Just saw the Richard Donner cut of Superman 2 for the first time.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll explain. Richard Donner was the director behind the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. During the filming of Superman 1, around 70% of Superman 2 was filmed as well. However, before Donner could finish the movie, they handed the series over to Richard Lester, who re-shot many of Donner's scenes and changed the movie overall. In 2006, Donner was allowed to restore his version as best he could, and this is the result. If you haven't seen either version of the movie, you probably won't get much out of this post. Plus...Spoilers!
Overall, I liked the Donner cut, in fact I liked it better than the original...for the most part. His version was overall more compelling and darker. While much of the movie features the same scenes regardless of the versions you watch, Donner's camera angles are almost always better. But as much as both versions contain the same story and many of the same scenes, they are completely different movies.
In the Donner cut, there's lots more back-story behind the villains. You also see Superman interact with his Kryptonian father more, deepening the relationship between the two. The movie also explains how Superman regained his powers after losing them, and the heavy price he had to pay to regain these powers. Those scenes flesh out Superman's internal struggle more than any other Superman moment I've seen (all the Christopher Reeve movies and Superman Returns.) Also, Lois tries to prove that Clark is Superman in different ways than Lester's version; these scenes are funnier than Lester's version of the film. The villains are more brutal in their methods in this version of the movie. The villains defeat also came across more naturally. The Lester version of the movie gave Superman and Zod's group extra powers that have never existed outside Lester's version, while Donner's version cuts those scenes completely. For the most part, the additions very much improve the overall movie.
On the other hand, some of the additions bring the movie down. As much as the memory erasing kiss at the end of Lester's version was stupid, Donner's ending is simply ridiculous. I'm sure he would have done differently if he had the chance, but I'd take the memory erasing kiss over re-hashing the first movie's rewinding time solution. Also, the Donner cut removed several scenes that explain several conversations later on. Also, while the Donner cut does improve several special effects, it also uses test footage at times. The test footage looks horrible, and barely fits into the rest of the movie.
Overall, as much as the Donner cut is mostly better than the Lester cut, it also has some major problems. Frankly, Superman 2 is a sad case of a movie directed by two men who were too greedy to use each others footage. Both movies are still great, but joining them together would have made a stronger movie overall. I'd recommend the Richard Donner cut to any fan of Superman, or people who enjoy superhero movies in general. Just, I'd recommend watching Lester's version first.
Two word review: Great Alternative