Superman: The Movie [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary & Noor Razzak (16th October 2008).
The Film

You will believe a man can fly. That was the lofty promise made on the poster for the 1978 Richard Donner adaptation of the "Superman" legend. This was back in the days before CGI effects too. And while it may look a little tame by today's comparisons, they achieved that goal and so much more. They created a timeless classic. They gave the world Superman, the way he was intended to be. Make no mistake about it, even after all these years, this is still THE superhero film.

Based on the DC Comics character, created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, "Superman" is the tale of the baby Kal-El who is rocketed from his exploding planet Krypton by his scientist father, Jor-El (Marlon Brando, in all of his reading off cue cards glory). Found in a Kansas field by Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter), they name him Clark (Christopher Reeve) and raise him as their own, instilling in him the virtues he will later live by. Upon learning of his heritage, Clark heads off to create a fortress in the artic, where he receives guidance from a simulation of Jor-El. After he is through there he heads to Metropolis under the guise of a mild-mannered reporter. He meets Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), along with the rest of the "Superman" supporting cast, and takes on the challenges of Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his moronic lackeys.

The film is epic in scale and beautiful in tone. It is definitely not a fast moving piece. But the chemistry between the cast keep it alive right through. That will always be the thing that stands out for me when watching it, over the effects and fan boy moments, is the connection the actors have with another. They obviously enjoy their work and it shows as they crafted "Superman" from what could easily been a cheesy flavour of the week, derided by many as superhero films tended to be back in the day, into a legitimate film with heart, depth and soul. And a guy in blue tights.
The vibrancy and chemistry between Kidder and Reeve is palpable and never fails to hit the mark. Humorous, and often intentionally over the top, it is the glue that holds the film together. Kidder's Lois is headstrong and brash without being unlikeable, while Reeve is utterly endearing as Clark and equally as confident as Superman. Reeve shows much charm, as Superman marvels at his own abilities. The character is constantly showing off, accompanied usually by a boyish smirk, that never offends but rather befriends. You would want this guy flying overhead, looking after you and rescuing your cat from a tree. Even at his most devious, where he sweeps Lois off her feet as Superman and quickly turns up afterwards as Clark to see the effect he had on her, does not come across as arrogance. Truly, we see the burden he faces having to hide his true identity, as he considers telling her the truth. It weighs heavily on him that he can't be himself all the time.

It is nuances like this that really elevate the film, and a lot of the credit falls on Reeve's shoulders. His dual performance is remarkable. In that aforementioned scene you see him change from standing and acting like Clark to doing the same as "Superman." They really are two different people, and helps aid the illusion that someone could be close to him and not realize.

That rooftop scene is one of the most memorable in the film for multiple reasons. It was also the scene that was used in the audition process, so that should be an indication of how it was treated. As I've mentioned, the chemistry is thoroughly entertaining. The quirks that the actors put into this scene make it greatly humorous and touching. You totally buy into the fact that they are falling for each other. That is not to say the scene doesn't have it's out there moments, however. Superman refuses to tell Lois his age, in case people use the information against him. But then happily tells her about his inability to see through objects lined with lead, which does end up being used against him. Also, he offers up the history of his doomed home planet, including where it was, and this is used against him too. Also, he tells Lois that he likes pink, in a conversation that's slightly creepier than it should be.

The film also has its number of confusing, and sometimes downright weird, plot points. Luthor references that the article Lois wrote claims that Superman's rocket was launched in 1948 and took thirty years to get here. I can only assume that the baby aged slowly in the rocket. But then Jor-El, when speaking to teenage Clark, claims that he's been dead for 'many thousands of your Earth years." So which is it? Also, Luthor accurately predicts that fragments of his home planet-Kryptonite-will kill him. Not that he explains why parts of his own home would hurt him; just that it has 'unique radiation.' Or explain how he would know all this anyway. Still, Luthor is a genius, so I guess he can outwit even logic.

It's not a perfect film but it remains a great film. The actors bring more to the roles than was expected back before the superhero movie boom. And despite grievances like Clark just morphing into his costume while falling and a few other things that don't really make any sense (coughspinningtheearthbackwardscough), it is the emotional heart that makes this movie a classic. It is the first and best stop for explaining to someone the right way to introduce a superhero character and remains the benchmark to this day. I'm not afraid to say it: It's bloody super.

Video

Presented in the ratio of 2.40:1 this new edition boasts a new image transfer restored from the original elements. It's presented in 1080p 24/fps and has been created using VC-1 compression. The effort is solid and for a movie of its age should be considered reference quality restoration work. I was surprised at how sharp the image was (although there are several shots that look a bit soft, mainly concerning scenes with optical effects), colours were striking and well saturated, skin tones looked natural and blacks were nice and bold. Grain was light and adds texture to the film. There was no dirt spotted, no specks, no compression related issues or edge-enhancement.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included on this disc, they are in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English 5.1 soundtrack and it's the exact same track that is featured on the DVD and therefore this portion if the review is the same as seen on the previous DVD review: Usually re-mixed soundtracks tend to ruin a film if not treated with respect, and I'm glad to say that this soundtrack has been given the appropriate treatment, the dialogue is clear and distortion free, while the surrounds are active whether subtle ambient sound or aggressive action and music elements. The track possess a depth reserved for newer films and combined with the music that makes uses of the sound space extremely well makes for a totally immersive experience.
Optional subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

Warner Brothers have released this film on Blu-ray with an audio commentary, two documentaries, a screen test and a series of theatrical trailers and a TV spot. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by director Richard Donner and and creative consultant/uncredited screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. Some of the most infamous stories that originated from this production are the endless battles director Donner had with the producers, and for years it was glossed over, but finally with the release of these new editions comes the filmmaker's side of the story and he covers that in detail in this track, but also tends to remain screen-specific commenting on the production, location shooting, shooting with English crews in the UK, the casting process and finding the right people for the parts, working with the cast and getting the performances he desired, he also talks about the costume and effects and the various challenges, struggles and hard times he faced during the mammoth production.

it not only makes a brilliant supplement to the film but also to the book "The Making of Superman The Movie" by [url=http://www.amazon.com/Making-Superman-Movie-Michael-Petrou/dp/0446825654]David Michael Petrou[/url] who does have a slightly different account of the production mainly having to do with the relationship Donner had with the Salkinds during production.

Next up is "Taking Flight: The Development Of Superman" a documentary which runs for 30 minutes 14 seconds. What a wonderful feature, as this clip chronicles the development of the film, the Salkinds and their dealing with Donner, the cast and crew all reflect on the production as we get a broad understanding of the challenges this film posed for the filmmakers. There are plenty of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage shot during the film's production. It was interesting to see rare footage that's never really been seen before as those involved pay tribute to the film and comment on their experiences. For fans this is a gem of an extra and well worth watching, and definitely has a re-watch value.

Following that is "Making Superman: Filming The Legend" documentary which runs for 30 minutes 41 seconds. This feature carries on from the previous and looks closer at the actual film production during the late 70's and focuses mainly on the interaction between the director and the producer that caused a lot of problems on the set and eventually led to his being fired when the second film was being filmed/edited having been replaced by another director. Much like the previous clip we get a decent amount of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

Also featured is a "Superman" screen test which runs for 9 minutes 22 seconds, and features the original test with actor Christopher Reeve. This is an interesting look at the casting process and viewers can immediately see why Reeves was the best choice for the character.

Rounding out the extras on this disc are a collection of trailers and a TV spot, these can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option. They include:

- The film's original teaser trailer which runs for 1 minute 11 seconds.
- The film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.
- a TV spot that runs for 32 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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