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.
Superman goes back home in
2.36: The Do-Over
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.
Superman goes back home in
2.36: The Do-Over
— Danny Horn