Superman: The Movie

Superman: The Movie (1978)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Margot Kidder
Extras: Audio Commentary, Documentaries, Screen Tests, Trailers

It's simply been a long time since I last sat down to watch the original "Superman", or any of it's sequels for that matter. I now had the chance to view the newest addition to the HD-DVD catalog lineup, 1978's "Superman: The Movie". Just prior to watching this legendary science fiction epic, I did check out "Superman Returns" and was quite impressed overall. So now it was time to see if the original had enough steam to hold it's own, especially for the generation that grew up watching the late Christopher Reeve as the awkward Clark Kent / brooding man of steel. To my surprise, the film held up rather well. Sure the effects and trends in the film pale in comparison to todays filmmaking standards, but "Superman: The Movie" still managed to recapture the magic that I remembered so well as a youngster.

I will basically skip the usual plot summary or story synopsis as "Superman: The Movie" needs no introduction. I will tell you that this HD-DVD of "Superman: The Movie" offers the additional 8 minutes that was added back into into the original theatrical presentation for a new 2000 cut of the film. Some of the highlights include; extended portions of the Krypton council, an additional apportionment of Jor-El emphasizing his son's purpose on Earth, plus some previously deleted materials from a scene in Lex Luthor's hideout.

Do these additional scenes add that much more to the story or plot? Well, the answer is both yes and no. Since we are only talking about 8 minutes of added footage, it's definitely not enough to severely alter the original cut of the film, but does work to enhance the story somewhat.

Warner Home Video has done a remarkable job of presenting "Superman: The Movie" on HD-DVD. Simply put, this is the best that this film has EVER looked, period. Details that were never present on any previously released home video format simply shine on HD-DVD. Lush color saturation, naturally appearing skin tones and a rich black level all work together to provide a beautiful exhibition for "Superman: The Movie" in High Definition. While watching a teenage Clark Kent running through a farmers field in the town of Smallville, you can actually identify every minor detail present on the individual blades of wheat! The transfer is that precise! There is noticeable film grain, especially during the opening 15 to 20 minutes, but this is a symptom of the original filmmaking choices and not attributed to the video transfer in any way. I also never encountered any noticeable dust or dirt elements, just a crisp and clean transfer to observe throughout.

The one thing that I found myself wrestling with, is just how High-Definition resolution presents both the good and the bad, in terms of the visual presentation. Take for example the use of miniatures, early traditional visual effects and production that tips a little heavy on the schlock side at times. If you can accept "Superman: The Movie" for what it is, then you are in for a good science fiction superhero classic that will take you back to your childhood.

On the audio side, "Superman: The Movie" comes to HD DVD with a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 presentation. Once again I was rather impressed at just how well a film from the late 1970's could sound. Vocals were natural in reproduction and sound effects never appeared to expose too much of a dated feel to the overall sound track. A bountiful bass level highlights all of the action filled sequences and there is good use of all available channels, which is fully evident when John Williams original score is present.

This HD-DVD of "Superman: The Movie" will not disappoint in either the visual presentation or it's well balanced sonic contributions.

The release comes paired with a good sampling of value added materials, including a full length audio commentary by director Richard Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz.

Two 30 minute behind-the-scenes documentaries titled "Taking Flight: The Development of Superman" and "Making Superman: Filming The Legend" are both hosted by actor Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen). Both feature in-depth interviews with the main cast and crew, including input from the late Christopher Reeve. Analyzing everything from developing the comic book character and gaining the licensing rights, right up to the final production of the film, these two documentaries present a wealth of information for the discerning fan of the "Superman" franchise.

"Superman Screen Tests" presents early pre-production deleted footage and is introduced by casting director Lynn Stalmaster. You will also find a discrete music only track and a trailers section featuring teasers, TV spots and the theatrical trailer for "Superman: The Movie".

Possessing the ability to capture the viewers imagination, this American icon of the cinema, with roots to the comic book world, still harnesses the strength to appeal to a wide audience of all ages.