Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Superman: The Movie , the DC Super Hero Film directed by Richard Donner that starred Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5)

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
(Max score: 100)


Studio and Year: Warner - 1978
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 143 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Drama/Action

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French/Spanish Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marc McClure, Terence Stamp, Marlon Brando, Susannah York, Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper
Directed by: Richard Donner
Music by: John Williams
Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton
Region Code: A

Release Date: November 6, 2018

"The Man of Steel Has Arrived"
My Take:

Academy Award winners Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman head an all-star cast in the fantastic, action-packed film that made Christopher Reeve an international star playing the greatest superhero of all time. From the doomed planet of Krypton, two parents launch a spaceship carrying their infant son to earth. Here he grows up to become Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for the Metropolis Daily Planet. But with powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary men, he battles for truth and justice as Superman.

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.

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. 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 it again isn't just like being a kid again. It's better. I am thrilled to now own it on Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Superman was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Film Editing, Best Music (Original Score) and Best Sound. The film also received a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects. In 2017, Superman was inducted in to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

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.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 
UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 
Dolby Atmos Rating: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 
Superman: The Movie comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Superman was shot on 35mm film, and Its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that source. It's important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like Superman has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of cinematography that won't result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of many newer films shot today. This isn't a problem and shouldn't be seen as such.

This is a fantasy film that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Richard Donner’s vision. Reminiscent of other classic catalog films released on Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, this rendering takes the faithful reproduction on Blu-ray to the next level. Superman: The Movie has never made for a commanding visual experience on home video but, that was always a given determined by Geoffrey Unworth’s terrific cinematography and the elements necessary to convey the film’s varying tone.

I am happy to report that its primary foundation remains fully intact while revealing layers of seemingly new levels of detail, definition, color delineation, and emboldened contrast that elevate its thematic impact. The opening scenes with its brilliant whites, beautiful flyovers, deep blacks and enriching contrast look better than ever. The scenes that take place in Smallville retain their hazy aesthetic with moments where the increased resolution and wide color gamut draw forth a bit more delineation and depth. Grain remains perfectly intact with a predominantly even and filmic essence that underscores the thematic content.

Once Clark arrives in Metropolis the use of high dynamic range is put to work, added a pleasing visual element that enriched both natural and artificial light. I also felt that the purposefully dark/dreary sequences benefited from the application of HDR which emboldened their blacks and shadow delineation. The helicopter rescue looked terrific, as does the variety of specular highlights seen during the catastrophic events caused by the aftershocks later in the film.

The color range over the course of the presentation is reproduced beautifully, especially the rendering of primary colors, which are was gratifying and vivid. I also found that fleshtones appeared gradational and quite natural. The only blemish I noted was what appeared to be waxy complexions on the faces of General Zod and his minions during the sentencing on Krypton. I noticed it in a few instances with young Clark in Smallville too but, otherwise didn’t detect anything else worthy of note.

All in all, I found the Ultra HD presentation of Superman: The Movie allows its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. As I sat and watched I revisited myself seeing it for the first as that 13 year old boy in the theater.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for Superman: The Movie, I found the HDR to be extremely close. In fact, I would go so far as to say they were negligible. Again, I want to emphasize that this film’s predominating elements aren’t necessarily lent to the engaging type of HDR that makes the format shine. I did feel that the Dolby Vision rendering drew forth just a hint more depth in blues and reds. While I wouldn’t categorize it as worthy of a rating difference, it would be my preferred way of viewing the film.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, I was surprised at how active the mix is. The use of overhead sound objects elevates proportional correlation. When compared to the original 5.1 track the Atmos mix offers a noticeable improvement by opening up the soundstage, elevating the perception of low-level detail and seemingly offering broader dynamic range. John Williams’ beautiful music score invigorates the extended sound field as its presence underscores the storyline. The film is loaded with atmospherics, off screen cues and discrete sound effects that when applied using the freedom of object-based placement adds an enriching layer to the soundtrack. This is noticeable right from the opening title sequence with noteworthy examples being found throughout (the destruction of Krypton sounds incredible). The new Atmos mix adds a complimentary layer that brings the listening experience to new heights. Woo Hoo!

For those that are set up for Ultra HD but, not for Dolby Atmos, the lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (Atmos core) soundtrack on the Ultra HD version bests the 5.1 channel mix, offering excellent dynamic range, detail rich clarity, and noteworthy use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the bass and dynamic impact associated with the action-based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction.

** It should be noted that the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is the default audio option. Listening to the Dolby Atmos mix requires entering the audio set up menu and manually selecting it.**

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Superman: The Movie Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Superman: The Movie Blu-ray
    • Commentary by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind
    • The Making of Superman: The Movie 1978 TV Special
    • Superman and the Mole-Men
    • Cartoons
    • TV Spots and Trailers
  • Digital Copy
Final Thoughts:

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. Superman: The Movie arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring excellent overall video quality, a terrific Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience, and legacy supplements. Watching it again isn't just like being a kid again. It's better. I am thrilled to now own it on Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad /iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems