REVIEW: THE FIRM

CAST

Tom Cruise (The Mummy)
Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basix Instinct)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Hal Holbrook (Lincoln)
Terry Kinney (Billions)
Wilford Brimley (Cocoon)
Ed Harris (Westworld)
Holly Hunter (Batman V Superman)
David Strathairn (The Blacklist)
Gary Busey (The Gungerdead Man)
Tobin Bell (Saw)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a young man from an impoverished background, but with a promising future in law. About to graduate from Harvard Law School near the top of his class, he receives a generous job offer from Bendini, Lambert & Locke, a small, boutique firm in Memphis specializing in accounting and tax law. He and his wife, Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), move to Memphis and Mitch sets to work studying to pass the Tennessee bar exam. Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman), one of the firm’s senior partners, becomes his mentor and begins introducing Mitch to BL&L’s professional culture, which demands complete loyalty, strict confidentiality, and a willingness to charge exceptional fees for their services. Seduced by the money and perks showered on him, including a house and car, he is at first totally oblivious of the more sinister side of his new employer, although Abby has her suspicions.Mitch passes the bar exam and begins working long hours that put a strain on his marriage. Working closely with Avery, Mitch learns that most of the Firm’s work involves helping wealthy clients hide large amounts of money in off-shore shell corporations and other dubious tax-avoidance schemes. While on a trip to the Cayman Islands on behalf of a client, Mitch is seduced by a local woman and cheats on Abby. Actually this encounter is a photographed set-up made for the firm’s sinister security chief, Bill DeVasher (Wilford Brimley), who later uses Mitch’s beach tryst with that woman as blackmail to keep him quiet about such tax evasions and whatever illegal financial transactions.Mitch realizes he is now trapped, but after two associates of the firm die under mysterious circumstances, he is approached by FBI agents who inform him that while some of BL&L’s business is legitimate, their biggest client is the Morolto Mafia family from Chicago. The firm’s partners, as well as most of the associates, are all complicit in a massive tax fraud and money laundering scheme. The two associates who died learned about the firm’s dark side, and were killed to keep them from talking. They warn Mitch that his house, car, and office have probably all been bugged. The FBI pressures Mitch to provide the Bureau with evidence they can use to go after the Moroltos and bring down BL&L. Mitch knows he faces a stark choice. If he works with the FBI, he believes that even if he stays alive, he will have to disclose information about the firm’s legitimate clients—thus breaking the attorney–client privilege and risking disbarment. However, the FBI warns him that if he stays with the firm, he will almost certainly go to jail when the FBI takes down both the firm and the Moroltos. Either way, his life as he knows it is over, and he agrees to cooperate with the FBI in return for $1.5 million and the release of his imprisoned brother Ray in Arkansas.Desperate to find a way out, Mitch inadvertently stumbles on a solution when one of his clients reveals that he was billed for extra five hours fees, for the Firm’s money laundering services for the Moroltos. However, mailing these illegal bills to their clients is considered as mail fraud, and it exposes the Firm to RICO charges. Mitch begins secretly copying the Firm’s billing records. However, he is unmasked when a prison guard on the Moroltos’ payroll alerts DeVasher. Evading DeVasher and his thugs, he finds the Morolto brothers and, offering himself as a loyal attorney looking out for his clients’ best interests, leads them to believe that his contact with the FBI and files copying were merely an attempt to expose and eliminate such illegal overbilling. Mitch asks the Moroltos to turn over their billing invoices in order to help the FBI make their case against the firm. He assures them that as long as he is alive, any other information he knows about their legal affairs is covered under attorney-client privilege and will never be revealed. Convinced thus, the Moroltos agree to guarantee Mitch’s safety and let him give the FBI all the evidence they need to destroy the Firm. Since the attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply when a lawyer knows about ongoing criminal activity, Mitch is able to keep his status as a lawyer. The film ends as the McDeeres leave their house in Memphis and return to Boston, driving the same car in which they arrived there.Better than the book with regard to its resolution and plot development. Still looks and feels good.

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REVIEW: RUNAWAY JURY

CAST

John Cusack (2012)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Dustin Hoffman (Hook)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Bruce McGill (Timecop)
Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer)
Nick Searcy (The Dead Girl)
Leland Orser (Taken)
Lori Heuring (8mm 2)
Joanna Going (Nixon)
Dylan McDermott (Texas Rangers)
Stanley Anderson (Red Dragon)
Celia Weston (Hulk)
Bill Nunn (Money Train)
Cliff Curtis (Blow)
Nora Dunn (Bruce Almighty)
Rusty Schwimmer (The Perfect Storm)
Jennifer Beals (The Prophecy II)
Guy Torry (American History X)
Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Gary Grubbs (Angel)
Luis Guzmán (Traffic)

In New Orleans, a failed day trader at a stock brokerage firm shows up at the office and opens fire on his former colleagues, then kills himself. Among the dead is Jacob Wood. Two years later, with attorney Wendell Rohr, Jacob’s widow Celeste takes Vicksburg Firearms to court on the grounds that the company’s gross negligence led to her husband’s death. During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch and his team communicate background information on each of the jurors to lead defense attorney Durwood Cable in the courtroom through electronic surveillance. In the jury pool, Nick Easter tries to get himself excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin decides to give Nick a lesson in civic duty and Fitch tells Cable that the judge has now given them no choice, and that he must select Nick as a juror. Nick’s congenial manner wins him acceptance from his fellow jurors, but Frank Herrera, a Marine veteran, takes an instant dislike to him.A woman named Marlee makes an offer to Fitch and Rohr: she will deliver the verdict to the first bidder. Rohr dismisses the offer, assuming it to be a tactic by Fitch to obtain a mistrial. Fitch asks for proof that she can deliver, though, which Nick provides. Fitch orders Nick’s apartment searched, but finds nothing. Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch’s jurors bounced. Nick shows the judge surveillance footage of his apartment being searched, and the judge orders the jury sequestered. Fitch then goes after three jurors with blackmail, leading one, Rikki Coleman, to attempt suicide. Rohr loses a key witness due to harassment, and after confronting Fitch, decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm’s partners for $10 million. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich, to kidnap Marlee, but she fights him off and raises Fitch’s price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr changes his mind and refuses to pay. Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict.Fitch’s subordinate Doyle travels to Gardner, Indiana, where he discovers that Nick is really Jeff Kerr, a law school drop-out, and that Marlee’s real name is Gabby Brandt. Gabby’s sister died in a school shooting. The town sued the gun manufacturer and Fitch helped the defense win the case. Doyle concludes that Nick and Marlee’s offer is a set-up, and he calls Fitch, but it is too late. Nick receives confirmation of receipt of payment and he steers the jury in favor of the plaintiff, much to the chagrin of Herrera, who launches into a rant against the plaintiff, which undermines his support. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood. After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe and demand that he retire. They inform him that the $15 million will benefit the shooting victims in Gardner.This was a movie that wasn’t over-hyped, filled with talented actors and kept you watching all the way through.  Hackman was flawless as usual as an actor and once again maintained his great screen presence. Hoffman really portrayed the idealistic lawyer character well. Weisz played the female lead with the right mix of the strong and vulnerable.  The plot twists were not overdone but did offer some slight surprises which were hinted at along the way if you payed attention. Overall I’d recommend this movie to anyone, especially those who take their movies seriously

REVIEW: UNDER SUSPICION

CAST

Gene Hackman (Superman)
Morgan Freeman (Along Came a Spider)
Thomas Jane (The Punisher)
Monica Bellucci (Shoot ‘Em Up)

Wealthy tax attorney Henry Hearst (Hackman) is about to give a speech at an exclusive New Year’s Eve party in Puerto Rico. He is called to the police station to be questioned about the body he found the day before – that of a young girl who had been raped and murdered. Captain Victor Benezet (Freeman) and Detective Felix Owens (Jane) question him about inconsistencies in his story. Hearst quickly realizes that they think he committed the murder, as well as that of another young girl whose body was found days earlier. Benezet is under pressure from his boss (Miguel Ángel Suárez) to free Hearst so that he can give his speech. As there is no conclusive proof, Benezet has to let him go.At the party, a crowd is gossiping and Chantal (Bellucci), Henry’s much younger wife, has to keep her face emotionless. She is questioned later about why she and her husband sleep in separate rooms. Little by little, the story that each of them tells changes. Hearst first blames Chantal for being jealous. Then, it is discovered he likes cheap, very young prostitutes and visits pornography websites featuring women dressed as schoolgirls. Hearst says that Chantal and her brother-in-law, artist Paco Rodriguez (Luis Caballero), are lovers. Chantal says that she saw Hearst with her 13-year-old niece Camille (Isabel Algaze) giving her presents and trying to seduce her. Also, she tells that once she saw her husband washing his blood-stained clothes at night. Hearst denies molesting Camille, but admits that he prefers much younger women.Under-Suspicion-2000-film-images-4384513f-10b3-46cd-b753-fcd4017bc35Chantal, the legal owner of the mansion where they live, signs a permit to let the police look for hard evidence linking her husband to the murders. In the dark room, they find photographs of the two murdered girls. When the photographs are shown to him at the police station, Henry says that he can’t believe Chantal would go this far. Shortly thereafter, Hearst breaks under the pressure, and the realization that his wife thinks he’s guilty of the murders. He makes a false confession to the crimes, just as detectives are notified that the real killer has been arrested after being “caught in the act.” Benezet and Owens then free Hearst. Chantal attempts to connect with him outside the police station, but he cannot forgive her for believing him capable of the murders, and rebuffs her.Under-Suspicion-2000-film-images-7ed0d373-1cf6-43bc-99fb-365d6c862e1Brilliant film great dialog and interactions between characters. Gene Hackman is brilliant in this film.  The story unravels jealousy dysfuctional relationships deceipt and is totally compelling!

 

REVIEW: HEARTBREAKERS

CAST
Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer)
Gene Hackman (Superman 1,2 & 4)
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl)
Anne Bancroft (The Graduate)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Nora Dunn (Bruce Almighty)
Sarah Silverman (School for Scoundrels)
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)
Carrie Fisher (Star Wars)
Alan Blumenfeld (Heroes)
Patricia Belcher (Bones)
Max and Page Conners (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother-daughter con artist team. When the film opens, the Conners are finishing a con on Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta), an auto-body shop owner and small-time crook. The con, which the Conners have played many times before on other men, involves Max marrying Dean, passing out on their wedding night to avoid consummating the marriage, and then Page (posing as Dean’s secretary) luring Dean into a compromising position to justify Max’s immediate divorce and hefty settlement. The con is a success.
Page declares that she wants to go solo. Max initially relents, but when they go to the bank to split their earnings, they’re confronted by an IRS agent (Anne Bancroft) who declares that they owe the government a considerable sum on top of the rest of their savings, which have already been seized. Page reluctantly agrees to work one last con with Max in Palm Beach, so to get enough money to pay off the IRS and set Page up to work on her own. For their target, they choose widower William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman), a tobacco baron who is addicted to his own product.
While working the main con with Tensy, Page attempts a side con without her mother’s knowledge. Page targets beachfront bartender Jack (Jason Lee), who is worth $3 million, but develops genuine feelings for him. Max learns of the side con and tells Page to break the relationship off, which Page does reluctantly.
Tensy proposes to Max ahead of schedule, but before they can get married, he accidentally chokes and dies while trying to initiate sex with Max. While Max and Page are deciding what to do with the body, Dean arrives, having tracked Max down to apologize and propose to her again. Dean figures out that Max and Page conned him, and threatens to call the authorities. Max offers to return Dean’s divorce settlement money if he’ll help them make Tensy’s death look like an accident. Max tells Page that their money wasn’t really taken by the IRS; the agent was Max’s mentor, Barbara, who agreed to help prevent Page from leaving. However, when Max, Page and Dean go to the bank, the money really has gone, having been liquidated in an act of betrayal by Barbara.
In order to help Max, Page returns to Jack and accepts his proposal, planning to work it as a regular con. Page insists that Jack will not cheat on her, but is heartbroken when, on their wedding night, she breaks into her mother’s room and finds him in a compromising position with Max. After the divorce settlement is paid, Dean confronts Max about the ethics of their con, pointing out that even a “goody-goody” like Jack is only human. Max reveals that Jack actually turned her down and that she had to drug him, but she defends her actions by saying that Jack would hurt Page eventually. Dean counters that Max has no right to keep Page from the man she loves because of what “might” happen.
Chastened, Max tells Page the truth, admitting that her efforts to protect her daughter have only hurt her in other ways. Page returns to Jack, giving him back the bar he’d had to sell to pay the settlement, and tells him her real name. Max and Dean also get together, Dean having admitted that he still loves Max despite what she put him through. The final shot of the film is of Dean — using the name ‘Stanley’ — romancing Barbara, with Max watching them via binoculars, implying that Max and Dean are now working together to get Max’s money back from Barbara.
Jennifer Love Hewitt escapes her tormented ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ role to shine as an assistant professional con artist the Weaver whereas Sigourney Weaver really shows off her incredible acting ability as Hewitts Con artist Mother, a far cry from her famous ‘Alien’ role. The assisting performances really boost the films comedy including Gene Hackman and a cameo from Carrie Fisher. The comedy is hilarious, the acting top notch.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN II: THE RICHARD DONNER CUT

CAST

Christopher Reeve (Rear Window)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers)
Ned Beatty (Rango)
Jackie Cooper (The Champ)
Terence Stamp (Yes Man)
Marc McClure (Back To The Future)
Sarah Douglas (Puppet Master III)
Jack O’Halloran (King Kong 1976)
Clifton James (Live and Let Die)
Valerie Perrine (What Women Want)
Marlon Brando (The Godfather)

Many fans of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies know the story behind the second film in that series. Richard Donner directed the first installment and it was a huge success. While he did make a very popular film, he fought with the producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, quite a bit. In a surprise move the Salkinds fired Donner from Superman II although he had already filmed 70% of it. The fan magazines at the time attributed the departure of Donner either because 1) the Salkinds were manipulative producers who insisted in micromanaging the production or 2) Donner had turned into a prima donna after the reception that the first received and was acting like an out of control mad-man on the set. The truth is probably somewhere between the two stories.


In any case Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night, The Three Musketeers) was handed the reins and created a popular but somewhat silly sequel that has one of the lamest endings of any modern film. (The ‘kiss of forgetfulness’.) A couple of year ago, in 2004, Margo Kidder stated in an interview that Donner had shot enough footage to edit together his version of the film. This started a grass roots based campaign to collect the existing footage and recreate the film that Donner was never able to make. Warner Brothers agreed to go ahead with the project and Michael Thau was put in charge of the restoration. Now, at last, fans of the series can get an idea of what might have been.Starting off at the end of Superman: The Movie, albeit with a slightly different conclusion, Superman II begins with Superman sending an atomic missile out into space to save countless lives. When it finally detonates in the vast space between planets, the shockwave destroys the portal to the Phantom Zone that three Kryptonian criminals were exiled to in the first movie. General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his accomplices, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and the destructive mute Non (Jack O’Halloran) emerge from their imprisonment and head to Earth where they discover that they have all of the powers of Superman. Though they failed to take over Krypton, conquering Earth will be easy.

It’s made even more facile by the fact that Superman isn’t around. Like in the comics, Lois becomes convinced that mild mannered Clark Kent is really Superman. To prove it she throws herself out of a 30th story window, and when that doesn’t work she comes up with a deviously clever scheme that does.

Clark/Superman seems a bit relieved that his secret is out, because now he can share his life with someone. He takes Lois to his Fortress of Solitude and there he does something with her that never would have gotten past the old Comics Code Authority. The man from Krypton falls in love with his human companion. When he discusses this with the generated image of his father, Jor-El informs him that the only way he can give himself to an Earth woman totally is by becoming human himself.

Over his father’s protests, Kal-El places himself in the red sun chamber and is exposed to the rays of his home world sun, rendering him mortal and powerless. Of course when he and Lois make it back to civilization they discover that General Zod has taken over the world and the only person who can stand up to the brute is now powerless.

This is a significantly different version of this story. It’s not just an alternate cut, this movie tells the tale in a totally different way. Though the narrative is a little rough in parts due to the nature of the creation of this film, it is superior to the original in a lot of ways. Gone are a lot of the hokey, silly parts, like most of the fight between Zod and the Texas Sheriff (Clifton James), the Mount Rushmore section and the over-the-top Superman carrying the American Flag ending. The sight gags, which were never very funny, are removed and in their place is more of the witty dialog that made the original movie so much fun. This version has Lois discovering Clark’s secret in a creative and imaginative way, not through some stupid slip on Superman’s part. This version also features Marlon Brando as Jor-El once again, and it’s great to see him playing the role which was originally cut from the theatrical release.

Of course there are some problems. There are some minor plot holes sprinkled through the film, along with several scenes that don’t quite match being forced together, but this is largely due to the nature of this edit. A more troubling aspect is the conclusion. Donner hadn’t actually figured out the ending of the film, so this edit has to fall back to the way the movie was originally going to end before Salkinds decided to eliminate the cliffhanger ending from the first film. This gives viewers a sense of déjà vu, and though it’s still a pretty dumb way to wrap up the movie, it’s better than what Lester came up with.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE

CAST

Christopher Reeve (Rear Window)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers)
Jackie Cooper (The Champ)
Marc McClure (Back To The Future)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Sam Wanamaker (Raw Deal)
Mark Pillow (Wiseguy)
Mariel hemingway (Manhattan)
Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas)
Susannah York (The Calling)

The world is on the brink and Superman takes it upon himself to rid the planet of all nuclear weapons. Of course, war is big business and Lex Luthor sees an opportunity to use the Man of Steel’s quest for peace as a way to make big bucks. By promising various war moguls that he’ll destroy Superman for a cut of the profits, he puts a genetic stew made from Superman’s own DNA aboard one of the rockets he knows Superman is going to throw into the sun. After the Man of Steel does, Nuclear Man is born, a being bent on the destruction of Superman and to do Lex Luthor’s bidding. Will Superman stand against this solar villain or will he fail and let the world fall along with him? This was the last box office outing for the Man of Steel for almost twenty years. As a general premise, it’s a basic idea: save the world, your main villain doesn’t want you to and thus creates something powerful to defeat you. But something gets lost in translation and there are so many laughable moments in the movie that it’s the worst of the Superman movies when it could have been the flick to redeem the franchise. The special effects are terrible. I don’t understand how the SFX from the movies nine years earlier were better. Most of the flying scenes were like a cut-out of Superman against a still back drop. Even in one of them, when he’s flying along the river, you can see the wake of the boat from the camera crew.

The fight choreography was overly-dramatic and something you’d see in a school play. It seemed they either tried too hard with this movie and it all fell apart, or they just didn’t try at all. As always, Christopher Reeve was amazing as Superman. That’s who he was.

Margot Kidder was back as Lois Lane in this one and you can see glimpses of the connection she and Superman had in Superman I and II, but nothing comes to fruition in this. Granted, this movie didn’t have any romantic elements other than one scene where the two fly together, which was just repeated footage cut over a multitude of backgrounds. (They fly around the whole world in that sequence in record time, too.) There is a lot wrong with this movie with plenty of story and continuity inconsistencies, never mind the introduction of new superpowers that are not in the comics or other films (i.e. Superman rebuilding the Great Wall of China just by looking it). There were, however, some things right with the movie. One of my favorite parts is when Clark and Superman are invited up to Lacy Warfield’s (Mariel Hemingway’s) penthouse. Clark has to keep coming up with ways to disappear and become Superman and vice versa without tipping Lois and Lacy off that the two are one and the same. This was well done and the ways he does it are very creative.

Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor—yes, he is the greatest criminal mind of our time and for good reason. He does the part just as well as he did back in Superman I and II. Who else would come up with a way to destroy Superman that would also make him stinking rich in the meantime? This is one of those movies that if you go in and see it for what it is, you’ll be fine with it. Won’t change your life, but you’ll be fine with it. If you go in expecting a stellar superhero movie, especially one that could stand toe-to-toe with the super flicks of today, then you’ll want to look elsewhere.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN II

CAST

Christopher Reeve (Rear Window)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers)
Ned Beatty (Rango)
Jackie Cooper (The Champ)
Terence Stamp (Yes Man)
Marc McClure (Back To The Future)
Sarah Douglas (Puppet Master III)
Jack O’Halloran (King Kong 1976)
Valerie Perrine (What Women Want)
Susannah York (They Shoot Horsesm Don’t They?)
Clifton James (Live and Let Die)
Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter)

Superman II opens with a visual recap of the first movie during the opening credits. This is intended to refresh the memories of those who saw Superman, not to provide a primer for those who did not. Almost all of the surviving characters from Superman are back, some for cameos and some for more substantive screen time. The comically villainous Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) once again provides a thorn in Superman’s side; his henchman, Otis (Ned Beatty), appears in a few scenes, as does the scatterbrained Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). The three villains from Krypton – General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran) – have greatly expanded roles. Everyone on the Daily Planet staff has returned: Perry White (Jackie Cooper), Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure), and, of course, Lois Lane (Margo Kidder). Even Superman’s dead mother, Lara (Susannah York), makes a fleeting appearance. Absent is Marlon Brando, who refused to allow his work from Superman to be used in flashbacks or otherwise. Fortunately, Jor-El’s absence isn’t an issue.

Because the roster of characters is loaded with returning faces, there isn’t much room for new players. E.G. Marshall plays the United States President in a few scenes, and Clifton James has a cameo as the Sheriff of East Houston.  Other than those two and a few other minor characters (such as the bully in the diner who has a couple of run-ins with Clark Kent), Superman II is stocked from the same pool as Superman. (Almost everyone except Brando signed for two movies at the outset.) Rectifying one of Superman’s flaws, Superman II offers not just one, but three, effective villains. Each of the criminals from Krypton is as strong as the Man of Steel, and their amorality makes them far more dangerous. They have come to Earth for conquest and revenge (upon the son of their former jailer), and are surprised to learn that Kal-El is not lording it over the inferior human beings. Upon realizing this, a bemused Zod remarks, “This ‘Superman’ is nothing of the kind. I have discovered his weakness. He cares about these creatures.” Ursa, groping for a response, ventures, “Like pets?” The prominence of the three supervillains allows Lex Luthor to fill the role of comic relief – a part that fits Hackman to a “T”. And, in addition to playing an important part in the way things eventually turn out, Luthor has nearly all of the best lines.

The film opens with Superman flying to Paris to stop a group of terrorists from blowing up the Eiffel Tower with a hydrogen bomb. Hurling the device deep into space before it can explode, Superman saves the planet from nuclear devastation. Unbeknownst to him, however, he creates a bigger problem. Shock waves from the bomb rip open the “Phantom Zone” in which Jor-El had imprisoned Zod and his two cronies. Free, they make their way to the Moon, then to Earth, intent upon conquest. Meanwhile, Clark and Lois end up in Niagara Falls doing a piece of investigative journalism. While there, things heat up between the two of them as Lois finally realizes that Clark and Superman are one and the same. Once she has confessed her love for him, and he for her, they fly to his Fortress of Solitude, where he uses a supposedly irreversible process to strip away his superpowers so he can share his life with a mortal. Unfortunately, after returning to the real world and getting a rude awakening about his new physical limitations, Clark learns that, without Superman, the world is doomed to be ruled by Zod, Ursa, Non, and perhaps Luthor (who only wants Australia). So, leaving Lois to return to Metropolis by herself, he heads back to the Fortress, hoping to find some way to resurrect his powers.

Obviously, the centerpiece of the film is the epic battle between Superman and the supervillains, which takes place high above Metropolis. Pyrotechnics abound, and, while the flying sequences still suffer from the same problems as those in the original Superman, their deficiencies are not distracting enough to diminish the high adrenaline aspects of the struggle. However, while this may be the most ambitious part of the movie, it’s not my favorite – that honor goes to the Clark/Lois scenes at Niagara Falls, which are, by turns, humorous, gentle, and suffused with a quiet sense of joy. Both Kidder and Reeve shine during these moments, and they display the kind of chemistry that has us rooting for them to defy the odds and remain together. It’s the freshness of these scenes that makes the denouement unexpectedly touching.

As with the original Superman, Superman II is a comic book come to life. It is a fantasy, and, as a result, the more deeply you apply rational thought to what’s transpiring on screen, the more quickly everything will unravel. Fortunately, the rapid pacing and strong character identification makes suspension of disbelief a relatively easy task, even during the most preposterous of moments (Luthor’s escape from prison, Clark’s return to the Fortress, and the final “twist” that results in Zod and his fellows getting their comeuppance). In fact, one of the key elements that differentiates the first two Supermans from the later pair of sequels (and the tangentially related Supergirl, for that matter) is our ability to suspend disbelief. Superman III and Superman IV are so patently idiotic that no amount of goodwill on the viewer’s part will allow him or her to get past the bad writing.

Visually, the look and feel of Superman has been replicated in the sequel. Unlike Batman, which staked its credibility on style, Superman was never as concerned with the visual dynamic. The Fortress of Solitude is the exception, but there is no attempt to hide the fact that Metropolis is actually New York City. Musically, the decision was made to retain John Williams’ signature themes from the original Superman, as re-worked by Ken Thorne. The result is effective, allowing the two Supermans to be as much musical twins as they are visual ones. Most importantly, Superman II delivers on the promise hinted at in Superman. Which is the better film? That’s a hard choice to make, since both succeed in different ways. Superman acquaints us with the characters and sets up the scenario; Superman II takes the plot threads introduced in the original and resolves them. In my review of Superman, I noted that it is possible to watch and enjoy that film without having seen the sequel. A similar comment can be made regarding Superman II – having viewed its predecessor is not a necessary prerequisite to appreciating the second installment. Nevertheless, it should be obvious that the best approach is to see both movies (back-to-back, if possible).


As promised at the end of Superman II, there was a Superman III.