The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner - 1978, 1980, 1983, 1987, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG, PG-13
Feature running time: 655 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: VC-1, AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio (Superman IV), Dolby Digital English/Spanish/French 5.1, Mono, Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marc McClure, Terence Stamp, Jack O'Halloran, Marlon Brando, Sarah Douglas, Susannah York, Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Annette O'Toole, Robert Vaughn, Richard Pryor, Franck Langella, Brando Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Eva Marie Saint, Kevin Spacey
Directed by: Richard Donner, Richard Lester, Sidney J. Furie, Bryan Singer
Music by: John Williams, Ken Thorne, John Ottman
Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Lswrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 7, 2011
"The man of steel: 1978 - 2006"
Superman: The Movie (theatrical & expanded edition) - A box-office smash, an Academy Award® and a fan favorite since it first flew into theatres, Superman: The Movie assembles a cast and creative contingent as only a big movie can. At its heart is Christopher Reeve's intelligent, affectionate portrayal of a most human Man of Steel. The movie's legacy soared even higher when director Richard Donner revisited this beloved adventure 22 years later and integrated eight minutes into the film. Reeve, Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) and Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) give performances that fuel the film's aura of legend. Watching Superman again isn't just like being a kid again. It's better.
Superman II (1980) - This continuation of the adventures of the Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve) takes up where the original left off. Three fugitive super-powered Kryptonian do-badders (Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O'Halloran) plan to enslave the Earth -- just when Superman decides to show a more romantic side to Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). The timing is off for the son of Jor-El, but it's ideal for a special-effects fan's dream come true as Metropolis comes under siege. Gene Hackman (as Lex Luthor) also returns from the first film and with a top supporting cast, witty Richard Lester direction and visuals that astound and delight, this comic book-come-to-life has become an enduring all-family wow!
Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut) You haven't seen all the Superman films until you've seen this! Superman II starring Christopher Reeve returns with a never-before-seen beginning and resolution. Director Richard Donner began shooting his vision of Superman II while concurrently filming Superman The Movie. For the first time, his unique vision is here. Jor-El (Marlon Brando in recently found footage) appears in key new scenes that amplify Superman lore and deepen the relationship between father and son. Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) plots more schemes to unmask Clark Kent as Superman. With so many changes, large and small, this version is an eye-opening alternate experience.
Superman III - After Superman: The Movie's epic storytelling and Superman II's awesome battles, how could the first two hits be topped? In Superman III, meet Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), a half-witted computer programming natural. For him a keyboard is a weapon and Superman faces the microelectronic menace of his life. Christopher Reeve reprises his most beloved role, deepening his character's human side as Clark Kent reunites with an old flame (Annette O'Toole) at a Smallville High class reunion. And when Superman becomes his own worst enemy after Kryptonite exposure, Reeve pulls off both roles with dazzling conviction. Incredible visual effects abound - but above all it has heart, heroism and high-flying humor. All in superabundance, of course.
Superman IV The quest for peace - Christopher Reeve not only dons the hero's cape for the fourth time in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace but also helped develop the film's provocative theme: nuclear disarmament. "For me, it's the most personal of the entire series," Reeve says. "It directly reflects what Superman should be, and should be doing." Superman does a lot this time around. To make the world safe for nuclear arms merchants, archvillain Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) creates a new being to challenge the Man of Steel: the radiation-charged Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). The two foes clash in an explosive extravaganza that sees Superman save the Statue of Liberty, plug a volcanic eruption of Mount Etna and rebuild the demolished Great Wall of China. Your quest for superheroic excitement is over!
Superman Returns - He's back. A hero for our millennium. And not a moment too soon, because during the five years (much longer in movie-fan years!) Superman sought his home planet, things changed on his adopted planet. Nations moved on without him. Lois Lane now has a son, a fiancé and a Pulitzer for "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." And Lex Luthor has a plan that will destroy millions - no, billions - of lives. Filmmaker Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) gives the world the Superman it needs, honoring the legend everyone loves while taking it in a powerful new direction. Brandon Routh proves a perfect choice to wear the hero's cape, leading a top cast that includes Kate Bosworth as Lois and Kevin Spacey as Lex. And the thrills - from a sky-grapple with a tumbling jumbo jet to a continent-convulsing showdown - redefine Wow. "I'm always around," Superman tells Lois. You'll be glad he is.
I grew up reading comics and have always been a fan of fantasy/adventure stories. I have loved Superman since I was little but my introduction to him wasn't through comic books. It was through the medium that started my interest in fantasy/adventure, television. Watching the reruns of George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman is where it began for me. As a youngster there was nothing cooler than seeing him run, jump and take off. It looked pretty cheesy, even back then, but that wasn't what it was about. It was the idea that this guy was virtually indestructible, could fly, fought crime and was known/beloved by everyone the world over. Not to mention George Reeves in the part was just plain cool. I was a movie buff, even back then, and there are indelible moments that have remained with me over the years. I remember the awe I felt sitting in the theater during the opening sequence to Star Wars as that huge Imperial Cruiser entered the frame and slowly filled the screen. I remember being terrified watching Chrissy scream bloody murder as the unseen shark below pulled her back and forth before yanking her under for the last time. I remember the chills I got when I saw Christopher Reeve step from the revolving door, pardon himself to the guy on the street (who commented on his outfit) and take off to save Lois. I was hooked right from the start. I sat there in the theater at 13 years old and don't believe I blinked for fear of missing something.
I have seen each installment in the Superman franchise theatrically. Christopher Reeve embodied the pure, gentlemanly charisma, chiseled features and defining humanity that brought Superman to life in a way that made him more genuine than any portrayal of its type that I had seen. Superman The Movie and Superman II are my favorites in the franchise. The wonderfully balanced script (technically speaking they are more one film than two) has elements of romance, drama, action and humor that is immortalized by a superlative assemblage of actors. I remember being blown away by the special effects at the time (the flying sequences were particularly impressive). Watching today they show their age but still work beautifully within the film's warm, nostalgic theme.
Unfortunately creative differences between producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind and director Richard Donner resulted in Donner's separation from Superman II during production. He shot most of the film's footage simultaneously along with Superman: The Movie. Although Richard Lester was hired to finish production, he chose to make major changes to the film, leaving only vestiges of Donner's original vision and concepts in the version of Superman II that was ultimately released to theaters. In 2006 nearly thirty years later, Warner Home Video and director Richard Donner responded to the pleas of countless fans by releasing Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Richard Donner became the first director in history to be able to complete a film he left during production with nearly all his footage in the can. Adding back a substantial amount of that unused footage, the director has seen his original vision restored and brought to fruition. Most notably, the Donner cut restores the Marlon Brando role, filmed for, but not included in the final theatrical release version of Superman II. The legendary Brando's performance as Jor-El has finally been restored in key scenes that amplify the Superman lore and deepen the profound relationship between father and son. There are things that I like about the Donner Cut but there are elements that I prefer from the theatrical release. There are those who feel that Donner's version may provide a more cohesive companion to Superman: The Movie however I am not convinced of that. Having both films makes for a great option for fans.
Superman III took the series in a direction that felt decidedly less gratifying and superfluously campy. Richard Pryor's presence did nothing to help this and only served as an overtly distracting comedic element that felt out of place. The plot was weak although I liked the idea of the fractured Superman psyche that allowed Christopher Reeve to play the darker role. The action took a back seat to the one liners and Pryor driven tomfoolery while the absence of a credible bad guy was obvious. The romantic subplot seemed like an afterthought that was only exacerbated by the noticeably lacking chemistry between Annette O'Toole and Christopher Reeve. Superman IV Quest for peace was worse yet and featured a poorly conceived script that focused on nuclear disarmament. The poorest of the Christopher Reeve films it spelled the last time he would portray the man of steel.
In 2006 Bryan Singer's Superman returns hit theaters in an attempt to reboot the franchise. I have heard complaints about the drab pace and Brandon Routh's lackluster performance. I don't mind the film and enjoy it's sort of thematic ode to Superman: The Movie/Superman II. Brandon Routh is no Christopher Reeve but I wouldn't say that his portrayal of the character was an injustice either. I found Kevin Spacey's much darker Lex Luthor to be refreshing and the updated special effects are lots of fun to watch.
Looking at these films collectively I would have to say that there is indeed much to celebrate. I can't stomach parts III and IV but the other installments more than make up for them. I applaud Warner Home Video for giving us the theatrical versions as well as the extended/alternate cuts. The collection features an abundance of bonus content that spans the franchise, some relative to each film and some relative to the Superman lore that goes back to its earliest entertainment releases. This eight disc set comes packaged in a cardboard keepcase with a foldout style disc holder insert that slips inside. It doesn't have a very substantial feel but the discs fit securely and it takes up only slightly more shelf space than a typical multi-disc style case. Here are my ratings for each film:
Superman - The Movie:
Superman - The Movie (Expanded version):
Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut:
Superman IV Quest for peace :
The ratings are for thematic material and action violence.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Superman: The Movie comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.9 Mbps.
Superman: The Movie (expanded edition) comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.
Superman II comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 18 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.4 Mbps.
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.
Superman III comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.4 Mbps.
Superman IV Quest for peace comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2 Mbps.
Superman Returns comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 16 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 1.7 Mbps.
With the exception of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut and Superman returns each of the films in this collection is minted from a new HD master and the results are quite good. Superman: The Movie has never looked better and features resolute imagery that offers excellent definition and refining clarity. There are innately soft spots and at times I noticed the video took on a slightly noisy quality that also appeared related to the original photography. I didn't feel that either was excessive or distracting. Colors are bright with clean rendering and deep primary highlights. Fleshtones are a little on the warm side which gives complexions a mildly rosy tinge. Blacks are dynamic and punchy while appearing just a tad crushed. The films dark sequences exhibit good balance between light and dark content with appreciable but not definitive visibility of detail in backgrounds. Grain is present and appears moderate with only a few instances where it takes on more prominence. I didn't see a noticeable difference between this and the expanded edition.
Superman II offers an equally rewarding and improved viewing experience with similar attributes that include refining detail and crisp definition that reveals plenty of fine minutia and textural nuance during close-ups. Depth and dimension is respectable during mid level and wide angle camera pans. Colors are rich and vibrant, with vivid primaries that can be eye catching without appearing unnatural. Fleshtones follow suit and appear warm and lifelike. Contrast is stable and Blacks appear deep and punchy. The films dark sequences exhibit good balance between light and dark content with a discerning level of detail visible in backgrounds. Grain is intact and I saw no signs of unwanted digital manipulation or extraneous video artifacts.
Like Superman II, Superman III and IV looking surprisingly good in high definition. III's opening sequence looks a little odd however I think that is directly related to the overlay of the opening credits etc. since afterward it looks just fine. The effects shots, especially those that take place in outer space, in IV lack the depth and polish of the first two films but this is inherent and doesn't appear related to the encoding. Colors are tonally balanced with lustrous primaries, clean rendering and delineated secondary hues that all look terrific. Fleshtones are appreciably lifelike with discernible texture and natural depiction. The level of visible detail in facial features, hair and clothing during close-ups is noteworthy. Wide angle shots vary in terms of visual depth but most reveal discernible degrees of refinement and clarity. Fidelity is rarely in question as artifacts and video noise aren't a problem.
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut makes for a bit of a frustrating viewing experience. This is primarily due to the nature with which it was assembled. It utilizes various sources and the difference in their quality is where the inconsistencies arise while watching. Some shots appear sharp with appreciable resolution and depth while others are noticeably soft with diminished clarity that negatively impacts the perception of dimension. Contrast and black levels fluctuate similarly while color reproduction ranges from spot on and vibrant to lackluster and flat. Obviously the compositional elements and how they had to be derived isn't designed to yield top flight video quality. Going in with this in mind is the best course. This film is more about the content which I suspect is something that fans can understand.
Superman Returns utilizes a stylized presentation that doesn't offer the high gloss imagery and razor sharpness that we associate with the better looking newer release titles available on Blu-ray. The filtering applied imparts a predominating sepia toned aesthetic with dialed down colors and unnatural looking fleshtones Contrast is noticeably held in check and blacks rarely impress. Shot on high definition video the images lacks the enriching texture of film which in and of itself isn't a problem however there is a smoothed over flatness that suggests the application of digital noise reduction at some level. Viewers with large displays and a discerning eye will notice low level noise and motion related artifacts here and there as well. Overall Superman Returns makes for an underwhelming high definition video presentation.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio presentations adds a new and enriching element to these films. I have always found the music score by John Williams for Superman: The Movie to be spectacular and right from the opening montage I know this was going to be special. The orchestrated elements are spread across the front of the room with subtle articulation that blends perfectly with the rest of the soundtrack to create an evenly balanced, multi-dimensional presentation where the music helps drive the story. Excellent directional spacing and imaging across the main three channels enables smaller background sounds within the mix to be detectable. Dialogue is definitively authoritative with excellent clarity and room penetration through the center channel. The soundstage opens up at various points throughout with discretely placed sounds and atmospheric ambience that effectively extends the front channels. Envelopment is quite good as the rear channels enliven blowing wind, overhead pans and exploding/flying objects. Dynamic range is excellent as low frequency effects provide bass response that has room energizing tactility that surpasses the expectations for a soundtrack of its age. Superman II (both versions), and Superman III yield similar sound quality although I couldn't help but feel that Superman: The Movie (and its expanded edition) offers the most rewarding overall experience. Superman IV Quest for peace sports a two channel DTS-HD Master Audio track that while front loaded still makes for a satisfying audio presentation that I didn't feel was lacking so I rated it accordingly.
Superman returns gets DTS-HD Master Audio treatment for the first time and the results are indeed impressive. This is a demonstration quality presentation that is sure to please those who like to play their systems loud. The recording has wide dynamic range and boasts superlative clarity and high level detail. Dialogue is definitive and appreciably lucid through the center channel as it reaches far into the room. It's located just slightly in front of the left/right speakers within the acoustic space it occupies in the soundfield. I never had any trouble distinguishing even the slightest changes in the pitch or inflection of voices. Front channel separation and imaging is excellent. This draws out both large and small sound elements and allows their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be definable. The mix makes effective and often use of the surround channels to extend the front soundstage and reproduce the spatial and discrete sounds of this sometimes aggressive soundtrack. This is a dynamically strong sound mix that utilizes low frequency effects to provide viscerally potent bass response that pressurizes the room.
Here are my audio video rating breakdowns:
Superman: The Movie/Superman: The Movie expanded edition - Video/Audio = 84 / 84
Superman II - Video/Audio = 86 / 82
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut - Video/Audio 78 / 82
Superman III - Video/Audio = 86 / 82
Superman IV Quest for peace - Video/Audio = 86 / 80
Superman Returns - Video/Audio = 74 / 92
- Superman: The Movie, Original Theatrical
- Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version)
- The Making of Superman: The Movie [1978 TV special] - 51 minutes
- Superman and the Mole-Men [1951 feature]- 58 minutes
- Warner Bros. Cartoons
- Super-Rabbit [1943 WB cartoon]
- Snafuperman [1944 WB cartoon]
- Stupor Duck [1956 WB cartoon]
- Superman: The Movie, Expanded Edition
- Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Extended Version)
- Taking Flight: The Development of Superman - 30 minute featurette hosted by Marc McClure
- Making Superman: Filming the Legend - 30 minute featurette
- The Magic Behind the Cape - 23 minute featurette
- Screen Tests
- Lois Lane with Optional Commentary
- o Ursa
- A Selection of Restored Scenes
- Additional Music Cues
- Main Titles
- Alternate Main Titles
- The Council's Decision
- The Krypton Quake
- More Mugger/Introducing Otis
- Air Force One
- Can You Read My Mind (Pop Version)
- Music Only Track (Donner Cut)
- Superman II, Original Theatrical
- Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version)
- The Making of Superman II [1980 TV special] - 52 minutes
- Deleted Scene
- First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series
- Fleischer Studios' Superman
- The Mechanical Monsters
- Billion Dollar Limited
- The Arctic Giant
- The Bulleteers
- The Magnetic Telescope
- Electric Earthquake
- Terror on the Midway
- Theatrical Trailer
- Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut
- Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Donner Cut)
- Introduction by Richard Donner
- Superman II: Restoring the Vision - 13 minute featurette (2006)
- 6 Deleted Scenes
- Famous Studios' Superman
- Eleventh Hour
- Destruction, Inc
- The Mummy Strikes
- Jungle Drums
- The Underground World
- Secret Agent
- Superman III Theatrical Version
- Commentary by Iilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
- The Making of Superman III (1983 TV Special) - 49 minutes
- 11 Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Superman IV The Quest For Peace Theatrical Version
- Commentary by Mark Rosenthal
- Superman 50th Anniversary Special (1988 TV Special) - 48 minutes
- 15 Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Superman Returns
- Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns
- Pt. 1 Secret Origins and First Issues: Crystallizing Superman
- Pt. 2 The Crystal Method: Designing Superman
- Pt. 3 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman on the Farm
- Pt. 4 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in the City
- Pt. 5 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in Peril
- Pt. 6 The Joy of Lex: Menacing Superman
- Pt. 7 He's Always Around: Wrapping Superman
- Resurrecting Jor-El
- Deleted Scenes including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman Returns
- Bryan Singer's Journals - Video production journals (29 entries)
Disc 8: Additional Bonus Material
- (HD) Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman - 110 minutes
- You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman
- Pt. 1- Origin
- Pt. 2- Vision
- Pt. 3- Ascent
- Pt. 4- Crisis
- Pt. 5- Redemption
- (HD) The Science of Superman - 51 minutes
- The Mythology of Superman
- The Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve
- The Adventures of Superpup [1958 TV pilot]
I have been a Superman fan for as long as I can remember. Seeing him brought to life on the big screen left an indelible impression that resonates today. Much of this is owed to the wonderful and timeless portrayal by Christopher Reeve who will forever be fondly remembered as the epitome of the character. Warner Home Video brings the entire Superman Collection to Blu-ray in this definitive offering that sees Superman: The Movie (both versions), Superman II, III, and IV with new HD transfers and lossless sound that has them looking and sounding better than ever. The extensive compliment of bonus features spans the franchise and offers fans hours of content that is well worth exploring. As a fan I am thrilled to own the four versions of the first two films as well as the interesting and entertaining features associated with them. Superman Returns is a guilty pleasure that I don't mind revisiting from time to time. I appreciate the fact that Superman III and Superman IV Quest for peace complete the collection and I respect their place as part of the Superman Movie franchise but they will never see any play beyond this review. My overall recommendation for Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006) is an enthusiastic one. Enjoy!
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