Superman-The Last Son of Krypton (1996)
Main Menu Audio
Additional Footage-Superman: Family, Friends & Foes
Featurette-Portrait Of A Hero: How To Draw Superman
|Year Of Production||1996|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||
Bruce W. Timm
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Croatian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Greek Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
This disc consists of the three opening episodes of the Superman animated TV show from 1996 shown together as a pilot movie. The story is shown continuously, with no episode breaks, and marks the fourth time in the last fortnight I have watched the origin of Superman. I had recently bought the old 1940s animated version of Superman on DVD for the kids, and after watching it we just had to watch the Christopher Reeve version again. Next, Smallville was on sale locally and so of course that had to be next. So, on to the review disc and we all sat down to see if we could handle watching this story all over again.
Oh, incidentally I am assuming that everyone reading this knows all about Superman either from comics, or big or small screen adaptations, right? OK, this present version begins on the planet Krypton and we meet Superman's father Jor-El as he conducts the scientific observations that will confirm his theory that his planet is on the verge of a series of cataclysmic volcanic events which will lead to its destruction. Unfortunately, the super-computer Brainiac disagrees with his findings and the ruling council ask him to stop his work as it is a dead end which can only cause needless panic amongst the population.
Well, it turns out that the disaster is closer at hand than expected, and Brainiac is hiding the truth so he can transfer all his data (memories) to a satellite and escape (rather than be kept on Krypton overseeing a doomed escape attempt). Jor-El and his wife bundle baby Kal into a spaceship off to Earth and Jor-El intones "My son - the last son of Krypton" as the planet disintegrates around him. The tiny craft makes a softer than usual landing in Smallville at 19:55 and the youngster is adopted by the childless Kents and named Clark.
I'm sure everyone knows the rest. Clark grows up, discovers his amazing powers, is told his true history and moves to Metropolis to take up his newspaper job as a mild mannered reporter at the Daily Planet alongside Lois Lane. At first Lois doesn't believe the rumours about the mysterious flying hero ("What's next, interviews with Bigfoot?") but she soon becomes his number one fan. His adopted parents encourage him to tell his story to the press to avoid panic "I don't want anyone to think you're like that nut in Gotham City" (apologies Batman). There is an encounter with the suave but villainous Lex Luthor, some terrorists try to wreak havoc with a robotic fighting machine, and we see a glimpse of Brainiac in his new guise of super villain.
Well, as you can see it covers all the bases, but is it any fun? Well, yes it is, though some of it is a trifle formulaic. The early scenes on Krypton are longer than usual and of some interest for fans, and there are some effective scenes later in the show (including an E.T. moment in front of the moon at 27:30 and the first big "S" moment at 34:21). The voice acting is good, with some famous guests including Malcolm McDowell. The short running time (the entire content, including extras, is less than 70 minutes) detracts from the value of the package, and the fact that the show is now available as a complete series in a boxed set in Region 1 suggests that this disc is best seen as a rental to keep the kids occupied rather than a shelf-filler.
Now it's time for a couple of rants, so please skip to the next section if you are not in the mood. The first is over the way the animated discs I have been reviewing lately are being released. I really hate the approach where a few random episodes are released from a series to take advantage of those fans who must have their favourite shows - and then they are squeezed again later when the boxed set is released. At the very least you should be able to trade in your odd discs for a discount on the boxed set. Next, the copyright warnings at the end of this show were insane - I have never seen so many languages on one disc before. OK, they were at the end of the show (thankfully), but do the manufacturers really expect anyone from Iceland to sit through 14 other languages just to watch a warning in their own tongue?
The video transfer is fair, but it reflects its television origins, and could possibly have been better for such a recent show.
The aspect ratio is 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is the way it would have been shown on US TV.
The picture is sharp, but shadow detail is inconsistent which reflects some variance in luminosity at times. There is no low level noise.
The colour is reasonably good, with some vibrant moments, but is affected by the luminosity issues already mentioned - they cause some variation in colour in some scenes.
There is some grain evident in the transfer, and also small positive and negative artefacts, along with minor aliasing. None of them is intrusive on its own, but they add up to a picture which looks a little the worse for wear.
I watched segments of the show with the English subtitles on which were quite good, with only an occasional missed word. The English for the Hearing Impaired titles are also fine (lots of "Tense instrumental music"), though they miss a number of audio cues for action (explosions and so on).
This is a single layered disc and so there is no layer change.
The audio transfer is about as good as can be expected given its TV origins - it does the job, but no more. The audio level is a little on the low side for my liking.
There are 6 Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks on the disc, all encoded at a bitrate of 192 Kb/s. The tracks are surround-encoded and default to ProLogic mode on my amplifier. I listened to the English track in its entirety and to portions of the Greek. Greek is a mother tongue (well, it was my mother's tongue) so I had fun with this one. Without wanting to insult any of my ancestors, the council scene sounded like a brawl at a Greek taverna - my kids enjoyed it immensely.
The dialogue is clear, and audio sync is reasonable for TV animation.
The main musical theme (by Shirley Walker) is quite good, but sounds suspiciously like the theme from the movie version of Superman. The plethora of composers who worked on the rest of the music do a workmanlike job, and the music is mixed at an appropriate level compared to the other audio elements.
There is some limited sound projection forward of the screen from the surround sound encoding but the overall effect is still fairly flat. This is supported by some bass activity in music and explosions if you have directed bass through your subwoofer.
|Surround Channel Use|
The extras are limited and only mildly interesting, adding little to the value of the overall package.
The menu has audio but no animation. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced. It has the following options: Play, Languages, Scene Selection (10 of those) and Special Features.
This is a selection of 7 brief video snippets from the series. You can watch them individually or Play All (as I did) - they run for 5:18 (ho hum).
This short (5:20) feature has Character Designer James Tucker running through the steps he takes in drawing Superman so you can give it a go too.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of this disc is similar to the Region 4 except that it includes some unrelated trailers and a DVD game. The game is called Escape From Planet Krypton and is apparently as dire as these things usually are, so it is no loss and means that there is no preferred version.
This is a mildly entertaining animated show on a perfectly average DVD. It really left me feeling that I wanted something more (preferably a few more episodes for the money). Most of the talent behind the show also worked on the Batman animated show I reviewed a short time ago, so if you have seen that you know what to expect. I just hope they release the boxed set of the whole season on DVD in Region 4 soon.
The video transfer is reasonable, though looking a little worn for such a recent show.
The audio transfer is what you would expect from a TV series of its age.
The extras are brief and of limited interest.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-K350, using Component output|
|Display||SONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Kenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|