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It’s an old and well-established paradigm in the movie industry: sequels cannot be as good as the original. Once in a while, an idea comes along and reshapes the way we as an audience view a film, not to mention the way studios produce them.  It is extremely hard to recapture the unique aspects of the original and as such sequels rarely receive the same amount of care and consideration.  Seeing an opportunity to cash in on the success of the forebares, studios look to quickly produce a film that is an adequate facsimile of the themes and characters, whilst not exposing themselves too much financially. In a nutshell a cheap knockoff.  While there are exceptions, this is the general rule.

Superman II
In order to combat this, studios sometimes produce films back-to-back. That is, they film the original and it’s sequel(s) at the same time.   For example, at the time of writing, Peter Jackson is filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy back to back. This is a very sensible option for studio.  Worse case scenario, if the first movie bombs at the box office, the production costs are defrayed over all three movies. It saves literally millions of dollars and is more efficient to do this.  Originally, the Mario Puzo screenplay for Superman was so epic it contained enough material for two Superman movies.  As a result of this back-to-back production structure, Superman 2 has not got the derivative feel of most sequels

On a narrative level, Superman 2 is laced with the same comic-book sensibility as the original. The main focus shifts to the unresolved characters of Zod, Ursa and Non, imprisoned in the phantom zone by Jor-El (Superman’s father).  It begins with a montage of footage from the first movie, to help the sequel be as self-contained as possible.  

As the movie opens proper, we see terrorists in the Eiffel tower, with a nuclear device.  Ace reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is all over the story.  She gets a little too close to the story, in fact she almost becomes the story.  Yet again, she must be rescued in immutable Superman (Christopher Reeves) style.  As he disposes of the bomb in the upper atmosphere, the resulting explosion sends ripples throughout the galaxy.  The ripple somehow frees the three villains from the zone.  They then proceed to make their way to earth to take over and rule with an evil iron fist.

All the while back on earth,  Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), has been in prison.  Ever the scheming criminal mastermind, he has already a plan in place to get even with Superman.  As the news of the destruction caused by the new visitors spread nationwide, Luthor decides to sell Superman out to the group.  

At the same time, Superman has made a decision to have a relationship with Lois lane.  To do this though, he must become human. Forever.  The world must now fend for itself, as the regime takes destruction to the highest levels of government.  Sufficed to say that  the world must again be made safe from the powers that threaten democracy.

Superman II
The feature is presented with (Anamorphically enhanced) Widescreen in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It was obvious from early on in the film though: this print has not faired as well as the restored original. It does not have the crisp, sharp look of the first film and there is a severe amount of dirt and flecks throughout.  The flesh tones are solid though and colours are generally fairly vibrant. Quite a lot of this film occurs in the white world of Superman’s fortress of solitude.  While it’s an environment that doesn’t a lot of colour, the shadows are detailed and well-defined.

There are several audio options on this disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Channel, German Dolby Digital Mono and Spanish Dolby Digital Mono.  This is a soundtrack which has not been over-produced.  While the original had a forced spatial feel that came from 5.1 remixing, this has a more natural feel and is very serviceable indeed.  The music is based on John Williams’ original score, but as you might expect there is almost a brand in these comic-book movies of anthemic, upbeat and confident music that allows very little latitude.

Did someone say extras?  I’m afraid this is yet another area that Superman has a few inches in reach over the sequel.  I suppose you could really see the 2 Discs as an  inseparable pack, even though they are not sold as such.  The sum total of extras here is a Theatrical Trailer.

Superman II
Unfortunately this disc looks like a opportunistic compliment to the Superman disc.  The source print used was full of flecks and didn’t have anywhere near the picture quality of the R4 Superman.  Even in the context of other recent back-catalogue releases this fails to stack up favourably.  This release is suitable as a partner disc to Superman. On it’s own though, it doesn’t fair very well at all. Unimpressive.