Category Archives: Superman II

Superman II 2.55: One Hundred and Eight Million Dollars

Okay, we’ve spent eleven weeks talking about this double-headed hydra of a sequel, and here’s the bottom line:

On its first weekend in June 1981, Superman II earned the highest opening-weekend box office in history: $14 million, which was twice the opening gross for the first movie. It actually knocked Raiders of the Lost Ark out of the #1 spot, which had launched just a week before with a relatively small opening haul of $8 million.

This state of affairs didn’t last, of course. Superman II held on to the #1 spot for three weeks, but then Raiders came back even stronger, taking #1 back and holding onto it for nine more weeks. Raiders continued to perform well all the way through March 1982, ultimately earning $212 million. The Katharine Hepburn/Henry Fonda family drama On Golden Pond came in second for the year with $119 million, and Superman II came in third, with $108 million.

Superman II‘s take was a bit below the first movie, which made $134 million in 1978/79, but it performed very well. The comparable films in its weight class didn’t do nearly as well (besides Raiders, obviously): the year’s James Bond installment For Your Eyes Only made $55 million, Greek myth fantasy adventure Clash of the Titans got $41 million, and the pulp fiction inspired Tarzan the Ape Man earned $36 million.

But as successful as the Superman movies were, they were always overshadowed by the breakout hits that were even bigger: Jaws, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Return of the Jedi. The Superman movies could have been the iconic blockbusters of the late 70s/early 80s, if only George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had never been born.

Continue reading Superman II 2.55: One Hundred and Eight Million Dollars

Superman II 2.54: The Scene of the Crime

With Lex Luthor and the three Kryptonian villains either imprisoned, abandoned or vaporized, and Lois Lane memory-wiped by an oscular neuralyzer, there’s only one problem left to resolve in the final scenes of Superman II, which is the punishment due to Rocky, a Canadian truck driver who’s mildly insulting when he orders a second plate of food at his favorite diner.

“Hey, Ron?” he grouches, midway through a mouthful. “Gimme another plate of this garbage.”

“Garbage?” retorts the crabby waitress. “That’s my number-one special, Rocky!”

“All right!” he groans, abandoning the argument. “Get me some more coffee too, will ya?” He doesn’t even say “please”. Clearly this man is a major threat to world security who needs to be mercilessly crushed before he strikes again.

Continue reading Superman II 2.54: The Scene of the Crime

Superman II 1.98: Here We Go Again

Mission accomplished!

After several harrowing showdowns with the forces of evil, Superman has liberated the Earth, returning all government, military and law enforcement power to the same people who had it before, which is obviously the right thing to do, and not something that anyone will regret later on.

Of course, there are some unfortunate aftereffects. There’s all the wear and tear on Mount Rushmore, for one thing, and a bunch of repair work that needs to be done around the Daily Planet building in Metropolis. Besides that, the world is going to have to figure out how to develop a new approach to global politics and international security, so that three mean people can’t take over the entire planet by blowing up a couple of monuments.

Most significantly, Lois Lane has sustained significant character growth, which will force her to make some difficult choices. She’s been following a dream that can’t come true, and understanding that truth, while painful, will ultimately help her to break out of an unproductive pattern and find a new path forward in life. So obviously we’re going to need to put a stop to that.

Continue reading Superman II 1.98: Here We Go Again

Superman II 2.52: Light the Lights

Yeah, it’s heartwarming when you cast an unknown and he breaks big, but the sudden transition from unknown to really quite exceptionally known can be jarring for a young star on the rise. Sure, Christopher Reeve had been in some plays nobody saw and spent a couple years on a soap opera that nobody liked, but as far as the world was concerned, he sprang into being fully-formed, as the ideal embodiment of a pop culture icon.

As we saw in yesterday’s post about the reviews, literally everyone who ever saw Superman thought that Christopher Reeve was utterly convincing, and perfect for the part. Even the critics who didn’t like the films had to admit that they fell under the spell of Reeve’s charm; if there were problems with the movies, then those problems were happening on the outskirts of the Reeve-controlled territory.

But the problem with being perfect at something is that you might not be perfect at anything else, which leads to disappointment once the thing that you’re perfect at is over. And that is the story of Christopher Reeve, starting from the release of Superman II. For the rest of his career, he’ll be chasing the dizzying high of “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?”, which will overshadow everything that he does, very much including the other two Superman movies.

So it’s right here, just before Superman II is finished and the rest of his life begins, that Christopher Reeve gets his next big break: being a guest star on The Muppet Show.

Continue reading Superman II 2.52: Light the Lights

Superman II 2.51: Hated the First, Loved the Second

“The original Superman,” said mean ol’ David Denby in New York magazine, “was one of the most disjointed, stylistically mixed-up movies ever made. The mystico-sublime rubbed elbows with low farce and pop irony, and everything gave way to disaster-movie squareness in the end. But now all is well.” Phew, that was a close one.

Continue reading Superman II 2.51: Hated the First, Loved the Second

Superman II 2.50: Ice Cops

One of these days, I’m going to write about a movie that isn’t actually two different movies. Specifically, that’ll be a little over a week from now, when I wrap up Superman II at post 2.55, and move on to a simple little boy-meets-girl thriller called Swamp Thing.

But in order to land this movie, I need to talk about two endings — Richard Lester’s theatrical cut, and the Donner Cut — which take different routes to get to the same frankly unsatisfying story point. And today, as we bid farewell to the giant Arendelle ice castle, I’ve actually got three different versions to discuss. I guess some people have a problem with letting things go.

Continue reading Superman II 2.50: Ice Cops

Morbius 95.1: The Sinister Sick

And as General Zod sinks slowly in the west, we bid farewell to successful superhero movies for a while. If I’m going to cover the entire history of superhero movies, then that means taking the bad with the good, so I’m about to enter the string of disappointing comic book movies of the 80s, including Swamp Thing, Supergirl and Howard the Duck, which convinced everyone at the time that making movies based on comic books was a dumb idea.

Meanwhile, way over here on the other side of history, we live in a world where making as many movies based on comic books as possible is the only logical course for every single movie studio to pursue. You can tell that the nerds have won because a movie about a minor Spider-Man character comes out, and the entire pop culture discussion around the movie is about which Marvel movie “universe” it belongs in. This is not normal pop culture behavior.

Continue reading Morbius 95.1: The Sinister Sick

Superman II 2.49: President falls down crevasse, administration’s agenda in doubt

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.

Continue reading Superman II 2.49: President falls down crevasse, administration’s agenda in doubt

Superman II 2.48: The Miracle

The year is 1981, and once again, there’s a yawning, empty space in the Warner Books release schedule. Every big movie in 1981 got a paperback novelization, one way or another — Ballantine Books published the Raiders of the Lost Ark novelization, Jove published the Flash Gordon novelization, and Avon published a novelization for the Popeye musical that included the song lyrics, which is incredible, because almost all of the songs in Popeye consist of two or three words repeated endlessly.

But there wasn’t going to be a Superman II novelization, because dumb ol’ Mario Puzo had the rights to novelize the Superman films, and he refused to have anything to do with them.

Back in ’78, Warner Books — stuck without a Superman: The Movie novelization in a novelization-friendly market — threw up their hands and said fine, we’ll publish an original novel instead. The book, written by DC Comics writer Elliot S. Maggin, was called Superman: Last Son of Krypton, and it was 238 pages of blithering nonsense about an invasion by an enormous hypnotic alien jester who was using a cosmic Xerox machine to make copies of planets, or something. It was confusing and not very good, but it had a picture of Christopher Reeve on the cover, and that was good enough.

It turned out that it didn’t really matter what you put between the covers of a paperback that looks like a Superman: The Movie novelization, because the kind of people who like to read movie novelizations would read just about anything. It appears that Maggin didn’t have much of an editor; I guess the book was published on the honor system. Maggin says that he knows absolutely nobody at DC read Last Son of Krypton before it was published, because if they had, they would have at least stopped him from using the brand name Xerox, which he did quite a bit.

So if the first book, written in a hurry without any serious editorial oversight, sold just about as well as anything else would have in that format, then Maggin knew that for the second book, he would be able to write down the craziest thoughts he ever had about Superman and they would publish it anyway, and that is exactly what happened.

Continue reading Superman II 2.48: The Miracle

Superman II 2.47: The Snowdown

“Scruffy,” sniffs the leader of Earth, alighting at his worst enemy’s palatial polar beach house. “So morbid. A sentimental replica of a planet long since vanished. No style at all.” This, from a guy who’s still in the same outfit he was wearing in Idaho.

Superman leaps out and takes them by surprise, because this was a clever ambush and not just running back to his dad’s place. Then he stands there and waits for the bad guys to make the first move. I swear, these stuck-up Kryptonians may know a lot about early Chinese writing and Joyce Kilmer poetry, but military strategy is not their strong suit. That’s why they’re the only intelligent species in the universe to go extinct because their planet got tired of listening to their bullshit.

Continue reading Superman II 2.47: The Snowdown