Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman Motion Picture Anthology, The: 1978-2006 (Blu-ray) (1978)

Superman Motion Picture Anthology, The: 1978-2006 (Blu-ray) (1978)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

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Overall Package

     The story of Krypton's favourite son has been told in one form or another since 1933. Beginning in a fanzine in a form that bears no resemblance to the one that was published later the same year and has enjoyed an astounding level of success since, Superman has been in every medium even in the face of changing times and massive changes to the world.

     Although this boxed set focuses mainly on the five feature films that have been made about Superman since 1978 (and two alternate edits), it also includes a treasure trove of television specials, cartoons, and even satires that will make one want to laugh, cry, or both. But the biggest selling point from my point of view was the one clearly marked on the back of the box: for the first time in DTS HD Master Audio.

     Superman, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, and Superman Returns have all previously been released on Blu-ray Disc. However, the audio was in plain old Dolby Digital, and there were moments when the video transfers raised serious questions about whether they had been taken from progressive sources. The discs of these films that are included with this set remedy those shortcomings.

     There are a couple of problems with this boxed set that will range from minor to moderate, depending on the individual. Both of which relate to the packaging. The boxed set is presented in a gatefold case that consists of an outer box with an attached flap on which the specifications for the discs, and other back cover material, are printed. Opening the boxed set requires removing the top part of this flap's plastic adhesive material, leaving it to rise and poke upward, causing small problems with the placement of this boxed set within some shelving units. The other, far more serious complaint, is the way the discs are placed within the gatefold. The gatefold is a four-segment book-like folder that opens out into a wide set of disc trays, requiring a lot of table space to get at individual discs. Worst of all, each segment has two discs on it, one on a disc tray that is moulded at a higher height than the other. This has the effect of making it necessary to remove the front disc in order to access the one behind it. This is a problem if you have motor control issues and want to watch, say Superman IV or the included documentary and its associated extras.

     Putting aside these quibbles, fans of Superman should need no further convincing to pick up this boxed set. Fans of progressive video or losslessly-compressed audio are in the same boat. If, however, you are not as versed in the virtues of the latter two as I am, own any of the previous releases, and have concerns about value for money, this review is for you.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, November 25, 2011
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978)

Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Audio Commentary
Featurette-The Making Of Superman: The Movie
Featurette-Superman And The Mole-Men
Featurette-Super Rabbit, Snafuperman, Stupor Duck
TV Spots
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 143:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder
Gene Hackman
Marlon Brando
Glenn Ford
Phyllis Thaxter
Case Gatefold
RPI ? Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
French Dolby Digital 2.0
German Dolby Digital 1.0
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0
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
Italian
Spanish
Spanish
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     For forty years (at the time of release), Superman had been published in comic books, serialised in cartoons and television series, and would soon even be the subject of videogames. The story of Superman's early creation (as a villain in his original form, no less) is related on the Wikipedia. But one story I have heard was that the Superman we all know and love was in part inspired by the übermensch propaganda circulating in Germany during the 1930s. Essentially, Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's parents were immigrants from various parts of Europe, and Jewish. So when the Nazi Party was proclaiming themselves to be everything Humanity should aspire to in spite of the presence of men like Josef Goebbels in their ranks, the temptation to create a 6'4" man who could knock down buildings with his hands and deflect bullets from his eyes, and explain this by making him a man from another world, must have simply been too much.

     In the mid-1970s, Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided that the time was right to make a feature film celebrating the greatness of this character. To this end, they hired a team of writers that would eventually include people like Mario Puzo as a writer, before Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz were hired to direct and write the final version of the script, respectively. Just making the film proved to be quite a challenge, and many special effects techniques had to be invented or reinvented in order to accomplish the many illusions needed in the story. And with the fateful decision made to shoot this original feature and the first sequel at the same time, the budget soon escalated to a then-unprecedented fifty-five million dollars. As a point of comparison, the lavish epics that were The Godfather parts one and two were released six and four years prior, respectively, shot with a combined budget of less than half of that.

     Being an introduction to Superman, both the character and his mythos, the story itself is pretty basic. After sentencing a trio of criminals to banishment into what he calls the Phantom Zone, Jor-El (Marlon Brando) urges his fellows in the government on Krypton to evacuate the planet, fearing that its increasing proximity with its sun will soon result in the planet's destruction. These pleas fall upon deaf ears, and Jor-El is even expressly forbidden to evacuate himself. He puts his son, Kal-El, into an escape pod and sends it hurtling across space, where it eventually lands on Earth, and Kal-El is taken in by the Kent family (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter). Around the time of his eighteenth birthday, sadly, Clark Kent, as he comes to call himself, witnesses the death by heart attack of Pa, and soon leaves Smallville in order to figure out once and for all who he is. Using a green crystal he found in the pod, he is able to build the Fortress Of Solitude and learn the basics from extremely interactive recordings left for him by Jor-El. Making his way to Metropolis in the guise of a very large but very timid thirty year old, Superman gets himself a job in one of the most prominent papers of that city. And playing both sides of the tracks, he begins to share things about who he is and what his mission is with a reporter named Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).

     Unfortunately, just as on Krypton, not everyone is completely on board with Superman's ideals. One such hostile element is the irritatingly self-proclaimed genius Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). Unfortunately, some of the things Lois prints about Superman enable Lex to work out a scheme by which he might kill what he calls the overgrown boy scout, thus removing any interference with an insane scheme to use nuclear missiles to sink California into the ocean and thus turn the desert land he has been buying up into beachfront property, thus greatly increasing its value.

     At the time of release, the concept of treating a comic book hero in the manner of a Homer-esque god was more or less unprecedented. In Greek mythology, the one thing that distinguished the gods from Humanity was that they had all the same emotions, aspirations, and abstract thoughts that we do, only writ that much larger. Richard Donner and company approach Superman in much the same way, building a set of rules for him through proxy of Kal-El's recordings, then making the story about knowing when the right moment to disobey them has come.

     This disc is of the original version of Superman that was released in theatres in December of 1978. Several other versions have been released for television and on home video since then, some of which have upwards of forty minutes of additional footage. This theatrical cut has some problems, but is well worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This film is younger than I am by a margin of a month and change. It has aged quite a lot better than I have, mainly because it has been taken care of, you know, the opposite of just being left to rot. That said, this version does not come up completely perfect.

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 window. The transfer's sharpness varies according to the distance of subjects from the focal point and the number of special effects in the finished shot. Most of the time it is very good, but the transfer definitely shows its age when Superman is chasing a nuclear missile or flying through the upper atmosphere in his rage during the climax of the film. The shadow detail is pretty ordinary during the small handful of night-time sequences. No low-level noise is evident.

     Unfortunately, the biggest problem here is the balance of colours. It would be another eleven years before Tim Burton graphically demonstrated to the world that, in comic book adaptations, less is a lot more from a lighting standpoint. Any practical light source visible in shots shows significant bloom, and more brightly-coloured locations in the film show minor overexposure or the threat thereof. Skin tones and outdoor environments are more natural. No misregistration was evident.

     The transfer is compressed in the AVCHD codec, and shows no signs of compression artefact. No aliasing or telecine wobble is evident, either. Film artefacts were a minor problem, but well within acceptable limits for both size and frequency when the age of the film is taken into account.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are reasonably accurate to the spoken word, with only a few minor truncations.

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

Audio

     The audio transfer is much like the video transfer. That is, also very good, but not quite tops.

     A total of nine soundtracks are offered with this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1; interestingly, a recreation of the original theatrical release's English soundtrack in DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 has also been provided. Dubs in French Dolby Digital 2.0, German Dolby Digital 1.0, Italian Dolby Digital 1.0, Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0, and Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0 have been provided. Also included is an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. I listened to all of the English soundtracks and briefly sampled some of the dubs. The dubs vary quite dramatically in level and quality, as is generally the case with a film of this age.

     The dialogue in both English soundtracks is clear and easy to understand, but the 5.1 remix definitely wins out in this regard. It also wins for separation between dialogue, sound effects, and music. The 2.0 mix is very good in both respects, but the extra four channels really do make a difference. Audio sync was spot-on.

     The music in this film is credited to the great John Williams. As related in one audio commentary (I think it is for the other version of the film), the main theme was deliberately designed so the name Superman could be sung out in time with it. Although I prefer other soundtracks by Williams, and the Ottman elements of the Superman Returns score, what we have here certainly does not let the side down.

     The surround channels are frequently used to wrap environmental cues around the listener. They call attention to themselves because of the inconsistent frequency of their use (Lex's dog-frequency message to Superman being a good example), but most of the time they do what is asked of them well. The only disappointing factor here is the almost total absence of surround cues during dialogue sequences, although this is admittedly a very common problem with films of this age.

     The subwoofer is used the support the music and occasional bass-heavy sound effects such as gunshots or nuclear missiles being launched. It stands out because of the infrequency of its use, but is integrated with the rest of the soundtrack very well when it does appear.

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)

     I tried to listen to more than a few minutes of this commentary. Really, I did. But I declare that Spengler and Salkind should never be allowed to commentate on anything that does not involve a sole focus on paint drying. And even then, I can think of far more entertaining commentators for such an event. This commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. And for the record, after listening to more than an hour in total of the other commentaries with these two, I could not get past the opening credits. Dead people make sounds with more verve and emotion than these two.

Featurette - The Making Of Superman: The Movie

     This 1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 featurette, at slightly less than fifty-two minutes, was quite obviously prepared for broadcast on the television of the time. Beginning with an excellent introduction by Christopher Reeve, this featurette is clearly designed for audience generation.

Featurette - Superman And The Mole-Men

     Fifty-eight minutes and five seconds of a real, as they say, blast from the past, with George Reeves as Superman. Presented in black and white, 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Cartoons

     The Play All option gives us a nineteen minute, twenty-seven second reel of Merrie Melodies cartoons. Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0, this is a collection of three old cartoons that satirise the Superman canon. In order of menu listing, these are titled Super Rabbit, Snafuperman, and Stupor Duck. Sadly, they are standard definition, so do not get your hopes up yet about old 'toons being presented in HD.

TV Spot

     A thirty-one second television advertisement presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Video quality is about what one would expect for a lightly-restored or well-preserved TV Spot of this age.

Teaser Trailer

     Seventy-four seconds of very clumsily-designed teaser trailer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Theatrical Trailer

     This two minute, forty second trailer in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is in surprisingly good shape for its age. Of the three trailers presented here, this is by a long road the best one.

R4 vs R1

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

    As seems to be the case with all Warner releases, the only discernible difference between these releases is in the language options. There are times when too few is preferable to too many, and the Superman series in Region B is a shining example of the latter. That aside, the decision as to which version represents the best value for money is pretty much up to the purchaser.

Summary

     Opinions are often sharply divided concerning which adaptation of which superhero is the best one. About the only area of agreement in this respect is which ones none of us ever want attributed to us. Whatever else one might think, we can all agree that Superman as directed by Richard Donner was the one that set what I will call the seriousness precedent. That is, the more seriously one takes the predicament of the hero, the better the result. Deep flaws exist with this adaptation, such as a damsel in distress who is unworthy of the hero or a villain that flat-out orders you to not take him seriously. But all in all, Superman sits on the side of the fence where the audience is assumed to be capable of thought. That alone makes it worth watching.

     The video transfer is good, but limited by the available source materials. The audio transfer is good, but limited to a greater extent by the available source materials.

    The extras are substantial, and actually have a great deal of value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Tuesday, November 15, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978)

Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Audio Commentary-Richard Donner (Director) & Tom Mankiewicz (Writers)
Featurette-Taking Flight: The Development Of Superman
Featurette-Making Superman: Filming The Legend
Featurette-The Magic Behind The Cape
Featurette-Screen Tests
Featurette-Restored Scenes
Featurette-Additional Scenes
Featurette-Additional Music Cues
Isolated Musical Score
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 151:25
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Gene Hackman
Marlon Brando
Margot Kidder
Glenn Ford
Phyllis Thaxter
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Russian
Smoking Yes, occasionally
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     By now, the story of how two Superman films were shot together, with a lot of hope being pinned on the first one's success, is legend. As so often happens with two films being shot at the same time, the editing of both films became a somewhat confused process. Reels and reels of footage was shot, and as happens so often in filmmaking, scenes were shot but not included in the version of the film shown to audiences. Adding to this was the release of an extended version for television, which contained some forty minutes of additional footage not seen in the original theatrical release.

     A very small amount of the excised footage was deemed to be worthy of inclusion in an official cut of the film. Thus, this footage has been restored and combined into what this release deems an extended version. The difference in running times amounts to slightly more than eight minutes. As you can imagine, most of this is minor extensions to existing scenes, an extra line here or there. But as I have learned very well in recent years, it only takes the addition of seconds to change the fundamental characteristics of scenes, or even the whole story that they are part of.

     Unlike what happened with Superman II or Superman IV (a more complete cut of the latter still has yet to see the light of day, and at this stage there is no reason to expect it ever will), this is not a radically different version. No new scenes that will put an entirely new twist on the material can be expected here. The level of respect for the intelligence or adulthood of the audience is no different. What is different is the rhythm of certain scenes in which the basics of the Superman character and what he does are explained. One discussion between Kal-El and Jor-El in particular is noticeably different in this cut. Another interesting point is that rather than put this version of the film on the same disc as the original theatrical release with seamless branching, Warner Brothers chose to release it as a separate disc. I actually commend this decision. Clearly, with the differences in soundtrack and subtitle options, and all of the technical hassles involved, Warners came to the conclusion that simply releasing an additional disc would be a more cost-effective way to go. After some discs where the seamless branching option has been tried to the detriment of my enjoyment, I have to say that in spite of improvements to it in the BD-Video specification, it is still an option best avoided.

     Being that the two cuts of the film are so alike, one might be forgiven for assuming that the video and audio transfers will essentially be the same. For more about that, read on…

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The extended edition of Superman is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

     This transfer varies in sharpness. I am not sure how the anamorphic photography was set up during principal production, but it is interesting to note how quickly and dramatically the level of detail falls off as the subject of a shot grows distant from the focal point. Shadow detail is distinctly average, making it a small mercy that a relatively small amount of the story takes place at night. No low-level noise is evident.

     The colours in the transfer are generally quite well-balanced, barring one exception. Light sources such as the Kryptonian suits or simple overhead lights like in the Daily Planet office have an overexposure-like bloom that does sting a bit to look at. Aside from this, there is no colour bleeding or misregistration in the transfer.

     The transfer is compressed in the AVCHD codec, and no compression artefacts are in evidence. Aliasing is not a problem, nor is telecine wobble. Film artefacts appear very occasionally, but only small ones that one needs to be looking out for at that. This is a very clean transfer.

     The ultimate question is whether this is visually an improvement upon the previously released BD. It is fractionally sharper, has less artefacts, and especially no hints that it was not taken from a true progressive source. That is good enough for me.

     Compared to the theatrical version on the previously-discussed disc, this transfer is also marginally better. Colour saturation seems slightly richer whilst related artefacting, namely the light blooms in numerous shots, seem better-controlled.

     Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired. These contain variations from the spoken word, but less annoying ones than is the case in the subtitle tracks for other films in the series that I will get to in good time.

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

Audio

     A total of seven soundtracks are present in this audio transfer.

    The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 with a bitrate I was not able to determine. Dubs are offered in French Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, and Castilian Spanish 5.1; the final two soundtrack options are an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 isolated score. I listened to the English soundtrack and the commentary in their entirety. I sampled parts of the isolated score. It is testament to the superiority of lossless compression that in spite of having the entire soundtrack to itself, I still prefer to listen to the score as part of the English soundtrack.

    I also briefly sampled the dubs. The quality and level of the dubs is somewhat more consistent in this case than with the original theatrical release and most of the sequels, but they still fall off dramatically from the original English.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. Separation between dialogue, sound effects, and music is excellent, even more so than is the case with the theatrical version. No audio sync problems were evident.

     The music in the film is the work of John Williams, who is associated with so many great film scores. People accuse Williams of being so unsubtle that he becomes a proxy for the director telling the audience how they are meant to feel about the onscreen action. That is a fair criticism, but the quality of the score is such that it is difficult to tell whether it is planting the emotional reaction of the viewer or enhancing it. That is largely because the quality of the story being told is commensurate with the quality of the score music.

     The surround channels are used frequently to direct the music and a small amount of directional sound effects around the listener. During action sequences, they are used effectively. During dialogue sequences, which comprise a large portion of the film, light reflections of the music are all that keep the sound field from collapsing into stereo. Given that this film is a third of a century old now, this is not exactly a surprise, but it is a minor disappointment. Fortunately, moments like Superman's scream of anger at the end of the film's climax or the helicopter flight over the missile-bearing convoy give the surrounds a chance to justify their presence. The subwoofer is also used, albeit less frequently, to support music and bass-heavy effects such as cars crashing or missiles launching. As with most of the other films, it stands out due to the infrequent nature of its use, but when it is active, it is well integrated with the rest of the soundtrack.

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

Extras

     A modest collection of extras are present on this disc. If one is interested in the technical side of filmmaking, then this is a real treasure trove.

Audio Commentary - Richard Donner (Director) and Tom Mankiewicz (Writer)

     Audio Commentaries are very much a two-edged sword. A good director or writer can open an audience's eyes to a whole new perspective on the film through them. But only if they are good at commentating. Donner and Mankiewicz are not the best commentators around, but they are very good, and provide a lot of fascinating insight into all of the processes that went into the finished film. The commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo that occasionally seems to wrap into the surrounds when Donner raises his voice.

Featurette - Taking Flight: The Development Of Superman

     This thirty minute, fourteen second featurette is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Some film footage is window-boxed into the 4:3 frame at 2.35:1, making me really appreciate the specifications of high definition television. With Marc McClure's linking narrations, this becomes a very watchable retrospective making-of.

Featurette - Making Superman: Filming The Legend

     Thirty minutes and forty one seconds, in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This continues on from the previous featurette and goes into the challenges that everyone faced in getting the film made. Especially noteworthy is the brief mention of Geoffrey Unsworth's contribution. Margot Kidder in particular highlights the difference the presence of a crew member who makes one feel valued can make with an anecdote about Unsworth.

Featurette - The Magic Behind The Cape

     This twenty-three minute and forty-five second featurette is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with excerpts from the film in 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It deals with the myriad of practical effects techniques used to accomplish the shots for which the film is rightly commended. This is one very rare instance where my response to "they do not make them like they used to" is something other than "good".

Featurette - Screen Tests

     This submenu, which includes a Play All option, has a list of three screen tests for which the footage apparently still survives. Total running time is twenty-two minutes and twenty-five seconds. After an introduction by Lynn Stalmaster, we are treated to screen tests for Superman, Lois Lane, and Ursa. Interesting to note is a screen test by Stockard Channing for the role of Lois Lane. She is a better actress than her career to date has implied, but the screen test shows she was very wrong for the role of Lois. Most interesting in my view are the tests for the role of Ursa. Not because they include the tests Sarah Douglas did, but because the screen tests included prove that Stalmaster and Donner made a choice so right it is scary.

Featurette - Restored Scenes

     Yes, that is how this extra is described in the menu. This is eleven and a quarter minutes of scenes that were either edited back into the film for this version, or brought back into a state where they could have been. Without any commentary or text to place them in context, it is difficult to even judge why these scenes are here. Both this and the next featurette are presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Additional Scenes

     Three minutes and twenty-three seconds of scenes that connect with parts of the film in a similar manner to the scenes that were added to the cut on this disc. Essentially, these are two scenes in which Lex Luthor plays the piano and sings. Interesting, but they were definitely left on the cutting room floor for a good reason.

Featurette - Additional Music Cues

     Playing over the same still that the menus are based on, this is a thirty-five minute and forty-four second collection of music that was either not used in the film or dramatically cut down in order to fit the film.

Isolated Score

     This is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack with everything other than John Williams' contribution excised. Those who have a big interest in the art of score music will find this worth a listen or three.

R4 vs R1

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

     Comparing the disc's specifications to the review of the Region A equivalent on High-Def Digest, it seems that this release does not break Warner Brothers' usual policy of making the subtitle and audio options the only real difference between the discs. Although I like my discs with far less language options than is the case in the local boxed set, the decision as to which option presents the best value rests with the individual purchaser.

Summary

     Superman: The Movie shook the world up in terms of its approach both to making films and adapting superheroes into films. The extended version presented on this disc only makes subtle changes to the version released theatrically in 1978, but what a difference some of those changes make. Still, the overall effect is not nearly as dramatic as was the case with the most immediate sequel, but I commend Warner Brothers for including both versions in this set. Now fans can watch both versions and make their own choice as to which version they would rather show others.

     The video transfer is excellent, with only slight problems in shadow detail or production lighting being any real issue. The audio transfer is excellent, spoiled only by the limitations posed by the age of the film.

     The extras are comprehensive, both in number and value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, November 16, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Nice to see some - but not all - of the additional materal... - Wilson Bros, UK

Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980)

Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Audio Commentary-Pierre Spengler (Producer) and Ilya Salkind (Exec Producer)
Featurette-The Making Of Superman II
Deleted Scenes-Superman Souffle
Featurette-First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series
Featurette-The Fleischer Studios Superman
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 127:29
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Lester
Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder
Terence Stamp
Sarah Douglas
Jack O'Halloran
Gene Hackman
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 1.0
German Dolby Digital 1.0
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0
English Audio Commentary 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
Italian
Spanish
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, very much so
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Superman was a massive hit, both with audiences and critics. The treatment of the titular overgrown boy scout in the manner of an epic Greek god biography made it both the most expensive superhero film at the time, and the most successful. Unfortunately, the problem soon began rising from the former. Both Alexander and Ilya Salkind were unwilling to go to the expense demanded by Richard Donner's desire to make the definitive superhero film. So they removed Richard Donner from directorial duties on Superman II and replaced him with an uncredited producer on the first film, one Richard Lester. Lester's first point of business was to reshoot as much of the Donner footage as he could (the film was already eighty percent complete when he was brought on). This made many actors in the film quite unhappy, and it does show at times in their performances. Jack O'Halloran has gone on record expressing much disappointment on the part of the cast about this decision.

     From the get-go, it is obvious why. Whereas Richard Donner treated Superman with great respect, Richard Lester is to the Superman canon as Adam West and Joel Schumacher are to Batman or Brett Ratner to the X-Men. To cut to the chase, he simply does not get it. Whereas Donner's film distinguishes itself by rooting a very unreal and all-powerful character in a physical reality, Lester cannot seem to go two scenes without inserting an idiotic physical comedy routine.

     Superman II as presented theatrically begins with Zod (Terence Stamp), Non (Jack O'Halloran), and Ursa (Sarah Douglas) sneaking into some anonymous room on Krypton, killing a guard, and for some reason snapping a large crystal like a twig. In an awkward, clumsy attempt to rephrase the trial scene without the involvement of Marlon Brando, Zod and company are declared guilty and sent off in the Floating Album Cover Of Doom™. At about this point, terrorists in France seize control of the Eiffel Tower, arming a hydrogen bomb in order to back up their demands; the details are not really important except that it all ends with Superman taking the bomb out into space and leaving it adrift to explode. When it does so, it explodes in the path of the Floating Album Cover Of Doom™, setting Zod and company free.

     As Zod, Ursa, and Non adjust to their newfound freedom and godlike powers, Clark/Superman has a bit of an existential crisis. Essentially, Superman feels torn about the fact that he cannot reveal the truth about his dual identity to Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Lois is quite in love with Superman, but sees Clark as a distinctly average person. And if you saw the end of the previous film, you already know how both halves of the Superman character feel about Lois. This comes to a head when Superman is given a choice to give up his powers in order to live a normal life with Lois. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) has concocted a scheme to get out of prison and put one over on Superman.

     Central to every debate about where the Superman franchise went wrong is the competence and storytelling skill of Richard Lester. I cannot mince words about it. Richard Donner said in a fit of pique during a 1989 interview, "Let me put it this way...all the good parts of Superman II are mine". He is absolutely right. Whilst Superman II according to Lester is not completely unwatchable, to say that Lester's attempts to put his own… mark… upon the story resemble a child putting his hands in ink and patting them upon an early Stephen King manuscript is not an exaggeration.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     The video transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 in a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

     The transfer varies in sharpness. Special effects shots are often somewhat diffuse, although not to the degree shown in later episodes of the franchise. For the most part the transfer is very sharp. One shot of O'Halloran at 51:32 reveals that the cause for the variable sharpness is simply that the focal depth allowed by the cameras used in principal photography is rather limited. When the subject of the shot is close to the focal point or camera, it is sharp to the point of revealing how important make-up artists are in feature films. When things get a little distant (think medium or long shot), detail falls off. Shadow detail is limited, although pretty good considering the age of the film. Low-level noise is not a problem.

     The colours in the film are pretty naturalistic. The pastel aesthetic is really only in Superman's suit for the most part, with skin and environment tones looking exactly like they ought. The transfer renders the colours effectively, without any misregistration; shoddy special effects notwithstanding, of course. Bleeding from over lighting is still occasionally an issue, but not to the same degree as with the previous film.

     The transfer is compressed in the AVCHD codec, and does not show any sign of compression artefacting. Film-to-video artefacts are not in this transfer either. Film artefacts are occasionally visible in this transfer, and in larger size than has been the case in the other films.

     Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired. They truncate the spoken dialogue a lot. I have to question the wisdom of including this option if the dialogue is going to be rendered inaccurately. Whilst I am not really what you would called impaired in hearing terms, I cannot imagine deaf viewers being completely happy with this provision.

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

Audio

     Accompanying a very good video transfer is an audio transfer that manages to both exceed and fall short of expectations. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue rendered in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, bitrate unknown. That is the good news. Dubs are also offered in French 1.0, German 1.0, Italian 1.0, Castilian Spanish 1.0, Spanish 1.0, and Portuguese 1.0; as you can imagine in light of the age of the film, the level and quality of these dubs is all over the place. Rounding out the selection is an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

     The lossless compression means that the dialogue, sound effects, and music are all separated and in their own little aural space. In aural terms, that is of course a good thing. Dialogue is therefore clear and easy to understand. Audio sync is also spot-on.

     The music in Superman II is credited to Ken Thorne. As with the next sequel, what few memorable points are extant in this score are merely apings of John Williams' score from the original film.

     The surround channels are used rather sparingly for environmental sounds and directional effects during battle sequences. Even then, all that is really heard from the surrounds is the wind blown by Zod and company, or occasional crowd voices. During quieter points of the film, such as the sequences in the honeymoon resort, the entire soundtrack collapses into the fronts. This is definitely not a soundtrack to demonstrate the virtues of the format with. The subwoofer is used a little more actively, supporting the sounds of punches or environmental destruction. It stands out because of the more sporadic use, but is integrated well with the segments it supports.

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)

     Having listened to the Superman III commentary beforehand (I am going in a worst-first order with these films for the most part), I knew this was not going to be pleasant. Listening to both of these mens' voices is like watching paint dry, and they are quite obviously not recorded in the same session.

Featurette - The Making Of Superman II

     At fifty-two and a quarter minutes, this is a lot of time and disc space invested on a film that is barely worthy of contempt in storytelling terms. Having said that, this featurette is interesting from a historical perspective, and worth a look on that merit. It is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. As one would expect with a featurette of this vintage, the actual politics of the production are hardly touched on.

Deleted Scene - Superman's Souffle

     This one deleted scene in which Lois supervises Superman's use of his laser-vision to cook a soufflé is an excellent example of the lack of respect Lester has shown for the subject matter. It is presented heavily window-boxed at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series

     This is basically a making-of for the animated Superman series made by Max and Dave Fleischer. At slightly less than thirteen minutes, this featurette covers all of the basics about who the Fleischers were and their influence over animation. Interesting to note is the serious manner in which the Fleischer Superman animations were made. It seems even in the 1930s, the creative element understood that camp was an element best excluded. The featurette is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio that seems to have some mild surround encoding.

Featurette - The Fleischer Studios Superman

     A submenu containing all of the Fleischer-made Superman cartoons that Warners could find. The Play All option gives a total running time of seventy-nine and a half minutes. Video quality is very good given that these cartoons are somewhere in the order of eighty years old now. They are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Theatrical Trailer

     This two minute, twenty-two second trailer appears to have been cleaned up somewhat for release on this disc. It is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    Aside from language options, this disc appears to be pretty much the same in both Regions.

Summary

    This review of Superman II is one of many in which my favourite Richard Donner quote is used. It also cites the very good point that filmmakers, not accountants, should make films.

     There is no nice way to say this. I knew something was off about this Superman II the first time I saw it. It put me off the entire concept, canon, and character of Superman from the time I was a boy to the time I saw Superman Returns in a theatre. Simply put, Richard Lester's Superman II sucks various varieties of droppings through a straw. The Lester-invented sequences, such as the taxi impacting with Clark as he carelessly crosses a street, really make the hero out to be the imbecile the villain off-handedly describes him as at one point. People who challenge this point of view with speculations about how it would have been better if it had been imbued with a consistent directorial vision can go look at Superman III.

     The video transfer is good, but shows the age of the film. The audio transfer is also good, but also shows the age of the film, and to a greater extent.

     The extras are comprehensive, but in some cases serve to further highlight what a major failure this film was in storytelling terms.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, November 17, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980)

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Featurette-Introduction by Richard Donner
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Superman II: Restoring The Vision
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Famous Studios Superman Cartoons
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 115:52
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Margot Kidder
Terence Stamp
Sarah Douglas
Jack O'Halloran
Gene Hackman
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music John Williams
Ken Thorne


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary 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
Chinese
Korean
Spanish
Portuguese
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Russian
Slovenian
Swedish
Thai
Turkish
Chinese Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, extremely at times
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     As mentioned previously, there was a lot of bitterness all around about Richard Donner being replaced as director on Superman II. In the mid 2000s calls for Donner to go back and put together an approximation of how he was going to assemble Superman II reached a fever pitch. Finally, in 2006 Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on home video, finally answering the question of what Donner was aiming for. He is not entirely successful, however. As the production was ceased prematurely, a complete version is sadly never going to happen. But once again we are reminded that the more seriously a storyteller takes his subject, irrespective of how fantastic that subject might be, the better the end result.

     Right off the bat we sense how much more methodical and serious Donner was in his approach to Superman II. Beginning with a slightly cut-down reprise of the trial sequence from Superman, Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O'Halloran) are packed off into the Album Cover Of Doom™ again. But this time, as Superman accidentally frees them (this time as a result of his handling of the nuclear missiles at the end of the first film), the villains do not simply fly off to the moon. Celebrating the fact that he has been freed in a manner that only an actor of Stamp's calibre can credibly deliver, Zod leads his peers to the moon.

     To say that the shots of Zod and company inside the Phantom Zone establish this cut as a far superior effort is like saying that traditional Queenslander houses are poorly designed from every conceivable modern point of view. It is an understatement of a magnitude comparable to the distance between where you, the reader, sits and Proxima Centaurii (for those who do not know, Proxima is the nearest star with planets that might be able to sustain our kind of life… assuming you could consistently travel at the speed of light, you could reach it in 4.6 years.)

     Another big difference lies in the arc of Superman desiring to spend his life with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and the price he must pay to do so. In the original film, Lara urges him to reconsider for about two minutes before simply letting him do it. And the original scene in which this arc is resolved is cheap beyond words on multiple levels. In this version, Jor-El (Marlon Brando, who was cut out of the original release due to wanting more money on top of his admittedly already stupid salary for the first film) begs, pleads, and whines with his son to reconsider. Clark, after realising the consequences of his choice, comes back and delivers the performance of Christopher Reeve's life. I am not going to mince words here. The fact that Christopher Reeve's moment where he proves he was an actor of similar calibre to the like of Stamp or Brando sat on a cutting room floor for a quarter of a century makes me so disgusted with the Salkinds that I simply do not have words for it.

     Granted, this is still no X2, despite Donner's best efforts. But it does prove that if Donner had been allowed to complete the film as he had intended, there is a very good chance that it would have been.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was previously released on Blu-ray by Warner Brothers on a disc that, whilst an improvement upon the DVD, was definitely not all that this format is capable of. This new release is a great improvement, although it is still not perfect.

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 or thereabouts. It appears to be slightly narrower than other films in the series, but this might merely be a misperception caused by the different framings of this version compared to what I will call Superman II: The S***ty Attempted Comedy Cut going forward. It is presented within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

     Compared to the previous Blu-ray, there is a perceptible but not dramatic increase in sharpness. Said previous disc was already quite sharp, so this is a high point. Details such as beard hairs or subtle edges in Sarah Douglas' makeup, as my favourite examples, leap out of the screen. Scenes common to both versions of this film are also dramatically sharper in this version. The moon sequence and the Niagara Falls sequences are so much sharper it begs the question of what happened on that other disc. Shadow detail is good, but not that great by current standards. There is no low-level noise.

     The balance of colours in this version of Superman II is very slightly different. At first, I thought that the colours looked fresher, as if the film had actually been shot, say, ten years before this cut was compiled as opposed to twenty-five. But that is partly because the colour balance has been deliberately altered for this version of the film. It is not quite at the teal-and-orange level that so many recent films seem to insist upon, but there certainly is a sense of contrasts or balances being squished here and there. On the plus side, blooming from overexposure is very much reduced compared to the previous three discs, and no misregistration is present.

     Like the other previously-released films in the canon, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut has been compressed in the VC-1 codec. No film to video artefacts were noted. Film artefacts were present, but these were small and infrequent.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. These truncate the dialogue a little at times, but are more accurate than is the case for other entries in the series.

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

Audio

     My biggest complaint with the original Blu-ray release of this film was the absence of any lossless or uncompressed soundtrack option. The first, and default, soundtrack on this disc is the original English dialogue, rendered in 5.1 channel DTS HD Master Audio. Interestingly, the only other soundtracks are a Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 dub and an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 which is well worth listening to. This begs questions about why the cavalcade of soundtracks on the other discs, and why the marketing department at Warners, decided Thai was the one additional audio language the disc needed. I listened to the dialogue and commentary from start to finish.

     Compared to the previous Blu-ray, which admittedly was a pretty good rendition of the soundtrack, the separation between dialogue, music, and sound effect is dramatically improved. Consequently, the dialogue is now much easier to hear and understand. No problems were noted with audio sync.

     The music in this version of Superman II has been reassembled out of the music created by John Williams for the previous film and pieces of what Ken Thorne made for Richard Lester's cut. Although there are moments when the reassembled music adds something to the proceedings (Jor-El's explanation of who Zod, Ursa, and Non are being the best example), it does not work quite so well as would have been the case had Williams scored the entire film.

     The surround channels are aggressively utilised in order to wrap environmental and directional cues around the listener. At the end of the introductory sequence, when Terence Stamp roars "free!" like a man consumed by rage, the surround channels echo the word in a manner that had me rise up in my seat. Quieter parts of the film, such as the scene in which Lois tricks Clark into revealing that he really is Superman, collapse into stereo. The subwoofer is aggressively utilised to support music or such moments as when Zod fires the shotgun at himself, and other scenes of violence. Although it stands a little out due to the more sporadic nature of its use, it is integrated very well into the scenes where it is used.

     As a final comment, the quality of the mix on The Richard Donner Cut is a bit of a step above that on The S***ty Attempted Comedy Cut. It is still a film that was mostly made with 1980 technology in mind, but it appears more was done to disguise the fact on this occasion.

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

Extras

Featurette - Introduction By Richard Donner

     This is a brief video introduction by the director, explaining both why this edit has put together and how it was largely people power that made it happen. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film excerpts in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Audio Commentary - Richard Donner (Director) and Tom Mankiewicz (Writer)

     Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, I have to say right off the bat that these men are far more entertaining than the producers who commentate on The S***ty Attempted Comedy Cut. The entertainment factor largely derives from the fact that, until someone actually comes and reins him in a bit (unrecorded of course, but apparent), Donner is very forthright in saying exactly what he thinks of everything from the producers to future sequels.

Featurette - Superman II: Restoring The Vision

     Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film footage in 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this thirteen and a half minute featurette explains all the work, decisions, and politics involved in assembling this cut. I will tell you this much from the perspective of a storyteller: fascinating does not begin to describe it.

Deleted Scenes

     Eight and three-quarter minutes of scenes that were excised from the film and did not really warrant putting back in. These are all presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Some of them make Lex out to be an even bigger idiot than was the case previously. Others simply slow the film down without adding anything. The quality of performances in them is very good, but the written material does not quite jibe with the rest of the film in a lot of cases either.

Featurette - Famous Studios Superman Cartoons

     The Play All option takes one to sixty-seven minutes and fifty seconds of Superman cartoons presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Like the cartoons presented with The S***ty Attempted Comedy Cut, they are closer in tone to this version than that one. Also noteworthy is how they reflect American prejudices and American culture as they were at the time of making (judging from the Japanese man shown early in the first toon, this would be the early 1940s).

R4 vs R1

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

    Much like the other discs in the set, the only differences between the two discs appear to be language options.

Summary

     Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is not an X2, but what they were able to do with it demonstrates that it had a serious potential to be one. It is more on the level of Darkman, a classic example of a superhero done in a wink-wink-chuckle fashion, but correctly. It also serves as a sad example of how Christopher Reeve did, in fact, have the potential to be a great actor but the wrong doors ended up being closed at the wrong times. Even if you are not as oriented towards the mechanics of telling a story as I have become over time, you have to admit that this serious approach to the material tends to work far better.

     Actually, I will go you one better. As I have referenced elsewhere when talking about this series, the nearest star to ours that might have planets capable of sustaining our kind of life is so far away that it will take 4.6 years to get there if we can sustainably travel at the speed of light. And that star is within our galaxy. Now, when you consider that Superman is said to come from at least six galaxies away in this series, you can understand what I mean when I say that the height from which The Richard Donner Cut s***s on The S***ty Attempted Comedy Cut compares favourably to the distance Superman travels in order to make his home on Earth.

     The video transfer is very good, but seems to have been messed with a little too much in the reediting process. The audio transfer is more reflective of the film's age, but still excellent by that standard.

     The extras are small in number, but are of great quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, November 18, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983)

Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Audio Commentary-Mark Rosenthal (Writer)
Featurette-Superman 50th Anniversary Special
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 89:52
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sidney J. Furie
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Gene Hackman
Margot Kidder
Mariel Hemingway
Mark Pillow
Jon Cryer
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music Alexander Courage


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
French Dolby Digital 2.0
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0
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
Chinese
Korean
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Swedish
Thai
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     In the mid-1980s the Superman film franchise had come to an impasse, not least in part due to the greed of its producers. Box office returns on Superman III were diminished, especially compared to increasing production cost. The quality of the stories that were being used in the films were descending at a rate comparable to rainfalls in Scotland. And most importantly, the man that shot to prominence playing the titular character was making it public knowledge that he was sick of playing that character. Warner Brothers offered Christopher Reeve what superficially seemed like a sweet deal. In exchange for financing some film projects of his choosing (from memory, I think he got one picture out of the deal), they would allow him to choose the story on which the fourth Superman would be based. Not coincidentally, fear of America and the Soviet Union flinging nuclear missiles at each other was ramped up to an all-time high around this time. Much of it was an artificial fear based on cultural and societal barriers that were much easier to maintain at the time (the Internet still being mostly a military project then). Now, it seems easy to look back on those times and wonder what was wrong with people, but paranoia of things beyond one's understanding was even more pronounced then. Scary.

     Unfortunately, Warner Brothers felt the cost of making another Superman film could not be justified by the expected box office returns. So they farmed the production out to the Golan-Globus studio that was responsible for so much of the schlock associated with 1980s film (for those who do not understand the meaning of that name, they produced Firewalker, one of the single worst films in Chuck Norris' august career). According to reports, Golan-Globus took the money they had been provided by Warners and spread it across numerous projects they had in the works at that time. It shows. Even as the opening credits begin, it is obvious that something is off.

     The film begins with a space station floating above the Earth. But this is not an American station, rather a Russian one on which a potential disaster is quickly rectified by Superman, who then addresses the cosmonauts in Russian and goes on his merry way. An interesting idea for an introduction to a Superman story, but one executed very terribly. Things descend from there as peace talks between America and Russia begin to break down, and a child gets the idea to write Superman and ask him to help resolve the crisis. After some pointless deliberation scenes, Superman goes to address the United Nations. At first, his speech makes perfect sense, and follows lines that one might expect from a well-written issue of the comics. But then he makes the announcement that he is going to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. To applause. One reviewer on a site based entirely around snarking on terrible films described this scene as a hundred percent pure, government approved, grade A b******. And he is right. As an example of how right he is, I would like to cite a little incident that happened during the first Gulf War. A number of different Arab nations threatened Israel, blaming Israel for what they saw as America's aggression against Iraq. Israel's response was that for every nuclear missile those nations fired at them, Israel would retaliate tenfold. Israel still has yet to have a nuclear missile fired at it.

     That point aside, the nuclear-armed nations of the world begin firing their missiles into space, which Superman diligently catches and throws into the sun. So about this time, during an incredibly idiotically-phrased meeting with a trio of arms dealers, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) proposes to put a warhead into one missile that contains the genetic material to create a clone of Superman. A healthy dose of Bad Movie Logic™ later, and Superman is fighting what Lex dubs Nuclear Man (body by Mark Pillow, voice by Gene Hackman). Some poor choreography and terrible effects later and Superman rides off into the sunset, telling Lex that he will see him "in twenty".

     It is not a coincidence that it took nineteen years and change for another Superman film to come out. This one is really that bad. It is, however, worth watching for a young Jon Cryer as Lex's nephew, Lenny.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     As I hinted in the plot summary, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace was shot on the cheap. Actually, that is not completely true. The budget listed on the IMDB entry was seventeen million in 1987 dollars. By comparison, RoboCop was shot and released at almost the exact same times, and had a budget of thirteen million. But whereas Paul Verhoeven and company made every dollar count, Sidney J. Furie and company did the exact opposite (this is where the rumours that Golan-Globus funnelled the budget into other projects of theirs originate). But the reason this budget stands out is because the cost of shooting the original Superman has been estimated at fifty-five million 1978 dollars.

     Yes, I realise how long-winded all of that was, but there is a point to it: Superman IV looked and sounded cheap when it was in theatres, it probably looked and sounded cheap when it was in post-production, and this Blu-ray Disc cannot help but reflect that.

     The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 window. The packaging claims (in that usual small-print way) that the transfer is progressive. Unlike the original releases of certain films in this series, this transfer does not give any reason to doubt that.

     The transfer varies quite a bit in sharpness. When the special effects are minimal or not in use, the transfer is very sharp. Not as sharp as should be, given the age of the film (again, I hate bringing up this comparison, but the RoboCop Blu-ray is far superior in this regard), but still quite an improvement over previous transfers I have viewed. The shadow detail is acceptable, but not great. No low-level noise is evident in the transfer.

     The colours in the film are also quite variable. Plate-photographed shots showing Superman or Nuclear Man in flight are faded and garish, as if the stock negatives that were used to comprise these shots had been left in the sun for years at the time of production. Special effects shots of the more intensive kind do not fare much better. The transfer does manage to render the colours of the film effectively, without misregistration or bleed, but there are times when it does not have a whole lot to work with.

     The transfer is compressed in the MPEG-4, AVCHD codec. No compression artefacts appear in the transfer, although one could be forgiven for thinking so during the opening credits or when Nuclear Man throws what we are meant to believe are rays of energy at Superman. No aliasing or telecine wobble was noted in the transfer. Surprisingly for a film of such low budget, poor-quality production, film artefacts were both rare and minimal. On this basis, I believe Warners have gone back to an interpositive or similar generation material and created a whole new transfer, which is to be commended considering what an embarrassment the film represents.

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

Audio

     Also reflecting the cheap manner in which the film was produced is the audio transfer. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 2.0, bitrate unknown. This is interesting in and of itself, as it suggests that either Warner Brothers could not be bothered remixing the soundtrack from the original dialogue, sound effect, and music stems, or such stems have simply gone walkabout. This production having been farmed out to Golan-Globus, my money is on the latter. But neither would surprise me. Dubs are offered in French, German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish in Dolby Digital 2.0; dubs are also offered in Spanish and Portuguese in Dolby Digital 1.0; a Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 dub, a Polish voiceover soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0, a Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 dub, and an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 round out the choices.

     I listened to the English soundtrack and audio commentary in their entirety. I also sampled some of the dubs. Worth noting is that the levels and quality of the dubs are literally all over the place. This is not surprising given the age of the film, but viewers who make use of the dubs should take care when switching from track to track.

     The dialogue is very clear and easy to understand, even from Nuclear Man, who has had some subtle effects added to his voice. The audio elements appear to have been cleaned up and restored because I have never heard this film quite like I heard it with this transfer. Separation between music, Foley, and dialogue is very good, especially by stereo standards. The only real audio sync problem is when Nuclear Man is speaking, as Mark Pillow's on-set voice and Gene Hackman's dubbing seem just a wee fraction out (hardly surprising given the rest of the elements).

     The score music in this film is credited to one Alexander Courage. When it is not aping the John Williams score from the original Superman film, it is… not doing much of anything, to be quite honest. There are original cues peculiar to this score, but not nearly to the extent that is the case in Superman Returns, and certainly not nearly as memorable.

     The surrounds are not specifically encoded into this soundtrack. My receiver directed a small amount of the music through them, but they otherwise had the night off. The subwoofer also receives a small amount of redirected signal during fight scenes or other bass-heavy moments in the film, but only care of my receiver. One could turn it off during this film and not miss a thing.

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

Extras

     There are only a small number of extras included on the disc proper for Superman IV.

Audio Commentary - Mark Rosenthal (Writer)

     Right from the get-go, Mark says exactly what he thinks of the finished product and how the product came to be in the state it is. He alludes to the fact that preproduction was cut short, that forty-five minutes was cut from the film, and the moneymen just generally did the dirty on the creative team. Commentaries that are this frank and earnest do not come by often. Unfortunately, Mark also tends to pause for lengthy periods, even when there are questions about the on-screen action where an answer would provide much enjoyment.

Featurette - Superman 50th Anniversary Special

     At slightly over forty-eight minutes, this special is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This is a retrospective showing all of the incarnations of Superman that have been in film and television. The tone of the special seems a little confused, mixing narration and vox pop interviews that treat Superman as if he is a real person with interviews from other sources that treat the subject from a more factual point of view. The latter includes interview footage with Christopher Reeve in which he describes his approach to playing the character. The quality of footage used to comprise this featurette is all over the place.

Deleted Scenes

     Slightly over thirty-one minutes of footage that was deleted from the original cut of Superman IV is included in this featurette. It is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Most of it is in very rough quality.

     The comments made by Mark Rosenthal about how incoherent the film becomes as a result of the deletions are pretty spot-on, but a lot of what is presented in this collection (no option to view the scenes separately is offered, but thankfully the featurette is chaptered) is pretty superfluous anyway. One scene with the first Nuclear Man begs the question of how much Burger King paid to have the scene not included in the finished cut.

Theatrical Trailer

     Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, the quality of this trailer is surprisingly good.

R4 vs R1

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

    The two versions again appear pretty much identical. The Region A disc has less soundtrack and subtitle options, which is either a good or bad thing, depending on how one looks at it.

Summary

     There is no nice way to put this. Superman IV is one of the most terrible films ever made. In fact, the similarities between it and the work of Ed Wood are inescapable. Both were begun with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the way a cheapskate (or an idiot) got into the works and messed the process up for all concerned. Add to that the misguided and trendy politics behind some of the story points, and the result is a truly wretched exercise in futility. Which makes it all the more surprising that Warner Brothers have treated it with such respect for this release.

     The video transfer is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear to a small extent. At some points, it even succeeds. Most of the time, however, it fails, and fails hard. The audio transfer is a valiant effort, but 2.0 channels can never top 5.1, even when the source materials would be as limiting to such a remix as these would clearly be.

     What extras are on this disc are enlightening, entertaining and, in one case, very brave to be included.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Tuesday, November 22, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Golan-Globus' Cannon Films - Luke G REPLY POSTED
Jabootu Shout-out much appreciated. - Toby'c REPLY POSTED

Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006)

Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Requiem For Krypton: Making Superman Returns
Featurette-Resurrecting Jor-El
Featurette-Bryan Singer's Video Journals
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 154:19
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bryan Singer
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Brandon Routh
Kevin Spacey
Kate Bosworth
James Marsden
Parker Posey
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music John Ottman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
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
Chinese
Korean
Spanish
Portuguese
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Romanian
Russian
Slovenian
Swedish
Thai
Turkish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes, but cleverly
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but blink and you might miss it
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     In some hypothetical examples, people can ask me what my favourite Superman film is. I will always tell them it is Superman Returns. Do not get me wrong, I do not think Superman Returns is perfect. In fact, when I discussed it at one point with another party, I told them the primary problem with the film was that it was as if director Bryan Singer was trying to have his cake and eat it at the same time. But between some better acting, a better story (especially compared with most of the sequels), and a better consideration of the consequences of Superman's actions, the storyteller in me just cannot go past this episode.

     The story begins in a Metropolis where Superman (Brandon Routh) has not been heard from in five years. In that time, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has become engaged, and borne a son whose exact heritage comes under doubt as a plot point. She has also written a story about why the world does not really need Superman, and to a certain extent she is right. Asking a godlike creature to solve problems that we can solve ourselves is pretty childish. But the world also has problems like Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), who is just the kind of problem that the world could use a godlike interventionist to solve. Because Superman was absent for one court hearing against Luthor, Luthor is out and free to swindle a wealthy old lady named Gertrude Vanderworth (Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in the 1948 Superman serial). With his ill-gotten gains, Lex sets about finding the Fortress Of Solitude, and succeeds.

     As Lex Luthor is learning about crystals, Superman crashes back on Earth in a similar manner to his arrival in the first film, and sets about re-establishing his connections in Metropolis. His first port of call, however, is the agrarian utopia of Smallville, where he reintroduces himself to his adoptive mother, Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint). Watching the television, he learns that the world he left for five years has become a worse place.

     What is interesting to note is that this film was originally planned as a new start for the Superman franchise, with more episodes planned and speculated about endlessly online. Unfortunately, all of the false starts in preproduction and other such problems blew the budget out to an estimated two hundred and nine million dollars, slightly more than the domestic gross that the film made. So in recent market repositioning, Superman Returns has been declared the closing chapter in the film franchise begun by Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve (among many others).

     When I first heard that Bryan Singer was not going to be directing a third X-Men film and doing a Superman instead, I thought it was going to be a disaster. For the X-Men franchise, it certainly has been. Superman Returns, on the other hand, really grabs the whole superheroes as the Greek concept of godhood thing by the horns and wrestles with it. Lois Lane is no longer a screaming ninny, and Lex Luthor finally shuts up about what a genius he is and actually does something to prove it. And that failed airplane-shuttle launch scene that reintroduces us to Lois Lane was a stroke of sheer genius. (A note here: Since I wrote the preceding paragraph, I have rented and watched X-Men: First Class. It seems the involvement of Singer's production team has resulted in the first X-Men film since 2003 that does not prompt me to say those involved should be ashamed of themselves.)

     Okay, so Superman Returns is no X2. But in a world where we are expected to allow storytellers to treat us like children even when we find it incredibly disturbing, the more adult approach taken with this film means it will always have a place in my collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Superman Returns was released on one previous occasion on Blu-ray, early on in the format's life. Several problems were noted with this release, probably the most irritating of which was that it was not based on a true progressive source. This release fixes that. This consideration aside, however, oh dear...

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. In all respects, this is a noticeable improvement over the previous Blu-ray release.

     Unfortunately, the film was shot entirely in digital, using cameras and storage media that still yield noticeably less resolution than is the case for the film materials used with previous Superman films. Sharpness is not a major issue, but there is a distinct feeling of textures and small details such as facial hair and the like almost being literally sanded out of the picture. Banding effects in underwater shots such as at 106:27 are still visible. When the director wants something to be visible in dark parts of the picture, it is, but those black areas seem a bit flat otherwise. Fortunately, no low-level noise is evident. However, the complete absence of film grain also strongly suggests someone really got carried away with the DNR.

     The colours in the film, whilst having been digitally manipulated and corrected in post-production, tend to follow a mostly natural and balanced palette. The exceptions are the Fortress Of Solitude and Lex Luthor's imitation thereof, where the set colours become heavenly bright or sickened dark, respectively. In all cases, the transfer renders these colour schemes faithfully, without any bleeds or misregistration.

     Interestingly, the transfer is compressed in the VC-1 algorithm, rather than the AVCHD used in most of the other transfers. Unlike the previous Blu-ray release, no compression artefacts or more specifically the borderline threat thereof are visible in this transfer. Also unlike the previous release, no aliasing is evident in this transfer. The interiors in Luthor's ill-gotten powerboat no longer show this artefact, a fact for which I cannot express how grateful I am. Film artefacts were not noted in this transfer.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are reasonably accurate, but clip a lot of the spoken word out at times.

     Two explanations spring to mind for this video transfer, neither of them pretty. The sheer amount of audio and subtitle tracks, on top of the featurettes included, has simply pushed the transfer too far. That's the explanation that seems the simplest or easiest. However, there is also a serious possibility that the digital photography did not yield sufficient results to bring us a better transfer. Neither possibility is particularly appealing in this case.

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

Audio

     I mentioned that there were a couple of annoying things about the original release of Superman Returns. The non-progressive video transfer was the highest on the list. Next down was the lossy-only audio.

     The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, and to say that this is a massive improvement over the previous Dolby Digital offering is like saying that progressive is a slight improvement over interlaced. Dubs in Quebec French, European French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish Voiceover, and Russian are offered in Dolby Digital 5.1, and their overall quality seems a good deal more consistent from a random flip-through. The absence of an audio commentary, however, is more than a little puzzling.

     The dialogue is extremely easy to hear and understand. Compared to the old Dolby Digital English soundtrack, the dialogue dances and performs magic for the listener. That point I love going over again and again, the sense of space between dialogue, music, and sound effect is so broad here that it makes me eager to phase other discs that only feature lossy audio out in favour of new lossless tracks (this is what we call a hint, Warner Brothers). Audio sync is spot-on.

     The majority of music in the film is the work of two composers. A small handful of contemporary numbers or quotations from pre-existing classical pieces are used. Almost all of the score is the work of John Ottman, Bryan Singer's composer and editor of choice. The main theme from John Williams' score for the original Superman is also used on occasion. The latter is well-rendered and works well in the overall scheme of things, but when Ottman is let off the hook to invent new themes for Lex Luthor or for new events such as when Superman explains to Lois that he hears the people crying out for a saviour every day, the score shines. So much so, in fact, that I bought the CD that Warner Brothers released of it.

     The surround channels are aggressively utilised for score music, directional effects such as helicopter rotors or disembodied voices, and other such environmental effects. They are more or less constantly active, but in a manner that enhances the film, rather than a gimmicky manner. Often, Superman himself can be heard moving through the surround channels before he is seen on the screen. Unlike every other film in this set, Superman Returns has an audio transfer that one can use to show off their surround system to friends.

     The subwoofer is also aggressively utilised to support the more violent, mayhemic parts of the film. Although it is used with less frequency than the surrounds, the moments when it is heard are powerful ones indeed.

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

Extras

     As with the other films in the series, Superman Returns has a modest collection of extras. Interestingly, no audio commentaries of any kind are offered in this instance. (One would think that if they are going to let one of the Superman IV writers loose to explain exactly what went wrong on that debacle, they would have someone talk a bit about this film. Many questions come to mind about it.)

Featurette - Requiem For Krypton: Making Superman Returns

     As with the previous release, this option takes one to a submenu containing five featurettes and a Play All option. The total running length of the offered featurettes is a whopping two hours, fifty-three minutes, and forty-one seconds. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film footage in 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Resurrecting Jor-El

     This four minute featurette concerns itself with the digital trickery used to insert Marlon Brando's visage into the film. Fascinating from a technical point of view.

Featurette - Bryan Singer's Video Journals

     Oh my god, there are way too many of these! All kidding aside, a Play All option is thankfully included in the submenu, giving viewers the option to view all eighty-two minutes in one sitting. Given their visual quality, however, I would just as soon pass.

Deleted Scenes

     A collection of twelve deleted scenes and one collection of alternate takes of Kevin Spacey shouting "wrong!" in Kate Bosworth's face. Totalling twenty-one minutes and twenty-seven seconds, most of these scenes do not add anything to the film. They are, however, quite interesting for their technical presentation. Each scene is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in high definition, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

     The one scene I would like to see reintegrated with the film is Superman's exploration of what is left of Krypton in his crystal spaceship. It seems to add at least a little bit to the story.

Featurette - Trailers

     Selecting this option simply brings up a pair of trailers, totalling three minutes and twenty seconds. Each is an excellent advertisement for the film proper, but the second gives away too many of the best parts of the film. Each is presented in high definition, an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

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

     As with the other films in this set, the main difference between the two discs is the language options. The Region A disc seems to have significantly less of them. Warners, I need to be blunt in this instance. With a ratio of 1:20 or more in subtitle tracks I will use and those that I will not (and this is to say nothing of the audio tracks), this is a definite case of less is more.

Summary

     This being the age of the Internet where everyone can have an opinion as long as it echoes everyone else's, I have heard many things about Superman as he is depicted in Superman Returns. One is that the scenes in which he visits the manor Lois is sharing with Richard White (James Marsden) are creepy. In a way, they are meant to be. As Singer and company make a point of emphasising, although he was raised among the people of Earth and lives among them, he is not one of them. I say these people deserve major kudos for exploring that aspect of the character a little more thoroughly. This is what superhero films really need to be.

     Further to my point, allow me to quote something from the review of the previous disc: "There are people in the world this Superman is protecting whom I could shove a shard of Kryptonite into the back of, throw into the ocean, and be able to talk Superman into not shedding a singular tear for. And more than anything, Bryan Singer's recent films very strongly indicate that he totally groks this feeling, which is a claim that Richard Donner and especially Richard Lester or Brett Ratner cannot make." That still applies in spades with this film, and in the years since writing that review, I have come across an entire cavalcade of people I could happily help Lex Luthor kill. To be unable to understand the relevance of this film and its extent therefore makes one a candidate for that list.

     The video transfer is either an excellent representation of mediocre source materials, or a mediocre representation of source materials of indeterminate quality. On the plus side, at least it appears to be genuinely progressive this time.

     The audio transfer is also excellent, and makes an awesome example of why I will never again listen to a lossy soundtrack when a lossless option exists. Please do this with more of the old catalogue titles you released with lossy audio at first, Warners.

     The extras are modest in number, mostly great in quality, and mostly worth a look. The only disappointment is the lack of any audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, November 23, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Superman: The Movie (Blu-ray) (rerelease in boxed set) (1978) | Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition (Blu-ray) (1978) | Superman II: Original Theatrical Release (Blu-ray) (1980) | Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (1980) | Superman III (Blu-ray) (1983) | Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (Blu-ray) (1987) | Superman Returns (Blu-ray) (rerelease) (2006) | Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (Blu-ray) (2006)

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Released 24-Aug-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-You Will Believe: The Saga Of Superman
Featurette-The Science Of Superman
Featurette-The Mythology Of Superman
Featurette-The Heart Of A Hero: A Tribute To Christopher Reeve
Featurette-The Adventures Of Superpup
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 110:30
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kevin Burns
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Christopher Reeve
Brandon Routh
George Reeves
Margot Kidder
Kate Bosworth
Gene Hackman
Kevin Spacey
Bryan Singer
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music Todd Erickson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English 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
Spanish
Chinese
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, hilariously

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

Plot Synopsis

     Look Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story Of Superman is a retrospective on the origins, trials, tribulations, and history of the character we know as Superman. Like the film it is intended to promote (Superman Returns), there are love hearts for Superman clearly in the eyes of the makers. In contrast to most of the rest of the bonus material presented with this boxed set, this documentary seems to have been assembled in high definition. Narrated by Kevin Spacey, this documentary even talks about some of the other villains from Superman canon that have yet to be seen in feature films.

     Obviously, a hundred and ten minutes is a bit of an investment for a documentary that hovers perilously close to being just another fluff piece to promote a film. There is also a fair amount of material in the documentary that is repeated or sourced from other featurettes in this boxed set. Obviously, if one is a fan of Superman, then this documentary is well worth a look.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     Being presented in 1920 by 1080, this featurette is obviously the best of the lot in terms of quality. All of the material in this featurette is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with footage from the films or television series reframed in various manners to fit that ratio.

     Obviously, with excerpts from films or television series of varying ages, the sharpness, shadow detail, and noise is a bit variable. Colour saturation is quite variable at times, too.

     Compression artefacts are not in this transfer. Aliasing is occasionally apparent in various archival materials, especially the older television series, but within acceptable limits relative to the sources. Film artefacts are also occasionally evident, but in acceptable amounts.

     Subtitles are provided in English. These are acceptably true to the spoken word, although still with more truncations than I would like.

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

Audio

     One soundtrack is provided with this featurette: the original English narration/interviews in Dolby Digital 2.0 that sounds like stereo.

     Fortunately, the material does not ask much of this soundtrack. Most of the time we are simply listening to people talk about various aspects of Superman as myth, canon, or story. Excerpts from films or television shows present occasional sound effects or music that show the limitations of Dolby Digital, but the narration has obviously been given priority, and any extra sound is tuned down in order to keep said narration audible.

     Music in this documentary is credited to one Todd Erickson. It does its job without being terribly remarkable.

     The surround channels and subwoofer have nothing to do in this soundtrack.

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

Extras

Menu

     Like the disc label, the menu has a pretty-stark looking image with a mere "Bonus Disc" title on it. Although it is pretty easy to navigate for the most part, it does smack of laziness.

Featurette - You Will Believe: The Saga Of Superman

     Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with film excerpts presented in a heavily windowboxed 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This featurette is divided into five parts that can be accessed from a submenu, along with a Play All option. The Play All option gives a total running time of eighty-nine minutes and twenty-four seconds.

     A lot of these featurettes repeat almost exactly what is said in ones that appear on other discs. The parts that do not repeat other featurettes, however, make it well worth viewing. A prime example of this is an anecdote by Terence Stamp about how he, Jack O'Halloran, and Sarah Douglas remained more or less in character between shots.

Featurette - The Science Of Superman

     This 1.78:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 featurette spends fifty-one minutes and a second exploring the "rules" of the Superman universe and how compatible they are with the laws of science as we know them. Being that plausibility is one of my favourite storytelling challenges, I found this featurette fascinating. Your mileage may vary.

Featurette - The Mythology Of Superman

     Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this nineteen minute and thirty-four second featurette is about parallels between Superman and old mythological figures. I did not find this one quite so fascinating.

Featurette - The Heart Of A Hero: A Tribute To Christopher Reeve

     This featurette is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. For eighteen minutes, it goes into detail about Reeve's adventurous spirit and his work for the rights and causes of the disabled after his neck injury.

     Full disclosure here: I am one of the hundreds of souls who marched for the National Disability Insurance Scheme in a North Brisbane suburb months ago, so the focus on Reeve's life post-accident brings a lot of conflicting thoughts to mind, some of which are addressed in this featurette. Although he sadly never lived to see the day where paralysis can be cured, his impact on the way in which disability and the disabled are viewed by others is important. A great light went out in the world the day he died.

Featurette - The Adventures Of Superpup

     Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this twenty-one minute, thirty-four second piece is the rarely-seen pilot for a series in which the characters of Superman are animalised. As is mentioned in another featurette, this series never made it past the pilot stage. After watching this pilot, I do not wonder why.

R4 vs R1

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

    The two versions of this disc appear to be pretty much the same apart from language options.

Summary

     As the final disc in the Superman anthology, Look Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story Of Superman presents an extra helping of curiosities and laughs. One could do worse than to check out the content. From the way extras are scattered throughout this set, it would appear that this is really a collection of all the little pieces that they could not find space for on other discs, but what is included here is generally of very good quality. There is a little something for all types here, but the biggest selling point is the simple historical value.

     The video transfer is good, sometimes great, sometimes below average, but always watchable. The audio transfer, whilst serviceable, really does not offer a whole lot.

     The whole disc is pretty much an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, November 24, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE