Superman Returns sequel or no, Man of Steel fans are getting a new movie. Make that, a new old movie.
A reconstructed version of 1980's Superman II, largely featuring footage shot and ditched nearly 30 years ago, including 15 minutes worth of Marlon Brando espousing fatherly advice from "Kryp-tin," will be released on DVD on Nov. 28, Warner Home Video announced Friday.
Not a "special" or "expanded" edition, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, named after the film's original director, is billed as an unprecedented do-over.
"With this DVD release, Richard Donner has become the first director in history to be able to complete a film he left during production," Warners said in a statement.
Donner was shooting Superman II along with 1978's Superman: The Movie when, as Warners delicately put it, "creative differences...became irreconcilable." Translation: Donner was fired--after he finished Superman, but before he finished Superman II.
The Superman II that subsequently opened in theaters, played on TV, got issued on video, and reissued on DVD is credited to A Hard Day's Night's Richard Lester, who reshot, reworked and finished the movie.
Not to be pushed aside, Lester's version (which contains more than a few feet of the Donner footage, but none of the Donner-directed Brando scenes) is also getting a new DVD release.
In fact, in Lucasfilm fashion, Warners will be issuing--or, rather reissuing--all four Christopher Reeve-led Superman movies, from the original 1978 opus to 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. The films were issued separately and as a four-disc set just five years ago.
This time out, the movies will all feature commentary tracks; last time out, only Superman: The Movie did. And, this time out, there will be two Superman IIs to choose from.
"This looks like the holy grail. It does," Barry Freiman of SupermanHomepage.com said of the Donner Superman II. "From what I've seen so far, it looks like it's going to be what anybody wants."
In a recent interview with iFMagazine.com, Superman Returns director Bryan Singer said he'd seen the first 20 minutes of the Donner cut, "and it was awesome."
Singer told the site one sequence he saw was recreated using Reeve's and Margot Kidder's old screen tests for Clark Kent and Lois Lane, respectively.
"It was such an impressive thing to watch," Singer said.
According to Warners, the Donner Superman II features a different opening and ending than the Lester Superman II. The reinstated Brando appears in "three pivotal scenes," according to Superman Cinema (www.supermancinema.co.uk). And the "Lester Humour," as the fan site put it, has been "reduced or completely cut out."
Among those presumably pleased is Kidder, who last year raved about Donner's "really, really fabulous" lost film to a Canadian comic convention audience.
"So, there is somewhere, in a vault, wonderful Dick Donner Superman II scenes with Christopher and I, and I'd love you to write Warner Bros. and ask where it is," Kidder said, according to ComicsContinuum.com.
While the Donner vision is now realized, the future of the big-screen Superman franchise is unclear.
TMZ.com reported this month that Warners will pass on a Superman Returns sequel unless the movie, reported to have cost as "little" as $204 million or as much as $260 million, cracks $200 million at the domestic box office. (Like Warners, TMZ.com is part of Time Warner.) As of Thursday, per BoxOfficeMojo.com, the film stood at $171 million.