The Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-Ray Review

Benjo Colautti

Reviewed by:
On June 16, 2011
Last modified:July 12, 2013


The Superman Anthology Blu-Ray is a fantastic addition to any film collection. The older films all look spectacular in HD and there are a ton of interesting and intriguing special features.

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-Ray Review

There are few characters as iconic and culturally significant as Superman, the Man of Steel. Born in the 1930’s after appearing in Action Comics issue #1, the hero evolved over the following decades but always remained a symbol of hope and strength with a timeless costume consisting of red and blue. Along with his printed image came his media crossover into the entertainment industry, but unlike the recent excess of superheroes hitting the big screen, Superman’s film debut was released early on to tremendous success.

Since then, multiple sequels and eventually a reboot would appear in diverse quality, ranging from masterpieces of science fiction storytelling to painful attempts to remain mainstream (Richard Pryor is an easy example). With yet another proclaimed installment coming out in the near future, Superman is still as relevant today as the first day that he first appeared. It comes to no surprise then, that a new box set was recently released featuring all the Superman films together for the first time on Blu-Ray, making it not only a great collectors item but an essential retrospective of one of the best superheroes of all time.

The first thing that’s incredibly noticeable when watching these films in high definition is how cleaned up and polished they are. Superman Returns aside, the older sequels –especially Superman and Superman 2– were filmed at a time when special effects were still untapped. Back in 1978 when the original Superman came out, making a man fly was as simple as using various clever filming techniques. At that time it was a huge achievement in visual effects, with the film winning an Oscar for the very same reason. Watching the film now is evidence of how much things have changed, technically and effectively for an audience’s standpoint.

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-Ray Review

On Blu-Ray, a lot of work was obviously done making the older versions look phenomenal for those new to the series, or fans who want to relive the experience in a new generation. It’s the best any of these films have ever looked and The Superman Motion Picture Anthology is a testament to the evolution of visual effects and design for movies of this nature. Though one thing is for sure, after watching Superman Returns it’s easy to admire how graceful CGI is at making the character of Superman appear on the screen with no strings attached. It’s true that a bit of the human element is extracted, but moving at the speed of a flying bullet is easier to achieve through advanced special effects.

One bonus included here that is both infamous and still unknown to many, is the Richard Donner cut of Superman 2. After his abrupt departure from the film and the rehiring of a new director to take his place, Donner had already filmed 80% of the movie when he left the project. It’s fascinating to watch the two versions back to back and see the scenes that were left out of the theatrical version and the ones that were added to it.

Each disc of Superman 2 in the anthology is included with full commentary from the opposing parties involved, Donner and the film’s producers. Nearly three decades have passed and time has rested on the issue, yet the two different angles on what happened still proves to be enthralling. It’s the rare case when someone was fired from the set for the wrong reasons, especially when viewing the difference in overall quality between the two versions after all is said and done. However, most of Donner’s cut is unfinished so it does take a dip in visual appearance compared to the theatrical version.

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-Ray Review

Audio wise, the films all sound wonderful. Direct and clean dialogue is found throughout and John Williams’ triumphant score is an absolute pleasure to listen to when it kicks in. Sound effects are fine but of course, they sound a tad bit worse in the earlier films due to the technology of that time. When surrounds kick in they’re quit effective and when it counts, dynamics are powerful and surrounds are put to good use. There’s really not much wrong with the audio in any of the films here. Aside from the primitive sounding sound effects found in the early films, this is pretty solid all around.

As for video, like I said before, the films look great in HD. Minor issues relating to distracting digital artifacts do surface and a couple night time scenes could use some work but my god, the man of steel’s crimson red cape has never looked so good. Colours are vibrant and bright while fleshtones look fantastic. Shockingly good detail is found in just about all the films and print damage has been handled fairly well. Contrast and textures are also quite good and while a few soft shots show up (mainly in Superman Returns), this is still a great transfer for the iconic superhero.

When it comes to extras, they are plentiful on each disc, with commentaries and features rounding out every available detail for each film. How Margot Kidder was chosen as Lois Lane, the search for the right Superman, the examination of Lex Luthor, the mistakes that Superman’s 3 and 4 were, the extended explanations of key scenes, full commentaries, deleted sequences, video journals etc. Everything you have ever wanted to know about Superman on film is here. The entire list can be seen below:

Disc 1: Superman: The Movie, Original Theatrical Version

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
  • The Making of Superman: The Movie [1978 TV special]
  • Superman and the Mole-Men [1951 feature]
  • Warner Bros. Cartoons:
    · Super-Rabbit [1943]
    · Snafuperman [1944]
    · Stupor Duck [1956]
  • Trailers

Disc 2: Superman: The Movie, Expanded Edition

  • Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz
  • Taking Flight: The Development of Superman
  • Making Superman: Filming the Legend
  • The Magic Behind the Cape
  • Screen Tests:
    . Superman
    . Lois Lane (with optional commentary)
    . Ursa
  • A Selection of Restored Scenes
  • Additional Music Cues:
    . Main Titles
    . Alternate Main Titles
    . The Council’s Decision
    . The Krypton Quake
    . More Mugger/Introducing Otis
    . Air Force One
    . Can You Read My Mind (Pop Version)
  • Music Only Track (Donner Cut)

Disc 3: Superman II, Original Theatrical

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
  • The Making of Superman II [1980 TV special]
  • Deleted Scene
  • First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series
  • Fleischer Studios’ Superman:
    . Superman
    . The Mechanical Monsters
    . Billion Dollar Limited
    . The Arctic Giant
    . The Bulleteers
    . The Magnetic Telescope
    . Electric Earthquake
    . Volcano
    . Terror on the Midway
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc 4: Superman II – The Richard Donner Cut

  • Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz
  • Introduction by Richard Donner
  • Superman II: Restoring the Vision
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Famous Studios’ Superman:
    . Japoteurs
    . Showdown
    . Eleventh Hour
    . Destruction Inc.
    . The Mummy Strikes
    . Jungle Drums
    . The Underground World
    . Secret Agent

Disc 5: Superman III, Theatrical Version

  • Commentary by Iilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
  • The Making of Superman III [1983 TV Special]
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc 6: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Theatrical Version

  • Commentary by Mark Rosenthal
  • Superman 50th Anniversary Special [1988 TV Special]
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc 7: Superman Returns

  • Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns:
    · Pt. 1 Secret Origins and First Issues: Crystallizing Superman
    · Pt. 2 The Crystal Method: Designing Superman
    · Pt. 3 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman on the Farm
    · Pt. 4 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in the City
    · Pt. 5 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in Peril
    · Pt. 6 The Joy of Lex: Menacing Superman
    · Pt. 7 He’s Always Around: Wrapping Superman
  • Resurrecting Jor-El
  • Deleted Scenes, including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman Returns in [Hi-Def]
  • Bryan Singer’s Journals – Video production journals
  • Trailers

Disc 8: Additional Bonus Material

  • Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman [Hi-Def]
  • You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman:
    · Pt. 1- Origin
    · Pt. 2- Vision
    · Pt. 3- Ascent
    · Pt. 4- Crisis
    . Pt. 5- Redemption
  • The Science of Superman [Hi-Def]
  • The Mythology of Superman
  • The Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve
  • The Adventures of Superpup [1958 TV pilot]

For fans and those new to the series, there is a lot to get acquainted to when it comes to bonus material. But in this case, most of the extras are beyond a worthwhile experience, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the older films. The Superman series has had an interesting and lengthy timeline onscreen and is the original granddaddy of superhero movies in Hollywood.

The Superman Motion Picture Anthology is worth the price for anyone simply because of how endearing the character and his mythology is, there is no denying how much of an importance the man of steel represents to the world and the box set is proof of that. It’s a trip back in time that leads all the way back to where we are today, waiting for yet another adventure in the series to extend the never ending adventures of DC’s most valuable commodity.

Superman Anthology Blu-Ray Review

The Superman Anthology Blu-Ray is a fantastic addition to any film collection. The older films all look spectacular in HD and there are a ton of interesting and intriguing special features.

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