“You will believe a man can fly” was the promise on a movie poster that tempted this teenager into the brand new multiplex to see Superman – The Movie. Did the film deliver? Let’s just say there were no lawsuits for breech of contract. What teenage kid could help but be swept into the air with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. Brando had also been a hero of mine and who better to play Superman’s dad than the Godfather himself. No film had to that point ever accomplished the feat of putting a human in flight that rivals the abilities of today’s digital effects. Hell yes, I believe a man can fly.
Ok do I really need to tell this story? Here’s a brief layout for anyone who flunked comic books 101 in school…
The planet Krypton is doomed. Jor-El can’t seem anyone to believe that their world is about to crumble. He can’t save his world so he does the next best thing. He sends his only son to Earth where he will possess almost unlimited strength and powers.
To disguise his identity Superman becomes Clark Kent (Reeves) a shy almost bumbling reporter for the Daily Planet, the main paper in Metropolis. Kent is befriended by fellow reporter Lois Lane (Kidder) and photographer Jimmy Olson (McClure). From this vantage point he fights for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Lex Luthor is trying to get top dollar for some oceanfront property in Nevada. There’s only one slight detail, the oceanfront is about 600 miles away. Lutor steals 2 nuclear warheads to fix that little problem. Superman stops the baddies, saves the damsel in distress and the rest as they say is history.
The main audio track is a dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 representation. The sound is a wonderful reproduction. Some of it was actually re-recorded for the DVD and matches perfectly. The sound separation is impressive particularly in Superman flybys and when the phantom zone creeps over your shoulder in the courtroom scene. There is tremendous output from the sub it will shake a good room.
There is an option to hear just the soundtrack but here you’re better off with the CD soundtrack still available. It is best to listen to the integrated version… it’s awesome even if you’re just listening.
There is a commentary track by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz. What a joy this was to listen to. It is evident the amount of love they have for each other and this film. They offer great anecdotes and insight. Even Donner’s bitterness about the relationship he had with the Salkinds is sincere and heartfelt. Even if you don’t normally listen to commentary tracks you have to try this one.
Superman is presented in the original theatrical widescreen format. The transfer is nothing short of magic. All colors and tints have been restored to vivid proportions. I approached the Krypton scenes with skeptism but was pleased to find that the red tint was perfect and did nothing to distort the detail of the action. The blacks are true and deep. There is little noticeable grain and no film artifacts or marks. I did notice a little distortion of the edge enhancement on a few scenes depicting mattes.
There were even some improvements over the original film. There is a well deserved color correction in at least 2 points of the film. The water from the breaking dam no longer has a gray edge obviously from the greenscreen imperfection. Also Superman’s color has been corrected from green to blue in the same scene.
What a mother lode of extras this disc contains. One of the most notable is the film itself. Several scenes deleted from the theatrical release have been reintegrated into the film. You can also view them on their own. There are also several deleted scenes available not in the new film. The most amusing of which is Otis feeding Luthor’s pet carnivores while Lex plays ballroom style piano.
There are three excellent documentaries the best of which is called “Taking Flight”. You’ll see how the legend made its way from concepts to the finished film. “Filming the Legend” and Magic Behind the Cape” are nice looks into the technical aspects of the film and special effects.
The disc also contains the normal cast and crew bios, TV spots, trailers, and production notes. One of the coolest extras is a collection of screen tests mostly for the part of Lois Lane. You’ll see many famous actresses try out for the part won by Kidder. For me it made me feel that Kidder was not necessarily the right choice.
My only complaint is that instead of 2 discs this is a 2-sided flip disc. For me I’d rather have 2 discs.
Watching this film again is a very bittersweet experience. It is hard sometimes watching Reeve in all of his physical prowess knowing what he has since been reduced to. Reeve still has that Man of Steel grin and I pray that the man who made me believe a man could fly will someday walk again.
Lastly you just can’t overlook how great of a cast this was. Hackman as Luthor is brilliant casting. Cooper fell into the role of White and aren’t we lucky he did. And is Beaty just sooo believable as Otis or what? Clark Kent sums this DVD up best when he says, “Frankly, I thought it was swell”.