But what, I’m sure you’re asking, is happening on the racks? As I go through these movies on the blog, I like to check in on what’s happening in the comics that year, because you never know what might happen if you don’t keep an eye on things. For example: in summer 1982, while I was occupied writing about rubber-suit swamp monsters, Action Comics went and split Superman into two half-powered twin Supermans, and they left him like that for eight months.
The gimmick is that in August 1982, Superman is suddenly sucked through the timestream into 14th century England for some reason — “Great Rao!” he observes, “I’m back in the Middle Ages!” — where he gets in between two squabbling wizard spouses who each want to use his invulnerable body to obtain the Power Ultimate, whatever that is. It seems like some kind of domestic dispute.
Lord Satanis stands on one side of Superman, and his wife, the Sorceress Syrene, stands on the other side, and they pull on the Action Ace like he’s a wishbone, and then he snaps in half, sorcerously. Now we’ve got one half-Superman who’s invulnerable and has heat-vision but doesn’t have flight, speed or super-strength, and another half-Superman who’s got flight, speed and super-strength but isn’t invulnerable and doesn’t have heat-vision, and if you ever lose track of which one has which powers, then Superman will spend the next eight months patiently explaining it to you, every five minutes.
Continue reading Superman III 4.11: Meanwhile, in 1983 →
She’s only got three minutes, and she lands four solid jokes, which is four more than practically anyone else in the movie. Lois Lane — up until this point, the single most important human being in the world — has been suddenly and mysteriously called away to Bermuda, for a surfside adventure that’s probably way more interesting than anything we’re going to experience in Smallville. She is with us, and then she is gone, like a forgotten promise, and Superman III has to stumble along without her.
Obviously, this is a dreadful mistake. If Warner Bros had asked people in pre-market testing whether they wanted Lois Lane to appear in the next Superman movie, 94% of respondents would have said yes, and the other 6% wouldn’t have understood the question, because it’s such a stupid idea that they’d think the survey must be asking about something else.
Continue reading Superman III 4.8: The Loss of Lois →
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 →
So here’s how to torpedo your own film in six words, courtesy of Army Archerd’s Hollywood gossip colum in Variety:
Producer Pierre Spengler allows that he and Superman director Dick Donner differed during filming, but he says all’s now well, and Spengler expects to return to complete Superman II. Donner, however, declares, “If he’s on it — I’m not.“
It’s late December 1978, and Superman: The Movie has just opened in theaters to, if you’ll pardon the expression, boffo box office. Everybody who worked on the film is feeling that Christmas spirit — except for Richard Donner, who fucking hates Pierre Spengler, and is not shy about letting people know his truth.
Continue reading Superman II 2.1: Things That Richard Donner Probably Shouldn’t Have Said →