on June 7, 2011
Finally, the original Superman series hits Blu ray. I still don't get why this didn't happen way back in 2006 when the dvd set came out. All we got were a poor transfer of the extended version of the first film, a great transfer of the Donner Cut of part 2, and a fairly poor transfer of Superman Returns. Here we get 'em all, plus they are all new transfers from the previous releases making it beyond worth picking up.
All, and I mean ALL, the special features from the previous dvd set is included in this eight blu ray disc box set. Now maybe someone out there can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall, on the box set dvd or the blu ray, the previous releases of Superman Returns having the deleted scene of Superman returning the barron and destroyed planet Krypton searching for life in his crystal spaceship. I've never seen this five minutes sequence before in my life. I've only seen snippets of it on the theatrical trailers for the film. Well, I got to see it for the first time today. While Returns is no great film, this scene should have been left in. It would've opened the film up more. Even weirder is this scene is completely finished. All the effects are GREAT and finished and polished. I can't believe they cut this scene. Hell, there were even action figures made of Superman's space suit and his ship back in 2006 for a sequence that was never even seen by mainstream film goers. Whatever. All the other deleted scenes and extended cuts are here too. All the films have their commentaries included, except Returns which never had one unfortunately.
Of course some of the special features are repetitive. The commentaries repeat some of the info give in the featurettes and documentaries. Back in 2001 a box set for the first four films was released on dvd. Only the first film had special features and an extended cut. The documentary, cut into three parts, is included. While this doc repeats a lot of what is on the eighth disc's featurettes regarding the whole series' history, it does skim over the on set tensions and the firing of Richard Donner from the directing duties of part 2. So, essentially, if you're a hardcore fan like me, you will have to view both. We get the first feature film of Superman starring George Reeves called Superman and the Mole Men, not really in HD unfortunately. Even better is we the classic animated shorts from Fleischer studios. They're not cleaned up but they look pretty good in a low grade version of hi def. The audio of all movies has been upgraded and it reall shows.
Shockingly to me, is that the AWFUL Superman IV: The Quest for Peace looks really good in hi def. I mean, it never looked that good, and all the edges of the effects always showed, but the blu ray transfer doesn't make them MORE apparent, but the colors look good. Go figure. My favorite part of the part IV disc is the deleted scenes. Now these scenes make the film seem more whole and help it make a ton more sense, especially towards the third act, but the movie stilled would've been just as awful. It just would've been a comprehensible mess as opposed to what it is. I also appreciate co-screenwriter Mark Rosenthal committing a commentary to this disc, as well as an interview for the 8th disc docs. He is frank and never once tries to polish this turd that he worked on. He's the only one from this film that even bothered to comment, so I more than appreciate it. Something about filmmakers talking about movies that didn't work always intrigues me more than the ones that do, just see the Joel Schumacher commentary for Batman and Robin. Superman Returns FINALLY looks the way it should. The colors pop and the sound booms. All previous dvd and blu ray versions of this film were terrible, and even more so when you see the new disc, which kept all the previous releases special features and included the video diaries which were an exclusive to the Superman tin from 2006.
Finally, the last thing I'll mention, is Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. This is the best special feature ever made for any movie ever made in the history of movies. I'm super happy that Warner Brothers paid to have this experiment made, that Donner cared enough to give it a whirl, and that it was worth watching. Most people who initially reviewed this movie just DIDN'T GET IT. It wasn't a complete representation of Donner's vision for Superman II. Most people complained that it had the same ending as the first film. Well, if you bothered to listen to the commentary or watch the doc that accompanies the disc you would know that they were behind while shooting both films back to back, and decided to hedge their bets and not assume that Superman: The Movie would be an instant hit. They stole the ending from part II and stuck it on the first film. Since Donner never got to make part II he has no ending to put but the one that was scripted when he was making the film over thirty years ago. So this is more of an experiment than a competition for the theatrical Lester version. This is as close to Donner's movie as we'll ever get. Personally, I loved it. The screen test footage sticks out like a sore thumb, the acting and writing is GREAT, and Superman's reveal to Lois is clever and fun, as opposed to the dumb Lester version of Clark tripping into a fire. If you watch the doc or listen to the commentary you will understand what shots were all Donner stuff. If you have a keen eye for film you'll now anyway. The effects work and photography and choreography for Donner's footage is sooooo much more graceful and classy. While his films have goofy humor, the villains from Krypton are played straight and malevolent, unlike the Lester version. Now I don't hate the Lester version. It's enjoyable, but an obvious step down in tone and quality from the first film. It will forever be the offical sequel due to Donner never having filmed or even been give the opportunity to come up with a third act. Now the only annoyance of the Donner cut for me, beyond the reused end of the first film, is that the middle section is very choppy. The scenes that cut between the alien invasion and Superman and Lois falling further in love are harshly edited and don't always breath enough. That's it. Donner reveals much bitterness regarding not having stayed on board for all the Superman movies, but he seems jovial all the time. I'm happy he was able to get some closure, and really happy that fans like me could have such a neat gift. It's also bittersweet in the sense that the Donner cut shows so much potential it makes you feel slighted regarding what he eventually got with the series and the downward spiral it took.
All discs are upgraded in audio and visuals so for any Superman fan it's a no brainer. This is an upgrade. Now I understand if you don't care to own the later films, but you will have to wait as I'm sure they will all be released individually just like the Batman films. This will probably happen to coincide with the release of Zach Snyder's upcoming Superman film next year. I'm hoping the next Superman film is truly just a tale of Superman and NOT another origin story. It's been done in the comics, movies, cartoons, and tv shows. NO MORE. Who doesn't know Superman's origins at this point. I will be very bored if that's the case. We'll see. Fingers crossed.