Superman II (1980) Review

Rating: 2 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.

This review is for the Theatrical Cut of the movie.


We open on Krypton. General Zod and his evil group of henchman (henceforth known as the ZodGroup) infiltrate some kind of place, kill some kind of man, and break some kind of red crystal. Don’t worry, we never find out where they are, what they broke, or why they did it. Instantly and without struggle they are captured, and they’re sentenced to life in the Phantom Zone. When Krypton explodes, the weird crystal that represents their prison begins to drift towards Earth.

Meanwhile, terrorists have captured the Eiffel Tower and are threatening to detonate a hydrogen bomb. Clark Kent aka Superman is not particularly interested until he finds out that Lois Lane, girl reporter, is covering the story, and then he zooms off to Paris. Lois, convinced a Pulitzer Prize awaits her, sneaks past the police and heads up the Eiffel Tower to interview the terrorists I guess. The terrorists release all of their hostages for no reason. They begin to set up the bomb in the elevator, which Lois has strapped herself to somehow, when a police sharpshooter shoots the elevator cord or something, the elevator begins to plummet, and the bomb is accidentally triggered.

Luckily Superman is there to save Lois (and dispose of the bomb I guess, I mean he’s already here, so sure). He throws the elevator into space, the bomb explodes, and the shockwaves from the bomb free the ZodGroup, which just so happened to be floating by at the time.

Later, Clark and Lois are undercover at Niagara Falls to expose a vague scheme to bilk honeymooners, but don’t worry, they soon forget about this and it’s never brought up again. When a stupid idiot kid climbs over the railing to the Falls, Superman shows up to save him, but Superman’s sudden arrival conveniently timed with Clark’s departure (to get Lois her precious, precious hot dogs) strikes Lois as suspicious. Could they be the same man?

She jumps into the Falls to force Clark to reveal himself, but he’d rather see her dead. Luckily she survives, and Clark ends up revealing himself anyway a few minutes later when he super-stumbles into a fireplace. He promises to tell her everything (but not here in this comfortable hotel, because they may be receiving a phone call soon and that would just ruin the moment) if she’ll come with him to his frozen Fortress of Solitude.

They confess their love for each other, but Superman realizes he can’t be with Lois unless he gives up his powers forever, despite her very clearly being attracted to Superman and not Clark Kent, and a huge part of that attraction being tied to his powers and his altruism. But forget that, boning beats saving people any day of the week. He immediately decides this is the right thing to do, and he enters a chamber to remove his powers (and which also magically change his clothes to a “normal man” outfit). As soon as he loses his powers they run to the Bedroom of Solitude and have sex.

I guess Superman kept a car at the Fortress just in case he ever brought a girl back there and decided to give up his powers, because they take said car and drive south. They find a diner that has a huge hot dog sign, much to Lois “I Love Hot Dogs” Lane’s delight. Inside, she orders a cheeseburger. Is this supposed to be a joke or just another example of the filmmakers not caring about scene-to-scene continuity? Unclear! Anyway, a bully shows up and beats the hell out of Clark. To lighten the mood, the waitress turns on the TV, which shows the ZodGroup completely taking over the United States and the President surrendering control to them. The waitress is bored by this and turns the TV off. She turns the TV off and everyone just goes back to what they were doing.

Clark realizes he was being selfish to use an irreversible process to give up his powers forever just so he could finally lose his virginity. He goes back to the Fortress alone, finds the green crystal that created the Fortress in the last movie, and then yadda yadda yadda he’s Superman again. The filmmakers didn’t worry about it and you shouldn’t either. Let’s keep going.

Meanwhile Lex Luthor, who earlier discovered the Fortress (in the newspapers they said Superman always goes north after saving someone, so…), travels to the White House to offer his services to the ZodGroup. He says he can deliver Superman to them and thus eliminate the last possible threat to Zod’s reign. Instead of telling them about the Fortress, he suggests they attack the Daily Planet because Lois Lane interviewed Superman once.

As the ZodGroup tears the Daily Planet apart, Superman eventually shows up and they fight in the street. The citizens of Metropolis are nonplussed. For how little the people in the diner cared that the United States had surrendered and they were now officially under alien rule, the Metropolitans are even more blasé about the whole thing. The fight lasts several minutes, and every so often we cut to a pedestrian noticing the fight for the first time. Even after several cars have exploded and Superman was hit in the face with a bus, we see some dope wandering out of a KFC and suddenly realizing what’s happening.

Superman runs away. Lex Luthor finally tells the ZodGroup about the Fortress, and they bring Lex and Lois along with them just in case they’re useful. They all fight for a while, and then Superman tricks Zod into letting him enter the power-draining chamber again, but this time Superman had reversed the de-powering beams or whatever before the ZodGroup got there so they’re all de-powered and he stays the same. Then he and Lois murder them by pushing them into bottomless pits. The couple that slays together, and so on.

Anyway, now that he’s Superman again, clearly he and Lois have to break up. Rather than let her live with the pain like a grown adult, he kisses her and somehow wipes her memories of the past few days. It’s unclear if this selectively removed just her memories of his secret identity or if it blanked out everything. Does she still remember when aliens took over the United States?

Does anyone?

Best Parts:

Many of the action scenes look pretty good.

The ZodGroup harassing the astronauts looked really neat, particularly the contrast between the light and bouncy astronauts and the ZodGroup walking and moving normally.

When the ZodGroup attacks middle America, I loved Ursa arm-wrestling the guy and smashing him completely through the table, as well as Zod tossing another goober through the wall into a truck.

A few nice moments in the fight in Metropolis, like Zod being blasted with heat vision and the whole billboard being blackened around his silhouette, and watching all the cars flip over as the whole ZodGroup blows air out for like five straight minutes. There’s an old man on roller skates with a sparkly vest so I guess this is supposed to be a comedy? Or something?

I loved Ursa collecting badges and logos and pinning them on herself. It’s a subtle touch and they never really shine a light on it, like you’d expect from a movie with this tone.

I was upset when Otis showed up, but very happy when he went away and didn’t return.

Worst Parts:

Refer to the Overview section. The whole endeavor reeks of carelessness. If you can handwave away all that nonsense because it was supposed to be a comedy, well it’s not at all funny.

In this version of Superman, Kryptonian powers include: telekinesis via finger-pointing; instantly creating physical manifestations of images (e.g. logos on your clothing) in order to throw them at people and tangle them up in giant cellophane blankets; invisibility; summoning multiple autonomous intangible duplicates of yourself; erasing other people’s minds without their consent; taking petty revenge on truck stop bullies.

Seriously, why does Superman throw his logo at them? Where did that come from? Who thought of this? Who agreed with them? Why didn’t the visual effects people question it? Why did the editor leave it in? What does it accomplish? This scene is a microcosm of this entire film and how little anyone gave a damn about the integrity of the product they were producing.

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