You know, they say that Dems are in disarray, but I don’t think anyone’s ever been in more disarray than this administration, which is currently on a badwill tour of the opposition’s main campaign strongholds. After a disastrous whistle stop in Metropolis which led to a grassroots groundswell wielding umbrellas and traffic cones, the delegation has moved on to a divisive meeting at the challenger’s North Pole retreat, where insiders report that they have made limited progress.
We’ve just completed the “slap fight” phase of this epic showdown between the forces of good and evil, which used up two minutes of screen time and accomplished basically nothing. The fugitives from Planet K are indestructible no matter what you do to them, so shooting them with finger lasers or pretending to turn into a breakable statue of yourself won’t have much of an effect on the final outcome.
So now we’ve moved on to the “Me? Lex Luthor?” part of the sequence, for the third time in the movie and the second time in the last four minutes. This is where the theatrical version of the movie and the Donner Cut version converge, because Dick Donner filmed all the Gene Hackman scenes, and Hackman refused to come back for Richard Lester’s reshoots.
The last few minutes that we’ve seen in the Fortress of Solitude were all reshoots; the Donner version didn’t include any of the newly-invented superpowers that Lester created. Lester had to keep Lex away from the action for that part of the scene because Hackman wasn’t on set, so that’s why he gets dumped on a high shelf at the start of the scene and then grumbles his way down to floor level, voiced by the Hackman impersonator.
“We have no more use for this one,” says General Zod, which is unfortunately true. Lex doesn’t really do much in the sequel, which is why you can have lengthy epic showdowns that he doesn’t participate in. The fact that he has to keep pleading for his life in every scene that he appears in indicates the logical flaw in his character arc — what is he actually hoping to gain here?
Yeah, he technically gets a promise from Zod that he can have Australia (and Cuba, in the Donner Cut), but these are vague temporary assurances that he’s aware they won’t honor. He knows that he doesn’t have much of a future, constantly defending his value every five seconds. The point of his character is that he’s a savvy master manipulator, so why is he still sticking around in a situation where he has nothing to gain and everything to lose?
It would make more sense for him to stay in Metropolis, while the Kryptonians chased Superman to the Fortress of Solitude — there’s a vague indication that he needs to give them directions, but directions to the Fortress could be adequately expressed in three words: keep going North. Then they could go off and either kill Superman, or get defeated themselves, and Luthor would be out of range.
But who cares? Style beats logic every time, and letting Luthor tag along to the conclusion gives him one more chance to do something villainous, and he deserves it. Even on a bad day, he’s five times more interesting than Zod’s crew, and Superman feigning another betrayal is a little tribute to what Hackman has brought to both films.
After all, Superman’s trick doesn’t make a lot of logical sense either — fooling the villains into throwing him into the briar patch, right where he wants to be.
There are all kinds of nitpicky questions you could ask about his final gambit: Why is the big scary molecule chamber still in operation, when all the other controls have been destroyed, and this is specifically the one that he must never use again? How does Lex know how to operate it? Also, Superman was in a lot of pain when he used the chamber to take away his powers, so why don’t the villains feel anything? And so on.
But nobody cares, because this is the moment that everyone in the audience wants. Fighting unstoppable villains who never change battle tactics gets old after a while, and at this point, we’re tired of them. Just to make sure that we won’t miss them, Superman has to kneel before Zod, which Zod has said so many times that we don’t ever want to hear about it again.
So the audience is longing for Superman to put an end to these people, and if he can make it painful, that’s fine with us. Switching the molecule chamber’s effect is a clever little trick that Lex is there to admire, and it’s giving us what we want, so nitpicks are easily swept aside with gratitude. This is how the good guys always win; they just wait until the audience is sick of the bad guys, at which point we’re willing to accept just about anything.
Case in point: Superman murders Zod.
I mean, we don’t actually see the corpse that Zod will inevitably become, one way or another; he just plunges down into one of the many bottomless crevasses that make the Fortress of Solitude such a hazardous tourist attraction. We’ve never really noticed these plentiful holes to nowhere before, but apparently it’s an architectural feature that gives you a place to dump your defeated enemies into.
I don’t know if there’s a floor down there to smack into, or a huge freezer, or if it just goes on forever somehow, but this is clearly a scene about Superman and Lois cheerfully murdering their three opponents, and not giving a shit about what happens to them.
You know, in the Henry Cavill movie, the audience got understandably upset about Superman killing Zod at the end of the film, but he does exactly the same thing in Superman II and everyone is totally fine with it. It just goes to show you that lighting is everything.
A special weekend popcorn post!
Morbius 95.1: The Sinister Sick
— Danny Horn