The Similarities and Differences of Man of Steel and Donner’s Superman – Part 2: The Metropolis Years


Well I already wrote up Part 1 of this 3 part editorial on the Similarities and Differences Between the Richard Donner Superman films and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. The last one was about the Smallville scenes and how both were presented different and had similar ideas. Man of Steel explored more of his time growing up, while Superman: The Movie focused more on just getting to the meat of the film. While both did a great job I do like the exploration in Man of Steel a lot more as we get to see a deeper character. I also explored what was the same and different during the Krypton segments, which again Man of Steel explored on and many viewers would agree, even those who didn’t care for the film that the Krypton part of the film was great. Now lets move to the Metropolis era.


Superman_1978_posterDirected by Richard Donner, Written by Tom Mankiewicz by a Story from Mario Puzo and Starring Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman 

Now it goes without saying that Superman and Superman II have a ton of scenes inMetropolis where as Man of Steel really only has a few, mainly due to that film focusing more on his traveling and then the threat of the Kryptonian Army, I will focus on Superman’s presence in the film as a whole. The final fight in Superman II and Man of Steel will be discussed in my third part.

When we get to Metropolis after Clark has officially become Superman, we are than introduced to the rest of the characters, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure), Perry White (Jackie Cooper), a new bumbling Clark Kent than Otis (Ned Beatty), followed by Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine) we get an idea of the new tone for the film being a bit more busy.

  • SCENE 1: We also get a sense of the danger as leaving the first day of work we get an armed robbery attempt from an alleyway, Clark without revealing himself is able to stop it.
  • SCENE 2: As Lois is getting ready to take off for a news story something occurs with the helicopter which forces Clark to finally reveal himself to the world to save Lois(in one of my many favorite scenes)as she comes falling from the roof, than saving the pilot who is falling with the helicopter, this also establishes his strength as he is able to hold Lois in one arm and hold the landing area of the helicopter in another arm.
  • SCENE 3: This is followed by a few scenes in which Superman continues to fly around the city helping people from stopping a bank robbery to getting a cat out of a tree. The save in which he stops the bank robbery does show him having fun with his abilities, knowing at the moment he has no weakness and it also shows him loving the moments where he can be himself and not the bumbling Clark Kent, which he does show a bit annoyance to at times. There is a deleted scene which was restored in the Special Edition that was released in 2001 where we see Superman in the fortress talking with Jor-El about how good it felt to show who he really is and the disappointment he has when Jor-El tells him why he needs to continue being Clark Kent. It is a deleted scene so it’s not part of the overall film but wanted to point it out.
  • SCENE 4: After Superman has revealed himself the planet begins to wonder whether he is real, fake, good or evil, mainly the first two with Perry quickly gathering all his reporters to get the scoop on who Superman really is as every newspaper has only been able to report on the same thing. Superman tells Lois he will only speak with her, we get a short interview where we discover a bit more about his abilities as well as one weakness and we get our first Superman/Lois Flying sequence where we see a sort of romance starting. Superman manages to let Lois go but quickly saves her than after a brief moment where Lois thinks to herself we are done and she first calls him Superman.
  • SCENE 5: Superman is finally confronted by Lex Luthor, who using his super hearing(which Lex discovered due to the above interview) is able to find Lex in his underground base. In a deleted scene we also see that Lex has an array of security measures he uses to test Superman’s strengths further showing Lex’s intelligence. We than discover that Lex, who earlier said he was going to another country to get Kryptonite has managed to secure it in a lead box(which again was revealed in the interview)and Superman learns of his first weakness and is momentarily defeated. Miss Teschmacher fearing for her mother’s safety helps Superman as Lex sends off two rockets, one going to Hackensack, NJ and the other to San Andreas fault line in the hopes of creating his own land to start his empire.
  • SCENE 6: Superman is shown being heroic first sending the Hackensack missile into Outer Space(which ties into the Richard Donner cut of Superman II) as he saves a school bus full of children, a train full of passengers, Jimmy Olsen and many of the town’s people(not all of course)from the Hoover Dam breaking. Lois throughout all the saves is caught in between one of the Fault lines breaking open underneath her car and is taken underground eventually being buried alive.
  • SCENE 7: The death of Lois sends Superman in a rage where he is confronted with the voices of both his fathers, Jor-El is heard telling him “It is forbidden for you to interfere in human history” while Pa Kent’s voice is heard saying “All I know son is you are here for a reason” and then hearing his younger self saying “All I can all those powers and I couldn’t even save him. ” He decides to defy his birth father and effectively choose the human race over what his father wishes for him, thus becoming more of Pa Kent’s son, who gave him the chance to make a choice.
    Now in the original end for Superman: The Movie he does not spin the Earth around reversing time as that was Superman II’s ending, in fact according to Richard Donner they had not yet figured out how to end the film except the it would end with the Kryptonian Criminals shouting “FREE”.This is where we go into Superman II; The Richard Donner Cut, as I said above I will compare the final fight in my third part when describing the action.
  • SCENE 8: Superman II featured many more scenes with the Kryptonians and Lex as the first film got to know about Superman, so this was the half that really go to delve into the minds of the villains. However, one area of the Superman side of the story, aside from the love story between Lois and Clark was Lois’ attempt to prove Clark is Superman. In the Richard Lester (Theatrical Cut) it took a while to really get there and it was done in a rushed way, Clark tripping over a pink bear and putting his hand in the fire and showing no marks. But the Richard Donner version knew right off the bat that a journalist, who is supposed to be smart and is working with Superman should be able to spot him and did this by having a moment where Clark seen standing in the same way as Superman in the newspaper she draws the fedora hat and glasses and starts to try to prove Clark is Superman.
  • SCENE 9: The scene is again repeated via test footage showing that after Lois came out of the river(although in this cut that scene was removed so maybe it was a Lester scene or maybe Lester just shot the scene but it was in the script) she once again tries to trick Clark into revealing himself, this time shooting a blank at him, this of course does trick him as he doesn’t know the difference and removes his glasses just for Lois to break to him that he never would have been hurt had he actually been just a normal human being.
  • SCENE 10: After the reveal Superman brings Lois to the Fortress of Solitude and explains to her where the Fortress came from. This is all going on as General Zod, Ursa and Non are arriving on Earth (after killing the three astronauts) but we do see that they sleep with each other (in the Richard Lester version it’s after he loses his powers, in the Donner cut it’s before). In the Donner Cut Superman discusses his love for Lois with Jor-El, who disapproves but decides to let it be but only if he gives up his powers. In the Lester version its the same pretty much but more warm as its his Mother. In the first film Superman defies Jor-El, so the impact of this defiance is not as big as originally this was where Superman acting out against his father was meant to be placed not the original film.

That will do for Superman: The Movie and Superman II (both cuts), now onto Man of Steel.


man_of_steel_posterDirected by Zack Snyder, Screenplay by David S. Goyer, from a Story by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan

Now Man of Steel was structured much differently than how Richard Donner structured his films, his films were easy to follow and had a streamlined way of telling the story. This film took the film and went right into the story using the younger years as flashbacks, which can be seen in the first part called The Smallville Years. It is also more modern so it made use of the different era in which its presented. However, in the Richard Donner films it took Lois a whole film before figuring out that Clark Superman this film in the era of the internet and blogs and whatnot decided to throw that out the window and show exactly how smart Lois is at her job, which I really enjoyed. So lets continue

  • SCENE 1: After the Krypton portion of the film we see that Clark is working as a fisherman and he discovers that an Oil Rig is on fire and it’s not expected that anyone will live, this is the first moment as an adult that we see Clark saving people, he does not fly as he hasn’t yet gotten that far but he does show incredible strength as he is able to keep the oil rig from collapsing just long enough for the workers to get off safely. This of course leads into the first flashback.
  • SCENE 2: Clark is shown going more North, we are not quite sure why except we do hear in another scene that people are describing what could be a space ship, which tells us that he is being drawn to this eventually ending up working with those who have discovered the spacecraft, which will be discovered later as a Kryptonian Scout Ship from 20,000 years ago. We meet Lois Lane(played by Amy Adams) who is there representing The Daily Planet and at first does not notice Clark. Later in the evening she notices Clark at night entering the ship and she is hurt when taking photos. Clark saves her by cauterizing her wound before taking control of the ship and leaving.
  • SCENE 3: Clarks meets his father Jor-El who talks about the history of their people and his hopes for him on the planet he was sent. This is followed by Clark getting his suit and becoming Superman and learning to fly. The scene is one of those lighter moments for the character as we see great joy in his face finally knowing who he is and his new-found ability, very reminiscent of the scene with Young Clark in Superman: The Movie using his super speed and having fun with it or when Older Superman mocks one of the bank robbers with “Bad Vibrations” after being his with a crowbar with no marks.
  • SCENE 4: Lois sends out her news report about the “Guardian Angel” and Alien even against her boss Perry White’s (played Laurence Fishburne) disapproval in hopes of forcing Clark to reveal himself and find out if he is a good person or bad person. We later discover Perry , while believing in Lois’ story he also knows the world is not ready for such a person.
  • SCENE 5: As I said above Lois is able to discover who Clark is by following his trailer, something a good reporter would be able to accomplish in today’s world of technology. Of course, the scene is played as a montage, thus it feels like a much quicker discovery(she goes from the North Pole back to Smallville that takes days, if not weeks).
  • SCENE 6: Clark is shown going back home to tell his mother that he finally found out who he is and is now home, he also assures Martha that Lois is a friend. Clark returning home is similar to how Clark became Superman in Superman: The Movie but obviously waited to reveal himself, we never know how long from the time he flies out of the Fortress to him meeting Lois at the Daily Planet or where he is in between. You have to assume he went home to let his mother know he finally found what he wanted to find and probably spent some time there.
  • SCENE 7: As Clark is settling back in Zod and his troops make their way to Earth to announce their arrival and their request for Superman (or Kal-El) to show himself, making the promise that no one will be hurt if he surrenders himself but will retaliate if he does not. Clark ponders on what he should do for a bit, eventually getting advice from a priest that he has to do what he feels is right and eventually surrenders himself with the promise that Lois(who has been arrested for treason)goes free.
  • SCENE 8: Clark is put in handcuffs as he puts it he wants the military to feel safe and talks with Lois, Dr. Emil Hamilton (played by Richard Schiff) and General Swanwick (played by Henry Lennix)about what he hopes turning himself over will accomplish and if he is a friend to the planet.


Played by Terence Stamp in the Donner Films and Michael Shannon in Man of Steel.

In Superman: The Movie and both cuts of Superman II, Zod is portrayed as a mad dictator, who surrounds himself with worshippers and considers himself a God, even while human on Krypton. He is also shown in a sort of Shakespearean way in how he talks and moves, rarely getting his own hands dirty.

In Man of Steel it is revealed that General Zod is now a modified Kryptonian, who is born with a set destiny to do whatever it takes to preserve the lives of all Kryptonians and Krypton(this is why he would rather destroy Earth by recreating Krypton instead of just living on Earth with powers). I will go deeper into both versions of Zod in the Action portion of my 3 part article.


Played by Marlon Brando in the Donner Films and Russell Crowe in Man of Steel

In Superman: The Movie, Jor-El, like General Zod are free to make their own choices but are both very Shakespearean in how they talk. Jor-El in this film is a member of the council but is ignored by the other members which seals their fate. We do see in the Donner cut of Superman II that he is stern and decides to condemn Clark to being human when defied. However we also see the compassion within him when Clark returns broken down and fearing for the human race when he discovers Zod’s come to Earth.

In Man of Steel it’s shown that while Jor-El is a product of the same genetics as Zod he has the strength to think beyond what he is bred to know, showing an evolution of sorts. He is also shown to be more than a scientist, but a fighter, willing to go to great lengths to save his son and give Krypton a chance to rebuild later on. Jor-El in this film communicates in a more direct sense, as if he is in the room and communicates with Clark, Lois and Zod throughout the film offering advice and pleas. It will be interesting to see if his character returns in Man of Steel 2 whenever it is made as Russell Crowe has expressed interest.


As I said above this film presents itself through Clark’s journey. In Superman: The Movie  we see that Clark goes through a 12 year journey to become Superman, but he does so in a series of voice overs and a montage of space. This film is presenting some of that journey in a much lengthier sense. In the flashback where Jonathan dies he’s maybe 17 or 18 years old and he clearly states when he surrenders he is 33 years old, which means that he was traveling for at least 15 years.

So with that all said stay tuned for Part II as I look at the action and saves featured in Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Man of Steel.

Eric Curto
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