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After the success of the original Superman, it was almost guaranteed that a second film would be made. The films were in fact shot back to back, although a lot of footage was re-shot prior to the release of Superman II. This was primarily because of the dismissal of original director Richard Donner (who was replaced by Richard Lester), and secondarily to remove all footage of Marlon Brando from the movie due to financial disputes…

Superman II
Film
Superman II is more of a continuation of the first film than a sequel, with many of the original's unresolved issues finding closure here. The film opens with a flashback to the first Superman film, with the trial and subsequent imprisonment in the Phantom Zone of the three Kryptonian rebels—General Zod, Ursa and Non.

When the film proper begins, we find Superman rushing to Paris to stop a terrorist group from detonating a hydrogen bomb. Superman successfully hurls the bomb into deep space, thus averting the disaster. Unfortunately, the resulting explosion frees the Kryptonian rebels (who just happen to be passing through the area) from imprisonment in the Phantom Zone.

The three head to Earth, where they discover that they have fantastic powers, and begin their bid for world domination. Meanwhile Lois Lane continues her quest to discover the true identity of Superman, but the truth may be more startling than she could ever have imagined…

As the world cowers in terror from the threat of General Zod and his minions, Superman is nowhere to be found. Has he abandoned the people of Earth, or will he return to rid the planet of this menace once and for all?

Like the first film, Superman II features great performances from the cast. In addition to Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman, the film is bolstered by excellent performances from the three villains. Terence Stamp is the standout baddie in his role as General Zod, although Jack O’Halloran is very amusing as the mindless thug Non.

As before, the special effects look a bit dated, but if you put all of this to the back of your mind you’ll find the movie every bit as enjoyable as its ground-breaking predecessor.

Superman II
Video
Like its predecessor, Superman II is presented in anamorphic widescreen in its theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, with an average bitrate of 5.93Mb/sec. Unfortunately this is pretty much where the similarities end. Whereas the special edition of Superman: The Movie had beautifully restored video, Superman II has not fared so well, and the print just isn't up to the standards set by its big brother. There is a fair bit of dirt on the print, as well as numerous scratches. It’s not all bad though, and this definitely isn’t the worst transfer I’ve come across. If I’d watched this before the first film I would have thought it looked good for its age, but as it is, it pales in comparison with Superman: The Movie.

Audio
Superman: The Movie featured a glorious 5.1 soundtrack, easily one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. Superman II doesn’t. Sound comes in Dolby surround flavour and lacks all of the characteristics of the first movie’s remix. Gone are the fantastic surround effects during the opening credits; in fact gone are most of the surround effects full stop. It sounds more like a stereo track at times, especially when Superman is battling the Kryptonian rebels. During these battles the speakers should come to life with sound, but this is not the case. It isn’t all bad though, as dialogue is always clear and the sound effects still sound ok. The music is still great, but lacks the atmosphere of the 5.1 track found on the first film. Like the video before it, I would probably have been happy with this track if I hadn’t been exposed to the delights of Superman: The Movie.

Extras
The extras are, quite frankly, appalling. It doesn’t make a reviewer’s job any easier trying to write a lengthy, detailed review when all you have to comment on is a theatrical trailer and a cast & crew list. This is another Warner back catalogue title that has been given the barest minimum of features to seemingly try and con the general public into thinking they’re getting a little extra for their money. Well they’re not. It’s a trend that shows no sign of abating, which is a sad state of affairs. Of all the high profile studios, Warner are the biggest culprits when it comes to this sort of thing and it’s beginning to really annoy me...

Superman II
Overall
This is a good film on a spectacularly average disc. As a special edition coupled with Superman: The Movie, this could have been something really exceptional, especially as they are being sold together as a boxed set. As it stands this will leave you feeling a little cheated after the greatness of the prequel on DVD. Superman II is a continuation of the original, and as such should have at least have been given the same treatment in the video and audio departments if nothing else. Even with that said, I would still recommend this title as a companion to the original. Just don’t expect it to look and sound as good.


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