Despite a change in director and scenes shot years apart, Superman II is far more coherent than its infantile predecessor. No longer needing to stitch together a mythology, it can spend time with its characters; the soap opera of Clark Kent and Lois Lane (punctuated by the heightened drama of superheroics) being truer to the comics and radio shows familiar to audiences than a rehashed De Mille biblical epic. It is here that Christopher Reeve excels – his nervous, emasculated persona failing to hide a charming sweetness.
The rom-com that takes up half the picture is of course disturbed by the return of the repressed, a delightfully camp Terrence Stamp as the megamaniacal General Zod, waltzing into ownership of the planet (on the President of the USA’s say-so, of course) in Superman’s absence. It’s rather strange to see the Samson and Delilah subplot – in which Supes gives up his powers for his love of Lois – without the sheer misogyny of the Old Testament fable, but naturally it is something the story insists he must reverse, ahead of a satisfying showdown on the streets of Metropolis.