Superman II (re-edited as Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut) is a 1980 British-American superhero film directed by Richard Lester, based on the DC Comics character Superman. It is a sequel to the 1978 film Superman and stars Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, and Jack O'Halloran. The film was released in Australia and mainland Europe on December 4, 1980, and in other countries throughout 1981. Selected premiere engagements of Superman II were presented in Megasound, a high-impact surround sound system similar to Sensurround.
Superman II is well known for its controversial production. The original director Richard Donner had completed, by his estimation, roughly 75% of the movie in 1977 before being taken off the project. Many of the scenes were shot by second director Richard Lester, who had been an uncredited producer on the first film. However, in order to receive full director's credit, Lester had to shoot up to 51% of the film, which included refilming several sequences originally filmed by Donner. According to statements made by Donner, roughly 25% of the theatrical cut of Superman II contains footage he shot, including all of Gene Hackman's scenes. In 2006, a re-cut of the film was released titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, restoring as much of Donner's original conception as possible including deleted footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El.
The film received positive reviews from film critics, who praised the visual effects and story, as well as Reeve's performance. It grossed $190 million against a production budget of $54 million. Three years after the film's release, a second sequel, Superman III, was released, for which Lester returned as director.
Before the destruction of Krypton, the criminals General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran) are sentenced to banishment into the Phantom Zone for insurrection and murder, amongst other crimes.
Years later, the Phantom Zone is shattered near Earth by a shockwave stemming from the detonation of a hydrogen bomb, which had been launched into space by Superman (Christopher Reeve) after foiling a terrorist plot to blow up Paris. The three Kryptonian criminals are freed from the Zone, finding themselves with super-powers granted by the yellow light of Earth's sun. After attacking human astronauts on the Moon and the small town of East Houston, Idaho (which they mistake as being capital city of "Planet Houston" due to NASA's transmissions), the three criminals travel to the White House and force the President of the United States (E.G. Marshall) to kneel before General Zod, on behalf of the entire planet during an international television broadcast. When the President pleads for Superman to save the Earth, Zod demands that Superman come and "kneel before Zod!"
Meanwhile, the Daily Planet sends Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) to Niagara Falls. After Superman saves a little boy from falling into Niagara Falls, Lois wonders why Superman just happened to be in the area and suspects he and Clark are the same man. She dares Clark to admit he is Superman by jumping into the Niagara Falls river, but Clark saves her without exposing any of his abilities. That night, Clark accidentally falls into the room's fireplace, when trying to recover Lois's comb from the fire. When Lois discovers that his hand is unburned, Clark is forced to admit he is Superman. He takes her to his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic, and shows her the traces of his past stored in the energy crystals of the fortress, one of which is the green crystal that created the Fortress and opened Superman's contact with his parents. Superman declares his love for Lois and his wish to spend his life with her. After conferring with the artificial intelligence of his mother, Lara, Superman becomes a human and removes his superpowers, by exposing himself to red Kryptonian sunlight in a crystal chamber. Clark and Lois become romantically closer, spending the night together. The two leave the Fortress and return from the Arctic by automobile. Arriving at a diner in Metropolis, Clark gets beaten up by a truck driver named Rocky (Pepper Martin). It is there that Clark and Lois learn of Zod's conquest of the world. Realizing that humanity cannot fight Zod themselves, Clark returns to the Fortress to try to regain his powers.
Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) escapes from prison with Eve Teschmacher's help, leaving Otis behind. Luthor and Teschmacher find and infiltrate the Fortress of Solitude before Superman and Lois arrive. Luthor learns of Superman's connection to Jor-El and General Zod. He tells Zod that Superman is the son of Jor-El, their jailer, and offers to lead him to the Man of Steel in exchange for control of Australia. The three Kryptonians form an alliance with Luthor and go to the offices of the Daily Planet. Superman arrives, after having found the green crystal and restoring his powers, and battles the three Kryptonians in Metropolis. Zod realizes Superman cares for the innocent humans and takes advantage of this weakness by threatening bystanders. To protect the civilians and the city, Superman realizes the only way to stop Zod and his crew is to lure them to the Fortress. Superman flies off to save the city. Zod, Ursa, and Non pursue him, kidnapping Lois and taking Luthor. Upon arrival, Zod declares Luthor has outlived his usefulness and plans to kill both Luthor and Superman. Superman tries to get Luthor to lure the three into the crystal chamber to depower them, but Luthor, eager to get back in Zod's favor, reveals the chamber's secret to the villains. Zod forces Superman into the chamber and activates it. Afterwards, Zod forces Kal-El to kneel before him. Superman does so, and Zod extends his hand. However, when Superman squeezes it, Zod grimaces in pain. Zod realizes too late that Superman reconfigured the chamber to expose the trio to red sunlight, while Superman was protected from it. Superman easily defeats Non and Zod, while Lois knocks Ursa into a pit. Superman flies back to civilization, returning Luthor to prison and Lois home.
At the Daily Planet the following day, Clark finds Lois upset about knowing his secret and not able to be open up about her true feelings, because he is Superman. He kisses her, using his abilities to wipe her mind of her knowledge of the past few days. Later, Clark has a rematch with Rocky, who beat him up earlier and defeats him easily. Superman restores the damage done by Zod, replacing the flag on top of the White House and promising the President to never let him down again.