The producers also felt that they didn’t need Marlon
Brando anymore either, which would have meant paying the actor more money.
So they decided not to use any of his footage shot for Superman II, and
instead got actress Susannah York to stand in as Superman’s mother, even
though as Donner rightly points on his commentary track on Superman II:
the Richard Donner Cut it thematically makes more sense to feature
Superman’s father instead.
Their instincts were proven right
— or at least as far as the box office were concerned: Superman II
actually out-grossed its predecessor with a $108 million grab at the U.S.
box office alone. (It took the third space at the U.S. box office in 1981,
being beat out by On Golden Pond and Raiders of the Lost Ark in first
place. Raiders did almost double the business Superman II did, namely $209
Lester was best known for his light comedic films such
as the Beatles flick A Hard Day’s Night and the two Three Musketeers
swashbucklers which he also did for the Salkinds.
Considering the more serious tone that the first
Superman movie took, he was probably a peculiar choice to finish Superman
II, but while lighter in tone to the first movie, Superman II was hardly a
train smash: a zippy funny comic book replete with a jaw-dropping fight
sequence in which Superman is pitted against three super powered villains
from his home planet of Krypton taken straight from the comic book pages.
Still fans wondered what would have been had Donner
been allowed to finish Superman II. Ultimately Lester apparently only used
about 20% of the footage filmed by Donner, but speculation was rife as to
how much of Superman II was Donner’s and how much was Lester’s, especially
when Superman III under Lester’s tutelage turned out to the disaster it
was: more of a camp comedy than anything else with an annoying Richard
Pryor overwhelming the entire movie with his larger than life comic
This led to an Internet campaign by fans to convince
Warners to let Richard Donner finish his version of Superman II – several
decades later . . .
Next: "It could be argued that
Stamp’s campy performance — 'kneel before Zod!' — is arguably one of the
film’s biggest pleasures . . ."