The villain's re-carving of Mount Rushmore into their likenesses is more dramatic than their knocking over the Washington Monument
  • The attack on the White House is shorter and more dramatic. General Zod does not go gun-happy with a machine-gun. This seemed out of character for the cold, calculating Zod whose only emotions are his bitter anger directed against Jor-El and his son, Kal-El
  • General Zod does not get confused between Superman and Jimmy Olsen
  • It does not have the time-travel reset-button ending where none of the events of the film happened. The Donner ending does not really explain how spinning the Earth back in time prevents a nuclear explosion taking place in space
  • The film does not end with Clark seeking revenge on an innocent man

Television Editions

Several television editions of Superman II have been broadcast in different countries. These have mainly been based on Lester's version of Superman II and have additionally included scenes filmed by Donner. The most common scenes added to the television editions of Superman II not contained in the Superman II – The Richard Donner Cut include Lex Luthor being arrested by the police from outside the Fortress of Solitude, Superman destroying the Fortress of Solitude and Miss Teschmacher once again helping Lex Luthor escape from prison at the end of the film. These scenes appear as deleted scenes on DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut.


Despite its problematic origins, Superman II remains an exciting and entertaining film with impressive special effects. That Superman faces the established menace of villains first seen briefly in Superman makes their threat seem even bigger than if they had been introduced just for this film.

Christopher Reeve remains the outstanding star of the film, despite his second-billing after Gene Hackman. In the film he convincingly plays three roles: that of the bumbling Clark Kent; the heroic Superman; and Kal-El, the mortal Superman after his transformation. In a dramatic scene in the diner, the now-mortal Clark is left attacked, bloodied and bruised, emphasising our hero's vulnerability when the villains are at the height of their powers. Knocked to the floor, we see the red of Clark's blood and the red of a flashing neon sign illuminating his face, the same red as the Kryptonian rays that drained his power in the crystal chamber, emphasising his fragile mortality.

The Kryptonian super villains dominate the scenes they are in. Terence Stamp manages to say 'Kneel before Zod!' repeatedly but excitingly every time, whereas Gene Hackman continues to frequently say 'I'm the greatest criminal mind of our time', which merely remains annoying. The little tantalising details we are given of them builds up the suspense of the film. Non, known as the Destroyer, admittedly has little to do, but looks menacing and threatening despite this. We learn that Ursa, with her perversions and unreasoning hatred threatening even Krypton's children, has a hobby of collecting badges and looks like Servalan from Blake's 7. General Zod, the warped genius whose intended insurrection to establish a new order on Krypton was the most painful episode Krypton had to endure before its total destruction is alternately proud, suffering from ennui or indignant. His favourite hobby is asking people to kneel before him. The beginning of the film emphasises how threatening these three were to Krypton even before they had any powers, so it is very disappointing to see them so easily defeated at the end of Superman II, with even Lois effortlessly able to beat Ursa in a fight.

There are, however, some minor points that detract from the film. Lex Luthor, we learn, was only sentenced to life imprisonment plus 25 years for the crime of sending nuclear weapons to destroy California and Hackensack, New Jersey, attempting to kill millions. This seems a rather lenient sentence. The character of Otis has a very minor role compared to that in Superman, which is good, but sadly it is not explained what happens to Miss Teschmacher. Nor why she chooses to help the man who almost murdered her mother escape from prison. There are some other unanswered questions, such as how do Clark and Lois get away from the Fortress of Solitude in the North Pole, and where did they find a car? In the Lester version, how does finding the crystal help Kal-El regain his powers to become Superman?

The two main battle sequences perhaps lack the impact that they should have. In the Battle of East Houston, General Zod, Ursa and Non fight a jeep, a helicopter, 24 men and a general, presumably General Smythson, who considered launching a nuclear strike. This seems rather a small force to be led into battle in person by a general. Curiously, despite being from Krypton, General Zod instantly recognises the general's rank emblems on his lapel. How? Although the Kryptonians kept thorough records on their education crystals on Earth, especially on human tree-related poems, there is no indication that Zod has studied them as he remains ignorant of Earth's name or even of planets having watery surfaces.

The Metropolis fight seems over the top, and played more for laughs than dramatic threat. A mother pushing her pram makes no effort to walk out of the way of slowly-falling debris, choosing instead to scream a lot and wait for Superman. Other spectators battle with wigs, ice-creams, and a Gene Kelly lookalike struggles with an umbrella in a dance-like routine despite there being no rain. Having an out-of-control roller skater and tumbling phone boxes would return in the opening sequence of Supeman III. Other elements of the Metropolis fight sequence would later influence the Spider-Man series of films.

Product Placement

The worst point in the film is the out of control product placement. In Superman it was fairly subtle; a box of breakfast cereal here, a television manufacturer's logo there. In Superman II it goes out of all proportion, with the Salkinds desperate to raise money to finish the film. Although some product placement, such as ones advertising the same electronic goods company as in Superman, is fairly innocuous, much goes to a whole new level. General Zod is thrown into a gigantic sign advertising a soft drink beverage. This electronic sign not only takes up the whole screen, the advert lingers on the screen and comes complete with attention-grabbing fireworks and sparkles. In the diner sequence, the background contains at least 15 signs advertising the same drink, with a can prominently placed, and Lois Lane impatiently asks the waitress for a glass of that drink twice.

This, though, is nothing compared to the real fur coats continuously on display and worst of all, product placement for cigarettes. Lois smokes several cigarettes throughout the film, a cigarette company's logo is often seen advertised, such as on taxis. Worst of all, during the Metropolis fight sequence, a van carrying the cigarette company's logo becomes a pivotal part of the battle between General Zod and Superman. This led to an investigation in America in the use of cigarette product placement in films aimed at a child and/or family audience.

Superman's Powers

In the film it is emphasised (by Lara in the Lester version, Jor-El in the Donner) that the super villains have powers identical to Superman's, so any powers they display, Superman would also be able to use. Superman, however, would have the advantage of long-term familiarity and practice with his powers. All super powers were approved during the making of the film by representatives from DC Comics, although many have been criticised by Superman fans for deviating from the powers established in the comic books. Superman's powers and abilities seen in either version of Superman II include:

  • Flight
  • Ability to live and fly in space
  • Ability to remain unharmed when hit by a taxi
  • Ability to impressively throw a hat onto a hat stand
  • Super speed
  • Ability to emit alpha waves when flying
  • Ability to talk in a vacuum
  • Ability to walk normally on the Moon
  • Ability to prevent a space capsule taking off
  • Heat vision – which can be used even when wearing glasses. This can be used to open champagne bottles, cook a soufflé, cut through cables, set fire to vehicles, disintegrate concrete and destroy the Fortress of Solitude
  • Ability to walk on water and balance on a flagpole
  • Immunity to snake bites
  • Fireproof and ability to deflect flamethrower jets
  • Bullet proof, including missiles from helicopter gunships
  • Ability to levitate
  • Ability to levitate objects and other people
  • Incredible strength, including in arm wrestling, kicking, crushing, throwing people through walls, pushing people into the ground, lifting and throwing cars and buses and destroying desks
  • Super breath that can blow down helicopters, move cars, sweep people off their feet, etc, as well as freeze
  • Ability to regain super powers inexplicably shortly after finding a green crystal
  • Ability to throw the 'S' shield on Superman's shirt to envelope and repulse
  • Ability to teleport
  • Ability to duplicate interactive images
  • Ability to create energy beams power from hands, and repulse the same
  • Ability to give a super kiss that wipes all memories (Lester only)
  • Ability to time-travel

Recurring Themes

  • Alliterative names – Lex Luthor, Lois Lane
  • Nuclear weapons –
    • In the Lester version, terrorists threaten the Eiffel Tower with a nuclear weapon, which Superman throws into space and frees General Zod, Ursa and Non
    • In the Donner version, the nuclear missile destined for Hackensack that Superman redirected into space in Superman frees the super-villains
    • General Smythson ruled out attacking General Zod with nuclear weapons due to the risk to the civilian population of East Houston
  • Space race – there is a joint US and USSR manned mission to the Moon
  • Spelling Bee – Lois spells Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize out loud
  • Incompetent henchmen –
    • Otis is unable to even climb a ladder
    • Miss Teschmacher is unimpressed with the Fortress of Solitude and is more interested in where the toilets are. She also repeats parrot-fashion what Lex says
    • Non is so incompetent he accidentally kills himself
  • Forget it ever happened – Superman takes Lois to his home, promptly abandons her to pop out to St Lucia without offering to take her with him, gives her alcohol to drink, talks about her behind her back to his parents without attempting to introduce her, and sleeps with her. This is all without telling her his real name. He then deletes her memory so she does not remember any of it
  • Kryptonian love of trees – Jor-El (Donner version) / random Kryptonian (Lester version) reads the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer
  • Inviting the enemy into the lair and revealing the cunning plan – in a twist to the format, it is Lex Luthor who enters Superman's lair; the Fortress of Solitude. Superman reveals his cunning plan of using the crystal chamber to Lex, who promptly informs General Zod. Superman expected this betrayal and had already set up a double-bluff


Crystals play a prominent part in this film. The crystals include:

  • General Zod kills a guard and destroys a crystal. For this crime he is imprisoned in the crystalline Phantom Zone
  • The Fortress of Solitude is made out of crystals
  • Crystals control the Fortress of Solitude. The crystal controls are destroyed when Kal-El becomes human
  • The poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer is contained within Education Crystal 308
  • Lara, Kal-El's mother, is contained within a crystal display
  • A crystal chamber harnesses the rays of Krypton's red sun, exposure to which will wipe out Superman's powers forever. Once done, there is no return
  • A green crystal is dropped, and when found later on, helps Kal-El regain his powers. Clark informed Lois that this crystal had called to him when he was younger and it had built the Fortress of Solitude. It was the source through which his communication with Jor-El, his dead father, had begun
  • Kal-El's skull structure is crystalline, showing that despite the outer similarity, he is, in fact, alien
  • In the Donner version, Jor-El's face is twice seen as a crystal

Tourist Attractions

Famous landmarks that appear in the film include:

  • The Eiffel Tower (Lester version only)
  • New York skyline (as Metropolis skyline), including Empire State Building and Twin Towers
  • Niagara Falls
  • The North Pole
  • Mount Rushmore (Lester version only)
  • Washington Monument (Donner version only)
  • The White House
  • The Statue Of Liberty (Donner version only) – Superman is thrown into and smashes the torch
  • The Moon8

Religious Symbolism

Similar to Superman, there are numerous religious symbols throughout Superman II:

  • When they first arrive on Earth, General Zod, Non and Ursa arrive in an idyllic location similar to the Garden of Eden. Ursa's first interaction is with a snake, similar to Eve
  • Zod walks on water
  • As in Superman there is a Holy Trinity of the Father (Jor-El), the Son (Kal-El) and the Holy Spirit (the disembodied voice and face of Jor-El)
  • Superman's regaining powers is like the resurrection after Easter
  • The Touch between Jor-El and Kal-El is arranged similar to the painting of Adam and God on the Sistine Chapel
  • The mortal Kal-El calls out 'Father!', similar to Jesus' cry of 'Father, why have you forsaken me?' on the cross
  • Just as Samson was tempted by a woman and had his strength removed, Superman is tempted by a woman and becomes mortal
  • Superman's sacrifice in the Crystal Chamber can be seen as similar to knowingly going to death on the cross
  • Lex betrays Superman to General Zod, similar to Judas betraying Jesus to the Romans
  • The President even says Oh God! when he kneels before Zod, which Zod corrects to 'Zod'

Fan Fair

There is a great scene where Lois Lane believes Clark is Superman, and teases him about changing in phone booths. How would she know about this? Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent only once changes into Superman in a phone booth, in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. At this point, phone booth changing rooms had only occurred in comics, cartoons and the television series, which Superman fans would know.

In Superman Returns references, it is revealed that the love scene between Lois and Kal-El results in Lois becoming pregnant and giving birth to Kal-El's son.

The shield of the Arts and Entertainment faculty of the h2g2 University.The Christopher Reeve Era Superman Films
'Superman' - The Film | 'Superman II' - The Film | 'Superman III' - The Film
'Supergirl' - The Film | 'Superman IV: The Quest For Peace' - The Film

1Playing essentially the same role as he did in the Guy Hamilton-directed James Bond films Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun.2Most famous for his role in Withnail And I.3Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun.4It has often been mooted that had Superman flopped in the cinemas, Richard Donner rather than Richard Lester would have been asked to finish directing Superman II. Producer Ilya Salkind has said that had Superman failed, no funds would have been available to finish the expensive sequences needed to complete Superman II and the Salkinds would not have been able to afford to throw good money after bad by paying to finish a sequel that was similarly likely to flop. Fortunately Superman was a financial success.5This work had earned Richard Lester the MTV title 'Father of the Music Video', although he declares that he wrote back requesting a paternity test.6Gene Hackman was never entirely comfortable playing Lex Luthor, fearing it might damage his reputation as a serious actor. He refused to regularly wear a bald cap for his portrayal as Lex Luthor and preferred to suggest that Lex wore wigs.7Although Christopher Reeve's performance in the Donner version, which cleverly uses screen test footage, is outstanding.8Futuristic, maybe.

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