Plot: What’s it about?
Now that both the “Superman” and “Batman” franchises have been resurrected, it’s time to draw a few comparisons, don’t you think? Both are products of the DC comics, which pre-dates Marvel by a few decades. With Marvel you’ll find heroes like X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk and the Fantastic Four. DC comics have Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (essentially the Justice League). That’s a bit of history for the uninitiated. Last year’s “Batman Begins” was helmed by Christopher Nolan, most noted for “Memento”. The film was dark and attempted to give us a new take on the dark knight. I personally felt he succeeded and I found it more enjoyable than the Tim Burton movies. With “Superman Returns” we have Bryan Singer at the helm who left, ironically, the very successful “X-Men” franchise to take a shot at the man of steel. Did it pay off? It’s debatable as “X-Men 3” out grossed “Superman Returns” at the box office this summer, yet neither could be called a dud, for sure. The film pays homage to the Christopher Reeve movies, yet has some twists that weren’t in the 1978 film (Lois Lane is married with a child, for one). But it tells the story of Superman, complete with some retro Marlon Brando scenes.
We meet Clark Kent (Brandon Routh) as he falls to the Earth and is adopted by Kansas farmers. He learns of his powers and the movie wastes no time in showing us modern day “Metropolis” where Kent has just returned from a five year hiatus. Naturally with Kent gone, so is Superman and the world just isn’t the same. Arch enemy Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has been released from prison on a technicality and wastes no time with his mission to destroy Superman. How’s he going to do it? And as everyone knows, Superman and Lois Lane are no more in this film; Lois is married to Richard White (James Mardsen, “Cyclops” from the X-Men movies) with a five year old child. Luthor and his gang of hoodlums get their hands on Superman’s crystals and quickly discover that they can make new land with them. Make new land where water once stood and then Lex Luthor will be the most powerful man in the world. Will Superman be able to stop Lex Luthor or will he rule the world?
“Superman Returns” is an enjoyable look at one of the first superheroes and certainly an icon of the twentieth century. The movie so closely parallels Richard Donner’s 1978 version that, while watching, you have the sense of Déjà vu but there are some twists and turns thrown in. The special effects are pretty amazing and the flying scenes are the most realistic that have ever appeared in film (you mean hair actually moves while flying)? Ultimately I think I prefer the “Batman” movies to this franchise as Batman seems a bit darker and more mysterious. Batman is human, bullets can kill him but he’s just a man. Superman is an alien, he’s only vulnerable to kryptonite but nothing else even comes close. Love it or hate it, odds are that we’ll see more of Batman and Superman in the near future. “Superman Returns” is a good updated version of the man of steel, but a bit too close to the original movie. It’s not bad by any means; in fact the 158 minutes flew (no pun intended) by. Singer has done a fine job here, but his work in the “X-Men” franchise worked better.
Video: How does it look?
“Superman Returns” is shown in beautiful 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. For a new to DVD release from a major studio, the bar is set pretty high. Fortunately, Superman can fly right over that bar as the picture is nothing short of perfection. The movie will also be on HD DVD and I’ll be curious as to how these two stack up against one another. Colors are very bright and vivid and it’s odd to say, but the movie almost looks “too” good. Flesh tones are right on target and I really can’t say that I noticed any edge enhancement, but when the HD DVD comes I’ll have to do a more detailed inspection between the two. Detail level is immaculate and I was hard-pressed to find any artifacting whatsoever. It’s hard to rate this as a perfect transfer, because I know the HD DVD will look better, if only by a little, but this is as close to perfect as a DVD can come without being purely digital.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is fairly active at times and the score to “Superman” is one of the most recognizable in film. Dialogue is very clean and strong as well. All of your home theater speakers will most certainly get a work out with this one, though it’s not as in your face as some other films out there. There are a few scenes in which the LFE goes crazy too, not so much that it shakes the room but you do get that feeling – which is what the filmmakers intended. “Superman Returns” features a good, solid soundtrack but not something that you’ll feel that you need to turn down every other scene.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This DVD is the two disc variety with just the movie on the first disc. It’s a long movie, so the 158 minute running time has plenty of room over the first disc. The supplements are housed on the second disc and that’s where we’ll start. Probably the most impressive supplement is the nearly three hour documentary “Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns” which covers just about everything that one would need to know about the film and the making of it. Clocking in at thirty minutes longer than the film itself, we see behind the scenes footage and chats with most every actor involved in the movie. Moving on we’ll find “Resurrecting Jor-El” which is a small segment on how they took Marlon Brando’s archived footage from the 1978 film and used it here. Lastly, there are eleven deleted scenes which run about 15 minutes when played in succession. A few trailers are included as well. “Superman Returns” should be seen, but purists will most likely prefer Richard Donner’s version.