Christopher Reeve will always be my favorite Superman hands down. I grew up watching his Superman movies even though I only really liked the first one. When I saw Superman 2 I was really disappointed at how comedic and corny it was compared to the first movie. Superman 3 was just as comedic and corny as Superman 2. But I loved how Reeves portrayed the iconic superhero.
Then in 2006, Superman 2: The Richard Donner Cut was released on DVD. When I discovered this I bought the movie and was blown away after watching it. It was ten times better than the original Superman 2 movie that came out in theaters in 1980. I clapped and cheered at the end because I was so excited but also relieved that it wasn’t another corny comedic film like the original Superman 2.
As it turns out, Richard Donner, the man who directed Superman 1, didn’t direct all of Superman 2. Only 70% of it. He was fired by the producers halfway filming the second movie after tensions, which had existed between them, reached a boiling point. When Donner was let go Richard Lester replaced him as the director for the rest of the film. The difference between both directors was that Donner was comic book writer and Superman fan and Lester was known as a director for making comedy films and was never a fan of Superman. This difference is clearly noticeable between Donner’s and Lester’s Superman movies. Lester only agreed to take over as director as a favor to the producers because they were close friends.
During filming while Donner was director he was never told what the budget was for the movies which frustrated him. When he continued to spend more money he needed to make the movie he needed the Salkinds brothers got angry and told him to stop spending money on the film. How can you not spend money if you’re not told what your budget is?
Because Donner had directed 70% of the second movie before being let go it would mean his name would be credited at the end credits. To fix this problem for Lester he reshot much of the movie so he would get his name in the credits as being the sole director.
At first, after being fired, Donner didn't want to return to Superman 2 in anyway shape or form. That is until Superman fans begged Donner to finish what he started.
One major difference between Donner’s and Lester’s version of the movie is Marlon Brando who played Jor-El, Superman’s father. Brando was never paid the salary he was promised for his scenes in Superman 2 that were cut from the movie. To give Lester the credit for Superman 2 all of Brando’s scenes were reshot with an actress playing Lara, Superman’s mother.
Another noticeable difference was at the end of the movie. In the original Superman 2 Clark Kent kisses Lois Lane to make her forget that Clark is Superman. In Donner’s cut Superman spins the Earth on its axis reversing time like he did in the first movie putting Zod, Ursa and Non back into the Phantom. This scene was only to be used in the second movie but Donner ran out of time before he was fired.
A scene that takes place at the beginning of the movie in Lester’s film was completely removed by Donner when he went back and finished his version. It takes place in London at the Eiffel Tower when a bomb is planted in the elevator. When Superman arrives he flies the elevator into space where it explodes and frees the villains from the Phantom Zone.
Superman’s powers in Lester’s version are completely ridiculous which is why I like Donner’s version better. At the end of Lester’s movie in the Fortress of Solitude Superman takes the iconic “S” symbol off his chest and throws it. He also has the ability to project himself multiple times as holographic images then disappear to fool the villains. In the comics Superman never has these powers. Lester just made them up. Why? I have no idea.
Imagine if Donner has stayed on for Superman 2. Imagine what Superman 3 and 4 would have been like with him as director. Lester, as I’ve previously explained, is known for directing comedy movies which you can clearly see in 3 and 4. Donner is known for directing The Goonies which is another movie I love.
If you love Superman then I would recommend watching Donner’s cut of Superman 2. It is vastly superior to Lester’s cut and far more entertaining.