Superman Triple Feature
Several months before the theatrical premiere of director Zach Snyder’s long-anticipated Superman reboot "Man of Steel," Warner Home Video released its Superman Triple Feature Blu-ray box set.
This three-film set consists of the Extended Version of 1978’s "Superman: The Movie," 2006’s "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut" and "Superman Returns," Bryan Singer’s well-intentioned homage to the Christopher Reeve films directed by Richard Donner.
Together, these three films form an unofficial trilogy that follows the adventures of Kal-El (Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh), a.k.a. Superman, as he evolves from orphaned refugee from a doomed planet to Earth’s messianic superhero protector.
Disguised as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, Superman faces formidable foes such as Metropolis’ arch-criminal Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey) and three villains from Kal-El’s home world of Krypton (Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, and Jack O’Halloran). Along the way, Superman also wages an internal conflict when he falls in love with Clark’s feisty reporter colleague Lois Lane (Margot Kidder, Kate Bosworth).
Originally released in December 1978 and extended slightly for its 2001 DVD release, Richard Donner’s "Superman: The Movie" is an all-star “origins-of” extravaganza. Penned by Godfather creator Mario Puzo (with additional material by David Newman, Leslie Newman, and Tom Mankiewicz), Donner’s 154-minute long epic takes viewers from the trial of Gen. Zod (Stamp) and his accomplices to the Man of Steel’s first adventures on Earth.
Although other excellent comic book movies released since 1978 have earned popular success and critical raves, "Superman: The Movie" is still the standard to which superhero adaptations are held. Donner’s “no campiness” approach to the story and the performances by Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, and Margot Kidder are the key ingredients to Superman’s success.
Although director Donner and creative consultant Mankiewicz had conceived to end "Superman: The Movie" with a cliffhanging situation that leads right into Superman II (which Donner was filming at the same time), producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind insisted on a definite ending so they could release the movie by Christmas 1978. Donner and Mankiewicz were forced to use the planned turning-back-the-world ending of "Superman II," much to their chagrin.
"Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut" is a 2006 straight-to-DVD alternate version of the first sequel to the 1978 blockbuster. The theatrical version seen in 1981 was directed by Richard Lester, who took over from Donner after his firing by the Salkinds. Donner had already shot over 75% of "Superman II," including all of Gene Hackman’s scenes. In order to get directorial credit, Lester asked David and Leslie Newman to rewrite most of "Superman II’s" original screenplay and reshot over two thirds of the movie.
Lester’s “official” version did well financially, but his approach to the Superman story was less reverential and slightly campy.
The Richard Donner Cut of "Superman II" is based on a mostly-complete reconstruction by editor Michael Blau. Blau and his creative team, assisted by Donner, found most of the original footage shot in the 1970s in various Warner Bros. archives. Some of the incomplete special effects shots were completed using computer generated images, but one scene with actors Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder required the use of one of the original screen tests shot in 1977.
Superman Returns is director Bryan Singer’s well-intentioned 2006 reboot of a then-moribund Super-franchise. Released 19 years after the disastrous "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace," Singer’s contribution to the saga ignores Superman III and IV altogether.
Set five years after the events of the first two movies, "Superman Returns" follows Kal-El’s return to Earth and his mission to protect humanity. Here, Superman must mend fences with a disenchanted Lois Lane after a failed search for other Kryptonian survivors. Superman also has to face off against Lex Luthor, who is still determined to defeat the Man of Steel.
Though Superman Returns didn’t quite match the Donner-directed Superman films in audience appeal or box office success, it’s still an enjoyable homage to its predecessors.
The Box Set
The Superman Triple Feature box set contains all three films in a 3-disc Blu-ray case that's not much larger than a standard one-disc package. Each film has been remastered to 1080p high definition video standards, which gives home viewers a sharper, cleaner image than previous video formats.
The sound quality is also superb. "Superman" and "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut" have Dolby Digital audio tracks, with English and French 5.1 audio tracks in the former and English 5.1 in the latter. "Superman Returns" comes with Dolby TruHD audio, as well as a PCM English 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, French and Spanish 5.1 tracks. All three movies also include English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Each film also comes with an assortment of extras derived from the DVD editions. Most of them are standard "making-of" featurettes and a selection of deleted scenes. However, the discs with Richard Donner's films also come with audio commentaries by the director and the late Tom Mankiewicz, the creative consultant who co-wrote "Superman" and the alternate version of "Superman II."
"Man of Steel" is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 12, 2013.