Author Archives: billfoley63

Shin Godzilla: Design Review

Shin Godzilla

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Since this movie has been out a considerable length of time this will be a spoiler heavy review of the design of Shin Godzilla. 

Although Godzilla is a McGuffin I will address how he is designed and depicted in this movie. I am a bit ambivalent about this design. I do not hate it (I don’t hate any Godzilla design) but it is also far from a favorite design. This is the largest Godzilla standing at 118.5 metres (389 ft) which is taller than any other Japanese Godzilla and taller than Legendary Godzilla, the most recent American incarnation of the monster, which stood at 106.7 meters (305ft). His face is craggy and menacing looking which is one of my favorite aspects of this design.

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He has numerous spines/fins on his back which has often been a favorite feature of this creature (Godzilla 2000 being my favorite depiction of this aspect of Godzilla). However the fins/spines are so numerous on his back that they are rendered inconsequential which I find disappointing.

I sometimes call Shin Godzilla “Zombie Godzilla” because in his final form he moves so lethargically slow which means this Godzilla really doesn’t have much of a personality as other Godzillas have had. His atomic ray, which comes from other parts of his body than just his mouth is the best feature of this design. It is the most destructive atomic ray we have seen to date. It is a pure delight to see and with him able to shoot it out from his spines as wells as his tail is complete genius in my view. It is one of the reasons this movie is fresh. It takes a well worn trope in a Godzilla movie and reinvents it in an unexpected and excitingly fresh new way.

Although Godzilla spends the majority of this movie just walking zombie like on his way to Tokyo (what does he think he’s doing with all of this walking…taking the One Ring back to the fires of Mount Doom?) he is more physically animated while firing his atomic ray which does come across as a bit incongruous.

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To depict the rising level of crisis the Japanese Government has to confront, Godzilla appears in several developing  forms and transformations which is an entirely new aspect of Godzilla. We have seen this done in other Godzilla movies (Godzilla vs Hedorah and Godzilla vs Destroyer) but in those movies the villain monster is the one that develops through several stages not Godzilla himself. I really like this twist on the Godzilla legend and given the context of the movie it makes perfect sense. I also like the fact that Godzilla doesn’t stay too long in these younger forms and quickly evolves into his adult and final form. 

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Godzilla and all the buildings and other objects he destroys are no longer rendered through a man in a suit or models. As a special effects junkie I praise and welcome this change and find that Toho (or whomever did the CGI) did an excellent job. I do love and appreciate the old suit and model approach to the older movies and they were fine for their times. While I do feel some nostalgic sadness that those days are over, as a viewer I really love the new CGI approach. It is time for Toho to move into the 21st Century.

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Kong: Skull Island

I want to preface this Spoiler Free review by stating I’m a huge Godzilla fan, own all the movies, and I love them. As super fan of giant monsters, Kaiju and other films that feature strange beasts, this movie has everything a Kaiju fan could ask for. Great special effects, superb actors, giant monster battles, human drama, some comic relief all woven into a captivating and engaging story.

This Kong is not the same as the one depicted in the 1933, 1976 & 2005 movies. No this Kong is molded after the 1962 Kong featured in Toho Studios film “King Kong vs. Godzilla. In fact the Kong depicted in “Kong: Skull Island” will grow up to fight the Godzilla from the 2014 Legendary Studios film “Godzilla.” I look forward to when hese two juggernauts will battle toe-to-toe in their own feature film “Godzilla vs. King Kong” in 2020. This time out Godzilla will get top billing.

But in this movie Kong is King and the star of the show. Rendered wonderfully in detailed CGI Kong is brought to life and is the focal point. He isn’t the only star shinning in this extravaganza though. Delivering stellar performances are John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson (any movie he is in is made even more enjoyable), Tom Hiddleston, the lovely Brie Larson and John C. Rilley. I do want to say a little more about John C. Rilley. From the trailers I knew going in he would provided some comic relief. I was fine with that because I do not always care for dark and gritty films and like a balance of emotions in movies. I feared that his comic relief may render the movie too comical and that it wouldn’t be taken seriously. Yes, John C. Rilley does provide comic relief but that isn’t all. He is not only central to the plot he has some very serious and dramatic moments and I am safe to report his excellent performance really steals the show.

All in all this is a very satisfying entry into Legendary’s Monsterverse and it sets up more films in the franchise that I eagerly await.

Why I like Godzilla 1998

final_wars_zilla__godzilla_1998__full_body_by_sonichedgehog2-d83v8cyThis post isn’t about a movie review of the 1998 American Godzilla movie, its more about the personal reason why I like the 1998 Godzilla monster and the design along with enjoying the movie. One of the reasons for this post is that last week there were a couple of Godzilla related groups that were once again bashing the movie and the creature. So this is an answer to the frequent Godzilla 1998 bashing.

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Some background information. I have been a Godzilla fan since I was about 5 years old back in 1968 or so. I remember seeing “Destroy All Monsters” in the theaters. I watched Godzilla in my youth and young teens. But between Godzilla’s hiatus between 1975 and 84 I didn’t see a lot of Godzilla as many TV stations that I liked on cable didn’t show them as often as they did when I was younger.

I have always loved the many different designs of Godzilla and like the Starship Enterprise creative people can take that simple design and reinterpret the beast in many different ways. Godzilla had always been a lumbering slow creature acted by a man in a suit. I never disliked that approach and I still do not. I love the old films.

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Then came Jurassic Park in 1993. For the first time I saw CGI dinosaurs rendered in a very life-like manner. Therefore long before Godzilla 1998 was on the big screen my mind was thinking about the possibilities for Godzilla. In my view the need for the lumbering walk and stance and for a man-in-the-suit portrayal of the character was no longer necessary. From that viewpoint I began to desire to see Godzilla in a more traditional dinosaur stance and animal like depiction. He no longer had to be a slow lumbering behemoth.

So low and behold when I saw the 1998 movie it gave me exactly what I wanted to see…a more dinosaur like depiction of Godzilla! To my eyes this new portrayal of the monster was more naturally animal like than any depiction prior to this incarnation. and since they went the way I was thinking how I would like to see Godzilla, I was happy with the results. It was different and something new. I also enjoyed the movie..although I do think the part with the raptor-like baby Godzilla’s slows the movie way down. But overall I was/am happy with the depiction and the movie.

USS Enterpise: Changes made to Kelvin Universe Enterprise.

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I recently viewed Star Trek Beyond (review coming shortly) and I noticed that the USS Enterprise was altered for this movie. An in-Universe explanation would be that the ship was re-fit. However, in the movie no explanation was given for the re-fit redesign.

I am posting this little rant to say I really do not care for the updated version used for this recent movie. I have run across many fans that do not like this Enterprise to begin with. Many call this ship the JJ-Prise in rather pejorative terms. Although, I do like all incarnations of the infamous ship, the Enterprise-D being my list favorite, the 2009 incarnation is one of my most favorites. I just love the aesthetic flow this ship has and the larger Nacelles do look powerful. Concept artist Ryan Church’s initial designs were modeled and refined by set designer Joseph Hiura. This design was then given to ILM for further refinement and developed into photo-realistic models by Alex Jaeger’s team. One change I particularly like (most fans do not) is the blue color, instead of red, to the Bussard Collectors at the front of the Nacelles.

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Above is the redesign. The Nacelles have been reduced in size although they do maintain the initial shape. The struts the Nacelles are resting upon are thinner and angled back. The neck of the ship is thinner and does not tapper back toward the shuttle bay as it does in the original. The flow now seems off to me and the nacelles are too far back and too small losing the look of power the original had. If they were going for a similar look to the Prime Universe Re-fit/Enterprise-A design then they failed. 15940368_10210293621529823_8831323782946991076_n

Here is another pic to examine the two designs side-by-side.

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*SPOILERS* This redesigned Enterprise was destroyed in the movie. Despite the redesign I was sad to see her go far too soon. At the end of the movie we were introduced to the new USS Enterprise NCC-1701 A for the Kelvin Universe. I didn’t see it enough to have much of a judgment although I do like what I saw. Here is a pic of it but keep in mind it may not be 100% accurate and may be subject to change.

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Ben Affleck as Batman

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In 2013 Ben Affleck was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the movie “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” As the internet experienced a meltdown and some misguided fans even signed petitions to have Affleck removed from the project, I was always on board with him being cast as the iconic capped crusader. View my old blog post in the link below.

MY Thoughts: Ben Affleck as Batman

I wanted to follow up my recent review of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” with my thoughts on how Ben Affleck actually played this iconic dual role. I will begin by posting this quote:

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times remarked: “All the Internet resistance to Affleck being cast as Batman seems silly when you see him … There’s not a moment when we don’t believe Affleck as Bruce Wayne or as Batman.”

I agree with this completely. It is kind of funny that even though many Batman and superhero fans had a public meltdown over Ben being cast, there is nary a hater to be found these days. Another point I want to make is, although I supported Ben 100% in this role and could see him doing well, even I underestimated exactly how good he ended up being in the role. Ben Affleck disappeared completely into both Characters! While watching the movie I completely forgot I was watching Ben Affleck! He is just that damned good!

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Comparisons are inevitable and I hate to use the word “better” in my comparisons (I can enjoy many things equal without making such judgments) I will add that Ben has come to personify the role for me. I do in fact enjoy all live incarnations of the character. Believe it or not but as of this writing “Batman Forever” is my favorite solo Batman movie, but Ben is my favorite portrayal of the character. I do like Nolan’s Batman Trilogy even though I have issues with it, however, I never really had a problem with Christian Bale’s portrayal of the Dark Knight. After watching Ben play both roles I have come to see his performance as the one I have been waiting for, for decades. Finally Bruce Wayne and his alter ego “The Batman” are portrayed the way they have been portrayed in the comics for a long, long time. I look forward with great anticipation to the Justice League movies and the solo Batman movies where Ben will once again don the cape and cowl to strike fear into the heart of darkness.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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In my effort to restart this blog I need to catch up on some movie reviews. Since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was just released, how about I review the movie that came out before it! LOL!

As I have said before I am a huge Star Trek fan but I also love Star Wars too…just not as much as Trek. Yet, I always thought there was something in the aesthetic and pacing of Star Wars that Star Trek should borrow and learn from. When JJ Abrams, a lover of Star Wars, directed the 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek, my wish came true. In the feel and look of the movie there are elements of Star Wars in that Star Trek film and although some fans noticed that too and complained…I was not one of them. Therefore, when the next trilogy in Star Wars was going to be filmed, it seemed only natural that JJ Abrams would be selected to direct this movie.

I want to comment on one of the complaints The Force Awakened received from the minority of the people that did not like it. The complaint is that it is just a rehash or is derivative of the original 1977 film Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I certainly do not deny this accusation. I actually embrace it and it is one of the reasons I do enjoy this movie greatly.

Some have complained that nostalgia is one of its selling points and I have no shame in agreeing with that. I was 14 in 1977 when the original movie came out and I loved it! It had a huge impact on me. So seeing Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia on the big screen was a huge part of this movie. That doesn’t mean the rest of the story wasn’t good, it was, even if it has elements of the first movie, it does!

Luke has disappeared and it has been thirty years since the Death Star was once again blown up and the Empire defeated. However, evil has not gone away. We have new characters that are very interesting to me. the rebelling storm trooper, Finn, the scavenger, Rey, and Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and General Leia, are all great additions to the Star Wars universe. The movie leaves us with a mystery of who is this woman Ren who wields the Force so easily? The special effects are excellent as JJ Abrams wisely knows how to weave practical effects with the CGI.

I will not reveal any spoilers of this movie. I will say this is/was a great way to start the new trilogy. It is visually stunning with everything you would want to see in a Star Wars movie. Although it does have elements of the original story, they are done with respect and reverence to the original.

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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice…a review.

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I cannot believe I have not yet reviewed Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first pairing in live action of the two most iconic Superheroes in the world. There was a ton of expectation riding on this movie. The movie was heavily criticized by the professional pundits and under performed at the box office although it still made the studio money. One of the reasons for this is that the studio did not put out the three hour extended cut of the films into the theater. What was released to the theater was a truncated version of the film that was not very coherent in places. Note to film studio. Leave Zack Snyder alone and let him do his job, he knows what he is doing!

Therefore this review will be of the theatrical cut.

All movies do have their flaws…which is simply another way of saying “I would have done it differently” and although this movie is no exception the Pros greatly out weight any Cons it may have. I really enjoyed this movie so without further delay, the Pros and Cons of this film. Cons won the coin toss so they will go first. 🙂

Cons:

The story, even in the Extended Cut, still has some issues. The scene in the desert where Lois is interviewing a terrorist and then all hell breaks loose, it really isn’t too clear what is happening. One example, Batman brands his criminals and they end up getting killed in jail/prison…but the movie never tells you why they are being killed in jail or the motives for killing them.

Alfred. I think over all Jeremy Irons did a good job but his cynicism got old after a while. Plus, if he thinks Batman was going down the wrong road and becoming something corrupt, then you would think that he would have confronted Bruce long before he did in this movie. It seems Alfred was just as jaded as Batman was in this movie.

Death of Superman. I do understand that his sacrifice was to show the world that he truly is a force for good in the world and that he will use his powers to help and not hurt. However, maybe my objection is more about the elaborate funeral they gave Superman, because it all seems too soon because it really doesn’t feel Superman truly earned the accolades and the grief. In the movie Superman has been around less than two years and there is much controversy surrounding him, he certainly isn’t universally loved.

Death of Clark Kent. This is unprecedented. Sure, they have shown Superman die in the comics and animated movies, but they always have found a way to excuse Clark’s disappearance until Superman returns. This movie paints quite a dilemma where they are acknowledging both Clark and Superman are dead! How can they bring both back without the world knowing Clark Kent is Superman!?

Pros:

Good Story. Despite the story being muddled at times the story is very interesting and engaging. It really is not a story about Batman and Superman fighting, it is a story of redemption for both iconic characters.

Superman’s character arc. I like the idea in this universe where Superman isn’t a Mary Sue Boy-scout where everyone except the villains despise him and don’t trust him. In the real world we would have people truly fear and distrust Superman so I like that realistic approach and  how Superman has to cope with that reality especially in the face of life taking disasters committed to tarnish his name.

Batman’s Character arc. I love how this is an older and cynical and jaded Batman who has gone through many tragedies himself. We see that Robin is dead, Wayne Manor has been burned to the ground and Batman is an outlaw. I loved the scene where we fist see Batman in the room where he just branded the criminal and he is lurking in the shadows. Classic Batman! I also like how Batman comes to once again have faith in humanity restored. The scene where he rescues Martha Kent in the warehouse is the best live action scene of Batman ever put to film.

Special effects. Excellent. I love any time Superman takes flight!! Doomsday is created with such life-likeness! Great eye candy!

Good pacing. Even though the Extended Cut is three hours long the movie flows well without any slow spots at all.

Lex Luthor. I think Jesse Eisenberg was great as Luthor…yes he is Lex Luthor and not the son of Lex as many claim, he was bitter, psychotic and unpredictable.

Wonder Woman. What can I say? She was awesome! Gal Gadot was simply amazing as Wonder Woman and Diana Prince and she stole the show! I also loved the cameo glimpses of Aquaman and The Flash and Cyborg!!

I want to close by speaking of the controversial Martha scene. Sure, it is a bit cheesy but I do understand what they were doing and I think it was a great idea and worked although all it needed maybe was one line of dialogue. That was the moment Batman realized how far he had fallen and that he had become the very thing he had dedicated his life to fighting against. If Batman would have said that to Lois and Superman in some verbal way, I think it would have helped.

I really enjoyed this movie despite some of its flaws. All-in-all a good introduction of Batman in the DCEU and I look forward to more movies with these characters!

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Warcraft: Review

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First I must confess I am not a big gamer. I am basically still into all the Super Mario games and a couple of 1080 Snowboarding games. I am however, familiar with massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest. Having seen both of these games played I was very eager to see this movie, plus, I love fantasy films.

I was not disappointed.

Warcraft (alternatively known as Warcraft: The Beginning) is a 2016 American action-fantasy film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones, Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen. It is based on the Warcraft video game series and novels set in the world of Azeroth. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky and Daniel Wu. The film portrays the initial encounters between the humans and the orcs and takes place in a variety of locations established in the video game series.

Its movies like this that make me love being a nerd! It’s escapist fun like this is why such movies are being made. This movie actually did poorly with the critics and at the Box office. It has a 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although 73% of the viewing audience liked it. On Box Office Mojo it did only $47 million domestically on a $160 million budget. However, it made a further $386 million over seas for a grand total of $433 million world wide. That will give the film a profit and hopefully a sequel will not be out of the question. I think the poor performance sadly demonstrates that movies like this do need to reach out beyond their fan base and find a way to appeal to a broader audience.

I think I will eliminate my pros and cons because I didn’t find much about the movie I didn’t like…except for one thing. Although I enjoyed the story and the characters greatly the story was a bit confusing at times and my unfamiliarity with the story/game made it difficult for me to always understand what was going on and who some of these characters were. I’m sure on repeated viewings I will comprehend things better.

I want to conclude this by talking about the CGI in this movie. The Orcs are done with motion capture and while there is a lot of blue screen CGI there are also practical effects woven into the movie. I have heard complaints that the CGI isn’t always that great. I did enjoy the effects and I love movies like this because they do such a great job in creating a fantasy world.

I see many people comparing this to other fantasy movies such as Lord of the Rings or Avatar. While I think the CGI is of the same quality, I think the end results are different. That difference is that Warcraft does look like the how the video game it is named after would look like had it come to life. In other words, it still rightfully maintains a look or verisimilitude that exemplifies and represents a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, but on a larger life-like scale. In my view the look of the movie is the best of both worlds, life-like fantasy elements married to video game elements and along with an engaging story are the reasons this movie is very enjoyable.

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

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One of the things I enjoy about such superheros like Superman, Batman & The Flash (my favorites in that order) is how unique they are. Superman is invulnerable, impervious to pain, can fly and run near at or better than the speed of light, has ex-ray and heat vision, super hearing…Batman is a human with no superpowers but an intellectual genius billionaire who has mastered several martial arts, has access to and developed many advanced gadgets, dresses up in a Bat-costume and fades into the night to scare and terrorize criminals. The Flash can run, move, think, and react at light speeds as well as having superhuman endurance that allows them to run incredible distances. Some, notably later versions, can vibrate so fast that they can pass through walls in a process called quantum tunneling, travel through time and can also lend and borrow speed. The Flash can heal more rapidly than an average human.

So what does DC Comics do with these unique characters? It creates a “Family” of similar superheroes with similar powers and abilities. Superman has Supergirl, Superboy, Krypto, Powergirl, Mon-El, Val-Zod Red Superman, Blue Superman, Asian Superman and Russian Superman etc. The Batman has many Robins, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, The Red Hood, Batman Beyond etc. The Flash has Jay Garrick (the earliest incarnation of the character), Barry Allen as The Flash, Wally West is the first Kid Flash and the third Flash, Bart Allen the second hero known as Kid Flash..and many more. Even Flash’s villains are just evil personifications of the Flash, such as Reverse Flash, Zoom and Doom etc..There are also many versions of the Green Lantern that originated from earth…Alan Scott, Hal Jordan,  Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

My complaint is that with so many Superheros with the same name or powers within these families it waters down and dilutes the original characters and turning what was a special and unique character into something more ordinary. I am conflicted about this because there are actually some of these extra characters I love (Supergirl, Val-Zod, Jay Garrick, Reverse Flash, John Stewart). I even plan on doing a blog post dedicated to Val-Zod in thew future….Plus, as an artist and creative person myself, I certainly do not want to stifle creativity…

I just cannot also ignore this nagging feeling that all of these similar characters take something away from the original characters. I stopped watching the Flash TV series because of this problem. Not only does he have a team helping him but the majority of the villains are just like him to the point where The Flash himself doesn’t stand out, isn’t the star of his own show and is simply one of many with the same powers. I think Supergirl suffers from this a bit also.

This was just a little venting and I don’t really want or expect anything to be done, it just explains why I gravitate to stories that depict the original character rather than these many similar extensions in these superhero families.

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Superman II: “General, Care to Step Outside?”

Donner Cut: Superman’s return is anticlimactic.

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The Donner cut of Superman II makes Superman getting his powers back anticlimactic. In the theatrical cut we don’t know if Superman is going to get his powers back (okay, we “know” he will get his powers back) and until he does there is the building of tension in the movie. By not seeing Superman getting his powers back the film then  focuses on Zod and his minions attacking Lois, Jimmy & Perry White at the Daily Planet.

There is still considerable tension in those scenes because we are unsure what what will happen. Superman flying to Metropolis and telling Zod to “care to step outside” is a moment of triumph that resolves the tension. It is actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie. But in the Donner cut we see an elaborate and long scene of Superman getting his powers back and then his return to Metropolis where for the first time in the film, Superman finally confronts  Zod at the window. Ever since we saw the arrival of Zod and his fellow Kryptonians on Earth, paired with Superman giving up his powers at the same time, this very confrontation is the climax this movie is building toward. So if we watch Superman get his powers back it makes this initial confrontation with Zod very anticlimactic and takes all the joy and triumph out of that moment.

Another important moment removed by the Donner Cut is when Lois figures out Clark Kent is Superman! In the scene in Donner Cut, which is from an audition scene, Lois violently shoots Clark to prove he is Superman. The scene is very jarring and violent and unexpected and doesn’t seem to fit in the tone of the movie. It also doesn’t fit with Lois’ character. What if she was wrong!?

In the theatrical cut we see Clark stumble and fall and lose his glasses into the fire place. When he no longer can hide from Lois the fact that he is Superman we get to witness some of Christopher Reeve’s best acting! Sure, there is some similar acting in the Donner Cut, however, it is of my opinion the reveal of Clark Kent as Superman is done much better in the theatrical cut.

Just with the simple act of removing his glasses, standing more erect and lowering his voice, we see Clark Kent transform himself into the persona of Superman before our very eyes without having to don the suit! This moment is also sadly absent from the Donner Cut.

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I know there are many fans that feel the Donner Cut is superior to the Theatrical Cut…I guess I am not one of them.