With Man of Steel opening on Friday, Dave McGinn examines what the early Superman movies can teach us about the superhero genre, for better or for worse. Today’s instalment: the rules of the sequel, as learned from 1980’s Superman II, directed by Richard Lester (Budget: $54-million; U.S. gross: $108,185,706)
Open with a bang With the origin story covered, sequels need to get straight to the action. Terrorists have a hydrogen bomb atop the Eiffel Tower and are threatening to blow up all of Paris? That’ll do.
Multiply the number of villains The traitors banished in the first movie, led by General Zod, are freed and come to Earth “to rule. Finally, to rule!” With outfits like theirs, they couldn’t even rule a closet, but then again, it was the late 1970s.
Complicate the love triangle Lois figures out that Clark is Superman, Clark gives up his powers to be with her, then gets them back to beat down the bad guys and uses a magic kiss to make Lois forget she learned his secret identity. Fighting bad guys is easy compared to managing affairs of the heart.
Go for the cash grab In an early example of product placement, Marlboro was a huge sponsor, and the brand appears multiple times throughout the movie. The filmmakers even made Lois Lane a chain smoker, though she never smoked in the comics. It was definitely a sign of the future: It’s been reported that with Man of Steel, Warner Bros. lined up close to 100 promotional partners, worth $170-million (U.S.).
Tomorrow The downward spiral of Superman III and IV.