Category Archives: Captain’s Log…

So, I like “crappy” movies!

This may seem like a bit of a rant and perhaps it is to some degree.

I’m not a film critic. I’m actually a pretty easygoing and forgiving viewer. Now that doesn’t mean I like every movie I see. I have turned off movies I don’t like, even walked out of a theater a couple of times. That also doesn’t mean I can’t critique a film, I do, I’m just not someone who views a movie with critiquing in mind. At my age I know what I like, I know what type of stories I enjoy and these days I’m rarely disappointed.

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I’m really not a film snob, I had a friend who would snub anything he considered too commercial, and I’m open to many types of films. Movies to me are a form of art but to me I also enjoy the mindless escapism the types of movies I enjoy. I don’t mind serious film, but following on my last entry on how I loved the more lighthearted fare of the Science-Fiction films from the 90s, the types of movies I like are those that have a fun aspect to them.

I also feel many professional critics can be a bit snobbish and harsh. From a psychological perspective many people think negatively and even cynically and bring that into their criticisms. I’ve read some reviews that were more cynicism than critique.

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Since judging art is so subjective, bad reviews generally don’t put me off on a film. I enjoy reading criticism of films but I don’t let them sway me and will judge for myself whether or not I enjoy a film.

I like to read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I disagree where they put their fresh rating. I say if a movie has 51% rating that means a majority of critics liked a movie, albeit a small majority. So deeming a movie “Fresh” at 60% is a bit arbitrary.

What I’ve noticed is that within my DVD collection there are many movies from the Science-Fiction and Fantasy film genres that did not get fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. It goes to show that I really don’t listen to critics much. Also, I find, on social media anyway, no matter what movie is announced, haters come pouring out of the woodwork as if Pavlov rang his bell and his dogs begun salivating. People seem negative in general and closed minded. Nasty people have come along and questioned my taste in movies but in the end I like what I like with no apologies and what others think of my tastes matters not.

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Here, in no particular order, are movies from my collection that have received a not so fresh rating.

Seventh Son – 20%

The Great Wall – 35%

Gods of Egypt – 15%

Jupiter Ascending – 26%

GeoStorm – 14%

Independence Day Resurgence – 30%

Batman & Robin – 10%

Judge Dredd (199?) – 17%

The Scorpion King – 41%

Journey 2 the Mysterious Island – 45%

Godzilla (1998) – 16%

The Day After Tomorrow – 44%

Van Helsing – 23%

Planet of the Apes (2001) – 45%

The Time Machine (2002) – 29%

Alien Trespass – 34%

Land of the Loss – 26%

Race to Witch Mountain – 43%

Skyline – 16%

Cowboys and Aliens – 43%

Green Lantern – 26%

Battleship – 34%

After Earth – 11%

John Carter – 51% *

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra – 35%

GI Joe: Retaliation – 29%

Pixels – 17%

Man of Steel – 56% *

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – 26%

Justice League – 40%

Power Rangers – 45%

Velarian and the City of a Thousand Planets – 49%

Pacific Rim: Uprising – 46%

Clash of the Titans – 28%

Wrath of the Titans – 26%

Immortals – 36%

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – 36%

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – 44%

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – 22%

Star Trek: Generations – 49%

Star Trek: Insurrection – 55% *

Star Trek: Nemesis- 38%

* I included a few that do have an above 50% rating but those are still technically considered rotten.

# I also only included the 1998 American Godzilla movie even though there are many Japanese Godzilla movies that also have rotten railings. I will cover them someday on my new Godzilla Designs blog. https://godzilladesigns.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/the-eras-of-godzilla-films/

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The 1990s: My favorite Decade for Science-Fiction Films

While perusing my DVD collection, the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films I own, I became aware that my most favorite time period for sci-fi and fantasy films is the 1990s. I am mostly referring to Science-Fiction films of the 90s for the 1990s are a bit light on Fantasy films. Now not many people would automatically think of the 1990s as a golden age of Sci-Fi and Fantasy films as compared to the 1950s…(I love the 50s alien invasion movies) but the 1990s did produce a lot of memorable and successful Sci-Fi and Fantasy films.

Now maybe not every movie on my list was a financial or critical success, that’s fine, financial or critical success doesn’t determine whether or not I enjoy a film. While there are Sci-Fi and Fantasy films from all eras that I enjoy, I must admit I have a certain affection and admiration for the film’s of the 1990s. I don’t believe it is due to reasons of nostalgia because these aren’t the movies of my childhood, I spent the majority of the 1990s in my 30s. So why do I appreciate the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films of the 90s?

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I think the answer is threefold. I am an admitted special effects junkie and the 90s saw the birth of CGI…and while some hate it, I love it! I also like practical or real world special effects and many the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films have special effects that are a mixture of both techniques. The majority of the films on my list have special effects that I still enjoy to this day.

The second reason is simply the 90s offered a diversity of the type of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that I enjoy. Favorite franchises of Godzilla and Star Trek brought some high quality movies during this time period. I love Alien Invasion and Alien themed movies and the 90s brought some favorites such as Independence Day, Men in Black, Contact and Starship Troopers.

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The last component of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films of the 1990s that I like needs to be seen in context of how these types of films have been trending, for the most part, in the last 18 years. Namely, these types of films are more darker, grittier and more serious than those of the 90s. What I enjoy in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy from the 1990s is that they’re FUN! They’re all movies with a good balance and mixture of action, adventure, drama….and light hearted humor and fun!

The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Type of movies in general can be dark and serious as they deal with aspects of humanity and our future…while I do enjoy the darker and more serious Sci-Fi and Fantasy films I don’t want a steady diet of them. So my preference in these type of movies is toward films that have a sense of humor and don’t take itself too seriously. I say this with no sense of shame.

A few prime examples of these type of movies are: Judge Dredd and Demolition Man, both starring Sylvester Stallone, the aforementioned Starship Troopers, a satire on Fascism, and Independence Day an homage to 50s Science Fiction Invasion movies. These films do mix action, adventure with a sense of humor and in the end they’re entertaining and fun to watch…and re-watch!

My favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy films of the 1990s.

Total Recall
The Fifth Element
Judge Dredd
Demolition Man
Independence Day
Men in Black
Galaxy Quest
Stargate
Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park: The Lost World
Starship Troopers
The Matrix
Contact
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Insurrection
Godzilla vs King Ghodirah
Godzilla vs Mothra: Battle for the Earth
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II
Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla
Godzilla vs Destroyer
Godzilla 1998
Godzilla 2000
Back to the Future III
Coneheads
Time Cop
The Arrival
Mars Attacks
Armegeddon
Deep Impact
Bicentennial Man
Batman Returns
Batman Forever
Batman and Robin
Matilda
Phenomenon
Groundhog Day
Jumanji
Dragonheart

Star Trek: The Original Series Review

Hello faithful followers! Starting next week, and every Monday, I will be reviewing an episode of the original 1960s Star Trek TV series. With 80 episodes (including the original pilot episode The Cage) it may take almost two years! But I think I will do more episodes per-week from time to time. 

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So check back here next Monday as I begin a new series! 

Live Long and Prosper! 

Liam. 

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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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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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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.