Comic Book Movies 101: Superman II

“Come to me son of Jor-el. Kneel before Zod!”

This second film was almost all in the can at the time, so the similarity in tone is understandable. Thankfully they film had already set up a trio of super-villains ready for Superman to take on. But if I’m honest, as much as some people like or even prefer this film to the first, I have issues (namely with the slow pace). It takes almost half the film before anything really gets going. Our super villains led by General Zod (Terrance Stamp, really giving it his all with some delicious dialogue. And I lost count the amount of times he threatened to kill Lex Luthor) have to muck about on the moon and in some backwater town before finding their way to our leaders (a rather shabby Regan look-alike attempt at that) and staking their claim. All the while this is happening – Lois and Clarke and loving it up out at Niagara Falls.

Action wise we get an opening section based at the Eifel Tower which gives us an action beat to follow. It also shows that Lois is forever getting into trouble, and also provides an excuse for the release of the three Kryptonians from their Phantom Zone prison.

Superman II has a bit of a clunky (and almost soap opera like mid-section). Quite why we needed a cameo by Sheriff J W Pepper (Sorry, that’s Clifton James in a very familiar type role) is beyond me. But Lois really is trying too hard NOT to be liked in her unmasking of Clark Kent. Then again she is right; but she’s far too obsessive about it. You’d kind of hope he’d disown her as a friend. But that’s love for you.

So after falling in love he decides to give it all up for her (which is usually the biggest mistake anyone can make for anyone- stop being themselves?). But he does it anyway and then almost immediately finds out that being a human is not all it is cracked up to be.  And not only that – after taking a harsh beating from an arrogant truck driver – he then discovers that his adopted home world is now under threat from the three Kryptionian fiends.

So he treks back up north (Miss Tessmacher, north!) and luckily gets his power back. Tsk.  Then the real fun begins as he confronts the three in Metropolis. Or at least that’s what you’d think. Now the following battle seems mainly aimed at young kids (which I was back then, so it worked, I guess). Now? – I kind of cringe when the humour gets a little bit too dumb. And despite a half decent smack down, some of the reactions from the crowd watching are just dumb. The guy on the phone? The old geezer on skates? Hell I even frown at the injured woman who is asking for superman to help her? (He aint a doctor love. And he’s in the middle of getting his ass kicked, how about you go call 911 instead and go have your injuries looked at by a professional?).

Still after Superman lures them all away to the Fortress of Solitude – Gene Hackman (who has been playing second fiddle since half way through – but still is a devil in the role) gets to show his slimy best as he leaps back and forth between sides. Of course Superman is too smart for that and uses Luthor’s treachery to his advantage and in one of the film’s best scenes he turns the tables against the baddies. Just watching (and hearing) Stamps response to having his hand crushed by Superman sells the moment beautifully; which of course comes with a cherry on top as Kal-El just shakes his head at him before sending him off to his icy grave. The others follow and all is well again. But there is a bit of business to tidy up first.

Yes Lois knows who Superman is and she is pretty upset about the whole thing. So how does Kent deal with it – He gives her a kiss and erases her mind of it.

Ok the guy turned back time in the first film so this shouldn’t be hard to believe. And you know what I accept it.  What I have trouble with is the film Superman Returns which continues this timeline – and Lois has bore his son from this affair. Why is she not a little bit more confused about when she had sex with Superman if she doesn’t remember it?

Thankfully the film-makers have one more gold nugget up their sleeve and it’s the comeuppance of the track driver at the diner. Probably the funniest and tearfully pleasing scenes in the whole series. Clarke Kent returns to confront the guy who gave him a beating – and takes the guy without ever having to belt him one.

Even just the line “Em, excuse me sir, I think you’re sitting in my favourite seat” breaks me into a fit of laughter. It’s maybe a bit cornball, but it’s highly satisfying watching Clark Kent (not really Superman) hand the guy the humiliation he deserves. So I was happy to go out on a high from this side of his character.

Of course there is time again for a quick flight around the globe and a smile at the camera again before we go. But he’ll be back again, but with more of that cheeky humour in tow.

Steven Hurst

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