Superman II 2.35: Mainly About Hot Dogs

Well, after centuries of stories assuring us that sacrificing something for true love is admirable and worthwhile, we finally have a movie that begs to differ. Superman II tells us that making sacrifices for love is selfish, and benefits bullies who try to take over the world. That’s why there are so many bullies currently running things. People need to keep that in mind.

So here’s the disempowered Clark Kent, freshly sprung from the Fortress of Solitude’s mortalizing equipment, and he’s trying to keep up with his girlfriend’s unshakeable appetite for hot dogs that she doesn’t eat.

“See, I told you there would be a hot dog place somewhere,” says ace reporter Lois Lane, as they drive back home from the North Pole in a car that I’m not sure where it came from, along a route that I guess cuts through Canada.

This is the third time today that Lois tells Clark that she’s hungry — asking for a hot dog at Niagara Falls, getting take-out in the Fortress, and now stopping at a diner on the long drive home. She never got that hot dog at the Falls, and when she sits down at this “hot dog place”, she orders a cheeseburger.

So I don’t know what’s up with Lois, and her ambivalent attitude towards hot dogs. It must be a metaphor for something, but what?

But it’s a lovely relationship moment, showing once again that Clark loves Lois for the unique and complicated woman that she is.

She orders a cheeseburger with everything on it, a Coke, french fries and a side salad, and he just grins at her, utterly delighted by everything that she does. This is the last pain-free moment that this couple will ever have, so it’s nice that they’re enjoying it.

Because here comes Rocky, a trucker/supervillain who routinely terrorizes the citizens of Don’s Diner. He sits down at the counter, on the seat that Clark had his heart set on, and proceeds to ogle Lois and offer her a free meal. If she plays her cards right, she might be able to defray some of the travel costs, but Lois isn’t particularly budget-minded.

When Clark gets back from the washroom, he finds that his seat has been filled by another dude. You’d think that Clark would already be used to this kind of thing, because he’s been pretending to be a clutzy wimp for a while now, and people in Metropolis probably aren’t always polite.

But this is a truck driver from Canada, and recent experience has taught us how obnoxious Canadian truckers can be, if you let them get away with shit.

So Clark sees an opportunity to prove to Lois that he can still stand up for himself without superpowers.

He tells Rocky, “Gee, I think perhaps somebody ought to teach you some manners, sir,” and gets a snappy retort in response.

The baffling thing for me about this scene is that this is not something worth fighting over. In fact, Lois stands up and says, “Look, Clark, we can just —” and gestures towards the tables, which clearly they could just.

As far as Rocky’s concerned, this interaction is entirely over; he’s turned away from Clark twice in the last twenty seconds. So far, his offense is annexing a counter seat and making a couple of cutting remarks, and there are plenty of other seats that Clark and Lois can go and occupy in peace. Clark hasn’t even ordered yet.

But Clark insists on escalating the situation, prepared to fistfight with a guy over restaurant etiquette. He says, “Excuse me, sir, would you care to step outside?” and when Rocky ignores him, he repeats the call to action in a more determined tone of voice.

Obviously, I understand the point of this scene — this is the moment when Superman learns that losing his powers means that for the first time in his life, he’s vulnerable. He’s not going to win every fight, and sometimes evil will triumph, if we’re defining “evil” all the way down to a guy who smirks at you, and exacts a mild inconvenience. This scene gets the job done, and gives us a moment to see the horror and surprise on Superman’s face as he discovers that he can bleed.

Still, I wish this incident was a little more consequential, as an opportunity to stand up to the forces of darkness. He’s not fighting crime, and he’s not protecting the weak and innocent. If Rocky triumphs, then Lois will have to get up, and carry her Coke five steps to another table. That’s the problem that Superman has decided that he needs to solve.

In fact, Clark is currently the one being an asshole. Rocky was impolite, but he tried to de-escalate by ignoring Clark’s first request to step outside. Clark is the one who threatened violence.

In fact, after this first successful punch, Rocky goes and sits down again peacefully. The conflict is over. Rocky is drinking his coffee.

There’s some lovely dialogue here:

Clark:  I think maybe we ought to hire a bodyguard from now on.

Lois:  I don’t want a bodyguard. I want the man I fell in love with.

Clark:  I know that, Lois. I wish he were here.

But then he gets up and challenges Rocky to fight again, which is not the thing that Superman would do. This is actually evidence that Clark is a violent hothead, who can’t accept the obvious consequence of his own actions.

And then, after Rocky continues the fight that Clark intentionally provokes, Lois jumps on the guy, grabbing his hair and kicking him. The situation gets so hot for Rocky that he says, “I don’t like your meat anyway,” and he walks out of the diner, restoring peace to the world.

I honestly don’t know what “manners” these savage lunatics think they’re going to teach Rocky, as they drive him out of a public accommodation where he has every right to be. He’s been challenged and attacked three times, and each time, he has responded with the least amount of force that he possibly could in order to resolve the situation — one punch in the first round, an elbow in the stomach and one punch in the second round, and nothing but a snarl at Lois.

The key to the scene is the sign on the diner’s window that says: “Get US out! of the United Nations”. That must be why the people who run the diner are on Clark and Lois’ side. I didn’t realize that the United States’ participation in the United Nations was still an issue in 1981, or really at any time since the end of World War II. But the diner is against world peace somehow, and they support Clark’s saber-rattling and pointless agression against the guy who’s trying to calm everything down.

In fact, at the end of the movie, Clark — once more a major world superpower — returns to beat up on the guy, who once again is sitting calmly at the counter, eating his meal and ordering another plate of food. Then Clark uses his superstrength to throw Rocky down the counter and into the plate glass of a pinball machine, knocking him unconscious and probably causing some kind of spinal injury. Now tell me again that he’s a hero.

Monday:
Superman goes back home in
2.36: The Do-Over


Footnotes:

There are several logistical challenges for Clark and Lois’ trip back from the Arctic. Superman flew them to the North Pole, but now it’s Clark making the home journey. Where did they get the car from? How do you drive from the Arctic to Metropolis? Where did their clothes come from? (The Fortress of Solitude could feasibly have a change of clothes for Clark, but I’m not sure why he has two spare outfits in Lois’ size, unless he’s doing the weird wax museum thing.) Also, I don’t think they ever checked out of the hotel.

The establishing shot of Clark and Lois’ green car is actually footage shot for Luthor’s car crash in the first movie. You can see that the windshield is blacked out, which they did to disguise that nobody was driving the car. It’s also driving on the left side of the road.

Richard Donner has a cameo in this sequence, walking by the car as Clark is parking, and smoking a pipe.

There’s a ridiculous amount of product placement for Coca-Cola in this sequence, which is gradually revealed over the course of the scene.

  • There are two Coca-Cola signs on the wall next to the restroom (although the smaller one is hidden by Lois in the first part of the scene).
  • There’s a logo on the soda fountain further down the counter.
  • Lois orders a Coke, and twelve seconds later, she says, “Can I have my Coke now?”
    The counterman brings her a can.
  • During the “bodyguard” line, there’s a close-up of the two guys sitting at the other end of the counter, and there’s a little stack of Coke cans nearby.
  • When Clark gets up, we can see that there’s another Coke sign on the rear door, and two windows are decorated with decals of Coke bottles. (This is when you can see the smaller Coke sign by the bathroom.)
  • When Lois attacks Rocky, you can see there’s also a Coca-Cola logo on the window above the Coke bottle decal.
  • After Rocky leaves and Lois helps Clark up to a chair, there’s a reaction shot from a guy at a table, and there’s another Coca-Cola logo on the window next to him.
  • When Clark is at the table and Lois is dabbing at his blood, there’s a Coke can sitting a couple inches from his head.
  • When the waitress turns on the television, there’s a photo of a Coke fountain drink on the wall; when everyone gathers to watch the TV, the fountain drink picture is framed nicely between the counterman and the waitress.
  • When Clark says “Zod!” and gets up, you can see a huge Coca-Cola sign outside the restaurant.
  • When you see the close-up of the TV, there’s a JVC logo, which is also product placement.

There’s one shot that has two continuity errors in it. The counterman pours Lois’ Coke twice, and in the shot where he sets the glass down for the second time, Rocky sits down for the second time.

Also, when Lois assures Clark that he didn’t know this was going to happen, Clark says, “They knew. I heard him. I just didn’t listen.” The original line that he spoke was “He knew, I heard him,” but they had to change it because Brando was cut out of the second film. This post is brought to you by Coca-Cola.

Monday:
Superman goes back home in
2.36: The Do-Over

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— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Superman II 2.35: Mainly About Hot Dogs

  1. I totally agree. This is not how Superman should act. Violence should be the last resort for him, not the first. Much like the scene with the taxi early on, he’s not acting like Superman, either here or at the end when he returns to the diner (though at least there he pays the owners for the damage, though probably not Rocky’s hospital bills).

    I still prefer this film to the first, but I’m realizing I’m disappointed in practically every scene where the villains aren’t on screen.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I read it as Clark, abuzz with love and freshly lost virginity, trying to have a “now I’m a REAL boy!” moment and defend his girl, just like he read about in the comics growing up.

      Remember, although his earth parents did their best to raise him as an All American boy, the most they could do is teach him how to fake it. Because he couldn’t really get in a fight or marry his high school sweetheart or be captain of the football team–to really be human would give away the fact that he’s anything, everything, but.

      He never got to defend a pretty girl against a mannerless masher, or knock out a bully, or have the damsel in recent distress hang off his arm and gush “oh Clark, you’re the greatest!” because he’d end up murdering the guy, horrifying his hometown and end up in a lead box on a black site somewhere.

      But now! Now! He can do what he’s dreamed! Show Lois what he’s made of! But what is that, now?

      Liked by 5 people

    2. This a real low point for the character, and it’s arguably why I prefer SUPERMAN III to SUPERMAN II (yes, I know, that sounds crazy). Superman behaves like Superman in SUPERMAN III. His actions are all over the place here.

      And Superman seeking revenge, literally picking a fight he knows is unfair ..my son hasn’t seen the film yet, but I know he’d object.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. You’re threading a needle every time your audience identification character is targeted by a bully. Have the bully go too far, and it’s the only thing anyone remembers about the story. Pull the bully up short, as happens here, and he isn’t a bully at all, just a annoying person who elicits an even more annoying reaction from the character we’re supposed to like.

    Still, I don’t think the scene is a total loss. Superman isn’t in this scene- this is Clark Kent, human being, a person who is only a few days old. He no longer has the power to do what Superman would do, and he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life as the hopeless nebbish he has used the Clark Kent persona to pretend to be. He has no idea how to act in this situation, and so it makes perfect sense that he’d act like a jerk and wind up in a bloody heap at the hands of some Canadian truck driver.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. And he’s the politest amalgamation of cliches jerk ever! Everything he says in this scene (except the exchange with Lois) is clearly stuff he remembers reading or seeing on TV. It’s an ersatz fictional version of reality that was supposed to end with him grinning triumphantly and Lois cuddling his bicep. When that doesn’t happen he’s even more astonished by that than actually experiencing physical pain.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I agree. Clark’s trying to be a Real Man. But all he knows about this is cliches. Unfortunately, a swing at the bully doesn’t work out for him like for George McFly, four years later and 25 years ago.

        I also agree with the comments echoing Danny’s ongoing theme on this film: Good production can’t make up for bad writing. And it doesn’t help if the production’s careless, too.

        Lois’s “What the HEY-YULL were you thinking!” tell-off of Clark, the second biggest omission of this script, should have happened here.
        Maybe as he sat in the car’s back seat while she tended to his injuries. Then she could have gone back in to get some more paper towels. Just in time to see the awful news on the TV about how his foolish hotheaded impulsive mistake was even worse than she thought. And then dragged a reluctant Clark back inside to see the TV.

        Just one idea I thought of in a few minutes. Once again, more carefully structured off the top of my head than what the writers actually did here. Especially since we never previously saw Clark’s weaknesses as being foolish, hotheaded, impulsive.

        (The biggest omission is how to reverse the irreversible. This film just hand-waves that, making lovely Lara out to be a liar.)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes, I think that’s why most audiences buy this scene, more or less. It may not be the most efficient way of showing that Clark Kent doesn’t know how to be a grown man, but in the end it does get the point across.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I always hated this scene for the logistical problems of why they’re driving a car back from the Fortress of Solitude (Hmm, what if he has to go back for something?) and the whole business with Rocky. Surely there was a better way to make a point that Ka El was now stuck as Clark Kent?

    I noticed Lois’s choice of food was a callback to the earlier scene where she said she was drinking orange juice with her cheeseburger as part of her health thing, but since freshly-squeezed OJ doesn’t exist in Canada, she had to do with a side-salad.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Just a footnote here: when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s there was an independent bookstore in my town that was run by the John Birch Society, the ultraconservative political group that advocated isolationism and promoted conspiracy theories, paving the way for today’s far right. The store had one sign in the window:“Get US out! of the United Nations”, with exactly that strange punctuation and structure. Even as a child, I knew it was the only bookstore in town that I should avoid.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you. I knew a little bit about the John Birch Society, but I didn’t notice the sign as a kid and didn’t know about it as an adult. Love the way this discussion community fills in these gaps.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Thank you for shedding some light there. It’s really quite baffling what that poster is doing on the wall. Presumably it was John Barry’s decision, or at least he approved it. He was British, and so was most of the crew, so it seems unlikely that was actually intended to be a message that they had any investment in. It’s really quite striking that it’s the only non-Coke-related messaging in the area of the set where the main characters are. I wonder where it came from?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m assuming that one of the set designers felt the sign would support the general atmosphere of the diner being populated by “ignorant hicks” (apologies to all the ignorant hicks out there), but maybe I’m overestimating how much thought was actually put into it. (By the way, Danny, I grew up and currently live in Sonoma County, about an hour north of you, which has always been a more liberal-leaning area, so the Bircher bookstore always stuck out like a sore, conservative thumb.)

        Liked by 2 people

  5. “It must be a metaphor for something, but what?”
    When I read the title, my first thought was, “Oh, it’s another ‘time to penis’ post.”
    As to where the car came from, when Superman went to get Lois food, he obviously also built a road, rented the car at Hertz, and carried it back to the Fortress, knowing he would have to find a non-superpowered way to get home.
    I think the diner scene is just to hammer home that Superman is gone and the world is powerless against the villains. Oh,no! Who will save us now?
    Much more objectionable is his return later when he has his superpowers back. It seems like a petty bit of revenge.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Much more objectionable is his return later when he has his superpowers back. It seems like a petty bit of revenge.

      Even worse, if the original ending had been used, the event would have never happened, so he hospitalized the bully for no reason (it could be argued Superman returned to teach him a lesson, but it’s a stretch).

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Checkov’s Gun could have motivated the scene, if only we’d seen Ma and Pa Kent raising Clark to be a Pepsi drinker.

    Or maybe the trucker could’ve refused to offer Lois a light for her Marlboro, when asked nicely.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Was it this scene or elsewhere that we see Lois smoking? You would think after the cancer scan Superman gave her in the first film that she would give it up.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I agree. Danny wrote about this, as one of the product placement issues in these films.

        Another missed opportunity. Once she knows he has heat-vision beams, she should ask Supes for a light. And he should give a paternalistic reply about not supporting that kind of bad habit. Did they include this somewhere in the first or second film?

        Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s not like I always nitpick movie scripts. The corny tongue-in-cheek Popeye film, a few months after S2, was SO MUCH FUN for a kid! Plenty of laughs for the whole family, no complaints from anyone! (Does it count as a superhero film?)

    As a kid in the theater that year, I was skeptical about only one plot twist other than in this film. That was the horse racing theme for the second half of the Black Stallion – a film full so beautifully photographed, luminous on the big screen.

    Many other movies of that year I saw later, like Gods Must be Crazy, Blues Brothers, Airpane, Fame, Lathe of Heaven, I never once second-guessed the writers. Can’t Stop the Music had a totally ridiculous script and was still fun.

    But Superman 2 was full of “no, that doesn’t up add!” moments in the theater. And this was one of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This scene is also responsible for the weirdest moment in the Donner Cut, where Superman *still* goes back to get revenge on that guy, even though he reversed time and erased the original interaction.

    It’s pretty darn petty for Superman to go back and get revenge on this guy as it is, but even more so when (from the other guy’s perspective) they’ve literally never met before and it’s just Superman attacking him out of the blue.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Exactly! This is where the Frankenstein stitching between the two scripts/cuts really starts showing–clearly this scene was written in one script, the “kiss and forget” for another, and they were squashed together without anybody going but wait…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. And what does Clark think he’s doing? I mean all your comments on it are 100% correct, but he shouldn’t be this drippy. I mean this version of Clark is the “costume.” It isn’t like Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde (that’s a different Superman movie). He should be like he was as Superman on the 1st date. Why is he wearing glasses? They were just plain glass. It can’t be that he doesn’t see and instantly BOOM he got “contacts.” These people don’t even know him. I mean he may have to kind of glide there with people who know him, but these people don’t. And so he lost his powers, he should still have his earth level muscles, he should still know how to fight, why is he being a dufus? I know, I know the whole point is for him to realize he needs his powers, but it doesn’t make sense.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t even think about the glasses! And yeah, poor helpless Clark still has the physique that he did before, so why does he lose to a shorter, older man? Maybe he’s just really bad at fighting? In this movie timeline, he’s never fought anyone in his life, because he hasn’t met a superpowered villain yet who could take a punch from him. Yeah, that’s what I’ll go with as my head canon.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This post taught me that Rocky the truck driver is the real hero of the scene, for putting Clark in his place. In fact, doesn’t he take that seat after Clark is in the bathroom? So he doesn’t even know that he’s taking someone’s seat or that Lois is with anyone! The worst thing he ever does outside of this scene is call the place’s food “garbage”. Yet he repeatedly gives his money to them when he could obviously go to any other diner, so he doesn’t even mean it.

    Like

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