Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Audio Commentary-Pierre Spengler (Producer), Ilya Salkind (Producer)
Featurette-The Making Of Superman III
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 124:56
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Lester
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Richard Pryor
Annette O'Toole
Robert Vaughn
Annie Ross
Pamela Stephenson
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music Ken Thorne


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 2.0
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0
Polish Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Swedish
Thai
Turkish
Chinese Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, partly integral to the plot
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     When the Salkinds fired Richard Donner from Superman II and replaced him with Richard Lester, the box office returns convinced them they had achieved the right balance of critical acclaim and profitability. So they handed full control over Superman III to Lester. The rest, as they say in show business, is history. Right from the get-go, we are shown an endless cavalcade of pratfalls and physical comedy that simply does not fit the aesthetic of the previous two films. This being 1983, the idea that a man could do a course in computing one month and be exploiting then-unknown data faults to make money the next was considered plausible. As I like to say, ignorance is only bliss for the ignorant.

     All kidding aside, the story begins in an office for the welfare department. We soon learn that as noble as Metropolis is, Richard Lester has made it like any other place in America. Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) is told, in not so many words, that he is a bum and his welfare payments are being cut off. On a matchbook he borrows from someone at this office he sees an advertisement for a computing course. Once there, he discovers that he has a great talent for computing. Subsequently, he discovers how to funnel fractions of cents from other peoples' transactions into his own account. Upon being discovered in the act, Gus is called in for a chat with the big boss of the corporation where he works. This boss, one Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), proposes that he forgive all of Gus' electronic transgressions if Gus goes to work for him directly, performing various tasks of increasing bad nature until the inevitable command to kill Superman is issued. And this being a Superman film, that command will be issued. Also along for the ride is Ross' sister, Vera (Annie Ross), who we shall say appears something like a cross between Ursa… and Non.

     This comparison has been done to death, but it is worth repeating. Whereas Richard Donner and his people approached Superman like a piece of ancient Greek mythology, Richard Lester seemed to regard it as a springboard for comedy. Not helping matters here is that even to this little boy with a Commodore 64 in the early 1980s, the uses made of a computer in this script are utterly intelligence-insulting. And I do not mean merely insulting the intelligence of the demographic traditionally associated with home computers in 1983. No, I mean that in order to not feel insulted by being asked to believe in most of the things Gus is shown doing with a computer you would need to be legally retarded.

     I have had many disagreements with people since 2006 concerning which version of Superman II was the better one. I have only one thing to say concerning the debate. Clearly, those people arguing in favour of the Lester version have not seen Superman III.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Superman III was first introduced to me on the Very Hazy System media. I do not know whether I have seen it on DVD or not, but I can say that this Blu-ray, whilst a little inconsistent, is head and shoulders above any previous medium.

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. The transfer varies a little in sharpness. Shots where the subject is near enough to the focal point are very sharp. Long, wide shots such as when Clark Kent is with Lana Lang, cleaning up after the reunion function, are notably diffuse. Optical special effects shots fare the worst, with the weather manipulation in Colombia putting me in mind of that Very Hazy System tape I saw as a child. Shadow detail is average. Anything that does not have direct lighting on it is barely possible to make out, cutting off very quickly into total darkness. No low-level noise is evident.

     The colours in this film are a great deal more gaudy, pastel-like than in the previous two films. Numerous segments in the film were assembled from archival footage or very cheap-looking blue-screen footage, and there is a noticeable difference in the colours of such segments. The transfer accurately reflects all the colours in the film, without any bleeding or misregistration.

     The transfer is compressed in the AVCHD codec and looks impeccable without any evidence of artefacting or the threat thereof. No aliasing was visible in the transfer, either. Film artefacts were few in number, and small in size. Quite apparently, this transfer has been struck from new source elements that have in turn been handled with care. Given the low regard in which this Superman is held, Warner Brothers deserve credit for that.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. They truncate a significant number of lines, and come dangerously close to losing all of the meaning.

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

Audio

     The audio transfer consists of no less than eleven soundtracks. Come on Warner Brothers, this really is not necessary.

     The first, and default, soundtrack is a 5.1 channel DTS HD Master Audio version of the original English dialogue. Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo dubs are offered in French, German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish. A Dolby Digital 1.0 dub in Spanish is offered, as are Dolby Digital 2.0 dubs in Portuguese, Hungarian, Polish voiceover, and Thai. Last is an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Again, this being a 1983 film, the quality and levels of the dubs are all over the place.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, with excellent separation of dialogue, sound effects, and music. No audio sync problems are apparent.

     The score music is credited to one Ken Thorne. Apart from aping the original theme composed by John Williams, the score does nothing memorable. Granted, the script does not give Thorne a lot to work with, but a lot of the score smacks of simply not trying.

     The surround channels are used to direct environmental effects and music around the listener. Unfortunately, they do not have a great deal to work with. Like another august franchise owned by Warners that I would like to see on Blu, Superman III was really designed sonically with the cinemas and everyday sound systems common to the time in mind. You could really lose two channels out of this soundtrack and not notice any real difference. The subwoofer is worked a little harder in order to add some bottom end to more violent or intense moments in the film, but it is not worked especially hard. The most that can be said for the LFE in this transfer is that unlike the surround channels, it would be missed if lost.

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

Extras

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

     If there is an award out there for most unanimated, dull, lifeless audio commentary, this effort is most certainly on the short list for it. Both Spengler and Salkind speak in a near-monotone, and it becomes boring very quickly. Not helping matters is that they were quite clearly recorded separately, and seem so dispassionate about the subject that neither of them have any energy to bounce off.

Featurette - The Making Of Superman III

     Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This forty-nine minute featurette was clearly made with the intention of broadcasting on television for publicity.

Deleted Scenes

     Eleven scenes are presented in this submenu, with a Play All option. Total running time is just over nineteen minutes and fourteen seconds. Each scene is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Interestingly, most of the scenes involve the Gus Gorman character.

Theatrical Trailer

     Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this trailer is like a collection of the worst moments in the film. On the positive side, the video quality is actually pretty good considering this is a trailer for a 1983 film.

R4 vs R1

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

    Again, the main difference between the two discs appears to be in the linguistic options. Call this one even.

Summary

     Even altered into a film totally unrelated to Krypton's favourite son, Superman III just flat-out sucks. The writing is atrocious (and ultimately childish, let us not forget), the acting from everyone save for Christopher Reeve and a few exceptions sucks, and the direction sucks even more. Adding to the problem is that the focus seems to be almost entirely upon the Gus Gorman character, rather than Superman himself. The most positive thing that can be said about Superman III is that it provided its makers with what has become the most fundamental lesson in comic book adaptations: the less seriously one takes their source material and its characters, the less effective the results.

     The video transfer is very good, but the age of the film shines through in a big way. The audio transfer is good, but also betrays the age of the film.

     The extras are pretty minimal in number and ordinary in quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, November 21, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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