Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Introduction-Director Richard Donner
Featurette-Restoring the Vision
Trailer-Justice League Heroes Videogame
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||Richard Donner|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
When Superman: The Movie was first released, it had been shot simultaneously with footage for Superman II. The relationship between the producers of Superman: The Movie and its director Richard Donner had always been strained, so much so that they had used Richard Lester (who ended up with the final "director" credit for Superman II) as a go between for some time, which led to Donner being dumped as the director of Superman II as soon as the original became a hit. Furthermore, Marlon Brando won a precedent-setting law suit over payment for the films that resulted in the scenes he had shot with Richard Donner for the second film not being used.
For years, people speculated what would have been if Richard Donner had finished Superman II. In order to justify the sole "director" credit to the Director's Guild, Richard Lester had to have been responsible for more than 50% of the finished film. This led to wide speculation over what had been cut out or changed by Lester. Speculation intensified further in 2004, when Margot Kidder claimed that enough footage had been shot by Richard Donner to produce a complete film (Donner himself has since claimed that he felt the film was 70-80% complete upon his departure). This led to a barrage of pleas and petitions to Warner Bros. asking for Richard Donner to assemble the film he started.
That film is finally here. It is certainly not quite what we would have seen if Richard Donner had completed the film originally, but it is close enough for the most part. Assembled from around six tons of archived film and audio, this cut incorporates much of the Brando footage that was originally cut (thanks to a deal cut with his estate) and a number of previously incomplete effects completed digitally (though they do a very good job of maintaining the style of the original effects). The whole film has been re-assembled from the ground up - even scenes that are common to both cuts are differently edited to fit Donner's style and intent.
The first question on every readers mind is undoubtedly "is it better?". My answer is no, but it is certainly not worse. There are aspects that work better in this film and aspects that work better in the original theatrical version. The "perfect" cut of the film would be some kind of marriage of the two versions.
The main plot of the film remains relatively unchanged, however the course of a number of scenes (including some of the big action scenes) is a little different and a number of sub-plots have been removed entirely, such as the opening French terrorist part of the movie. Fans will also be cheering for the fact that the awful montage of Superman: The Movie from the start of the movie is gone (though that won't erase the scars it left in the minds of viewers!).
The characterisations, particularly of the villains, are better realised in The Donner Cut. In particular Non (Jack O'Halloran) is no longer played as comic relief, but as the brute he is described as during his trial on Krypton.
Superman II: The Donner Cut is best not taken in place of the original cut of Superman II. It is best taken by fans and film buffs as an alternate take for the sake of comparison. Although it does initially offer better continuity with the first Superman film, certain aspects do not follow quite so well. This is deliberately so, as they are parts that were originally intended for the second film but were pinched for the first movie and included here to illustrate their original context.
This is a rare gem for Superman II fans and film buffs. Comparison with the original Lester cut is fascinating and the Marlon Brando footage included is excellent.
The video quality varies a little from scene to scene, obviously dependant on the quality of the source material, but it is remarkable just how little it does vary. The restoration team have done an excellent job of cleaning the footage. In many ways this is a reference quality transfer, particularly for something assembled from archive footage.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as was the theatrical cut, and is 16x9 enhanced.
The sharpness of the image varies a little between scenes, dependant on the source material, but never enough to detract from the viewing experience. There are no problems with film grain, but there is mildly noticeable low level noise in a few scenes. The brightness level changes a little during a handful of scenes, causing a mild flicker in the image (such as at 19:46). Very few film artefacts are visible throughout the whole film.
There are no significant MPEG compression related artefacts noticeable throughout the feature.
This is an RSDL disc. The layer transition occurs at 72:12. This is in the middle of a scene, but the transition was not noticeable on the players I tested the disc on.
Two audio tracks are available, English language Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kbps) and English audio commentary.
The dialogue sits at a good level in the mix and is generally quite clear, however there are one or two points that it gets a little muddy (such as at 82:15). The dialogue at these muddy points is still quite understandable, just not as clear as the rest of the dialogue. There are a few points, such as at 42:50, where the audio sync is a little off, though it is fairly obvious that it was the best that could be done to match restored footage to restored audio (and for the most part a very good job has been done).
The new 5.1 mix is excellent. There is plenty of appropriate surround usage and lots of activity in the LFE track. The subwoofer kicks in for more than just the odd explosion, adding a lot of atmosphere to many of the scenes as well as big booms to explosions.
The classic score has been fitted to the altered pace of the film quite masterfully. It is hard to tell that it was not written with the current cut in mind.
|Surround Channel Use|
A brief introduction to the film and thank you to fans from Richard Donner, shot in the editing room of this cut.
Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (whose role as "Creative Consultant" was effectively co-screenwriter, adapting Mario Puzo's epic tome into two workable features) provide a jovial, although occasionally a little sparse, commentary. The pair have a great momentum when they do get talking and it is obvious that they have been life-long friends.
The pair touch on the politics between themselves and the producers, why they did things differently in this cut, what they did and didn't like about each cut and which bits were shot by which director. Donner's "Didn't do this... but I did that... it's like picking strawberries!" during one action sequence is priceless!
This relatively brief featurette provides a good overview of the making of The Donner Cut, but does not go into a great deal of depth. It would have been preferable if it had done more than scratch the surface of some aspects, but this is a worthy watch nonetheless.
Six deleted scenes, some of which are actually extended scenes to those found in The Donner Cut, are provided. Each is restored to the same quality that the main feature has been afforded. Though no commentary on them is provided, it is easy to see why some were cut, but others could have easily been slipped into The Donner Cut.
A rather unnecessary trailer for the next computer game that will feature Superman. It looks kind of fun, but is little more than shameless advertising.
A near identical version is available in Region 1, although the local version features a wider choice of subtitles. The primary reason to consider purchasing overseas is that this disc is currently only available in Region 4 as part of the "Collector's Edition" of Superman II, whereas it is available separately in Region 1, although this may change in the future.
A must have for Superman fans and film buffs alike. This cut cannot really replace the theatrical cut, for reasons that are obvious after watching it, but is great viewing as an alternate take - in much the same way that a remix of a song can never really replace the original take.
The extras are good, but a little light-on for this sort of collector's item.
The video and audio on this release are both very good.
|DVD||LG V8824W, using S-Video output|
|Display||LG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|