No special effect
can top Bryan Singer getting producer Jon Peters to say
he was wrong. This was one of the most hated men in comics
fandom, controlling the film rights to Superman and insisting
that the character not fly on film, that he not have a cape,
that he wear thong underwear and that he fight polar bears
and a giant tarantula. Only one of those statements isn't
Singer asked the blessing of Richard Donner to pursue a
chance to do a Superman film, however, just about all Peters
could insist on was eating crow. He admits this in a featurette
on the second disc of the Superman Returns DVD release.
(Another mea culpa can also be found on Kevin Burns'
comprehensive documentary Look!
Up in the Sky!)
By going back
to the basics established by Donner's 1978 film, Singer
was able to cut through years of development and "modernizing"
efforts. The result received mixed audience response, but
definitely laid the groundwork for the franchise to have
the new life it deserves.
This week, Superman
Returns hits home video along with new editions of all
of the Christopher Reeve films. Seen in conjunction with
the first two films, Singer's effort actually appears stronger.
It carries themes started decades ago to their logical fruition,
and if theatrical audiences felt a little lost, that should
be taken care of with this release.
devotes a full disc to just Singer's film, with a really
crisp transfer. Seeing it again drives home just what an
homage to Donner's original it is (and that includes the
material of Donner's Superman II). Singer shot it
in a softer focus, and his scene compositions echo those
of the first movie.
In one of the
featurettes, screenwriter Michael Dougherty reiterates Donner's
call for verisimilitude, and that clearly influenced Singer
and his crew. Though the Metropolis Superman walks in has
a look slightly out of time, Singer took pains to remind
us that it is, to quote the old phrase, a thriving metropolis.
review of the film itself can be found
here, and again, in a second viewing, it gets stronger.
As for the DVD package, it's strong, too, but curiously
lacking in some standards.
Instead of doing
commentary over the film, Singer provides a lot of video
documentation on the second disc. An old hand at providing
extras with Rob Meyer Burnett, Singer wisely videotaped
his Hawaiian vacation when he, Dougherty and Dan Harris
put together their initial pitch. From there, the extras
painstakingly carry viewers through the construction of
the film, including an interesting look at recreating and
perhaps redoing Marlon Brando.
The disc also
includes some web information and a cheat code for the Superman
Returns videogame. If you get the code from the disc,
you can play some of the game in the form of Bizarro. For
some of us, that makes it all worthwhile.
Of course, what
a lot of fans want to see are deleted scenes, and the selection
here is admittedly frustrating. From pre-release stills,
it's clear that a sequence of Superman visiting the detritus
of Krypton was shot, but the DVD does not include it. Thankfully,
there's a little more of James Karen's performance as Martha
Kent's boyfriend - okay, there actually is James Karen's
peformance. Those sequences are charming and add emotional
depth, as Clark is forced to confront the consequences of
the world moving on at every level. Kal Penn even gets some
dialogue in an outtake.
Only a few of
the deleted scenes add anything to the finished film, though
one really helps justify Singer's most controversial plot
For fans, the
best way to get this disc is actually in the special Ultimate
Collector's Edition tin that includes all the films in special
edition form, plus the Fleischer/Famous Studios cartoons
and Burns' documentary. That retails for $99.95, though
it can be found for cheaper. (It's on MY Christmas list…)
that's too pricy, then by all means pick this up individually.
Superman Returns is a worthy relaunch, and though
I can't shake the suspicion there's at least one more special
edition in its future, this DVD is pretty satisfying.
We reviewed the regular DVD, but Warner Home Video has also
released it on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats.)
Superman Returns (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition