- Movie Rating -

Superman II (1981)

| June 19, 1981

Much will be written about Superman II dealing with its visual effects, it’s villains and it’s equality to 1978’s Superman.  But I fear that not enough will be written about the contribution of Christopher Reeve, the actor charged with convincing us that he could switch from the charming and confidence last son of Krypton to the bumbling Clark Kent.  His performance is really at the heart of these movies and I’m afraid that he gets lost in the shuffle.

First and foremost, the way he has chosen to approach this role.  He knows it’s a character role and that playing just this way or that way can make an actor look ridiculous.  But he chooses to engage us.  He knows that the role is ridiculous but he allows Superman a certain naïve gravatas that never feels like he’s playing larger than life.  He doesn’t have to.  When you stand in the middle of a set dressed in a red cape and blue suit, the wardrobe kind of does the shouting for you.

The narrative through-line of the first movie was his budding romance with Lois Lane and the complication that she was in love with Superman but just good friends with Clark Kent.  The complication here gets even deeper.  Lois’ journalistic instincts are starting to put together that Clark and Superman never seem to occupy the same space at the same time.  She challenges Clark during an assignment at Niagra Falls and the way the Reeve plays the scene is interesting.  She is trying to goad him into turning into Superman by jumping into a river but Clark can’t turn into Superman without revealing his secret identity.  The way he choses to play Clark in this moment of panic is very reminiscent of Cary Grant.  He plays the scene for slapstick and he’s very good at it.

The romance is really the fulcrum here.  Lois challenges Clark on numerous occasions until – spoiler alert – he can’t hide anymore.  The two personas have become one and he can be free to love Lois from the inside out.  What blossoms is one of the great love stories in all of movie history and it is the chemistry of Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve that make it work.

It also challenges Superman’s duties to his adopted planet.  When the three surviving villains from Krypton escape their space prison and try to use their unusual powers to conquer Earth, Supe has a decision – live as a mortal and follow his heart or hide his identity and save the world.

How many big budget movies have that kind of confidence?  How many strive to be this ambitious?  How many can you think of that will simply let the actors have their moments in the middle of million-dollar action scenes.  Superman II is just the movie to follow Superman.  It is exciting, it’s fun, it builds on what was established in the first movie and I think it’s terrific.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized