Blu-Ray Review: Superman 5-Film Collection (4K UHD)

by Derek McNeil
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Blu-Ray Review: SUPERMAN 5-Fim Collection (4K UHD)

Superman 5-Film Collection - DC Comics News

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Directors: Richard Donner, Richard Lester, Sidney J. Furie

Writers: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, Tom Mankiewicz, Christopher Reeve, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Annette O’Toole, Jackie Cooper, Jon Cryer

Reviewed ByDerek McNeil

Thanks to WB for providing a review copy.

Summary

Superman: 5-Film Collection: As part of the year-long celebration for the 100t anniversary of Warner Bros. Studios, five films featuring the iconic DC superhero Superman – Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman III, and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace – available for purchase on 4K Ultra HD Disc and Digital.

Positives

1978’s Superman: The Movie, the first big-budget superhero movie, is considered by many to be one of the greatest superhero movies, if not the greatest, ever. And the general consensus is that Christopher Reeve was the finest live-action Superman. I whole-heartedly agree with that assessment, but will add that I feel that George Reeves, from the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV show did a better job of portraying his alter ego Clark Kent.

The 5-Film collection includes two versions of Superman II included, the original theatrical release and the Richard Donner Cut. For those not familiar with the story, Richard Donner was directing Superman and Superman II, with plans for back-to-back releases. However, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind replaced Donner with Richard Lester as director of Superman II.

Eventually, Warner gave Donner the opportunity to reconstruct his original vision for the film. However, Donner was somewhat hampered by only being able to use surviving filmed elements. With the cast much older, unable to perform, or passed away, reshoots were impossible. This resulted in a somewhat strange patchwork of Donner’s scenes still in the theatrical release, alternate takes, and screen test footage.

However, it’s a fascinating look at a movie that could have been, and Donner’s brilliance still manages to shine through, overshadowing Lester’s version. And it also set an important precedent that paved the way for the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Fortunately for Snyder, he had a lot more footage to work with for his restoration, as well as the ability for limited reshoots.

Superman 5-Film Collection - DC Comics News

Positives Cont.

With Superman III, however, the franchise started to go downhill. While Richard Pryor was undoubtedly a talented comedian, the antics of his character were inappropriate for the tone set in the first two movies. With Superman III, a superhero adventure story devolved into a poorly managed farce.

Also, the plot involving computer crime has aged very poorly, and it wasn’t all that well carried out to begin with. But it’s near impossible to take seriously in terms of modern computer literacy.

However, the movie does have one saving grace. This occurs after Superman is turned evil by artificial Kryptonite. Superman’s metaphorical internal struggle becomes literal, as the evil Superman battles Clark Kent, who represents the goodness and humanity of the character. The scene plays out beautifully, and saves the film from mediocrity.

Superman: The Quest For Peace had noble intentions. Christopher Reeve contributed to the screenplay, wanting to tell a story with a message about nuclear disarmament. However, like Superman III, the writing quality fails to live up to the first two films. For example, there’s the  revelation of Superman’s new power, Rebuild-the-Great-Wall-Of-China-vision.

Also, the movie was hampered by some drastic cuts in budget. The special effects are noticeably much cruder than the previous movies. For example, some scenes of Superman flying are achieved through animation, rather than the graceful live-action flight used in the earlier films.

While Gene Hackman returns as Luthor, his henchman, the incompetent, but likeable Otis has been replaced by Lex’s less congenial nephew Lenny Luthor. Interestingly enough, Lenny is played by Jon Cryer, who grew up to play Lex Luthor in the CW Supergirl series.

Superman 5-Film Collection - DC Comics News

Positives Cont.

There are two respects in which the Superman 5-Film Collection really shines. First is the picture and sound quality. With these films on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, this is the best that these movies have ever looked outside of the movie theatre, and likely will remain so for quite awhile – at least until 8K definition becomes the norm for home video.

The secondis in the wealth of special features available in this set. Warner previously released a DVD set with a huge release of additional content as the Ultimate Superman Collector’s Edition set. This content was then carried over to HD Blu-Ray in the Superman Motion Picture Anthology.

The  4K UHD disks in this new set don’t contain any extras beyond commentaries. However, an HD Blu-Ray disc of the five films are included. Each of these is a reissue of the same disc from the Motion Picture Anthology. Thus, each of these discs brings a copious helping of bonus features.

These include the typical fare of behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, documentaries, and many other notable items. There’s Superman and The Mole-Men, the pilot movie for the George Reeves TV series, WB Cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Private Snafu parodying Superman. As well as the complete Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. These last are only in Standard Definition (i.e. DVD quality) . But if you want them in High Definition, you’re in luck. Warner is releasing them as a standalone Blu-Ray later this month.

Superman 5-Film Collection - DC Comics News

Positives Cont.

It’s great to see that theatrical trailers of the films are also included. It’s irks me when a home video release doesn’t include the feature film’s trailers. This is the absolute bare minimum that should be included with any home video release. Thus, I am pleased to see that Warner remembered to include them here.

Negatives

While the special features from these five Blu-Ray discs are carried over from the Motion Picture Anthology, that was an eight disc set.  This means that 3 discs and their special features are not included in the 5-Film Collection. The Blu-Ray set also included the Extended Version of Superman: The Movie, Superman Returns, and a dedicated Special Features disc.

Thus, some buyers will have to decide what you want out of this set. Is owning the complete set of special features your priority? Or is having the superior picture quality more important to you? If you don’t have a 4K capable TV and disc player, and don’t plan on upgrading anytime soon, or if 1080p HD is good enough for your tastes, than should be quite happy with the older Blu-Ray set, which includes the full set of features. However, if you want the best available picture, and special features are of not vital, then the 5-Film Collection is the best choice.

Superman 5-Film Collection - DC Comics News

Negatives Cont.

The real dilemma is for those of us who want the best of both worlds. To get the movies in 4K and the full wealth of extras, there is no choice to double-dip. The 5-Film Collection is still worth getting. But carefully consider whether you want to sell or give away the Blu-Ray set if you already own it.

And it’s also a bit disappointing that the 4K set didn’t include the Extended Edition and Superman Returns from the Motion Picture Anthology. It would also be nice to have Richard Donner’s director’s cut from 2001 (a.k.a. the Special Ediion). However, their absence isn’t a huge detriment to this 4K collection.

Verdict

The movies included in the Superman 5-Film collection include a true classic, two versions of a flawed classic, and a great selection of extras. This more than makes up for the final two films which are mediocre at best. If you want the best viewing experience possible for viewing these movies in your home, then this set will be a worthy addition to your library. However, if you want the full selection of extra features, then you might want to consider purchasing the older Blu-Ray Superman Motion Picture Anthology instead of or along with this set.

 

 

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