Superman II

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President: "Oh, God."
General Zod: "Zod."

Superman II, the first sequel to Superman: The Movie, was released in 1980 (1981 in the US).

General Zod and his two allies, convicted criminals from Superman's home planet of Krypton, are accidentally freed from the Phantom Zone. (Their imprisonment is the opening scene of Superman: The Movie.) The trio arrive on Earth, eager to conquer the planet -- and Zod is all too happy to discover Jor-El's son is still alive. Admist his battles with Zod, Superman increasingly romantic relationship with Lois Lane is also explored further.

Late into the film's production, the producers decided to can Richard Donner; while the official reason given for the Salkinds firing Donner was "he was going over budget", many of the cast and crew members suspected his firing was due to creative differences (Donner wanted to make the series more serious, while the Salkinds wanted it to be campier). Richard Lester -- who admitted to never having read a comic book (Superman or otherwise) in his life -- was hired as the director to finish out the film. While the result was still satisfying (to some extent), the cast and crew who were angry about this decision declined to return to work on Superman III.

An alternate cut of this film -- "The Richard Donner Cut" -- was eventually released on DVD. While several scenes had to be reconstructed from incomplete materials (in one case, a 1978 screen test between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder was used), this cut is as close to Donner's vision of Superman II that anyone will ever see.


Tropes used in Superman II include:

"I will kneel before you, if it will save lives."
"It will. Starting with your own."

  • Ambiguously Jewish: Played for Laughs. When Superman saves a boy who was about to plummet into the Niagara Falls, a stereotypical old Brooklyn lady exclaims: "What a nice man! Of course he's Jewish!"
    • This can also be seen as a Shout-Out to the characters creators who were Jewish.
  • Bar Slide: What Clark does to the guy in the diner who bullied him when he had given up his super powers.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Zod, Ursa and Non (well, him, not so much) had a lengthy conversation with each other about taking over the world whilst on the moon. As well as a talking to a cosmonaut. Even if they could talk in space, he shouldn't be able to hear them through his air-tight helmet.
    • They themselves shouldn't be able to hear anything for that matter. Sound doesn't travel through a vacuum. Unless of course, that's yet another Kryptonian power.
  • Batman Gambit: A couple:
    • Superman tricks the Kryptonian villains into losing their powers.
    • In the "Donner Cut," a Batman Gambit is also pulled by Lois while she's attempting to prove Clark and Superman are the same person. She pulls a gun on Clark, saying that if he were Superman it would have no effect. After getting shot, Clark pretends to stagger, but reveals that Lois is, in fact, right. When he points out that if she were wrong, he would have died, Lois then reveals the bullet she shot him with was a blank.
  • Battle Trophy: Ursa does this. See Bling of War.
  • Big Applesauce: Metropolis is clearly just a renamed New York in this film, with many New York landmarks.
  • Big Bad: Zod.
  • Bling of War: Ursa collects emblems from the humans she defeats while on Earth and sews them onto her outfit. Over the course of the film she steals a NASA patch (killing the astronaut who wore it in the process), a deputy's badge, some stars from White House generals... By the end of the movie her clothes are covered in it.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Ursa and Non throw a bus full of people at Superman during the fight in Metropolis. He's slammed into a wall while stopping it.
  • Canon Immigrant: It actually took the better part of thirty years for these versions of the evil Kryptonian characters to arrive in the comics. Zod, who appeared in several Silver-Age comics, had turned into a clustered mess of a character with about four different versions of the character appearing between DC's 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths and 2005's Infinite Crisis, so Geoff Johns made the decision to introduce the most memorable and iconic version of Zod - that of the film - into the DCU. Ursa, in the meantime, had a basis in the Pre-COIE comics - she was Faora (presumably renamed to make a Punny Name for those that would get the joke) and was a Kryptonian murderess who hated men. However, much like Superman II's iconic Zod, she's more famous than any of the other Kryptonian villainesses, and she and Non joined Zod in the 'Last Son' story of Action Comics, before becoming one of the focuses of the 'New Krypton storyarc.
  • Can't Stay Normal: The Movie of the trope. When Superman decides to live as a normal man with his beloved, bad stuff happens.
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Lex Luthor and Otis are shown sharing the same cell in Metropolis Prison. They also work together in the prison laundry.
  • Data Crystal: Kryptonian crystals made by Jor-El.
  • Deadly Disc: Ursa throws a manhole cover at Superman and knocks him into a car.
  • De-Power: Superman gives up his powers in order to have a romantic relationship with Lois.
  • Decoy Leader: For the President, when Zod captures the White House.
  • Diner Brawl: After said De-Power, Clark Kent gets menaced by a trucker in a diner. Once he gets his powers back, he comes back to the same diner for a little payback.
  • Disney Villain Death: Zod's crew after being depowered are knocked down a chasm or fall in while trying to fly. Deleted scenes (used in some TV cuts) reveal that the villains are not, in fact, dead, and are instead arrested by the "Arctic Patrol," but in other cuts, it certainly looks like Superman let the villains die.
    • Not only that, but it looks like Lois commits her first murder!
  • Doppelganger Spin: Superman does this to baffle his enemies (and the audience) in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Dumb Muscle: Non.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: The President of the United States delivers an announcement abdicating authority to General Zod, though at the end he pleads for help from Superman.
  • Evil Brit: General Zod and Ursa.
  • Finger Wag: Superman issues one of these after Lex tries to double-double cross him.
  • Flaw Exploitation:
    • General Zod realizes Superman's weakness is that he cares for the humans he's protecting. Zod and his minions start attacking and endangering the people of Metropolis. Superman finally realizes that fighting his enemies in the middle of the city is endangering innocent lives and takes off.
    • Superman himself exploits Luthor's double-dealing nature, getting him to inadvertently help Superman depower the villains.
  • Hellish Copter: During the Army's battle with the three Kryptonian supervillains Ursa blows a helicopter away with her super breath, causing it to crash.
  • Hologram: How Lex fools the guards during his escape. Also, in the Lester cut, Lara literally pops out of her crystal projection and reaches out to Kal-El before the De-Power. In the Donner cut, Jor-El comes to life momentarily to re-power Kal-El.
  • I Have Your Wife: Ursa does this with Lois Lane.
  • It Amused Me: In the Donner Cut, Zod takes a machine gun from a guard at the White House, then grins as he fires the weapon at the guards.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Trope Namer.
  • Large Ham: General Zod.
  • Lighter and Softer: While the original movie wasn't exactly dark and moody, it sure wasn't as goofy as the sequel. The Richard Donner Cut removes most of the slapstick and lazy jokes in attempt to bring its feel closer to the franchise's roots.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: At the end of the movie, Lois Lane can't handle being Superman's girlfriend and Secret Keeper, so he uses his Super Amnesia power to remove her knowledge of his secret identity and their relationship.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Richard Donner directed the first Superman movie using the word "verisimilitude" as the production motto in scripting and crafting the film. They devoted a lot of their effort to figuring out how to have things make sense within the ludicrous framework of the premise and plot. Why doesn't Superman solve all the world's problems? Jor-El's dialogue explains (piecemeal) that there is an intergalactic rule that Superman is bound to not to interfere in the course of another planet's history, this rule having been put into place as the result of the early history of "the twelve known galaxies" being rife with warfare due to interference (presumably resulting in stringent vigilance for that sort of thing now, creating the potential for the intergalactic equivalent of an international incident). He is already bending the rules just being Superman in the first place. If the name "Superman" was invented by the media, why is there an S-logo on the outfit? The fancy traditional attire of Kryptonians included family crests in a chest insignia, and the symbol on the seal of Jor-El's clan coincidentally happens to look somewhat like an S. And so on.
    • One of Donner's criticisms of Richard Lester's Superman II mirrored the fans in that they introduced so many strange powers that it didn't make any sense because they were never introduced, including teleporting, telekinetic beams and, well, the power to pull off a cellophane "S" shield and throw it at your enemies. Donner's Directors Cut of Superman II eliminated these weird powers (along with much of the comedy). This example is especially insightful because the audience has no trouble accepting a man who can shoot laser beams from his eyes or start hurricanes with his breath, but will immediately balk when the fictional boundaries of his abilities are overstepped -- even if these do not introduce inconsistencies per se. Although admittedly Superman did not start off with all his powers in the comics either.
      • One scene in the Richard Donner cut did show the Krypton Criminals using telekinesis. One of them grabbed a shotgun out of a deputy's hands telekinetically. This may have been intended by Donner, or it may simply have been the only surviving cut of this scene that they could find to put onto the DVD.
    • Superman IV: The Quest For Peace took this a step further, and had Superman exhibit what can best be described as "Rebuild-The-Great-Wall-of-China-vision".
      • And that's almost exactly what the Mad Magazine parody of the film calls that power.
  • Magic Countdown: The H-bomb whose timer is supposedly set for 1 minute takes at least 1 minute 24 seconds to detonate.
  • Magic Kiss: The "kiss of Laser-Guided Amnesia" Superman gives to Lois Lane at the end of the movie.
  • Misplaced Vegetation / Misplaced Wildlife: When Superman goes to pick Lois some flowers, he drops into a jungle with a Blue and Gold Macaw from South America and Bird of Paradise Flower from South Africa. Either one of these two things is out of place, or he actually found a botanical garden.
  • Mood Whiplash: After Superman has been crushed under the bus that Non and Ursa threw, the people of Metropolis assume him dead and band together to attack the Kryptonian criminals... who simply stand still and begin blowing them away with their gale-force wind equivalent breath. In what is supposed to be a scene showing the utter futility of regular mortals attempting to oppose such beings, with even cars being thrown around, we have such moments shown like; a couple being blown away after coming out of a take-away, completely oblivious to everything happening, and the waitress who served them following suit (they'd forgotten their change), a guy in a telephone booth having a seemingly hilarious conversation, continuing to laugh even as the phone booth is dragged down the street, and the wigs of a man and woman being blown off. All of a sudden, it can almost be seen where the ridiculous opening from Superman III came from. In the Richard Donner cut of the film however, these scenes are left out, leaving just the destruction, averting this.
  • Monumental Damage: Mt. Rushmore and the White House.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Clark has this reaction upon learning that the Kryptonian villains have essentially conquered the world while he was with Lois and giving up his powers.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The theatrical release of Superman II has some of the most Egregious and parodied examples out there, including:
    • Telekinesis, used by all three of the Kryptonian criminals and Superman.
    • Throwing a giant cellophane S.
    • Teleportation (although this could have been just smoke-and-mirrors or super speed).
    • In the extended cut released for TV, Fortress-of-Solitude-Destroying Vision.
    • Erasing Lois Lane's memory by kissing her (and grabbing her face in Mr. Spock's "Forget" grip).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In both versions, Superman tosses a nuke into outer space where it detonates, smashing the Phantom Zone and freeing the villains. The main difference is that in the Donner version, it was the same nuke Supes tossed off in the original.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: How Superman beat the villains.
  • One-Sided Arm Wrestling: Ursa vs a human male.
  • Phantom Zone: The three villains are imprisoned there by Jor-El. They are freed to wreak havoc when Superman's disposal of a nuclear bomb in space shatters the Phantom Zone.
  • Power Nullifier: Superman became "permanently" human by absorbing an extremely large dose of red solar radiation. When the Phantom Zone villains arrive on Earth, however, he regains his powers by consuming the energy stored within the Fortress of Solitude. (This is only revealed in the director's cut; the original version has a Deus Ex Machina transition between Superman staring at a crystal and reappearing fully powered).
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: "General, would you care to step outside?"
    • Also doubles as Meaningful Echo, given that a depowered Clark said almost the same thing to the trucker in the diner before getting beaten up.
  • Pretty in Mink: Miss Teschmacher wears one in a deleted scene in the Ricard Donner. It's not Fur and Loathing, since it's established she is not actually evil.
  • Recut: After nearly finishing production on Superman II, director Richard Donner was fired and replaced with Richard Lester, who re-shot much of the film. The original theatrical cut is about 35% Donner footage and 65% Lester footage. In 2006, Richard Donner released his own cut of the film on DVD, which is composed of about 90% of his material, and makes use of rehearsal footage and screen tests to make up the parts he never got a chance to film properly.
  • Reset Button: Superman decides that he can't put Lois Lane in danger, so he makes her forget who he is...by kissing her, somehow.
  • Reset Button Ending: In the "Richard Donner Cut", Superman undoes the entire movie by spinning the world back (as he did in the theatrical release of the first film), to keep Lois from knowing his identity. This is after the villains have been defeated.
  • Rushmore Refacement: The Kryptonian supervillains stop by Mount Rushmore to carve something new with their heat vision. No points for guessing what.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: Superman gives up his powers so he can be with Lois Lane and what happens? Three Kryptonian supervillains who hate his guts show up and go on a rampage in his adopted home country. He just Can't Stay Normal.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Lois does this with Superman's "S" shirt of all things.
  • Shiny New Australia: Lex Luthor trades his knowledge of Superman (affinity for Lois and the location of the Fortress of Solitude) for rulership of Australia (and later Cuba as well).
  • Smith Will Suffice: Between the President of the U.S. and General Zod.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Oddly enough, used TWICE:
    • Superman is setting glasses on a table and opening a bottle of champagne. He says to Lois, "I was thinking maybe we could..." and the bottle pops and overflows.
    • In a deleted scene, Superman and Lois share some suggestive dialogue... which turns out to be about baking a soufflé with Superman's heat vision.
  • Take Over the World: Zod actually succeeds... for a while.
  • Terrible Trio: General Zod (brains), Ursa (beauty), and Non (muscle).
  • Thrown Down a Well
  • Victory Is Boring: Zod and the other Kryptonians experience this.

I WIN!! I always win...

Ursa: You're master of all you survey.
Zod: So I was yesterday... and the day before.

  • Villain Team-Up: Lex Luthor plus three Kryptonians.
  • Walking on Water: In contrast to most alien visitations, when the three Kryptonian criminals touch down on planet "Houston", they land in a lake. They then proceed, using their gravity-defying abilities, to rise above and walk on top of the surface of the lake, freaking out any onlookers nearby.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Miss Teschmacher just disappears after the visit to the Fortress of Solitude in Superman II. And, if you are watching the original cut, where is Jor-El?
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While Metropolis' location is often ambiguous in other media, this movie clearly treats it as "New York by another name."
  • While Rome Burns: When Superman and the Kryptonian villains are destroying half of Metropolis in the wake of their fight there is a crazed hobo in a telephone booth who laughs and talks to no one on the other end while the booth gets blown sideways down the street by super breath.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Invoked by Ursa towards Superman. We never get to find out. Fortunately Lois was there.