[Honestly, I was really just trying to figure out a way to showcase that autographed photo.]
I didn't really feel like re-watching the movie, but I did feel I needed a refresher before I started typing. Instead of grabbing the version we all know and (kind of) love, I grabbed "The Richard Donner Cut". I bought the Superman DVD box set back in 2006, but never took the time to watch the alternate version of Superman II
The internet has documented at great length the details of what happened between the release of Superman: The Movie, and the completion of filming Superman II.
In a nutshell, Richard Donner directed and filmed both of the first two Superman movies at the same time, intending for Part 1 to end with a cliffhanger. He filmed the sequence where Superman turns back time (spoiler again, sorry) to be used in Superman II. A last-minute decision to use the time sequence in Part 1 meant they had no end for Part 2.
Then Richard Donner was replaced with Richard Lester as director, more scenes were shot, and the movie was completed as the movie we all saw at the theater.
The Donner Cut does what it can to recreate what Donner would have done, if he could have finished it himself. Some scenes and effects were never filmed or finished. In fact, one key scene in the new cut was recreated by editing together Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve's separate screen tests!
It totally works, as long as you forgive the rough edges of the edit. The story is much tighter. The love story makes more sense, and the Father/Son dynamic of the first movie is brought to a conclusion. Marlon Brando, missing from the theatrical version, is back in this cut. Once again, forgive the effect shots at the Fortress of Solitude, and it's actually a very poignant storyline.
I don't know why I waited this long to watch it. If you're a Superman fan, and want a new Christopher Reeve movie, you should really watch this. It's good.
More thoughts on Superman are here!