REVIEW: “Superman Returns: Special Edition” DVD

Superman Returns: Special Edition
Superman: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition, Discs 10 & 11

Warning: This review contains major plot spoilers.

Now that the newness of Superman Returns has worn off a bit, and I’ve since read the incredible, similarly-themed Up, Up, & Away graphic novel, I was wondering if my opinion of the film would change at all when I watched the DVD.

Superman Returns was actually the first review I wrote when re-launching The Film Frontier earlier this year. In fact, it was the impending release of Superman Returns that finally inspired me to get this new site far enough along to release in time to review the movie.

I’m nothing if not a procrastinator, you see. Note that I have still yet to add the Star Wars and Superman sections proper, though I will point out that blogging has been so much fun that I tend to spend all of my site time on them rather than building the rest of the static content.

Anyway, I loved Superman Returns back then. And now, after watching the movie on DVD and re-reading my original review, I can say that my opinion has changed.

Somehow, I managed to love director Bryan Singer’s interpretation of the Superman legend even more than I did the first time around. Enjoying a movie more the second time is fairly rare for me. In fact, I can think of only one other example where this has happened.

There was just a lot to absorb on a single viewing. After all, this was the first Superman film in 19 years. My main focus then was could this Brandon Routh guy pull off playing Superman and Clark Kent? Happily, the answer was a resounding yes.

Maybe it was the comfort of home, but the movie didn’t seem nearly as long as it did in the theater. At that time, I felt Singer should have trimmed the film a bit more, here and there. Now, I’m definitely glad he didn’t. That’s why he makes movies and I make websites about movies, I suppose.

Also, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is definitely growing on me. Since seeing Superman Returns the first time, I slowly began to think of her performance as the movie’s weak link. Not true. On a second and closer examination, she may very well be perfect for the role.

I also appreciated Kevin Spacey’s performance as Lex Luthor a lot more this time. And I have to give kudos to Tristan Lake Leabu, who plays Lois & Superman’s son, Jason (I prefer to call him Jay-El).

Child actors can be iffy at times, but Singer did a fantastic job of bringing a great performance out of Leabu–who reminds me a bit of a young Macaulay Culkin. Though I do not want to see the main plot of a movie revolve around him, I’m definitely interested in finding out what’s in store for Jay-El as a sub-plot of future movies. It will also be interesting to see Superman as a father.

So, in trying to keep this review a bit shorter than the massive tome I wrote for Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, I’ll just refer you to my original review of Superman Returns for the other movie details. Spectacular movie. Everything I wanted it to be and more.

Though $200 million is nothing to sneeze at, the movie deserved to earn double that. I’m just glad that Singer will get to make the sequel. Is it 2009 yet?

Bonus features

Superman Returns: Special Edition is chock-full of bonus features–an entire disc devoted to them. If you’re any level of Superman fan, the 2-disc Special Edition is the one you need to buy, whether separately or as part of the Superman: Ultimate Collector’s Edition set. The standard edition contains only the movie, but the extras are definitely worth the slightly higher cost of the Special Edition.

The highlight of the special features is Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns, a nearly 3 hour documentary by Robert Meyer Burnett that covers the making of Singer’s film up until Brandon Routh’s last day of main unit shooting. Yes, the “making-of” documentary is longer than the actual movie.

Bryan Singer must be an optimistic guy. He commissioned this documentary to begin filming prior to his being hired by Warner Brothers, as he prepared to make his pitch to them.

I noted the first time around that Routh carried the movie. This documentary makes me believe in him even more. Seeing Singer at work is also a treat. I love watching the creative process behind these kinds of movies, and Singer brings a certain energy that is needed on a movie like Superman Returns.

Kevin Spacey sums it up well in the documentary, “Watching Bryan on set with this material is like watching a crazy kid who’s in the biggest candy store that he could ever hope to find himself in.” Singer even straps himself into a flying harness and super-leaps through the cornfields of Smallville in one segment.

Concluding with the last day of filming means that we miss out on finalizing the effects, scoring the music, and other post-production work.

That’s okay, though, as the documentary is, to put it mildly, perfect as it is. Sure, it’s a bit long but it is also neatly divided into manageable chapters. Considering its length, it manages to stay very compelling and to really give you a sense of being there as the movie is produced.

This is the kind of informative documentary I would love to have on each of the Star Wars prequels and Star Trek movies. It’s hard to keep a three-hour documentary about anything interesting, but Burnett does it.

Separate from the main documentary is Resurrecting Jor-El, a brief featurette on the creation of a CGI Marlon Brando for the movie. The featurette was originally released on the Web, to promote the movie. I would’ve preferred some narration and more background, but it’s still an informative piece.

The set also contains eleven, count them, eleven deleted scenes. As deleted scenes go, they are interesting to watch but this is one of those cases where I believe the correct decision was made each time in leaving them out of the finished movie. I would not want to see these edited back in to form an extended cut.

The excellent teaser and theatrical trailers are also present on the disc. Lacking are the television spots, but I can certainly live without those. I didn’t particularly enjoy them the first time around anyway.

The only thing really notable in its absence on Superman Returns: Special Edition is a commentary track. I’m sure a future re-release will rectify this situation. The other features more than make up for it. I definitely want to hear a scene-by-scene analysis from Singer.

If this review has sounded like a love-fest, it’s because, quite honestly, it is. I love the movie. I love the DVD. This will be one I’ll watch over and over.

Movie: 9 (out of 10)
Video Quality: 10
Audio Quality: 10
Bonus Features: 9
Overall Experience: 10
Recommended: To all Superman fans