Superman II: Two-Disc Special Edition (1980)

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Released 5-Dec-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes-Superman's Souffle
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Superman 50th Anniversary
Featurette-First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series
Featurette-Famous Studios' Superman
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 122:15 (Case: 118)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:36)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Richard Lester
Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Gene Hackman
Christopher Reeve
Ned Beatty
Jackie Cooper
Sarah Douglas
Margot Kidder
Jack O'Halloran
Valerie Perrine
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Ken Thorne


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Danish
Finnish
German
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Norwegian
Portuguese
Spanish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Superman is back! This time he faces off against three political prisoners from Krypton, each of whom have equal powers to the man of steel himself (again played by Christopher Reeve). Along the way he also reconciles the conflict between his love for Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and his love for the human race as a whole.

    After unsuccessfully leading a coup on Krypton, the megalomaniacal General Zod (a deliciously evil Terrence Stamp), the heartless Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and the simple brute Non (Jack O'Halloran) are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone by the Krypton council of elders (as seen at the start of Superman: The Movie). Years later, they are inadvertently set free by a stray nuclear device that Superman had sent into space while saving the human race. Upon discovering their super powers, that grow stronger the closer they come to a yellow sun, they invade planet Earth. Needless to say, a trail of super destruction is left in their wake.

    Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, again at his best) is quick to cash in on the action, offering the invading trio his increasingly intimate knowledge of the man of steel - for the small price of a continent or two!

    The question of whether Superman II is better than the original is one often debated by freaks and geeks everywhere, regardless of whether they are fans of Superman. It is certainly an argument that divides the masses. Without going into the politics of it all (see our review of Superman II: The Donner Cut for that!), it is Superman II all the way for my money. The story isn't bogged down by the origin story side of things, as is the case in Superman: The Movie. Both the action and romance sides of the story get straight to the point. There's certainly a degree of build-up to those aspects, but they don't muck around quite so much when they reach their climax as similar moments in the original do. I appreciate that this was simply the style of the original, but I prefer the style of the second. Furthermore, General Zod and his cohort are by far the most entertaining enemies Superman faces in any movie in the series. If that's not enough to spark a flame war, I don't know what is!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film opens with a notoriously awful poorly cut montage of key parts of the original Superman that runs for about 8 minutes. This montage varies in focus, but is mostly too soft. The montage is occasionally a little grainy. There are a number of film artefacts noticeable throughout it and, worst of all, the brightness flickers considerably - enough so to be quite a distraction. Upon viewing these opening minutes, I was prepared for the worst but was relieved to find the rest of the transfer to be excellent.

    There are a handful of film artefacts visible throughout the rest of the film, most noticeable during scenes in the fortress of solitude due to the high contrast in those scenes, but they are quite small. The image is quite sharp, in so much that it is accurate to the original intent of the material. For example, Margot Kidder was typically shot in soft focus for close-ups, such as at 21:35, and those soft focus shots are cut into scenes that are otherwise not in soft focus. The focus is different between shots in these scenes, but intentionally so. There are no issues at any point with low level noise. Some scenes have mildly noticeable grain, but not enough that it becomes a distraction.

    Colours are quite accurate to the original source and do look good. They are quite soft in comparison to a modern film, but that was the general trend at the time (largely due to film stocks used). The more colourful scenes, such as one in a rainforest at 60:43, look marvellous.

    Beyond the somewhat shoddy opening segment, the film is free from film-to-video artefacts and free of any noticeable MPEG compression related artefacts entirely.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at 67:36 minutes. The change is at an obvious point in the film, but was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    6 audio tracks are available, including one commentary track. There is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kbps) soundtrack, English and Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) soundtracks, and Spanish and German Dolby Digital 1.0 (192 Kbps) soundtracks.

    The dialogue is quite clear throughout and does not get buried in the mix at any point. The dialogue is in fairly good sync, but there are a few points where ADR has been used (such as at 33:10).

    An excellent job has been done in remastering the soundtrack to Dolby Digital 5.1. The surrounds are used frequently and to good effect, particularly during the big action scenes towards the end of the film and parts with big orchestral backing. There is great use of the LFE track, and consequently the subwoofer, for both explosions and environmental effects.

    Ken Thorne did a very good job of picking up where John Williams left off with the score. The style is quite consistent with that of the original Superman, yet quite accomplished in its own right. It has translated very well to the new 5.1 mix.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Anyone who was put off buying previous releases of Superman II because of the lack of extras available should quickly change their tune with this release. The extras package is excellent, particularly for a mid-priced release of an older title.

    The extras are spread across two discs as follows:

Disc 1

Main Menu Audio

Audio Commentary - Ilya Salkind (Executive Producer) and Pierre Spengler (Producer)

    This is an interesting commentary track, though more for political reasons than because of any anecdotes about the production that are given. The tone of the commentary is mostly praise for the film, particularly in the case of Ilya Salkind, but there is more than one occasion when the pair talk as though they are on trial for the parts of the movie fans frequently criticise (Salkind's defence of the infamous "throwing the S from his suit" part makes this worth a listen, if nothing else!). Alas, the abominable opening montage isn't one of those occasions - Salkind even goes as far as to call it "inspired". The producers do briefly address Richard Donner's "decision not to return" and why the franchise no longer "wanted" Marlon Brando, although it is, unsurprisingly, a little one sided! Pierre Spengler does a good, and rather generally impartial, job of identifying which parts are Donner filmed and which are Lester filmed, however.

    It would have been nice to have some insight from either director on the film, but this commentary track itself is worth listening to (although fans would probably advise it be taken with a grain of salt).

Deleted Scene - Superman's Soufflé (0:40)

    A single, rather amusing deleted scene that has enough double entendres to put James Bond to shame!

Theatrical Trailer

    Back in the days before the art of cutting a snappy trailer had been perfected this would have been a great trailer. It is a little cheesy and perhaps a little flat by today's standard, but that's a lot better than many of its peers!

Disc 2

Main Menu Audio

Featurette - The Making Of Superman II (50:07)

    A "Making of" TV special from 1982. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the transfer quality is reasonably good. The image is fairly soft, although that is not surprising given its age. The audio sounds dated, but is quite clear. This extra features the same range of subtitles as the feature.

    The featurette itself is very good. It is about one third marketing guff and two thirds actual "making of", which works out as a good balance. The "making of" sections are largely centred around the wardrobe and special effects aspects, which is quite appropriate for this kind of film. The marketing component includes opening night and a variety of cast and crew interviews in which they heap praise on one another no end.

    Of particular interest, and probably largely due to the line the producers were taking at the time of the film's release, this featurette manages to completely ignore Richard Donner's contributions to the film. It even includes footage of Richard Lester directing parts of the film that the producer commentary claims were largely done by Donner!

Featurette - Superman 50th Anniversary (48:11)

    A 50th anniversary tribute to Superman from 1988, executive produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring several of the guys behind Saturday Night Live at the time. This special is hosted by Superman fanatic come Wayne's World star Dana Carvey and features clips from various versions of Superman (TV, Radio, Comic, Movie) intercut with a number of "Citizens of Metropolis" being interviewed about what Superman means to them, including Metropolis' deputy mayor (played by Best in Show's Fred Willard) and Lou Reed - yes, the one from The Velvet Underground! In fact, Lou Reed's "I liked his old heroics better than his new heroics" bit is probably the highlight of the whole special. This is a very silly featurette, but worth a look.

    Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the transfer quality is good - particularly given the low production values apparent in the special itself.

Featurette - First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series (12:55)

    A short featurette about the production of the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons of the early 1940s. It doesn't go into great depth about anything, but provides some interesting background to the cartoons (a number of which are also featured on this disc and more again in the collector's edition set for Superman: The Movie.

    This featurette is in a 1.29:1 aspect ratio and has excellent video quality.

Featurette - Famous Studios Superman Cartoons (64:56)

    Eight of the 1940s Max Fleischer Superman cartoons are featured from the later days of the series (after the studio had been renamed "Famous Studios" instead of "Fleischer Studios"). The only thing better than these cartoons in this package is the main feature itself. They are fantastic. Not only are they great stories in their own right, but they are like a time capsule of the era - so much so that they border on being propaganda cartoons for the war effort at times.

    The cartoons feature superb animation and a striking noir style. The recent Batman has borrowed from this style incredibly heavily, both in terms of look and story design and pacing.

    Each is in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The video quality is very good for the age of these cartoons. There are film artefacts and grain visible to a modest degree and occasionally mild telecine wobble is noticeable, but none are enough to distract from the glorious animation. The audio is very clear, although it does sound somewhat dated. The cartoons can be played individually or all together as one feature.

    The cartoons featured are titled:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Aside from the usual NTSC/PAL difference, the only difference between the Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this special edition are the combinations of languages and subtitles. That said, there are numerous editions available of Superman II and this is the best edition in terms of both transfer and extras - so make sure you know what edition you are getting if purchasing sight unseen.

    The Region 4 version misses out on a mono 1.0 French audio track and French subtitles.

    The Region 1 version misses out on mono 1.0 German and Spanish audio tracks, a Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio track and Danish, Finnish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish and German for the Hearing Impaired subtitles.

    If alternate languages or subtitles are important to you, then pick the version with your preferred language. In all other aspects, the two versions are tied.

Summary

    Not only is this arguably the best Superman movie (and people will argue this fact until Superman himself comes to Earth to set them straight), but it is one of the best comic book movies of all time. It certainly has its faults, but they are more than made up for by the rest of the film.

    The extras package is, fittingly, superb.

    The video quality is very good, save for that of the hideous montage that begins the film (and which I would advise you fast forward as a matter of taste, anyway!).

    The audio is excellent and has been remastered into a 5.1 surround mix that puts a number of modern action films to shame.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, December 11, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
You mention Donner review in this review - Sam
Good Review..Can't wait to watch these... - Anonymous
Is the extended TV version included? - Anonymous REPLY POSTED