There are not many directors who have consistently made genuinely fun films (and that are still fun on repeated viewing). Great artistic directors often make interesting, involving, emotional or powerful movies. Other directors sometimes make fun movies, but too often veer off into silliness or cliche. Richard Donner, however, falls into the sparsely populated category of excellent directors who have made quite a number of fun films, with a touch of depth for good measure.
I’ve just watched Superman II: The Richard Donner cut, which is a marvelous improvement over the original theatrical release. What really made an impression on me was the absence of so many of the absurd scenes and moments present in the other cut. I always loved the first Superman movie, and always liked the second, but I couldn’t stand some of the silliness and the stretching of certain plot-points.
Anyhow, looking back on the films of Richard Donner, I realize just how many of them made a positive impression on me as I grew up and into my 20’s and now 30’s. In addition to the two Superman movies, I’ve enjoyed and viewed many times all four Lethal Weapon movies (1987-98), The Goonies (1985), Ladyhawke (1985), Maverick (1994) and Conspiracy Theory (1997).
Paying a small tribute to a talented entertainer is not the same as dubbing him a great director or artist. Too often, I think, those of us who honor the classics tend to shun “pop” Hollywood. Movies can be of value in many, many ways.