Superman flys again
by Barry Freiman
April 17, 2001

FINALLY, Superman Web Central has had the opportunity to officially view the Superman DVD and let's just say, for the record, WOW. Much has been said on the 'net about the sound recreation being inferior or taking away from the original film, or the new scenes interfering with the pacing...This is all just nitpicking by naysayers. The DVD lives up to all of the hype and should satisfy diehard fans of the film, children of all ages, and anyone just looking for a good 'ol time. The film is presented on a DVD-18, a 2-sided DVD (see the Re-release page for details) and is chock-full of extras.

As to the film itself, let's just say this will become the definitive version of "Superman: The Movie". I was 14 when I first saw Superman and I don't ever recall seeing a clearer version of the first film. The detail on Krypton was incredible both with the ability to make out the detail of the miniatures and the ability to actually see through the fog in the science council meeting and see the council members and their clothing/uniforms. As Krypton blew up, and people and crystal flew everywhere, I could actually see what was going on. In the past, the scenes of Krypton blowing up seemed to go on forever in part because they were so hard to see. Now they just fly by -- no pun intended -- because you can see everything.

With regard to the issue of sound that has been bandied about on the internet... Some have complained because the sound has been recreated rather than remastered and that new sounds have been inserted. For instance, when the dome opens, now there is a great thundering noise, as there should be, and it is completely appropriate. And no, it does not interfere with the music.

Scenes have been added on Krypton dealing with the Phantom Zone as well as with the dispatch of a Kryptonian guard/executioner to Jor-el's quarter's, which have been previously seen on the ABC-TV version and syndicated TV version of the film, though of course they are now cleaned up and in widescreen.

On Earth, baby Kal-el is found by the Kents and the movie enters its second phase in Smallville where it is just as beautiful. New footage is added here with a young Lois Lane on the train, her parents played by Noel Neill and Kirk Allyn, a nice touch no matter how you feel about Lois Lane being that much younger than Clark. Later, a new scene is added that seems completely out of place at first blush with Martha Kent where she is simply coming downstairs and talking to her bird and taking Cheerios out of the cabinet. Only on thinking about the scene do you realize how important it is: it demonstrates the amount of time that has transpired since Jonathan's death and shows that Martha has been able to move on so that it seems less like young Clark is abandoning Martha when he goes north, to leave the farm in Ben Hubbard's hands.

The trip to the Fortress again shows how much the remastering has helped this film. For the first time, I was able to see the Fortress being constructed, the crystals coming up from the icy waters. It was beautiful.

After 12 years in space, we of course enter phase 3 of the film, of which I can't say enough and yet won't say much. It must be seen and heard to be believed. Superman Green is gone. Enough said.

Regarding the infamous Fortress scene between Chris Reeve and Marlon Brando, Chris' voice sounds somewhat tinny, but one imagines they did the best they could with the footage they found. The picture quality is amazing and one forgives the sound quality, particulary given the fact that Superman is facing the huge face of his father so it is conceiveable that his voice would come off that way.

The film may also be viewed as a music only track, which is lovely -- hellooooo, it's John Williams! One thing of note in the end credits: the ending has been changed to accomodate the special edition credits; they removed the subtitle "Next year: Superman II" and added the special edition credits and extended the music to accomodate the added credits.

Also, the film may be viewed with a commentary track by director Richard Donner and "creative consultant" Tom Mankiewicz. Tom, as most of you know, wrote most of Superman and Superman II, though writing credits went to Mario Puzo, David and Leslie Newman, and Robert Benton. Donner brought in Mankiewicz essentially to rewrite the script. Their commentary is interesting at times when they talk about some of the behind the scenes wrangling that went on between themselves and the Salkinds, but often times, Donner repeats himself. More often than not, the commentary is a praise-fest between Donner and Mankiewicz and sometimes its downright morbid when they talk about all of the people involved on the Superman project who are dead now. I couldn't help but wish they had watched the film together and taken notes before they had recorded the commentary so that they were better prepared when they recorded the commentary. There were often times periods of silence during scenes that I wish they would have been speaking about how they were filmed or actors that they would have been talking about or off-the-subject topics they were still talking about when something else was happening on screen. Overall, however, it was an informative commentary track that works best when one watches the documentaries too.

While Side A of the disc contains some additional extras, including the ability to access the extra footage separately from the film itself, a trailer, information on the Superman character, and some other extras, Side B is where most of the extra stuff is located!

Marc "Jimmy Olsen" McClure hosts 3 wonderful documentaries with new interviews with Chris Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, and other cast and crew (plus old interviews including some interviews from the "Making of Superman" special done in 1979). The best additions to the DVD, however, are the Superman and Lois Lane (and Ursa) screen tests. The Superman/Clark Kent tests are the 1977 Chris Reeve tests and show just how wonderful and appropriate he was right from the very beginning even without the bod. The Lois Lane tests rock as they include the tests for actresses who didn't get the part in addition to Margot Kidder's test and demonstrate, believe it or not, that Margot was the BEST Lois by far. An aside: a scene that they used to test for Lois Lane was one of the "cut" Donner scenes in Superman II so we finally get to see Lois shoot Clark with a blank and the scene even references the scene where Lois jumped out of the Daily Planet building and landed on the fruit cart (another cut Donner scene in Superman II).

In all, the Superman DVD lives up to all of its expectations. If it had nothing but the remastered film, it would be enough to this Superman fan. With the extras it contains, it is amazing.

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