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Case Number 21546

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Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (Blu-ray)

Superman: The Movie
1978 // 143 Minutes // Rated PG
Superman II
1980 // 127 Minutes // Rated PG
Superman III
1983 // 125 Minutes // Rated PG
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
1987 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Superman: The Movie
2000 // 151 Minutes // Rated PG
Superman II
2006 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG
Superman Returns
2006 // 154 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // June 13th, 2011

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Editor's Note

Our reviews of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (published January 22nd, 2007), Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (HD DVD) (published November 28th, 2006), Superman II: Two-Disc Special Edition (published January 23rd, 2007), Superman Returns: Two Disc Special Edition (published November 20th, 2006), Superman: The Movie (published May 1st, 2001), Superman: The Movie (HD DVD) (published November 28th, 2006), and Superman: The Movie: Four-Disc Special Edition (published February 8th, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

"We're sitting on top of the story of the century here! I want the name of this flying whatchamacallit to go with The Daily Planet like bacon and eggs…franks and beans…death and taxes…politics and corruption."—Perry White

Opening Statement

Ponder this, whippersnappers: Back in the 1970s, there was no such thing as the superhero movie. Studio executives found the idea of feature films about tights-wearing crime fighters so absurd and juvenile that they refused to bankroll them. That is until, fresh off of their epic two-film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers, French film producing father-and-son team Alexander and Ilya Salkind set their sights on bringing Superman to the silver screen. To be sure, Superman was a massive pop culture icon long before the Salkinds came around. The creation of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster (both the sons of Jewish-American immigrants), the big daddy of all superheroes had been in comic books and newspapers for nearly four decades, and had successfully made the leap to radio serials in the 1940s and television in the 1950s. Superman was as indelible in American popular culture as Mickey Mouse long before the Salkinds got their hands on the movie rights to his story. Still, even in the wake of the fantasy movie success of George Lucas' Star Wars, no one really believed that a Superman movie would fly at the box office.

jerry siegel and joe shuster's superman

Back then, when we thought of a flesh-and-blood Man of Steel, we thought of George Reeves changing in the Daily Planet broom closet and leaping from a springboard out of the window of a plywood set on The Adventures of Superman television series. The show had been enormously popular among kids during its six-season run in the 1950s, and was still a hit among kids in the '70s (myself included), who watched it religiously in reruns. The idea of someone other than Reeves donning the blue suit and red cape was almost unfathomable—as was the idea of a Superman movie sans Leon Klatzkin's heroic theme music. In the early days of December 1978, we had no clue what the Salkinds and their director, Richard Donner (fresh off of his success with The Omen), were about to unleash on us. We couldn't imagine or anticipate how swiftly and decisively Christopher Reeve would wrench the mantle of Superman away from George Reeves, or how John Williams' amazing score—as indelible as his previous work on Jaws and Star Wars—would become so entwined with the Man of Steel in our cultural imagination that it's now difficult to even remember what Klatzkin's theme sounded like.

In addition to revitalizing Superman's popularity, Superman: The Movie became the blueprint for a rash of superhero movies in the decades since its release. The genre has made huge box office bank and remains enormously popular. Reeve and company would go on to make a trio of progressively weaker Superman sequels throughout the decade of the 1980s, but there's no denying that Superman: The Movie is one of the most influential blockbusters of the 1970s. So it is that Warner Bros. serves up this definitive Blu-ray box containing all of Reeve's outings as the Man of Steel, as well as director Bryan Singer's unsuccessful attempt to restart the franchise, Superman Returns.

Facts of the Case

Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology is a mammoth eight-disc Blu-ray box set containing all five Warner Bros. Superman features made between 1978 and 2006, including two versions of Superman: The Movie and Superman II, as well as enough extras to choke Krypto the Superdog.

christopher reeve is superman

Discs One and Two:

Superman: The Movie (Original 1978 Theatrical Release)
Superman: The Movie (Expanded Edition)
As the planet Krypton hurtles towards cataclysm, brilliant scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando, The Godfather) and his wife Lara (Susannah York, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?) place their infant son Kal-El in a spaceship and send him to Earth. Upon his arrival in Kansas, the boy is adopted by farmer Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford, 3:10 to Yuma [1957]) and his wife Martha (Phyllis Thaxter, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo). Young Clark Kent soon realizes he has powers far beyond mortal men. After Jonathan's death, Clark sets out north and, using a glowing crystal sent with him from his homeworld, builds his Fortress of Solitude and learns about Krypton from recordings assembled by Jor-El. Twelve years later, Clark (Christopher Reeve, The Remains of the Day) emerges from his fortress ready to become Superman.

Setting up base in Metropolis, Kent lands a job as a reporter at the city's most renowned newspaper, The Daily Planet. There, he meets editor Perry White (Jackie Cooper, The Champ [1931]), young photographer Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure, Back to the Future), and, most significantly, dogged reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder, Black Christmas [1974]), with whom he falls in love (though Lois only has eyes for Superman). The citizens of Metropolis are enthralled with Superman's daring feats, but the Man of Steel attracts an arch-enemy in Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, The French Connection). From his underground lair and with the help of his bumbling servant Otis (Ned Beatty, Deliverance) and girlfriend Miss Tessmacher (Valerie Perrine, Lenny), Luthor hatches a large scale real estate swindle involving the nuclear destruction of half of California and a large portion of America's east coast. The evil mastermind's discovery of Kryptonite—radioactive remnants of the planet Krypton capable of killing Superman—gives him confidence that he can avoid any troublesome interference from the world's greatest hero.

Discs Three and Four:

Superman II (Original 1980 Theatrical Release)
Superman II (The 2006 Richard Donner Cut)
With Lex Luthor imprisoned and Superman watching the skies, things have never been better in Metropolis…that is until an errant nuclear explosion in space releases three dastardly Kryptonians imprisoned in the Phantom Zone by Jor-El before their planet's destruction. General Zod (Terence Stamp, The Limey), Ursa (Sarah Douglas, Conan the Destroyer), and Non (Jack O'Halloran, King Kong [1976]) arrive on Earth with conquest on their minds. When Zod forces the president of the United States (E.G. Marshall, Creepshow) to kneel before him and pledge eternal allegiance, the Leader of the Free World warns the evil Kryptonian that there is one man who will never kneel before him. "Who is this imbecile? Where is he?" Zod asks. And Superman is, indeed, an imbecile, because he's at the Fortress of Solitude with Lois, where he's given up his powers and become mortal so he can bone her (and later get his ass handed to him by a loud-mouthed trucker in a grungy diner). Freshly escaped from prison, Lex Luthor gets in on the act, promising to deliver Supes to Zod and company in exchange for rule of Australia once they're done taking over the world. Meanwhile, as the post-coital bliss wears off, the Man of Steel realizes the error of his ways and, returning to the Fortress of Solitude, finds a way to restore his powers (thereby eating his cake and having it, too). An epic super-powered throw-down between Superman and the three Kryptonian baddies ensues.

Disc Five:

Superman III
Sad sack Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor, Stir Crazy) is terminally unemployed until he discovers an innate talent for computer programming and lands a job at Webco. Disappointed that he's not comfortably affluent after a week on the job, Gorman executes a scheme in which he tells the payroll computer system to divert the fractions of pennies it normally rounds off of all the employees' paychecks into Gorman's expense account. His ingenious embezzlement draws the attention of greedy Webco CEO Ross Webster (Robert Vaughan, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), a low-rent Lex Luthor who wants to use Gorman's programming skills to manipulate the price of coffee and then oil in order to make himself even more rich and powerful.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent is back in his hometown of Smallville to do a story about his high school reunion (because the citizens of Metropolis are apparently keenly interested in events held in Kansas gymnasiums and attended by middle-class working stiffs). Clark reunites with Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole, Smallville), whose teenage devotion to popular jocks has led to a life of drudgery, single motherhood, and pawning her engagement ring to stay afloat financially. Smallville conveniently happens to be the place where Gorman must go to reprogram the weather satellites that will allow Webster to devastate the Colombian coffee crop and make a bundle of money. When Superman mucks up Webster's plan, the dastardly capitalist has Gorman program a computer to make Kryptonite (because computers are magical devices that can do anything so long as you know how to feed them the proper instructions). Instead of killing Superman, the computer-synthesized Kryptonite turns him into a douchebag who bangs Webster's girlfriend (Pamela Stephenson, History of the World: Part I), wrecks a Metropolis pub by turning beer nuts into projectiles, and devastates an Italian stereotype's livelihood by righting the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Eventually, Superman splits in half, beats his douchey self up, and then flies off to do battle with a computer in order to save the world from coffee shortages and four-dollar-per-gallon gasoline (the combination of which, admittedly, would probably be enough to propel the United States into a second civil war).

Disc Six:

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Having previously saved the world from three evil Kryptonians and two rich guys who wanted to be richer, Superman pretty much has to invent stuff for himself to do now. When a snotty fifth grader named Jeremy writes Supes a letter demanding that he do away with all of the world's nuclear weapons, the Man of Tomorrow decides the kid has a point: Fascism ain't all that bad, really, when you consider how Earthlings are too stupid to know what's best for them. Superman makes a grand entrance at the United Nations to announce that he's going to throw every nuclear weapon on Earth into the sun. Delegates from all over the world applaud wildly at the super-powered space alien's attack on their national sovereignty. (I kid you not, there's a scene in which Lois Lane casually asks Superman how the missile confiscations are going. I wish director Sidney J. Furie had gone for absurdist comedy gold and had her promptly goose-step out of the room.)

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing at The Daily Planet. Greedy, muckraking mogul David Warfield has bought a controlling interest in the paper and wants to turn it into a sleazy tabloid. Lois, Clark, and Perry White are outraged that someone would have the audacity to think of Metropolis' greatest newspaper as a profit-making business—despite it apparently being a publicly-traded company with shareholders depending on it to increase the value of the mutual funds in their 401(k)'s. The logistics of being Superman become tricky when Warfield's daughter Lacy (Mariel Hemingway, Star 80) falls in love with Clark even as Superman continues to toy with Lois' emotions by doing stuff like revealing his secret identity to her and then wiping her memory with a kiss again, just like he did at the end of Superman II (I'm not convinced he completely defeated his douchebag side in Superman III).

As Superman embarks on his quest for peace, Lex Luthor is sprung from prison by his irritating valley boy nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer, Pretty in Pink). Armed with greed and a basic understanding of supply and demand, Luthor realizes that there's money to be had in procuring weapons for the ne'er-do-wells being disarmed by the Man of Steel. But first he'll need to do away with his arch-enemy. Armed with a single strand of Superman's hair—which he somehow manages to snip from a museum exhibit where it was holding up a 1,000-pound weight (Superman's locks are stronger than high tensile steel yet vulnerable to pinking shears, I guess)—he uses the superhero's genetic material and the power of the sun to create Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), a light-powered clone with a bouffant hairdo who is capable of irradiating Superman with deadly Lee Press-on Nails. Super-powered fisticuffs ensue, during which, to my utter delight, Nuclear Man picks up the Statue of Liberty and tries to drop it on a bunch of Metropolis pedestrians…just because. Also, Superman demonstrates a power that DC Comics somehow forgot to tell us about through nearly five decades of monthly publications up to that point: Wall Repair Vision.

Can Superman defeat Nuclear Man and stop Lex Luthor's evil scheme? More importantly, how can the gang at The Daily Planet vanquish the Page Six Girls who are besmirching their revered publication?

Disc Seven:

Superman Returns
When scientists discover the remnants of Krypton, Superman (Brandon Routh, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) departs Earth unannounced to go investigate what's left of his homeworld. Five years later, he returns, having discovered nothing but a graveyard and knowing that he is, indeed, the Last Son of Krypton. During his absence, life has moved on. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth, Blue Crush) is mother to 5-year-old Jason and perpetually engaged to Perry White's (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon) nephew Richard (James Marsden, X-Men). She's not exactly pleased with the Man of Steel's sudden disappearance and subsequent return. As a matter of fact, while he was gone she won a Pulitzer Prize for her editorial piece, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."

As Superman navigates the rocky emotional terrain created by his long absence, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects) emerges a fabulously wealthy man from a marriage of convenience to a rich old lady (Noel Neill, The Adventures of Superman), recently deceased. Stunned and outraged by Superman's return, Luthor finds his way to the Fortress of Solitude where he steals Supes' Kyrptonian crystals and formulates a new real estate swindle: use the crystals to create a new continent, destroying the United States and setting himself up as the emperor of the world. If Superman is to save the day, he must rid the Earth of the Kryptonian landmass growing off of America's east coast. But the Herculean feat may cost the Man of Steel his life since the alien continent is laced with Kryptonite.

Meanwhile, startling revelations about young Jason White reaffirm Superman's conviction that he truly is a citizen of his adopted homeworld.

Disc Eight:

In addition to their respective features, each disc is packed with supplements (discussed in detail later in this review). The set's eighth disc contains a ton more extras, including two feature-length documentaries and more deleted scenes.

The Evidence

Superman: The Movie only happened because of the tireless salesmanship of Ilya Salkind, who lobbied for the project despite a general lack of interest by studio decision-makers. To pique the interest of the powerful, he first convinced Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, to write a screenplay. Puzo's involvement was enough to lend the project credibility, but not enough to sell it. For that, Salkind had to convince Marlon Brando to take on the role of Jor-El. For a well-publicized (and unheard of at the time) sum of $15 million, and after a meeting with Richard Donner during which the director purportedly shot down Brando's outlandish interpretations of Superman's dad (thus earning the actor's respect), Brando signed on. The Salkinds' epic Superman feature instantly became a high-profile object of desire for studio executives all over the world. Warner Bros. snatched up the North American distribution rights, and the project was off to the races.

marlon brando is jor-el

If the Salkinds deserve the credit for getting Superman: The Movie off the ground, then director Richard Donner deserves the credit for making the movie such an enormous hit. He brought the aesthetic sensibilities that successfully translated Supes from the funny pages to the big-budget, high-profile silver screen. Donner's unifying concept, the idea that he drilled repeatedly into the heads of his entire cast and crew was "verisimilitude." He believed that audiences—adult audiences, even—would buy the fantasy of the Man of Steel if the world around him mimicked reality (Christopher Nolan's recent Batman films follow the same template; people who say they're "realistic" are incorrect—Nolan, like Donner before him, didn't ground his comic book stories in realism but a simulacrum of realism). The result of Donner's experiment is a movie that fully embraces all of the fun of comic book excesses, while also delivering real emotional heft and a plot (absurd as it is sometimes) whose stakes feel real. As a superhero flick, Superman: The Movie is nearly pitch-perfect. Its stumbles are so few and so minor that three decades and countless other comic book adaptations after its release, it remains one of finest entries in the genre, if not the finest entry.

A classic superhero origin tale, Superman: The Movie unfolds in three distinct acts, each with its own sense of pace and visual design. The flick opens on the cold, utilitarian world of Krypton, with bottomless canyons, massive skyscrapers that look like crystal formations, and an enormous dome beneath which Jor-El and the planet's council of elders sentence three Kryptonian criminals to eternity in an outer space prison called the Phantom Zone. Act Two moves to the warm fields of Kansas, where, in a delightfully economic scene featuring Glenn Ford, the teenage Clark Kent learns humility and is implanted with the idea to use his powers for a purpose greater than self-aggrandizement. The movie's third act moves to Metropolis, where Donner ratchets up the deliberate pace of the first two-thirds, while paying brilliant homage to His Girl Friday and other fast-talking comedies of Hollywood's past as Clark, Lois, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White engage in rapid-fire newsroom repartee meticulously blocked by Donner and shot by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey). Not only does the third act add comedy, both subtle and broad, but also lots of action as Superman saves airplanes and helicopters, foils robbers, rescues a kitten stranded in a tree, and squares off against Luthor. Sure, some of it is gripping and some of it is silly, but the same can be said for Superman comics of every era.

Part of what gives Superman: The Movie its epic heft is Donner's casting decisions. Beginning with Brando, he filled the flick's supporting roles with a laundry list of screen luminaries. Glenn Ford plays Clark Kent's salt-of-the-earth adoptive father; Trevor Howard (Brief Encounter) and Maria Schell (Le Notti Bianchi) turn up as two of the Kryptonian elders who disregard Jor-El's warnings of impending planetary destruction; and Jackie Cooper, who'd been making movies since he was a kid, steps into the role of Perry White. These were big, bold casting choices for an untested genre of which the Hollywood establishment was deeply skeptical. The payoff was huge. Along with the vast landscapes of Krypton, the golden wheat fields of Smallville, and the bustle of Metropolis, the screen charisma and textured performances of these actors make the world of Superman feel vast, rich, and minutely detailed.

There was a period after I saw Superman again for the first time as an adult that I considered Lex Luthor to be the film's weak link. I retract that assessment. Taking into account that Donner's movie came out years before Luthor was reinvented by DC Comics as an evil billionaire industrialist, Gene Hackman's turn as the villain is inspired. Ditching Luthor's mad scientist comic book origins, Hackman plays Superman's arch-enemy with playfully fiendish flair. Ned Beatty's bumbling Otis is sometimes criticized for being an element of overly broad comedy, but I've come to appreciate what Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz were going for. Otis is there to allow Hackman to plow through the sort of expository dialogue that is almost unavoidable in the genre. His idiocy allows Hackman to chew through the scenes with gleeful, sarcastic abandon. All of that preening scenery chewing would be for naught if Luthor was a weak opponent for the Man of Steel, but when it comes time to turn on the evil, Hackman comes across with a surprisingly subtle menace that maintains the character's caustic sense of humor while adding and undertone of remorseless, cold-hearted cruelty. Hackman's Lex Luthor is a supervillain with style. One need only look as far as Kevin Spacey's more conventional interpretation of the character in Superman Returns to recognize Hackman's creativity and control.

margot kidder is lois lane

But let's get down to brass tacks. Christopher Reeve is the glue that holds Superman: The Movie together. His performance as the Man of Steel is unbelievably perfect. Superman/Clark Kent is a tricky dual role to negotiate, but Reeve delivers a caped hero who is earnest without being corny, and who oozes decency, honor, and a variety of middle-American humility that places a check on his enormous power. Based on the screwball comedy performances of Cary Grant (particularly in Bringing Up Baby and Monkey Business), Reeve's Clark Kent is bumbling and comedic, while sharp enough to keep up with (or at least remain only a step behind) the quick banter in The Daily Planet newsroom. On top of all that, Reeve just looks like Superman. He would appear to grow bored with the superhero shtick in later entries in the series, but in Superman: The Movie he's absolutely perfect. His best scenes are playing opposite Margot Kidder as Lois Lane. In them, the full weight and depth of the character blossoms, despite the wrap on Superman that he's so powerful and godlike a character that it's difficult for audiences to relate to him. A major weakness of many comic book movies is that their female leads are often two-dimensional damsels in distress who serves no clear purpose in the plot other than a being a grudging acknowledgement that a little over half of the human population is women. Not so Superman: The Movie. Lois Lane is a fully formed character, wonderfully played by Kidder, whose attraction to the Man of Steel is the emotional core of the movie. Despite all the derring-do, fiendish villainy, and travels through outer space, Superman: The Movie is, at its heart, a romance—and that's one of the many things that continues to set it apart from its scores of imitators.

Discs One and Two of this set offer two different versions of Superman: The Movie: the 1978 theatrical edition and an expanded edition created by Donner at the behest of Warner Bros. in 2000. The expanded edition incorporates eight minutes of hit-or-miss footage previously seen on network television broadcasts of the movie. Expanded action on Krypton is cool, as is the addition of Superman foiling the machine gun and flamethrower defenses outside Luthor's lair. But added dialogue that reveals that a little girl who witnesses young Clark Kent racing a Smallville train on foot is Lois Lane is unnecessarily cutesy, while a scene of Martha Kent setting out a box of Cheerios for Clark's breakfast comes off as unnecessary product placement.

Both versions of the movie look great on Blu-ray, though the 2000 cut edges out the 1978 version by a hair due to the tender loving care that it's received in various home video releases over the years. Each 1080p/AVC transfer is minted from a brand new master that improves slightly on the earlier stand-alone Blu-ray release of the movie. Geoffrey Unsworth shot much of the movie with filters to diffuse the lighting and make everything soft around the edges. The transfer handles the challenges of such an approach with aplomb, though digital noise is occasionally visible. Detail is excellent throughout. Colors are perfect. Superman's boots and cape, for example, are rendered in vivid reds that never bleed. Superman: The Movie doesn't look quite as good as the later entries in the series, but given its age, it probably never will.

Audio for both cuts is a fairly robust DTS-HD Master Audio track in 5.1 surround. Dialogue is slightly cramped (not surprising given the movie's age), but John Williams' score and the movie's many audio effects are spread effectively across the entire soundstage, creating a bold and immersive aural experience. Use of directional panning is aggressive without being gimmicky.

As with their Three Musketeers duology, the Salkinds originally intended to shoot two Superman movies simultaneously and then release them a year apart. Donner proceeded along those lines, but with about 80 percent of Superman II in the can and the budget beginning to dry up the decision was made to complete the first film and then pick up production on the second when and if the box office profits began rolling in. But when Superman: The Movie was a massive hit, the Salkinds opted to cut Donner out of the process, replacing him with Richard Lester, who'd directed the two Musketeer movies. Despite the production shake-up, Superman II was also a huge box office hit, though it's not as epic or artistically satisfying as the first film.

clark and lois have sex

Chief among the movie's problems is its sullying of the chaste romance established between Superman and Lois in the first film. Superman recklessly surrenders his powers and becomes a mortal man in order to nail Lois in his bachelor pad Fortress of Solitude (which includes a space age bed with shiny silver sheets). While he's doing the dirty deed, the Earth is under assault from General Zod, who delights in demanding that everyone kneel before him, and generally acts as badass as possible while wearing thigh-high boots and a v-neck blouse with puffy sleeves. Terence Stamp is iconic in the role of Zod, providing the film with a genuine threat to Superman as well as some incredibly entertaining scenery chewing. Superman II also benefits from action that is doled out in greater quantity and a much more elaborate scale than in the first film (particularly when Superman throws down against the Kryptonians).

I loved the movie as a kid, but it is rife with problems, many of which were the result of Lester's last minute takeover of the project. Either because the Salkinds didn't want to pay or because he threatened to sue them for breach of contract because he'd only signed on to make a movie directed by Donner, all of Brando's scenes for Superman II were replaced by scenes with Susannah Yorke as Superman's mother Lara. Also displeased with the change in directors was Gene Hackman, who refused to finish the shoot with Lester. As a result, plot elements had to be tweaked to accommodate some gaps, brief sequences shot with a body double, and some ADR performed by a voice double. Hackman's limited involvement means that Luthor is primarily a joke in the movie, a buffoon trying to cut a ridiculous real estate deal with Zod and his cohorts. Superman II also has serious tonal problems. It often stumbles over its broad moments of comedy in ways the first film did not. And, worst of all, it fails to pay off some of the most interesting pieces of set-up from the first movie, as when Superman interferes with human history despite Jor-El's warnings not to do so. The result is a movie in which Superman makes more than one selfish decision, yet pays no serious consequence for his foolishness. Superman II entertains as an action movie, but fails to fully satisfy as a Superman adventure.

son of jor-el, kneel before zod!

Fans of the series were abuzz in 2006 when Warner Bros. gave Richard Donner the opportunity to assemble his intended version of Superman II. The Donner Cut, included on this set's fourth disc, offers an improvement over Lester's compromised version but not the definitive cut of the movie that fans had been wanting for over two decades. For one thing, Donner hadn't finished shooting everything he needed for the second movie at the time he was replaced, so it was impossible to assemble a cut completely free of Lester's material. More importantly, some of the changes are flat-out inferior to what's in the original theatrical cut. Most notably, Donner originally intended to save the sequence in which Superman turns back time by reversing the rotation of the Earth until the finale of the second movie. In the rush to assembling a stand-alone cut of Superman: The Movie for theatrical exhibition, they moved that sequence to the end of the first. In Donner's cut of the second film, he simply repeats the gag but with far less narrative and emotional power. Placed at the end of the first movie, the sequence has real emotional heft despite its outlandish premise (so much so that it's one of the most memorable and beloved sequences in the franchise). As the climax of the second film, it's pure gimmick, a corny deus ex machine that so thoroughly undoes everything that happened previously in the flick that you're left wondering why Superman didn't save you two hours and just turn back time as soon as things started going squirrely. Also of note is that much of the movie's lamest humor, which has traditionally been blamed on Lester's slapstick sensibilities, actually derives from Donner. The indescribably stupid scene in which Superman returns to a diner to beat up a truck driver who bullied him when he was a powerless Clark Kent? Donner shot it. The irritatingly broad gags featuring Clifton James playing basically the same bumpkin sheriff he played in the James Bond adventures Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun? Donner's. One of the unintended revelations of Donner's do-over is that Richard Lester didn't muck things up nearly as badly as everyone assumed over the years.

Despite the weaknesses that remain in Donner's version of Superman II, and despite the fact that it doesn't quite feel like a fully-formed replacement of Lester's movie, the 2006 edit is superior to the 1980 theatrical edition. The inclusion of all of the Brando footage shot by Donner fills in a plot hole or two as well as making the movie a more coherent sequel to the original. Gene Hackman is a more forceful presence in the movie, despite the use of some of the voice dubbing created by Lester. The movie's first act flows more naturally from the end of the original movie as it is one of the Luthor's nuclear missiles, not a bomb used by terrorists in an attempt to blow up the Eiffel Tower, that releases Zod, Ursa, and Non from the Phantom Zone. And despite the rickety re-use of the turning-back-time gag, Superman's wiping of Lois' memory of their romance carries significantly more emotional weight in Donner's cut. Where Lester treats it like a plot device meant to assure the audience that Superman's secret identity is once again safe, Donner gives us a Man of Steel who maintains a stiff upper lip while subtly revealing a pain in his eyes that says he wishes he could erase his own memory as well as Lois'. When you combine all of these elements with scenes that include Jor-El saying a final goodbye to his son, and Superman destroying the Fortress of Solitude, Donner's version of Superman II feels like the conclusion of the story begun in Superman: The Movie. Lester's does not.

Despite warnings about the quality of some film elements at the beginning of Donner's cut of Superman II, the two versions of the film look about equal on Blu-ray—which is to say both look excellent. Even a sequence that had to be sourced from one of Christopher Reeve's screen tests because Donner hadn't yet shot it when he was fired looks great (though Reeve is leaner than he was during the shoot, and doesn't wear the same glasses). Superman II sports all of the fine detail and bright, accurate colors seen in the original movie, but benefits from having few scenes that take place on Krypton, which, from a technical perspective, is the most troublesome part of the transfers of the original movie (because of the prevalent use of miniatures shot with high-speed film, and other optical effects, there is more density variation and instances of minor dirt and damage during the Krypton sequences than in the rest of the movie). Both movies are presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Lester's cut is 1080p/AVC, while Donner's is 1080p/VC-1. Audio on both cuts is a full-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio mix in 5.1 surround.

richard pryor in superman iii

With Superman III we get the first fully fledged Richard Lester Superman movie, and it is truly awful. After the bad blood between the Salkinds and Donner poisoned the water, there was no hope of getting Hackman to sign onto the project and Margot Kidder was only interested in collecting a paycheck for a cameo. The result is a movie that feels oddly disconnected from everything that came before. Clark/Superman spends most of his time in Smallville, where he interacts with former crush Lana Lang, though there's no substantive romantic chemistry between the two. Robert Vaughan joins the cast as a Lex Luthor type who is so drab and ineffectual that he only succeeds in making you miss the real Luthor even more. The movie's greatest sin, though, is how diligently it works to divide its energies equally between Superman and Gus Gorman, the amoral working stiff/computer genius played by Richard Pryor. Given Lester's comic tendencies, it becomes quickly evident that he was more interested in working with Pryor than making a Superman adventure.

From the chintzy opening credits sequence, which involves Supes flying into a slapstick tableau that includes a blind man mistaking a road paint machine for his seeing-eye dog, an old man getting yellow paint spilled on his bald dome, and a workman with an extension ladder accidentally stealing a bag of bank loot from a robber, it's abundantly clear that the movie has no intention of maintaining the tone of the first two entries in the series. Things only get worse from there. In one scene, Richard Pryor snow skis down the side of a skyscraper while wearing a pink tablecloth as a cape. In another, he's able to reprogram traffic signals so that the pedestrian walk/don't walk lights get into a fistfight with one another. Meanwhile, Superman basks in the glory of all the former cool kids from his Smallville High graduating class having turned into working class losers and alcoholics, until some computer-synthesized Kryptonite turns him into a jerk. The entire movie vacillates wildly from inanity to incomprehensibility. It's a pretty solid unintentional comedy, though.

Superman III takes flight on Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC transfer even better than the ones for Superman II. While previous DVD releases of the picture have only had stereo audio mixes, Superman III has been treated to a full DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 expansion on Blu-ray. The track is clean and solid. Dialogue is slightly cramped due to source limitations, but imaging is excellent across the entire soundstage.

nuclear man in superman iv

Superman III appeared to be such a franchise-killing bomb (I was 13 years old when it came out, and didn't see it in the theater even though I'd loved the first two flicks) that the Salkinds sold their Superman movie rights to Israeli producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who thought they might give the franchise a go under the banner of their Cannon Films production house. They enticed Reeve to join the project with promises of story input as well as a deal to make some non-Superman movies of his choosing. Once Reeve was onboard, they had no trouble getting Kidder, McClure, Hackman, and Cooper to reprise their supporting roles. Still, once production began, Cannon Films proved too strapped financially to make a movie of the epic proportions that Reeve and the others had envisioned. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is at once a more natural and familiar sequel to the first two movies due to the use of the same cast, and an exercise in low-budget absurdity that makes Superman III look coherent and well-made.

The movie's anti-nuke story is hectoring, lame-brained, and…totally hilarious. Superman turns fascist at the behest of a snotty fifth-grader, and every leader of every country in the world is thrilled to knuckle under to his utopian demands. And Lex Luthor creates an evil clone of Superman who looks nothing like the Man of Steel and instantly becomes comatose if he's not standing in direct sunlight (an Achilles' heel that Superman doesn't seem quite bright enough to take advantage of). And, finally, we're treated to an extended sequence (and by "extended" I mean "it goes on about five minutes longer than it should") in which Superman and Clark Kent go on a double date with Lois Lane and Lacy Warfield, fabricating all sorts of contrivances that allow him to leave the room and reappear as his alter ego second later. Let's just say that the movie, which was directed by Sidney J. Furie (Lady Sings the Blues), is more similar in tone to Lester's work than Donner's. To put it as bluntly as possible, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is awful…and, man, do I have fun every time I watch it.

Presented in a 1080p/AVC transfer at its original 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace looks about as good on Blu-ray as its predecessor. Audio is a different matter. Unlike Superman III, the last of Christopher Reeves' red caped adventures has only been treated to a DTS-HD Master Audio upgrade of its stereo track. The mix is crisp, clean, and brighter than the Dolby stereo track on the old DVD, but it doesn't hold a candle to the uncompressed surround tracks for the rest of the movies in this set.

brandon routh is superman

After the dismal financial failure of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (not to mention the fact that it was treated like a bad joke by fans and critics alike), everyone assumed Warner Bros.' Superman franchise was dead. And for 19 years, they were right. But shortly after Christopher Reeves' death in 2004, director Bryan Singer abandoned his X-Men trilogy for the opportunity to make a new movie about the Man of Steel. The result, 2006's Superman Returns, is an homage to Richard Donner's films by way of being a loose sequel to Superman II that ignores the continuity in the third and fourth films.

Slick, sleek, digitally-enhanced, and running a bloated 20 minutes longer than Donner's original film, Singer's stab at Superman continues to leave me of a mixed mind. Given my antipathy to the whole Superman-boning-Lois aspects of Superman II, I'm not keen on the idea of making a direct sequel to that movie, but accepting that Singer opted to take on that task, he tells the story as it needs to be told. Superman Returns uses the events of Superman II to bring the theme of fatherhood, so central to Superman: The Movie, full circle. After the character's 19-year absence from movie theaters, and his seeming irrelevance in the wake of the popularity of darker heroes like Batman and Wolverine, Singer was also wise to make his film about the poignancy of a world that believes it has permanently lost the Man of Steel.

I also absolutely love some of the large scale action in Superman Returns. An airplane rescue near the film's beginning is far beyond anything Donner could have realized in the late '70s. Some have groused about some physics-defying CGI that doesn't quite look realistic, but I like that Singer appears to have modeled many of Superman's in-flight acrobatics on the action in the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from the 1940s. Fleischer's cartoons are thin on story, but they remain some of the most spectacular Superman action ever realized in moving pictures. It was a nice touch that Singer managed to slip in some homage to Fleischer even as he was paying homage to Donner. The problem with Singer's homage is that his movie matches Superman: The Movie almost beat for beat. The airplane rescue in Superman Returns is meant to evoke the helicopter rescue in the earlier movie; both films include central scenes in which the Man of Steel takes romantic flight with Lois Lane; and Superman hurling an entire continent into outer space is purposely as grand and outlandish as his reversing the rotation of the Earth. Singer's full-throttle love-fest for Donner's movie is touching and nostalgic, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of constantly reminding the viewer how much better Superman: The Movie is than Superman Returns.

Stepping into the red cape and boots for the franchise restart must have been daunting for Brandon Routh, but he does a decent job. He doesn't erase Reeve from the pop culture collective consciousness, but he had little chance of doing so and shouldn't be held to that high a standard (neither should any other actor who takes on the role). Routh is a solid Superman and an even better Clark Kent, evoking Christopher Reeve's Cary Grant-infused take on the character while also playing him with subtle differences. While Christopher Reeve played Clark as an entirely false creation of Superman's, custom-designed to make the bespectacled reporter the last person in the world anyone would suspect was secretly Superman, Routh plays him like a separate side of Superman's personality—a disguise, yes, but a disguise based more closely on the true Clark Kent known only to his adoptive parents. The problem is, regardless of Routh's qualities, he's entirely wrong for the story that Singer is trying to tell. Superman Returns is a story about the Man of Steel in mid-life crisis. Gone on a mission to Krypton for five years, he returns to Earth to discover that the love of his life has a child and fiancé. He must come to grips with regrets that may be impossible to resolve because life only happens once and if you're not careful time will get the better of you. At 26, Routh was incapable of credibly shouldering the movie's weighty emotional themes (don't even get me started on Singer's casting of then-23-year-old Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane). In the hands of an actor 10 or 15 years older, Superman's plight might have been weighted with poignancy. With a cast so young, it is not only implausible but comes off as self-indulgent and melodramatic.

Superman Returns is presented on this Blu-ray in the same 1080p/VC-1 transfer included on the standalone BD released in 2008. It's a fine looking transfer that has been unfairly criticized for excessive digital noise reduction that has rendered an image that is sometimes too smooth and lacking in sharp detail. I suspect two things are going on here: Singer may have intentionally softened the image a tad (even for theatrical exhibition) in order to more seamlessly blend live action material with CGI, and some critics may actually be confusing digitally rendered shots with live action. There are numerous shots of Superman flying in which, even in medium shots that give you a good look at his face, the character is a digital double and not Routh filmed on a green screen. It's fantastic digital work, but definitely smoother, less detailed, and more rubbery than a well-lighted shot of Routh would have been. Granting some leeway for those sequences, Superman Returns looks superb in high definition. Colors are bold and rich. Depth is excellent. Detail is frequently sharp and satisfying.

The original Blu-ray release of the movie came with a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, which was eventually upgraded to a Dolby TrueHD track in a second pressing. The version in this box set has been lavished with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It handles dialogue and subtle effects with aplomb, and thunders when it needs to during big special effects sequences.

Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology wouldn't be much of a box set if it only came with the films themselves. No worries there. The set is packed to the rafters with supplemental material. Each disc contains feature-specific extras, plus there's an eighth disc stacked with some high-quality content. Let's take a look.

Disc One Extras:

The theatrical cut of Superman is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary by producers Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind. A true producers' commentary, the track covers the origins of the picture and the array of incredible talent employed to bring a truly epic version of The Man of Steel to the silver screen.

The Making of Superman: The Movie (51:50)
This period making of documentary is an extended electronic press kit that hypes the release of the movie as well as providing a fair amount of detail about the production. Hosted by Christopher Reeve, the piece's central theme is that Superman: The Movie will make us believe that a man can fly.

Superman and the Mole Men (58:05)
This little gem from 1951 is the first non-serial big-screen adaptation of Superman. Starring George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane, the movie was essentially a theatrical pilot for The Adventures of Superman, the television series that would become a pop culture sensation across its six-season run from 1952 to 1958. The movie finds Superman defending a race of diminutive underground dwellers unearthed by a mining excavation and victimized by human beings with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality.

george reeves is superman

Superman and the Mole Men is treated to a spiffy full frame presentation in standard definition. Contrast is attractive, and the print is mostly clean and in great shape. Audio is a two-channel presentation of the movie's original analog mono track.

The set's first disc also contains a trio of Superman-based Merry Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons:

Super-Rabbit (1943)
After eating a super carrot designed by "a certain noted scientist," Bugs Bunny becomes super-powered. He travels to Deepinaharta, Texas to take on Cottontail Smith, a hunter organizing a huge rabbit hunt. The short was directed by Chuck Jones. Presentation is 480p full frame, from the same nearly pristine restored master included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Three box set.

Snafuperman (1944)
In this short directed by Friz Freleng, Private Snafu is given super-powers by Technical Fairy, First Class in order to fight the Nazis. Mayhem ensues. Unrestored and presented in black-and-white, the short is in rougher shape than the other two. The image sports lots of specks and scratches. Audio is cramped and shallow. I should also note that the short was made to entertain G.I.'s in combat, not children. It's pretty boss and more than a little surreal to watch a vintage Warner Bros. cartoon in which a sergeant barks at Snafu, "How the hell am I supposed to get anything done with you makin' all that racket?"

Stupor Duck (1956)
Directed by Robert McKimson, this short is the most faithful send-up of The Man of Steel of the three included. Daffy Duck plays costumed hero Stupor Duck as well as mild-mannered reporter Cluck Trent. The short is presented in a full frame, standard definition transfer that rivals if not exceeds that of Super-Rabbit. While some of the cartoon violence in Stupor Duck was sometimes censored for television broadcasts, the version here is uncut.

Theatrical Trailers and TV Spot
Finally, Disc One contains a TV spot and theatrical trailer for Superman: The Movie, as well as the text-based teaser trailer that was so successful at piquing audience interest in the movie that it inspired the memorable opening credit sequence in the finished film.

Disc Two Extras:

The extended cut of Superman is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary by Richard Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. In contrast to the commentary for the theatrical cut, this track delves more into the details of the shoot, the work of the cast and crew, the story development, and the movie's themes and narrative structure.

Taking Flight: The Development of Superman (30:14)
Hosted by Marc McClure, this 2001 retrospective making-of documentary provides a fairly wart-free overview of the development of Superman: The Movie. The piece is primarily concerned with industry skepticism about the project, and the financial wheeling-and-dealing executed by the Salkinds to get the movie off the ground.

Making Superman: Filming the Legend (30:41)
A companion piece to the earlier documentary, this piece, also hosted by Marc McClure, is about the pre-production and shooting of Superman: The Movie. It is primarily focused on Richard Donner's leadership, and his rallying cry of "verisimilitude," which became the aesthetic focus of the entire project.

The Magic Behind the Cape (23:45)
Hosted by Marc McClure and visual effects supervisor Roy Field, this featurette delves into the movie's special effects—particularly the variety of techniques used to make Superman fly in ways unlike audiences of the 1970s had ever seen. The piece offers detailed analysis as well as a ton of fascinating test footage.

Screen Tests (22:25)
There are screen test reels for various actors trying out for the roles of Superman, Lois Lane, and Ursa. The three segments are introduced by casting director Lynn Stalmaster. The most notable of the segments is Christopher Reeve's test, shot on February 1, 1977. Though slightly less polished than his final performance, he's so good that you don't have to be a professional casting director to immediately recognize that he's perfect for the role. There's a separate screen test of Reeves performing Clark Kent, again perfectly. The Lois Lane reel includes tests by Anne Archer, Lesley Ann Warren, Debra Raffin, Stockard Channing, Susan Blakely, and, of course, Margot Kidder. Stalmaster not only introduces the Lois reel, but also delivers an optional commentary track that provides additional insights into each of the famous actresses who tested for the role. Briefest of the reels is that for the role of villainous Kryptonian Ursa. There are tests for lesser-known actresses (mostly foreign because Donner initially wanted someone with an accent). Sarah Douglas' test is not included. The three reels can be accessed individually or via a Play All option.

Restored Scenes (11:14)
This reel contains the 10 scenes and sequence extensions added for the expanded version of Superman. The scenes can be accessed individually or via a Play All option.

Additional Scenes (3:23)
This is a brief collection of scenes not included in either version of Superman. They include Otis facing peril in order to feed a side of beef to Luthor's giant cats (aka "the babies"), and Luthor performing "You Must've Been a Beautiful Baby" on the piano as Otis feeds Miss Tessmacher to the babies in retaliation for her saving Superman.

Additional Music Cues (35:44)
This featurette contains eight John Williams music cues not used in the final film, or alternate takes of cues that were used. Most notable is an alternate main title theme (same music, but a very different arrangement). The eight cues can be accessed individually or via a Play All option.

Music Only Track
Finally, Disc Two allows you to watch the film sans dialogue getting in the way of John Williams' wonderful score. The music is presented in a fine Dolby 5.1 mix.

Disc Three Extras:

The theatrical cut of Superman II is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary by producers Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind. The duo discusses the transfer of directorial control from Richard Donner to Richard Lester and the resulting production hassles. The details are fascinating, though a bit of a white-wash, to be sure. Still, taken with a grain of salt, it's an interesting commentary, valuable for the way it airs the Salkinds' side of the story.

The Making of Superman II (52:15)
Like The Making of Superman: The Movie, this is an elaborate electronic press kit made at around the time of the sequel's release. Again hosted by Christopher Reeve, the piece contains production footage, as well as peek at the movie's New York premiere.

Superman's Soufflé Deleted Scene (:40)
This ultra-brief sequence set in the Fortress of Solitude combines lame sexual innuendo with Superman using his heat vision to cook a soufflé. As you can probably imagine, it's pure cinema magic.

First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series (12:55)
This featurette examines the 17 animated Superman shorts produced by Max Fleischer from 1941 to 1943. The innovative and action-packed cartoons were the first moving picture representations of the Man of Steel, and arguably the best (or at least most faithful to the comic book and comic strip) until Donner's feature film and Bruce Timm's Superman: The Animated Adventures, produced decades later.

The Fleischer Studios Superman (79:29)

classic max fleischer superman cartoons

This is a collection of the first nine animated Superman shorts produced by Max Fleischer. These are the shorts produced by Fleischer Studios (the remaining eight shorts were released by Famous Studios). They are:

• "Superman"
• "The Mechanical Monsters"
• "Billion Dollar Limited"
• "The Arctic Giant"
• "The Bulleteers"
• "The Magnetic Telescope"
• "Electric Earthquake"
• "Volcano"
• "Terror on the Midway"

The shorts are individually accessible from a sub-menu, or can be streamed together using a Play All option. They're all beautifully restored (though not pristine), and presented in full frame, standard definition transfers with mono audio.

Theatrical Trailer
Finally, Disc Three contains the theatrical trailer for Superman II.

Disc Four Extras:

The alternate cut of Superman II is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary by Richard Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. Like their commentary for the first film, this track delves into the details of the shoot, as well as the movie's themes and narrative structure. It also provides Donner's side of his removal from the project and replacement by Richard Lester. At times the track is blunt and caustic, but the two men mostly enjoy reliving their time working on Superman and Superman II.

Introduction by Richard Donner (1:54)
This video introduction to the alternate version of Superman II is a thank you to fans who lobbied to see Donner's intended version of the movie. It sidesteps the details of the controversy in favor of thanking fans, Warner Bros., and editor Michael Thau, who assembled the cut.

Superman II: Restoring the Vision (13:20)
Richard Donner and Michael Thau walk us through the process of restoring (to the best of their ability) Donner's intended version of the movie. Notable moments include Donner pretending he doesn't remember Richard Lester's name, and Thau's observation that, although Donner often claims never to have seen the theatrical version of the film, he's actually quite familiar with the material shot by Lester but is still so hurt by the loss of the project that he can barely watch any of the sequences that aren't his.

Deleted Scenes (8:44)
This collection of six deleted scenes represents material shot by Donner but left out of the new version of the movie. Much of the material is unnecessary extensions of existing scenes, such as Luthor and Miss Tessmacher's arrival at the Fortress of Solitude, and Zod, Non, and Ursa having a close encounter with the Fortress' security system.

Famous Studios Superman Cartoons
The eight animated Superman shorts produced by Max Fleischer under the Famous Studios banner are included:

• "Japoteurs"
• "Showdown"
• "Eleventh Hour"
• "Destruction, Inc."
• "The Mummy Strikes"
• "Jungle Drums"
• "The Underground World"
• "Secret Agent"

The shorts are individually accessible from a sub-menu, or can be streamed together using a Play All option. The video and audio presentation is in keeping with the Fleischer Studios shorts on the previous disc.

Disc Five Extras:

Superman III is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary by producers Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind. The duo traces the movie's origins and production, while offering an apologia for its evolution from an otherworldly adventure featuring the villainous Brainiac to a comedy vehicle for Richard Pryor. Salkind's defense is that the third movie in the franchise is just an episodic adventure…like on television. Okey-dokey.

The Making of Superman III (49:08)
This is yet another lengthy electronic press kit. This time, the piece spends an inordinate amount of time showing the cast and crew meeting Eunice and Sargent Shriver at the Special Olympics charity brunch at which the movie premiered. The most entertaining moment is when the Shrivers are star struck by the arrival of Jackie Cooper.

Deleted Scenes (19:43)
This reel of 11 deleted scenes can be accessed individually, or strung together with a Play All option. Many are lame gags in the style of the buffoonery on display during the movie's opening credits sequence, or brief extensions to existing scenes. The scenes are presented in rough standard definition, cropped to 1.33:1.

Theatrical Trailer
Finally, Disc Five contains the theatrical trailer for Superman III.

Disc Six Extras:

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary by screenwriter Mark Rosenthal, who is brutally honest about the movie's shortcomings while also providing a lot of production information. He makes particular note of how the movie was cut from 134 minutes to 90 minutes, making it incomprehensible. Aside from some lengthy gaps of silence, it's a great track.

Superman 50th Anniversary Special (48:10)
Hosted by Dana Carvey and featuring other members of the Saturday Night Live cast, this 1988 television special is one-part documentary, one-part collection of lame, Superman-related comedy sketches. Despite featuring Superman clips from Kirk Alyn serials, Max Fleischer cartoons, and the Christopher Reeve movies, the documentary is more embarrassing than informative.

Deleted Scenes (31:02)
The largest collection of deleted scenes in this set so far, the reel on Disc Six contains 15 excised sequences, presented in full 480p anamorphic widescreen, though the elements are rough around the edges. They can be accessed individually, or strung together with a Play All option.
Most of the material consists of extensions to existing scenes. None of it indicates that there's a good two-and-a-half-hour movie obscured by Superman IV's having been cut to 90 minutes. The highlight of the deleted scenes is a sequence in which Superman pays a visit to Jeremy's (the letter-writing kid) classroom to explain that he can't just do away with all nuclear weapons because he's taken a vow not to be a fascist. Jeremy's biting retort: What good is not being a fascist if the entire world is blown up? Touché, Jeremy, touché. Another outstanding sequence involves a proto-nuclear man walking around naked except for a hubcap on his Johnson. It's entirely possible that Superman IV: The Quest for Peace could have been even worse than it already is.

Theatrical Trailer
Finally, Disc Six contains the theatrical trailer for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Disc Seven Extras:

Requiem for Krypton: The Making of Superman Returns (173:41)
This five-part nearly three-hour documentary covers every aspect of director Bryan Singer's attempt to breathe new life into the Superman franchise while also paying homage to Richard Donner's original. It includes polished interview pieces, as well as raw behind-the-scenes footage that traces the project from its earliest conception to its completion. Frankly, it's a better movie than Superman Returns. The presentation is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen at 480p resolution.

Resurrecting Jor-El (4:00)
This brief featurette explores the technology and aesthetic approach to using computer-enhanced archive footage of Marlon Brando to bring a virtual Jor-El to life. The piece operates in demo mode, moving swiftly from the Brando footage, through computer models of varying sophistication, to the final product. The details of each step in the process are spelled out with on-screen text annotations.

Bryan Singer's Video Journals (82:00)
These 29 video diary entries capture numerous events throughout the production of the movie. Hardly off-the-cuff (the pieces are carefully edited, and you get the sense that Singer did multiple takes to get the end result he was looking for), the journal is mostly interesting for revealing something of Singer's thought processes and temperament. The presentation is rough digital video in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen (standard definition). The journal has a Play All option, or you can access the individual entries through a sub-menu.

Deleted Scenes (21:27)
Considering that, at 154 minutes Superman Returns is 20 minutes longer than Donner's theatrical cut of the original movie, this collection of 13 deleted scenes is surprising in how it sometimes adds to the movie's story. Of particular interest are scenes that show us Superman's return to Krypton, flashbacks to his teen years when he discovered his powers, and some Photoshopped pictures in Clark's room of Glenn Ford (who played Jonathan Kent in Superman: The Movie) with Eva Marie Saint (who replaces Phyllis Thaxter as Martha Kent in Singer's film). Each scene in the collection is individually accessible, or you can use the Play All option to watch them all.

Trailers
Finally, Disc Seven contains a teaser and theatrical trailer for Superman Returns.

Disc Eight Extras:

As if all that weren't enough, the set also contains an eight disc with a few additional supplements.

Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (115:00)
This is a dynamite feature-length documentary on all things Superman. It traces the character from his origins in comic books and newspaper strips, to animated shorts, movie serials, television shows, and the Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh movies. Made to pique people's interest in The Man of Tomorrow in advance of the release of Superman Returns, the movie was produced by Bryan Singer, directed by Kevin Burns (The Civil War), and hosted by Kevin Spacey. Contributors include Richard Donner, Margot Kidder, Annette O'Toole, Noel Neill, Jackie Cooper, Jack Larson, Mark Hamill, Bill Mumy, Ilya Salkind, Brandon Routh, and even Forrest J. Ackerman.

The movie is presented in full 1080p/AVC high definition in the 16:9 format. The image is sleek and clean. Audio is Dolby 5.1 surround.

You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman (89:24)
This fine documentary covers Superman's big-screen adventures from the early serials to the Reeve movies. Contributors include John Williams, Batman scribe Sam Hamm, Superman screenwriter Robert Benton, Ilya Salkind, Pierre Spengler, and DC Comics publishers Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn.

The Science of Superman (51:01)
This TV special, which originally aired on the National Geographic channel in 2006, breaks down the plausibility of Superman's powers in ridiculously unnecessary detail.

The Mythology of Superman (19:34)
Hosted by Terence Stamp and featuring contributions by DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz, author Phil Cousineau (Once and Future Myths), and film critic Kim Newman, this featurette draws connections between Superman and ancient mythological figures such as Odysseus, Perseus, and Hercules.

The Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve (18:00)
Featuring Richard Donner, John Williams, and others, this featurette traces Reeve's acting career and his philanthropy after his paralysis.

The Adventures of Superpup (21:34)
Shortly after the The Adventures of Superman came to end because of George Reeves' untimely death, someone had the bright idea for a live-action television adaptation of the Superman mythos starring little people dressed up as dogs. The result was this atrocious pilot episode, which was never aired on broadcast television. It deftly manages to insult children, Superman, and little people all at the same time.

Closing Statement

With all five of Warner Bros. Superman features (including two cuts of Superman: The Movie and Superman II), and hours upon hours of really excellent supplements (including a George Reeves Superman adventure, and all of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons), it's hard to imagine what more Superman fans could want. If you love these movies as much as I do (and, granted, I love Superman III and IV for entirely different reasons than I do the first two movies), then this set is a must-own.

The Verdict

Up, up, and away!

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Scales of Justice, Superman: The Movie

Video: 88
Audio: 90
Extras: 100
Acting: 100
Story: 100
Judgment: 100

Perp Profile, Superman: The Movie

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (German)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish, Descriptive)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Italian
• Norwegian
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Swedish
Running Time: 143 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Superman: The Movie

• Commentary
• TV Special
• Bonus Film
• Vintage Cartoons
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spot

Scales of Justice, Superman II

Video: 88
Audio: 90
Extras: 100
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Superman II

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (German)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish, Castilian)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Italian
• Norwegian
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Swedish
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Superman II

• Commentary
• TV Special
• Additional Scene
• Featurette
• Fleischer Studios Cartoons

Scales of Justice, Superman III

Video: 92
Audio: 92
Extras: 100
Acting: 80
Story: 70
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Superman III

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Hungarian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Polish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish, Castilian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Thai)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• English
• English (SDH)
• Chinese
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Greek
• Hebrew
• Hungarian
• Icelandic
• Italian
• Korean
• Norwegian
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Portuguese (Brazilian)
• Romanian
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Swedish
• Thai
• Turkish
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Superman III

• Commentary
• TV Special
• Additional Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer

Scales of Justice, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace

Video: 92
Audio: 75
Extras: 100
Acting: 77
Story: 60
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Hungarian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Polish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish, Castilian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Thai)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Chinese
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Greek
• Hebrew
• Hungarian
• Icelandic
• Italian
• Korean
• Norwegian
• Polish
• Portuguese (Brazilian)
• Romanian
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Swedish
• Thai
• Thai
• Turkish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace

• Commentary
• TV Special
• Additional Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer

Scales of Justice, Superman: The Movie

Video: 88
Audio: 90
Extras: 100
Acting: 100
Story: 95
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile, Superman: The Movie

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Italian
• Norwegian
• Portuguese
• Russian
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
Running Time: 151 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Superman: The Movie

• Commentary
• Documentaries
• Restored Scenes
• Deleted Scenes
• Screen Tests
• Music-Only Audio Track
• Additional Audio Cues

Scales of Justice, Superman II

Video: 88
Audio: 90
Extras: 100
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Superman II

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Chinese
• Czech
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Greek
• Hebrew
• Hungarian
• Icelandic
• Italian
• Korean
• Norwegian
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Portuguese (Brazilian)
• Romanian
• Russian
• Slovene
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Swedish
• Thai
• Turkish
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Superman II

• Introduction
• Commentary
• Featurette
• Additional Scenes
• Fleischer Studios Cartoons

Scales of Justice, Superman Returns

Video: 95
Audio: 98
Extras: 100
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile, Superman Returns

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Czech)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French, Quebecois)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Georgian)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Polish)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Russian)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish, Castilian)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Chinese
• Croatian
• Czech
• Danish
• Finnish
• French
• German
• German
• Hebrew
• Hungarian
• Icelandic
• Italian
• Korean
• Norwegian
• Polish
• Portuguese (Brzilian)
• Romanian
• Russian
• Slovene
• Spanish
• Spanish (Castilian)
• Swahili
• Swedish
• Thai
• Turkish
Running Time: 154 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Superman Returns

• Video Journals
• Additional Scenes
• Documentaries
• Featurettes
• TV Special
• TV Pilot
• Theatrical Trailers








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