Superman: The Complete Collection Review Front Page
We live in an era of superhero movies owning the box office. Special effects are that good now. Not only will you believe that men can fly, but you can believe they can swing on webbing, turn into giant green monsters, shoot lightning, twist through dimensions and a whole host of other perfect computer generated powers. The storytelling can get pretty nuanced as well, as the comic book adaptations play in different genres and styles. The suspension of disbelief when it comes to the visuals is rarely a problem now. So, a few years ago I made the conscious decision to leave the original comic book adaptations from the seventies and eighties behind, where the effects are decidedly old school and analogue, and you can see the wires, the rear projection, the matte lines. Admittedly that’s not a lot of movies, and mostly DC at that, but I haven’t seen any of the Superman films, or the Tim Burton Batman movies in years.
Yet once in a while, I find myself humming a bar or two of John Williams’ iconic theme, start feeling nostalgic for that more innocent, magical age when I was still practically a babe in arms, and every movie I saw was the best movie ever, since I had seen so few of them. Imagine being five years old and watching Superman The Movie for the first time. So I gave in, accepted the need to feel young and naive from time to time, and placed an order for The Superman Motion Picture Anthology on Blu-ray. The collection practically lives in the bargain bucket these days; they must have thought they’d sell like DVDs, and it finally gives me the chance to see the Donner Cut of Superman II. I’ll link to the reviews and the extras below.
This Anthology Collection has eight discs in a digipack contained in a thin card sleeve. You fold out four panels, and the discs are held in an awkward overlapping configuration that requires one disc being slid under the other. Apparently it’s to help you get the disc below out without removing the disc on top, but in practice that is impossible anyway. You get two discs for Superman The Movie, two discs for Superman II, and Superman III and IV and Superman Returns on three more discs, and there is one disc with more bonus features. There is also a five disc collection that has only the theatrical features.
Superman The Movie – Theatrical Version and Expanded Version
Superman II – Theatrical Version and Richard Donner Cut
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Click here for The Extra Features
I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Superman is the hardest character to bring to the screen. He is a boy scout, virtuous, idealistic, honest to a fault, and he cares about people. He’s perfect. Perfect is great up to a point, but it’s hard to be dramatic with that, especially in this post modern cynical age, where everything is shades of grey, not black or white. That was okay in the seventies, where US audiences traumatised by the betrayal of the Watergate years and Vietnam wanted black and white from their entertainment, simplistic answers to complex problems. Superman works in that cinematic vernacular. The minute you bring darkness to this world, any sense of moral ambiguity to the character, it’s not Superman anymore. So Superman getting rid of all of the world’s nukes raises questions, Superman stalking his ex raises questions and eyebrows, and as for Henry Cavill’s take on the character; this was a Superman that the people he swore to defend, actively hated him. It turns out that only Donner has got the character right on film, balancing the innate goodness and purity of the character with the demands of telling a good story. For a long time I thought that was just the one film, but having seen his version of Superman II, I realise that it should have been both.
Technically this collection is watchable enough, replete with extra features. The transfers for all of the films are long in the tooth now, but I suspect that if I were to double dip for a better version, should the opportunity arise, it would only be for the first one.