Superman Motion Picture Anthology – Review

In the run up to the much anticipated 2012 release of the new Superman movie, Warner Home Video is proud to present Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006), released on the 13thJune 2011. Rediscover the heritage of the cultural icon and quintessential superhero, Superman, in the first five classic films.

In this exciting eight disc collection, the Superman myth is depicted, from his birth on the doomed planet of Krypton to his life as a reporter in the big city of Metropolis. He discovers that hiding his superpowers as mild-mannered Clark Kent isn’t easy when trying to sustain a job at the ever inquisitive Daily Planet, wooing hard-nosed Lois Lane and constantly battling with super villains across  Metropolis.

For the first time ever, films one to four, Superman: The Movie (Original Theatrical) Superman II (Original Theatrical) Superman III and Superman IV – The Quest For Peace, are available on high def blu-ray. The collection also includes the recent blockbuster; Superman Returns, plus Superman: the Movie(Expanded Edition) Superman II (the Director Richard Donner cut).

Fans will also be treated to 20 hours of bonus features, including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman Returns, along with documentariesdeleted scenes and a ‘making of’ feature.

‘The Superman Motion Picture Anthology’ is out on Blu-ray on 13th June courtesy Warner Home Video.

I’m not going to bore you with a full review of each of the superman film on this Blu-ray Anthology. If you’re a follower of this site the chances are you’ve seen all the films and read countless reviews more than once. So I will be brief.

Superman I and II still stand out for me as among the best of the super hero adaptations. It’s a testament to what you can do with a superhero property when you take your subject matter seriously. Even now decades later the influence of these films can still be seen in the superhero films of today.

I can still remember being taking to see Superman the movie as a kid. I saw there, wide eyed, as Jor-El is finished off his big speech with ‘I have sent them you, my only son’. The music then started up I I saw Superman for the first time and me along with rest of the audience started cheering. Superman then took off and flew towards the screen, veering off at the last moment and the cinema erupted into applause. To this day it’s one of my cherished film moments.

Christopher Reeve not only made us believe but that a man could hide his secret identity behind a pair of glasses. No other actor to play Superman has really been able to pull off that duality as well as Reeve did.

The rest of the cast also bought their A game to those films. Seeing the likes of Marlon Brando as Jor- El and an Kryptionian council comprised of some respected English actors really lent a gravitas to those scenes on krypton. Don’t even get me started on how bad ass General Zod was in Superman II.

I will admit that I enjoyed the Superman II the first time I watched it in the cinema but something felt off about it. The main enjoyment came out of  superman going evil (alway love the fact his costume went dark) having to do battle with himself. However Superman works better as something epic not a comedy.  I’ll probably get slated for this but I liked the central plot ideasfor Superman IV. A superhero wanting to rid the world of nuclear weapons and having to deal with the  consequences for doing for could have made for a great film. For me it was just very, very poorly realised in the script  not too mention a budget which was lower than what I spend on my weekly shop at Tescos.

In regards to Superman Returns all I will say that the film worked as a tribute to what Donner had done in Supeman the movie but Bryan Singer never allow it to be its own film. The casting for Superman was solid enough as was Lex Luthor. I did think that both actors rather than bring new life to the roles with their take on the character almost became donner- lite versions of what had gone before. Lois Lane never really felt like the feisty and ballsy reporter that she should be. In all the potential was there and in many ways it was wasted but I still had a lot of fun at my first viewing of the film.

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology is basically a love letter to the Superman films or at least that’s my way of describing it. The collection is just overflowing with extras and special features that you hardly know where to start. Rather than go through everysingle thing I will pick up some of my highlights.

The Blu-ray versions – Superman as ever looked better…end of really. I mean they looked nice on DVD but it looks even better on Blu-ray. Whenever you see Superman on screen you want to reach for your shades as the colours are so vibrant. Well worth having on Blu-Ray just for these before you even get to the extra content.
Fleisher Studio’s Superman– I first stumbled upon one of these cartoons in a night club, of all places, as it was showing clips on one of the video walls. After seeing a few seconds of the cartoon I made it my business to seek them out. Awful racial depictions and stereotyping aside in two of the cartoons, it is a stellar body of work.

First Flight: Fleisher Superman Series – gives an insightful and informative look into how the Fleisher cartoons were developed. It also shows how these cartoons became the template of the Batman then later superman animated series of the 90’s.
Taking Flight: The Development of Superman & Making Superman: Filming the Legend – If you can get past the cheesy voice over/appearances from marc maclure aka jimmy olsen this is a great look into how superman the movie came about as well as the the hurdles and challenges that were faced. It’s worth it just to hear how the creative team for Superman the movie was put together.
Screen Tests -This includes some of the different screen tests for Clark, Lois and more. You can just imagine how different the film would have looked if the roles had gone to some of the other actors in the mix. Seeing some of them I can only thank god they didn’t get the role.
The Heart of a Hero – A Tribute to Christopher Reeve – this left me with a tear in my eye the first time I watched it and dammit if it didn’t do it again. It’s not an over the top tribute it’s just a thoughtful look at man who for years, as a kid, I really believed could fly. Honestly it one of the reasons I always turn off the’ this how we made him fly’ stuff as I never want to know. As an adult Reeve showed me that obstacles are there to be fought and overcome. I may have criticised Smallville over the years but I can’t watch that scene between Reeve and the young Clark Kent without getting choked up.
Music only track – my favourite ever film score changes on a daily basis but it’s always either Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back or Superman the Movie. The idea of being able to watch the entire film with no dialogue but just John Williams effortlessly brilliant score as your only guide on the journey is a fantastic idea. The idea may not appeal to some but it definitely appears to this hardcore soundtrack fan.
You will believe: The Cinematic Sage of Superman – It has similarities to the earlier making of features but worth watching to hear some candid thoughts of the cast and crew especially on Richard’s Donners firing. As a kid I didn’t even realise the directors had changed but after finding out I was always interested to hear more. The feature also goes into what the cast and crew thought of Superman III and IV and more importantly why they felt it didn’t work. I always wondered why Lois Lane was hardly in Superman III and it was nice to get that question answered by Margot Kidder herself.
Superman II:  The Donner Cut – Although I wasn’t sent this for review it is included in this version and heartily recommend people watch this. Seeing Donner’s original vision for the film and hearing what he intended for these films leaves you wishing somehow they all could have worked out their differences. It’s heartbreaking wondering where the Superman franchise would have gone knowing that Donner had ideas for Superman 3 and 4.
I could go on to mention all the deleted scenes, restored scenes, commentaries and trailers but you get the point there’s a lot of great content collected here. So What’s the down side to all of this brilliance? Some years back I picked up the Superman Ultimate Collection on DVD and most of the extras that are on the DVD version are on The Superman Motion Picture Anthology. Aside from the improved picture quality and the fact these were sent to me for review the question I have to ask myself is would I spend money on something I already have. Honestly I’m not sure but at £34.99 (on Amazon) it’s certainly good value for money for what you get. If, however, you didn’t get round to buying the Superman Ultimate Collection on DVD and you’re a fan of the films then this is a must buy.
GS Rating: Films 4/5 Content 5/5
GS Reviewer: Nuge

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