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''Superman II''
General Information
Directed by: Richard Lester
Richard Donner (Uncredited)
Produced by: Pierre Spengler
Written by: Characters:
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
Mario Puzo
Mario Puzo
David Newman
Leslie Newman
Music by: Ken Thorne
John Williams (Themes)
Duration: 127 mins
Budget: $54,000,000
Gross Revenue: $101,347,629
Previous Film: Superman
Next Film: Superman III

Superman II is the 1980 sequel to the 1978 film Superman. It is the second entry in the original four part Superman film series, which was then followed with a sequel of sorts in 2006. Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman reprise their roles as Superman and his enemy, Lex Luthor. The film also features Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O'Halloran as Kryptonian outlaws General Zod, Ursa and Non.


Prior to the destruction of Krypton, the criminals General Zod, Ursa and Non are banished into the Phantom Zone. The Zone travels through the galaxy and nears Earth, where it is caught in the explosion of a hydrogen bomb that Superman threw into space in order to save the Eiffel Tower and Paris; the explosion causes the Zone to shatter and free the three Kryptonians, who find they have super powers due to the yellow light of Earth's sun. They discover human astronauts on the moon, and mistakenly believe that the center of Earth's power is in a place called "Houston", traveling there to claim the planet for themselves. After destroying much of the town of East Houston, Idaho and defacing the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore, they travel to the White House and force the United States President to surrender to General Zod; though the President does so, he also warns Zod that Superman will defeat them, causing Zod to demand via national broadcast that Superman come and kneel before him.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are sent on assignment for the Daily Planet to Niagara Falls. Lois, suspicious that Clark is Superman, throws herself into the water upstream of the Falls, expecting Clark to become Superman to rescue her, but Clark manages to secretly use his heat vision to cut a tree into the water, saving Lois by more conventional means. However, as they spend the night together, Clark trips, catching his hand in a fireplace, and is force to reveal his identity when Lois notices that Clark's hand is not scarred at all. With his secret revealed, Superman decides to take Lois to his Fortress of Solitude. There, he shows her the traces of his past stored in energy crystals, one of which Lois misplaces under her purse. Superman decides to undergo the irreversible process of immersing himself in stored red Kryptonian sunlight, which will make him a nonsuperpowered Kryptonian, in order to be able to love Lois. After his transformation, the two spend the night together and then return to Metropolis. They discover what Zod and his companions have done, including Zod's demand to Superman, and Clark realizes he must return to the Fortress to try to restore his powers, and begins the long trip alone. Once there, he discovers the crystal that Lois had misplaced, and uses its power to restore his abilities.

During these events, Lex Luthor has managed to escape prison with the help of Miss Teschmacher, and travels to the North Pole to find Superman's Fortress using an alpha wave detector Lex has created. Inside, Lex learns of Superman's past, and discovers through the detector the location of Zod, Ursa, and Non. The two return to Washington D.C. and Lex manages to earn Zod's trust when he tells Zod how he can make Superman appear: by kidnapping Lois Lane. He wants in exchange to become the ruler of Australia, and Zod agrees. The Kryptonians bring Lex with them as they travel to Metropolis and smash into the Daily Planet offices seeking Lois. The restored Superman arrives and challenges Zod and the others, but quickly finds that the three of them are a formidable match, their fight destroying parts of the city. Zod gains the advantage when he recognizes that Superman cares greatly for the humans and tries to use that against him. Superman realizes he cannot fight Zod with bystanders around, and lures the three, who carry Lex and Lois along with them, to the Fortress of Solitude.

In the Fortress, Superman attempts to subdue Zod and the others, but is unable to. Superman tries to reason with Lex Luthor to trick Zod into going into the Krptonian chamber, but Lex reveals the secret to Zod. Under the threat of harming Lois, Zod forces Superman to rid himself of his powers. Superman appears to undergo the transformation process, but when he emerges, Zod, Ursa, and Non realize they have been immersed in red Kryptonian sunlight and lost their superpowers, as Superman was able to reconfigure the process before they arrived, counting on Lex Luthor to be deceitful as well. Lois is able to break free, and she and Superman quickly cause the three to fall into the depths of the Fortress to their doom. Lex tries to assure Superman that he was in on this plan, but Superman returns him to the authorities. After Superman helps to restore the damage Zod wrought, he still finds that Lois knows his secret, and she is torn between her love for him and his duty to protect the planet. Superman kisses Lois, using his telepathic abilities to erase her memory of the past few days to keep his secret safe, and take her grief away.

Later, Clark returns to the diner, gets revenge on Rocky and humiliates him. Superman restores the American flag atop the White House, assuring the President that he will never again abandon his duty.


  • Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El
  • Terence Stamp as General Zod
  • Sarah Douglas as Ursa
  • Jack O'Halloran as Non
  • Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor
  • Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
  • Jackie Cooper as Perry White
  • Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen
  • Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher
  • Ned Beatty as Otis
  • Susannah York as Lara Lor-Van
  • Clifton James as Sheriff
  • E. G. Marshall as The President

Controversy and cult status

Off-screen problems hampered production of this movie. Like other Salkind productions such as The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), Superman and Superman II commenced filming at the same time. Director Richard Donner argued with the producers over their attempts to make the film "more campy," in his opinion, which led to his removal and replacement on the project by Richard Lester. Following that, Gene Hackman declined to return for any reshoots by Lester, which cut down the number of scenes in which he appears in the final cut (or with a few scenes where a body double was obviously being used).

Another reason behind Richard Donner's removal may have been that the Salkinds were upset that Donner went over their originally planned budget for the movie. Warner Brothers ended up getting more and more involved in the race to complete the film, allowing the studio to receive more profits from the film's box office take than the Salkinds had originally agreed to. With their power slipping away, Donner was unfortunately made the scapegoat.

Despite all the difficulties, and with only a few noticeable shifts in tone between the two directors' scenes (Lester's scenes tend to be more campy and humorous), it was noted by critics to be a remarkable and coherent film, highlighted by the movie's battle sequence between Superman and the three Phantom Zone prisoners on the streets of Metropolis. Scenes filmed by Donner include all the Gene Hackman footage, the moon sequences, the White House shots, Clark and the bully, and a lot of the footage of Zod, Ursa and Non arriving at the Daily Planet. Since the Lester footage was shot almost two years later, both Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve's appearances look different between the Lester and Donner footage. Reeve appears less bulked up in Donner's sequences (filmed in 1977), as he was still gaining muscle for the part. Kidder also has dramatic changes throughout; in the montage of Lester/Donner material, shot inside the Daily Planet and the Fortress of Solitude near the movie's conclusion, her hairstyle, hair color, and even make-up are all inconsistent. Indeed, Kidder's physical appearance in the Lester footage is noticeably different; during the scenes shot for Donner she appears slender, whereas in the Lester footage she looks frail and gaunt.

Marlon Brando's scenes, including some key plot explanations, were excised from the second film, for budgetary reasons (as noted in the DVD special in The Richard Donner Cut). Thus Brando was totally absent from the Lester cut of the film.

The original script had the nuclear missile from Superman: The Movie releasing Zod and companions from the Phantom Zone, instead of the Eiffel Tower bomb. In The Richard Donner Cut, the nuclear missile scene has been restored, and all scenes involving the Eiffel Tower plot were removed.

In the years since the film's release, the controversy continues to be fueled, while the film itself has achieved cult status. In 1983, Alexander Salkind's production company pieced together an "Expanded International Cut" of the film for television using approximately 24 minutes of footage not shown in the theatrical release, some of which was original Richard Donner footage shot before Richard Lester became director. The "new" footage expanded on the film's many subplots, including a further explanation of the villains' task on Earth, Superman and Lois' romance and an alternate ending involving Lex Luthor, the three Kryptonian villains and the final fate of the Fortress of Solitude. This 146-minute expanded version was released throughout Europe and Australia in the 1980s (the initial expanded U.S. ABC and Canadian CBC telecasts, though edited differently, were derived from the European/Australian TV edit).

In 2005, several Superman movie fans attempted to bring the film closer to Donner's original vision by creating their own professionally-made video restoration of the "International Cut" and offered free DVDs of it on one of the many Superman fan sites, but their efforts were thwarted by Warner Bros., who reportedly threatened legal action.

All four Superman films received Special or Deluxe Edition releases in 2006 coinciding with the release of Superman Returns. It was confirmed that Ilya Salkind has released Donner's footage for a separate Superman II disc and that Donner was involved in the project. According to an interview conducted by website, Ilya confirmed that Time Warner now owns all of the footage shot for 1978's Superman, 1980's Superman II, 1983's Superman III, 1984's Supergirl and 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace including distribution rights. Special Edition restorationist Michael Thau worked on the project alongside Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz, who supervised the Superman II reconstruction. Despite some initial confusion, Thau confirmed that all the footage shot by Donner in 1977 was recovered and transferred from England. The new edition was released on November 28, 2006 and called Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. The new cut also features less than 20% footage filmed by replacement director Richard Lester.


Main article: Superman II (Soundtrack)

As John Williams chose not to return to score the film due to obligations with other projects, (such as the Star Wars film series), Ken Thorne was commissioned to write the music upon Williams' recommendation. However, the score contains frequent excerpts from Williams' previous score to the first film. Thorne wrote minimal original material and adapted source music (such as Average White Band's "Pick Up the Pieces", which appears both in the diner in Idaho as well as during Clark's second encounter with Rocky, the bullying truck driver).

1978-1987 Film Series
Superman Films:   Superman  • Superman II  • Superman III  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Supergirl Films:   Supergirl