Superman - the Movie


Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Margot Kidder, Trevor Howard, Jack O'Halloran
Length: 146 minutes 
Distributor: Warner Bros 
Cinema: 1978 

2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5:1
Technical Features: Scene selection, animated menus, multiple languages and subtitles and English for the hearing impaired

Extras: Audio commentary with Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz; 5.1 Music-Only Track; Ten short Added Scenes, all with commentary (Side One); 'Taking Flight: The Development of Superman' (30 mins); 'Making Superman: Filming the Legend' (31 mins); 'The Magic Behind the Cape' (22 mins); Screen Tests; Deleted Scenes; Trailer and TV Spot; Additional Music Cues (Side Two)



Recently I picked up the latest Superman comic and there it was: Superman seeing a shrink!

When I was a kid we all wanted to be Superman. Can you imagine anything cooler? You can beat up on the school bully, fly to Paris in less than an hour without having to buy an airplane ticket, you can rescue puppies from trees. Adolescent power fantasies? Sure, but today comic book readers are told that even being Superman wouldn't solve all of our troubles. Sigh.

Now here's a character that has been through the blender a few times. From best-selling cultural icon, Superman has fell from favor in recent years in the same way that people has stopped believing in "Truth, Justice and the American Way." That was before Vietnam, Watergate, Contragate, Monica Lewinski and when they closed down the factory to move it down to Mexico where the labor is cheaper.

In the 1990s comic books became "dark". The new superheroes that sold comics were like Spawn: tortured figures who sold their souls to the Devil himself. Even in the 1978 movie version when Superman tells Lois Lane that he stands for "truth, justice, etc." she cynically remarks that "that will probably bring you into conflict with every elected official."

Throughout the past decade or so much has been done to try to reverse the Superman titles' poor sales. The character has been killed off in a frenzy of mass hype (sheesh! even my grandmother knew about it back then); his hairstyle has been changed to having long hair (at a time when long hair was ironically disastrously out of fashion); and his costumes and "super powers" changed. Now Superman is having "emotional problems" as the character in Donnie Darko puts it.

In the process the Superman writers have forgotten what it was what made the character so great and popular. The 1978 movie knew however, with its mixture of sly humor, reverence and mythologizing, becoming a piece of Americana itself. (Take Superman's upbringing as a farmboy in Kansas - taken straight from Norman Rockwell!) The mix works in this movie: one cares about the characters and while the special effects may be out of date today, they have a feeling of realness that the excess of computer graphics in Spider-man lack. Superman - the Movie is remarkably true to the original spirit of the comics.

Great movie, and great disc too. The movie itself, represented in its original 70mm format looks stunningly good. The colors are vibrant, clear and the print used is practically scratch free. The Dolby sound is quite good as well. Some small scenes dropped from the original cinema release has been restored. This is Superman as we haven't seen him in years!

A double-sided disc, it features a host of extras: some interesting "making-of" documentaries on Side B, a music-only track, director's commentary (quite informative, honest and funny), trailers, deleted scenes, screen tests and more. In fact, along with the Alien disc, this disc is one of the best science fiction DVDs I have seen this year!

WORTH IT? As Clark Kent would say: "swell!" Don't believe the Spider-man hype - when the dust has settled everybody will know, as they do now, that this 1978 movie version of Superman remains the best and most faithful comic book adaptation there is. Tim Burton's Batman? Sure, it's good, but is it really Batman? Spawn? Don't make me sadistically beat you around the ears!

RECOMMENDATION: Buy it! It's not too expensive and being double-sided is excellent value for one's money . . .



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