Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut ★★★★½

2018 Superhero Rewatch: In which I return to superhero movies I've seen before to see how time has treated them.

When I reviewed the theatrical cut of Superman II, I said it was almost the greatest superhero movie of all time. This cut, assembled to represent what Richard Donner intended before a dispute with the Salkinds led to him being fired from the project, shows just how much better it could have been. There are a lot of things that are the same in both cuts, particularly the battles between Superman and the Kryptonian criminals. What makes the Donner cut leaps and bounds above the Richard Lester cut is the way this version develops the Lois and Clark relationship. In the Lester cut, Lois grows to suspect Clark's secret, confronts him, is convinced she was wrong, then proves the truth because he makes a stupid mistake. In this version, the build is much slower, and we get to see Margot Kidder at her finest, delivering a verbal duel against which the man of steel has no defense. And rather than relying on Clark being stupid for her to find the truth, she outwits him in a scene so perfect that it almost physically hurts to remember most people have never seen it.

The restored scene of Clark asking Joe-El to remove is powers is much better than the scene in the other cut as well, with Reeve giving a great performance indicating the depths of his feelings for Lois. And unlike the theatrical cut, we get an explanation -- and a cost -- for Clark regaining his powers after being told it was impossible.

This movie is a bit incomplete, with some scenes cobbled together with test footage, unpolished special effects, and an odd choice to repeat the end of the first Superman film (changing this is probably the only thing that's better in the Lester cut), but as a blueprint for what might have been, it's wonderful.