Yesterday, on the six-month anniversary of the theatrical release of Superman Returns, my friend Sir Harry (with whom I'd first seen the film that Friday) and I watched the newly-released Richard Donner cut of Superman II. I had thought my only problems with the Salkind version were the silly, non-canonical powers it gave the Kryptonians, such as levitation and cellophane shields. And those are gone in this update — but I find most of the other changes far preferable to the original as well, as Donner's approach is simply more respectful of the characters in ways I didn't realize Salkind's wasn't.
The Eiffel Tower scene is completely gone; instead, the Phantom Zone criminals make their escape in a fashion that suggests the first two Reeve films were not only shot together, but also meant to be seen together. Lois challenges Superman to save her without throwing herself over Niagara Falls; and Clark's true identity is revealed in a fashion that, though flawed, lends intelligence to Lois and finesse to the Man of Steel. The interaction between Kal-El and Jor-El also cements a tradition of passing the torch from father to son, as seen in Superman Returns.
The ending, though — ugh! The despicable "kiss of forgetfulness" has been replaced by something more consistent with the first film, but this new epilogue leaves plot holes big enough to drive a Warworld through.
Harry and I then proceeded to this film's direct sequel, Superman Returns. I noticed some minor details I had missed upon my first viewing (in IMAX 3D) and second (in 2D, at KansasFest 2006). The experience was definitely lessened for seeing it on DVD and not the big screen, no matter how large the TV or impressive the home audio. But this third viewing in a half-year reaffirmed my opinion that Superman Returns is one of the finest films of 2006 and deserving of many quality sequels.
This film had generated some discussion of Superman as a Christ figure. In case you needed any more proof:
And, to top the evening off, Harry gave me an unexpected Christmas gift: the first season of Smallville on DVD! I'd previously seen only the pilot, which wasn't enough to hook me. But even if the rest of the season isn't much better, I already own the first season of Superboy; it can't really sink much lower than that…