Superman 5-Film Collection (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (Superman)
The Film (Superman II)
The Film (Superman II: Richard Donner Cut)
The Film (Superman III)
The Film (Superman IV)
The Video (Overall) (Superman)
The Video (Overall) (Superman II)
The Video (Overall) (Superman II: Richard Donner Cut))
The Video (Overall) (Superman III)
The Video (Superman IV)
HDR Effect (Superman)
HDR Effect (Superman II)
HDR Effect (Superman II: Richard Donner Cut)
HDR Effect (Superman III)
The Audio (Superman IV)
The Audio (Superman)
The Audio (Superman II)
The Audio (Superman II: Richard Donner Cut)
The Audio (Superman III)
The Audio (Superman IV)
The Supplements (Overall)
Overall

SUMMARY

Kryptonian Kal-El arrives on Earth as a child where is raised by the Kent's to grow up and become a superhero who fights for liberty and justice. These five-films track the Christopher Reeve era of Superman on the big screen.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

The Superman 1978-1987 Five-Film Collection comes with all four original Superman films starring Christopher Reeve as well as the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II.

The first film got the franchise off to a great start and tells the origins of the Man of Steel. Directed by Richard Donner, the film traces the departure of Kal-El from the doomed planet of Krypton, where his parents (Marlon Brando and Susannah York as Jor-El and Lara) send him away to Earth in a spaceship. Elderly couple the Kents (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter) find and raise him in Smallville as Clark Kent. Clark eventually moves to Metropolis, takes a job a crack reporter for The Daily Planet, teams up with reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), and begins to appear as the crime-fighting, high-flying superhero Superman. He must battle the genius supervillain Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman).

Superman II began life filming simultaneously with Superman as another Richard Donner. Donner eventually had conflicts with the producers, and he was pushed out for Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night). In this second film, three super powered villains from Krypton are accidentally released from the Phantom Zone imprisonment. Led by psychopathic General Zod (Terence Stamp) the three begin to wreak havoc on Earth as Zod plans total domination.

In 2006, Richard Donner was allowed to return to Superman II and re-edit the film according to his original vision, the slightly shorter, more concise film is arguably the better and definitive version of the film. Footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El was restored, and he appears in some pivotal scenes. There are more scenes involving subplots with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), and the film has a less comedic complexion.

Superman III is where this franchise begins to go off the rails. Richard Pryor is brought onboard to play Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), a hapless computer-programming expert who becomes the nemesis of Superman (Reeve). Pryor seems out of place and the comedy is taken to an annoying level.

Not even Superman III’s drop-off in quality and heightened focus on comedy could prepare one for the dismal, exceedingly silly Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Sidney J. Furie (Iron Eagle) took over director’s duties from Richard Lester and the entire production was assumed by Cannon Films, which gutted the production budget for the film. In this film Superman (Reeve again) enters the world of politics with a vow to destroy all the world’s nuclear weapons. Putting aside the point that Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent is not supposed to get involved in Earth’s geopolitics, the film is a terrible entry. The over-the-top comedy and low budget make it unwatchable. Furie does not even keep track of the Superman suit. The suit! There are some scenes where Superman’s belt and the “S” on his chest and cape have white highlights or, in. the case of his belt, just white. There is one scene at least where the “S” on the cape is completely white with black line art, like they did not bother to complete it before filming. Such a shame.

Putting aside the lower quality of III and IV, this is still an outstanding set for the first two films, including the Donner Cut. Superman I and II helped to lay the groundwork for the superhero movie boom to come, beating Tim Burton’s Batman to the punch by a decade.

  • Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978)
  • Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978)
  • Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, and Jack O'Halloran in Superman II (1980)
  • Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978)
  • Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978)
  • Margot Kidder in Superman (1978)
  • Superman 1978-1987 Five Film Collection 4K UHD (Warner Bros.)
  • Superman 1978-1987 Five Film Collection 4K UHD (Warner Bros.)
  • Superman 1978-1987 Five Film Collection 4K UHD (Warner Bros.)

The Video

Warner Bros. does not provide detailed information on the provenance and restorations of these films. That said, Superman: The Movie, transferred in a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement comes as the only film in the collection with Dolby Vision. The image is spectacular, having a natural look to the grain, even as the filming techniques create a soft look to the film. The color spectrum thanks to Dolby Vision is also vibrant and full of more color gradients, such as the ice in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, which shows many shades of blue, some pinks and yellows as well. There is one strange anomaly I never noticed before. Around the 40:42 mark a translucent square shape starts to drop down from the top-center part of the frame. This was confirmed by my friend and colleague Ralph Potts as well.

Superman II comes with a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement. The quality for this (and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut) looks very similar to Superman and has the same sort of grain structure. The HDR10 only looks slightly less natural than the Dolby Vision as far as the nuance of specular highlights. It is equally as vibrant and colorful.

Superman III is a mixed bag. Also coming with a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement, the film’s opening looks quite out of focus because of the diffuse filter that is used. The image sharpens up after that but there are a few shots and faces throughout that still look a bit out of focus. That said, the transfer has nothing to untoward in the image.

Superman IV, the lowest budget production in the franchise, and also coming with a 2.39:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement is ironically one of the best looking in the collection. The film grain is tight and organic, while detail is very crisp and there is strong depth-of-field. The HDR10 again gives color nuance, vibrancy, and ‘pop’ to the image.

The Audio

Each film in the Superman 1978-1987 Five-Film Collection comes with a Dolby Atmos audio mix. Superman: The Movie has the best sounding Atmos mix of the four films, with Superman: II, including the Donner Cut, come in a remarkably close second. The lows go far down into the room shaking frequencies and spread of sounds through the height/overhead and surround channels is well balanced with atmospherics, solid effects, and ambience. The remaining two films, following the drop in quality of content, do not pack as much of a punch and seem to be a little more conservative in the use of the speakers.

“Original Theatrical Mix” DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround is included on each 4K disc as well, but the original 5.1 mix for Superman: The Movie has been dropped from this release. It previously appeared on the stand-alone4K release.

The Supplements

The bonus features have all been previously released and appear on the included Blu-ray Discs. The audio commentary for each film is included on both the 4K and Blu-ray.

Superman: The Movie:

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • The Making of Superman: The Movie (SD; 00:51:50)
  • Superman and the Mole-Men (SD; 00:58:05)
  • Cartoons (SD; 00:19:27):
    • Super-Rabbit
    • Snafuperman
    • Stupor Duck
  • TV Spots & Trailers (SD; 00:04:25):
    • TV Spot
    • Teaser Trailer
    • Theatrical Trailer

Superman II:

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind
  • The Making of Superman II (SD; 00:52:15)
  • Superman’s Souffle – Deleted Scene (SD; 00:00:40)
  • First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series (SD; 00:12:55)
  • The Fleischer Studios Superman (SD; 01:19:29):
    • Superman
    • The Mechanical Monsters
    • Billion Dollar Limited
    • The Artic Giant
    • The Bulleteers
    • The Magnetic Telescope
    • Electric Earthquake
    • Volcano
    • Terror on the Midway
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD; 00:02:22)

Super Man II: The Richard Donner Cut:

Bonus Features:

  • Introduction by Richard Donner (1080p; 00:01:54)
  • Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • Introduction by Richard Donner (1080p; 00:01:54)
  • Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz
  • Superman II: Restoring the Vision (SD; 00:13:20)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD; 00:08:44):
    • Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head North
    • Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head South
    • The Villains Enter the Fortress
    • He’s All Yours, Boys
    • Clark and Jimmy
    • Lex’s Getaway
  • Famous Studios Superman Cartoons (SD; 01:07:49):
    • Japoteurs
    • Showdown
    • Eleventh Hour
    • Destruction, Inc.
    • The Mummy Strikes
    • Jungle Drums
    • The Underground World
    • Secret Agent

Superman III:

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
  • The Making of Superman III (SD; 00:49:08)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD; 00:19:43):
    • Save My Baby!
    • To the Rescue
    • Making Up
    • Going to See the Boss
    • Hatching the Plan
    • The Con
    • Rooftop Ski Resort
    • Boss Wants This to Go
    • Superman Honored
    • Gus’ Speech
    • Hanging Up on Brad
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD; 00:03:11)

Superman IV:

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Mark Rosenthal

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Mark Rosenthal
  • Superman 50th Anniversary Special (SD; 000:48:10)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD; 00:31:02):
    • Clark’s Morning
    • Jeremy’s Letter
    • Superman’s Visit
    • Nuclear Man’s Prototype
    • Metropolis After Hours
    • Lex Ponders
    • Flying Sequence (Extended Scene)
    • Battle in Smallville
    • Battle in the U.S.S.R.
    • Nuclear Arms Race
    • Superman’s Sickness
    • Red Alert
    • By My Side
    • Clark and Lacy Say Goodbye
    • No Borders
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD; 00:01:26)

The Final Assessment

Fly up, up, and awayyyy, with the Christopher Reeve Superman films in strong 4K releases from Warner Bros. The set may not include any new bonus features, but the previously released features and  digital copy are more than enough, especially for those who have never owned these films.


Superman 1978-1987 Five-Film Collection is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo May 9, 2023, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.


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Kryptonian Kal-El arrives on Earth as a child where is raised by the Kent's to grow up and become a superhero who fights for liberty and justice. These five-films track the Christopher Reeve era of Superman on the big screen.Superman 5-Film Collection (4K UHD Review)