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Author Topic: Donner Cut more popular than I thought...  (Read 12278 times)
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King Krypton
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« Reply #24 on: September 16, 2011, 03:04:32 AM »

I have to be totally honest...I hate the Donner cut. Absolutely loathe it. Up until it came out, the rank of "Worst Superman Movie" went squarely to Superman III. To be even more distasteful than that is quite an accomplishment. Why is this the worst of the franchise, at least in my eyes? The heroes, the guys we're supposed to care about and root for, are selfish, inconsiderate, hypocritical people who refuse to look beyond themselves or to even use anything resembling common sense. Seriously, when Lex Luthor and General Zod are more likeable than Superman, Jor-El, and Lois, you've completely gone off the rails.

Let's start with Jor-El. Who does he think he is, telling Clark he can't live his own life, can't be happy, can't be in love, and can only find happiness in his "mission"? He's a dead guy living on as a holographic AI. He's in no position whatsoever to dictate how Clark can or can't live. Secondly, his talk about Clark needing to dedicate himself to "a higher happiness" of eternal servitude? Uh...Jor-El? You were married. You had a son. You did all this and were a prominent government figure. How is it "selfish" for Clark to live a similar life, when you balanced work and family? Where was your "higher happiness"? Why didn't you sacrifice any chance of a personal life to serve a supposed greater good?

It's doubly frustrating when you compare this self-righteous, arrogant Jor-El to the guy we saw in the first film who warned his own people against acting like this. The man who was begging the Council of Elders to see reason is now behaving exactly like them. The nobility and wisdom we saw in the original film stands revealed as a sham. The Jor-El we see in Donner's Superman II doesn't love or value his son as a person; he only sees him as a tool to play out his personal agendas. I hated him, utterly and completely, and I shouldn't feel that way about Jor-El. I shouldn't think he deserved to die on Krypton. I shouldn't cringe every time he's on screen. But here I do, and that's wrong. Donner and Mankiewicz want me to believe Jor-El's hypocrisy as admirable and just, and that's not going to happen. I refuse to believe Jor-El would want to deprive his son of love, family, friends, and happiness. I refuse to believe he's that cold and heartless. There's no way to spin this behavior into anything other than Jor-El talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Then there's Clark...what happened to the guy who defied Jor-El's "don't interfere" edict because it clashed with his own sense of right and wrong? What happened to the guy who, at the end of the first film, showed he had the goods to forge his own path? Why are we being given a dunce who (a) responds to a truly cruel and manipulative ploy to expose him by cuddling up to the guilty party, (b) thinks foiling one terrorist plot counts as doing enough to justify retirement, (c) gives no thought to the idea that he could juggle duty and family like cops and firefighters do, and (d) has no agency at all save for what Jor-El dictates? Where is Superman? Because this guy running around in his clothes ain't Superman. He's selfish. He's short-sighted. He's easily manipulated, both by Jor-El and Lois. He's stupid. He's irresponsible. There's nothing noble about this guy at all. I cannot imagine the Fleischer Superman, Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, the DCAU Superman, or any of the DC animated movie Supermen acting like this. This guy's pathetic. I don't see this Clark and Jor-El acting out a father/son dynamic. I see two egotistical idiots butting heads to see who can be more obnoxious and irritating. Considering this is supposed to be the hero, this is a great way to make me hate him. And as with Jor-El, if I come away hating Superman, you've failed.

As for Lois...what is wrong with her? Why is she so bent on exposing him in public in the opening scene? At the Daily Planet of all places, where they'd waste no time running the story of Superman's true identity? How can she be this thoughtless? In the Kirk Alyn serials, when Lois and Jimmy both speculate Clark is Superman, they agree that they have no right to violate his privacy. This Lois is all too willing to do that, all for the sake of sating her own curiosity. How is it that almost 30 years later, we go from a Lois who doesn't want to compromise Superman's private life to a Lois who doesn't care at all about it? And the blank bullet scene...how much more disgusting can you get? That was just pure manipulation. It wasn't romantic, it wasn't charming...it was the kind of horrendous behavior the 1995-2011 comic book Lois was prone to, being passed off as the actions of a strong role model when actually being anything but. I mean, I'm used to writers making me hate Lois, but this is way beyond the pale. There's nothing about this woman that would make anybody fall in love with her. And yet Superman's stupid enough to swoon over her for doing this to him, instead of feeling angry and betrayed like a normal person would?

That's why the Donner version of Superman II is so appalling to me. The Jor-El, Superman, and Lois stuff is the very core of the movie, and all three characters are deeply vile. I don't care about Jor-El and Clark's feuding, because they're both terrible people. I don't care about Clark and Lois' romance, because Lois is a terrible person and Clark's a complete loon when it comes to her. I don't care about Clark giving up his powers and having to lose contact with Jor-El to regain them, because Jor-El's a raging hypocrite and this Clark Kent doesn't deserve to be Superman. All the stuff with Zod and Luthor can't make up for the awfulness, because the movie's not about those guys. It's about these three reprehensible people who deserve each other, quite frankly. Honestly, I would rather have spent the movie with Zod and the gang. At least those guys were honest about themselves and what they did. At least they were fun to watch. And when that happens in a Superman movie, there's no hope.

I'm going to say it...Donner getting canned and replaced with Lester was for the best. If he'd stayed on, this movie would have killed the franchise before Superman III had a chance to. At least with Lester, Lois was sympathetic and admitted that her antics were ridiculous. Superman was allowed to keep his dignity and even though giving up his powers proved to be a wrong-place-wrong-time situation, it was played as genuinely sincere and romantic. Lester changed the love story for the better. I cared about his Lois and Clark. I liked them. I felt bad for them when it didn't work out. Yes, some camp snuck its way into the movie, but it's a small price to pay for having a love story that actually mattered. Superman II is a better movie for his changes, and the characters feel authentic to what I've known and loved over the years. Donner's version was a total betrayal of that, and would have been more so had he finished it. I also have to say that Superman II was the first time I'd ever encountered Superman. If I'd seen Donner's version instead of the one that was made, I would never have become a Superman fan. I would have found the character insufferable. Lester's version got the ball rolling on my Superman fandom, and even now it's perhaps the only good Superman movie around. (The first is a soft-focus slog that was lucky to have likeable characters, the third is a train wreck, the fourth was compromised beyond all hope, and Superman Returns -- so faithful to the mythology that it even takes inspiration from Elseworlds stories! -- lacked any kind of narrative or thematic cohesion to make its various plot points work as a whole.) Donner's II would have been to the series what Batman Returns was for the Batman series; a derailment of the momentum and the goodwill engendered by the first film. Seeing it even in this form, it's a painful experience.
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India Ink
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« Reply #25 on: September 16, 2011, 06:00:25 AM »

I think there are two good reasons for people "liking" the Donner Cut.

First, they like it because it's a chance to see what Donner might have done. Without that Cut in existence people would just have to guess--and no one would be able to even post their review of it, and form an opinion on it one way or the other. So you have to "like" that this is now made possible. It's always a good thing to have films restored that were lost (such as the wonderful l'Atalante)--although in the case of the Donner Cut this is not really a full restoration of the Cut--because that never existed. Donner was removed from the movie before many of the scenes could be properly shot. And furthermore, we don't know what other decisions he might have made in post. So the Cut is just a guess--and we have to work with it in our imaginations to conjure up what the actual theatrical release would have looked like. But however much we guess and no matter how we get from the Cut, we will never really know what that movie would have been like.

The second reason, going along with the first, has to do with the auteur theory. The auteur theory--formulated by the Cahier du Cinema critics and filmmakers--was that the director is the true author of the film. Therefore it is always desirable that the director be in full control of the film, from beginning to end, and that his vision should not be interfered with. Whatever results--for good or for ill--is the work of art that the director intended and we can see how well he realized his vision. But when this is compromised, we are cheated. I love many movies by Richard Lester--but I want them to be fully Richard Lester works--I don't want them to be works that were cobbled together with some of what Donner did matched with some of what Lester did. It's not like the Coen brothers where both work together to produce a complete whole. There was no collaboration between Donner and Lester. Lester simply took over a project that rightly belonged to Donner--he did so as the result of a wrong he had been done on the Three Musketeers, but that doesn't justify him usurping Donner on the Superman project. The audience is not well served by the Superman II theatrical release because it is not a true vision of either director.

The Donner/Lester movie is better than the Donner Cut, because it was completed, so it had the advantage of being polished for theatrical release. As a commercial product it's better. But not as an artistic accomplishment--because it's really the triumph of commerce over art.

What I loved about the Donner Cut was that it allowed me to see better the whole vision of Donner that begins in Superman the Movie and continues to completion in the second--or would have, if he had had control over the finished product. I can now see how themes are developed--and certain elements that didn't make sense now make sense because I can put them into this context.

For sure there were ideas about the Superman mythology introduced in both movies that I didn't like--and many of those elements have been recycled in TV shows, comics, and movies since then, unfortunately. But I already realized after the first time I viewed STM (and I sat in the theatre to watch it a second time), back in 1978, that I had to let go of my own idea of how Superman should be and just let this movie and this director tell the story according to a different sensibilty--and appreciate it on those terms. Not for what I wanted it to be, but for what it was. And when viewed that way, STM is a cinematic work of art that reflects the vision of its director. I can't say the same for Superman II.

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India Ink
BBally81
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« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2011, 11:53:07 AM »

I think the only way to explain all these problems is to clearly define Superman's "turn-back-time" super power.  This power obviously doesn't really turn back time 100% - it only "sort of" turns back time, leaving some of the original events in place, but turning back time on others.  Plus, most people still have a subconcious memory of those original events, since many of them kind-of-sort-of took place, which explains why Lois is so confused about who Jason's father is.

Me and a friend of mine are planning to write a story where Superman does have that ability but doesn't use that much because the amount of power he uses to perform such an act can actually kill him but to be honest I didn't like the "turn back time" scene mostly because it only gives cynics more ammo to say why they hate Superman (like for example: he doesn't go through real loss because he could just spin the world around and turn back time)
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