Superman DVD Review
by Michael Hutchison
A few years ago, I voiced the opinion that Warner Brothers really should re-release the Superman movies including the "lost footage" that had only been shown once, on ABC-TV in 1981. Hard to believe, but DVD wasn't even a consideration when I wrote that. Now, DVD is so popular that it is the preferred format for home viewers!
At last, the Superman movies are re-released on DVD and VHS. My review today will be of Superman: The Movie Special Edition. I did not buy the others or the boxed set because I'm hoping there will be special editions of Superman II and Superman IV. (Superman III didn't have much in the way of good outtakes, whereas Superman II and IV were in some ways quite different due to cuts.)
Color, Widescreen, Dolby
Technically, I shouldn't be writing this review yet. As of yet, I haven't watched any of the three documentaries that were included on the DVD; I haven't even had time to listen to the director's commentary track. However, my main interest in this film is of the general presentation and the extra footage.
Now, watching Superman: The Movie isn't all that hard. All you have to do is turn on Superstation TBS and wait ten minutes or so. I swear this movie is on TBS at least once a week! But even though it's on TV, visually it isn't all that appealing; it looks quite dated.
Seeing it on DVD changed that for me. Now that it is restored and on DVD, the film is as vibrant as ever. If not for some laughable special effects here and there, and the '70s outfits that were out of date before John Williams had even finished composing the score, this movie would look like a fairly recent production.
I must say, I'm even more stunned by Christopher Reeve's performance. He does an impressive job in this film. We all know it's STUPID that Superman could hide as Clark Kent just by slapping on some glasses...and yet Reeve makes it work just via acting ability. No camera tricks required. Watching this film, it's conceivable that Clark's friends and co-workers would look at Superman and not see a similarity.
Of the footage originally cut from the film, the most notorious is Lex's underground gauntlet that Superman has to walk before getting to the lair. This scene is visually impressive and definitely cost some money. I'm guessing that it might have been cut because there doesn't seem to be any reason for it. Why should a brilliant criminal genius think that Superman would succumb to bullets, flames and snow?
Another eliminated scene (of Lois Lane as a little girl on the train who sees Clark running, which permitted a cameo for previous actors who played Clark and Lois) is included. This one bugs me, because it implies that Lois was about 8 when Clark is 18, and thus we must assume that Lois is all of 20 when she's the star reporter for the Daily Planet!
The scene where Jor-El lectures Clark for X number of years is different. It's extended, and I believe the number of years changes from 7 (in the TV version) to 12, making Superman 30 when he first appears.
There is an additional Jor-El scene, where Clark is telling him about his first time as Superman. I like this bit, because Clark questions how it is that the hologram can think and respond as if his father were alive.
Of the few remaining bits of footage, most are small additions...but one is most striking. (I still remembered this from 1981, so that should tell you how good a scene this was.) Ma Kent is seen entering the kitchen the morning after Clark discovers the green crystal, and she calls Clark to wake him up. She pulls out a box of Cheerios and keeps calling to him...and then leaves the confines of the house to go out to the porch and find him in the field, which is where the regular cut of the film continues.
I can't believe this scene was left out of the original movie. It is such a striking contrast, and well-shot...it conveys the warmth and simplicity of the farm life which Clark is leaving, and then builds to Clark in a vast field, contemplating the wider world beyond.
DVD review aside, I feel compelled to point out some general complaints about the film.
First off, if Jor-El has been dead for "many thousand years" as he says in the hologram, why does Lex Luthor state that Krypton exploded in 1948. Indeed, how could Jor-El have known of Einstein and included data about him in the capsule?
And Lex says that he's determined Krypton's location from Lois' interview, but we saw the whole interview and there's nothing in there about Krypton. Lex's leap of logic about chunks of the planet being radioactive and harmful to Kryptonians is even more of a plot hole.
Lex's helpers supposedly sneak into one of the missiles being transported and then change the coordinates...but this doesn't explain how BOTH missiles had their trajectories changed, or how it is that the self-destruct was disarmed.
Lastly...the whole dam breaking scene is too fake. The homes are obviously from someone's Lionel train set. It's the worst part of the movie by a dam site. (Sorry! I truly couldn't resist.)
Despite the flaws of the original movie, I'm happy to give the DVD presentation:
9 out of 10
This article is © 2001 Michael Hutchison
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