Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Netherlands
Re: DVD Review
This will answer your question i think Storm22.MAVERICK
over at the cinemaforums spotted this.
From The Digital Bits
Two-Disc Special Edition - 2006 (2006) - Warner Bros.
Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/B
Shortly after Earth's astronomers discovered what they believed were the ruins of the planet Krypton, far away in deep space, Superman mysteriously disappeared. Without the Man of Steel to testify at the trial for all his crimes, Lex Luthor was released and quickly began to plot his revenge. For five long years, Humanity endured without Superman... and finally moved on. Then one day, a strange spaceship crashes into a cornfield in Kansas. Kal-El, the last son of Krypton, has returned. But his family and friends have moved on too, including the love of his life... Lois Lane, who is now engaged and has a son. With an adopted home planet that believes it no longer needs him, where does a superhero... a Superman... fit in?
The first thing you need to know about director Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, is that it fittingly assumes that Richard Donner's original Superman: The Movie took place, along with - but to a lesser extent - Superman II. However, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace have rightfully been relegated to alternate universe obscurity.
The second thing you need to know about Superman Returns... is that it's a pretty darn good movie.
For years, Warner struggled and failed to bring Superman back to the big screen... trying any number of ways to revamp the franchise. The reason for their failure, in my opinion, was that it was virtually impossible for fans to forget the image of Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. How DO you replace a man who went on to embody in real life EVERYTHING that the character of Superman stands for? The answer: You don't. The brilliance of Singer's approach to the material is that rather than trying to reboot the franchise from the ground up, he actually embraces the best of what's come before. Donner and Reeve already told Superman's origin story, so why rehash it? Singer's Superman and Donner's Superman are one and the same... and if he looks a little different than he did back in the late 1970s and 80s, well... all that traveling around in space at near the speed of light can do that to a guy. The effects of relativity and all that, right? Better still, by having Superman disappear for five years, and return to a world that's moved on, Singer deftly - and directly - addresses the reality for movie fans, and turns that potential franchise killer into an asset. You see, like the people of Earth in the film, we as fans WANT the Man of Steel to return. So we're mostly willing to forgive him for his absence... and welcome him back with open arms.
Key to the success of Singer's effort is Iowa-bred newcomer Brandon Routh, who deftly assumes the mantle as the big screen's newest Superman. He simply owns the role now. Routh cleverly honors Reeve's performance in any number of ways and then gradually, over the course of the film, adds his own sensitivity to the character. His Superman feels a little different than Reeve's, and yet also the same in all the important ways. Whereas Reeve played the role with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, Routh goes for a more straight-laced sincerity. In any case, Routh absolutely pulls it off.
The rest of the casting is excellent top to bottom. Kevin Spacey, as you'd expect, is simply the PERFECT Lex Luthor. His performance is less campy than Gene Hackman's and significantly more sinister, but he's no less funny and engaging, which is exactly what the character needs. James Marsden (you might recall him as Cyclops from Singer's X-Men), Parker Posey and Frank Langella are all very solid in their respective roles. Sam Huntington quietly shines in a number of scenes as Jimmy Olsen. There's a very young actor here as well, Tristan Lake Leabu, who I think gives one of the best performances in the film. So often child stars overact or come off as precocious, but this kid is just... you know... a sweet kid. It's nice to see.
And I must say that Kate Bosworth really surprised me as Lois Lane. She's a very different kind of Lois than the one played by Margot Kidder - more mature, more together. She's a capable parent now... and yet she still has trouble spelling (a nice homage to the Donner film). Bosworth has a wide-eyed, 1940s movie star quality that I think works particularly well in this sort of film. This is the bit of casting that was the most risky. It's the one performance that I think fans have the most difficulty with, but it worked for me. (Without getting into too much detail, I should also briefly note here that I appreciate the tactful way the film's romance, and particularly its romantic triangle, is handled. It's intelligent and surprisingly satisfying in its way.)
Speaking of references to director Donner's Superman, there are many here, not the least of which involve the use of Marlon Brando's likeness and voice (as Jor-El) from outtake footage originally intended for Superman II. There are nice cameos by Jack Larson and Noel Neill (the original Jimmy and Lois from the 1950s TV series, starring George Reeves). There are also lots of great little visual touchstone moments, honoring the comics or other iconic Superman imagery. At one point, Superman holds a car over his head in a classic recreation of the cover of Action Comics #1. In another moment, Superman floats in space over the Earth in a shot inspired by a well-known Alex Ross painting of the character. There's even a nifty little reference on a TV news report to events in Gotham City, presumably setting up the possibility of a future big screen meeting between Routh's Superman and Christian Bale's Batman.
The special effects in this film are absolutely spectacular. Trust me when I say that you have NEVER seen the Man of Steel in action like this before. I don't want to give away any of the film's major action moments, but there are a couple that will leave you gasping and they're entirely believable - a real surprise considering the fact that we're talking about a guy flying around in blue and red tights. The film is very impressive on this score. The only thing I didn't love effects-wise was the opening flight through space back to Earth. It's the same sort of sequence we saw in Contact, only in reverse, except the imagery here is just a bit too cartoonish for my taste. Maybe that was the point, but the lack of visual realism just didn't work for me when compared to the high caliber of digital effects in the rest of the film.
As for the music, it's certainly nice to hear some of the original John Williams score again, as sampled by composer John Ottman. You'll hear the famous opening fanfare and other classic Williams themes reused here and there, but Ottman adds some of his own flare to them. The opening theme presented in this film is crisper, tighter and more 'sparkly' sounding, if you will, than I remember it from back in 1978. It's good work, but I'm looking forward to hearing Ottman branch out more thematically for the next film.
All of this is not to say that Superman Returns is perfect. First, the religious metaphor is carried a little too far, I think. It certainly works, and it's always been part of the character's mythology, but it's a lot more hit-you-over-the-head than anything we've seen in the previous films. Returns is also... well... very predictable. If you're surprised by any of the twists, I'LL be surprised. Clearly patterned after Donner's original, I don't think this film is necessarily too long, but there are some pacing problems here and there, especially in the first half. Some of the intercutting between the Clark/Superman and Lex storylines doesn't work as smoothly as it should. At times the film begins to build real momentum only to let it slip away again. If anything, it felt to me as if we were missing moments here and there. We know that a significant opening scene, showing Kal-El on the remains of Krypton, was deleted, and there are other bits of footage as well - material that we'd seen in the trailers - that were missing from the final cut of the film (more on that in a moment).
If I had any single major complaint about this film, it's that Singer and company are trying so hard to thread the needle of respecting the previous Superman films, while also rejuvenating the franchise for a new generation of film-goers, that they sometimes forget to be bold. Luthor's criminal plot, in particular, is evidence of this. Sure, it's epic in size and scope. If it's successful, billions of people will die. And it ties in nicely to the first film in a couple of ways. But somehow, I want to believe that Lex's need for revenge against Superman would trump his desire for riches and power, such that he'd cook up something a little more sinister than his scheme here. The logic of his plan doesn't quite work either... for if he kills billions of people, who's going to be around to...? Eh. You just can't think too hard about it, I guess.
Still, Superman Returns offers warmth, optimism and savvy in spades. It largely manages to overcome what I think was one of the most difficult hurdles of recent film history. It successfully returns the Man of Steel... the Last Son of Krypton... to the big screen, where he belongs and where we've missed his presence all these years. In this era of ubiquitous digital trickery and jaded movie audiences, Singer's film makes you believe again... and that's a very neat trick indeed.
Warner is releasing Superman Returns on disc in a few different ways... a 2-disc DVD special edition, high-definition versions on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats, and the 2-disc DVD in an elaborate 14-disc box set with all of the other Reeve films, the new Donner cut of Superman II, all of Fleischer animated shorts and tons of newly-produced extras (see picture - we'll review the complete set at a later date, but you'll find the Superman II: Donner Cut reviewed below).
The video quality of the anamorphic widescreen DVD release is good, although it's clear that the film's length and complex imagery posed quite a challenge for Warner's compressionists. Contrast is solid, if slightly lacking in the darkest areas of the image. There's generally decent detail, but the film looks a little too soft pretty much the whole way through. Colors are also slightly more muted than I'd prefer. The darker blue-grays of the new New Krypton scenes are a particular problem for the compression, with visible artifacting and a lot of fine image detail lost. Still, the image is smooth and on the whole satisfactory. Home theater enthusiasts will no doubt prefer the high-definition versions, but the DVD should satisfy most fans. The smaller your display, the more forgiving you'll be. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, on the other hand, is outstanding. This is a very active and natural sounding mix, with a smooth, unified soundfield and deep, gut-rumbling bass reinforcement.
All of the extras are included on Disc Two of the set, which means, of course, that there's no director's audio commentary with the film. (I happen to know that Singer did record commentary that was enhanced with In-Movie Experience video, but it's not here or on the high-def versions either.) That should tell you right away that Warner plans a more elaborate special edition of this film on disc at some point in the future. What you do get starts with a series of interesting deleted scenes - 11 in all. Some are better than others, and all are in anamorphic widescreen. Missing among them, however, is the alternate opening we mentioned earlier - another clue that a second DVD release is already planned. The film's teaser and theatrical trailers are here, also anamorphic, as are preview trailers for the 14-disc box set and a pair of related videogames (ugh - I wish the thrilling Comic-Con preview were here instead of product commercials). There's also a brief video demo reel showing how effects house Rhythm + Hues resurrected Jor-El using outtake footage of Brando. And there's an Easter egg clip of Kevin Spacey's attempts at nailing the "Wrong!" line from the film. It's all fine for what it is, but none of this is really particularly worth checking out more than once. Thankfully, this isn't all you get, or this DVD would be damn disappointing.
What saves Disc Two, and the set as a whole, is DVD producer Robert Meyer Burnett's 3-hour, 5-part documentary on the production, Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, it's a highly entertaining and enjoyable look behind-the-scenes. Burnett followed the production right from the beginning and Singer seems to have given him virtually unlimited access. That's absolutely crucial to this documentary's quality, because you SEE key moments of the process. For example, the piece starts in 2004 with Singer talking to the camera, introducing the idea that he and his writers just had for bringing Superman back to the big screen, BEFORE they even pitched the idea to the studio. You see things coming together and the production design shaping up. You see Brandon Routh's final screen test for the title role, before which Burnett asks him questions (with Singer's complicity) as if he's already got the part... except that he doesn't KNOW yet that he's already got it! Burnett previewed this scene at our DVD Producers panel at Comic-Con last summer, and it's awfully fun to see - a big moment in the history of the franchise. You're there as the first scenes are shot on the farm in Australia. You there for every step of the production, with each actor as they step into their parts. Most importantly, Singer and his team (both cast and crew) clearly TRUST Burnett, so they open up to him in a way I haven't seen in very many "making of" documentaries before. Requiem for Krypton is reminiscent of the excellent The Beginning documentary from the Star Wars: Episode I DVD, but I have to say I enjoyed this one even more. It has greater scope and depth, and is more personal... more satisfying somehow. The documentary itself easily merits an A, and it brings this otherwise lackluster DVD special edition up from the D range up to a good solid B - no small achievement. Our hats off to Burnett for his best work to date.
Superman Returns isn't quite as good as Batman Begins or Spider-Man 2, but then I think it was a significantly harder challenge, and it's a LOT closer to those films than the ranks of such 'classics' as Catwoman and Batman and Robin. Despite some flaws, Superman Returns works. The franchise is thankfully alive and well again, and the future is wide open. I'm definitely interested to see what happens next. Something more intense, I hope. Something truly daring. Superman Unleashed, anyone? DVD-wise, this is far from the best special edition you'll ever see, but Burnett's outstanding documentary alone makes it worth a purchase.