REVIEW: “Bryan Singer’s Video Journals” DVD

Superman: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Disc 14: Bryan Singer’s Video Journals

Until the release of Superman Returns, I actually managed to stay fairly uninformed about the movie. For one thing, The Film Frontier was in the midst of a hiatus so I wasn’t following related news stories as closely as I do today. The other factor was that I had a dialup Internet connection.

This effectively locked me out of viewing the preview trailers online, only one of which I managed to even see in a theater. It also prevented me from watching director Bryan Singer’s video blogs detailing the making of the movie, hosted over at BlueTights Network. That’s not to say it would’ve been impossible, but trust me with dialup there would’ve been very little real point.

By the time I upgraded my connection, I had already seen Superman Returns and knew these journals were coming on The Ultimate Collector’s Edition set. I patiently waited until now to watch them.

I must say, I envy those who watched the 27 entries available online before the movie. It was definitely a great strategy by Singer, a kind of grassroots effort to get Superman fans hyped up. As I saw certain tidbits of the film revealed, I imagined the fan reaction.

Of course, there’s also something to be said for going into a huge movie like this with very little knowledge. That’s harder and harder to do these days, and Superman Returns may have been the closest I’ve come in a long time to going in almost completely cold. And wow, what a payoff.

All that being said, the video journals actually started out rather slowly to me. I find this excusable, since obviously the early entries in particular could only reveal but so much. The other aspect working against them is that I had already watched the incredible Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns on Disc 2 of Superman Returns: Special Edition. The three-hour documentary was longer than the movie, but quite entertaining.

In the first nine journal entries, the only one that really stood out was #7, “The Call.” While in Australia, Singer gets a call from Peter Jackson. Jackson is busy filming King Kong in New Zealand and asks Singer to drop by to help him a bit. Jackson appears completely exhausted and Singer fills in as director for a day.

Things finally get rolling on the Superman front with #10, “To Fly,” which takes a look at a flying rig used in the film. I believe there’s a common misconception out there that all of the flying sequences in Superman Returns were achieved solely with computer animation. Requiem for Krypton and “To Fly” both prove that Routh spent plenty of time in various flying harnesses for this film.

The remaining online entries, #11 through #27, kept the pace up and saved what I initially thought was going to be a disappointing disc. #20, “Love Previs,” features some of the pre-visualization animatics. I found it interesting to see a very DC-Comics-looking Lois Lane in those CGI sequences, rather than Kate Bosworth.

A couple of entries later, Bryan Singer is shown in a Q&A session at the annual Comic-Con. Unfortunately, the entry is very choppy and suffers from an editing technique that intercuts Singer preparing for/traveling to the convention with scenes of him at the convention. I see what they were trying to do, but it quickly becomes annoying.

However, it was great to see Singer address the number one fanboy question of all time about Superman Returns: “I was wondering, why did you change the Superman costume?”

“Change it from what?” asks Singer.

“Well, the colors are darker and the S is different,” notes the audience member.

Undoubtedly knowing the answer but wanting to make a point, Singer asks again, “Different from what?”

“The regular Superman comic books.”

Singer replies in his normal, passionate style:

“Well, now, in the regular Superman comic book the S has been all kinds of colors and all kinds of sizes. That’s what people forget. Since the original Action Comics and the Superman comic itself, it was a tiny S, a yellow S. . . . You don’t want to be playing with these colors too much. You don’t want to be playing with these patterns too much. . . . In terms of raising the S, I felt that the silkscreen felt a bit dated when filmed now. And it was also the suit that fit the man. When I went back and looked at the other suits, the S is too large or it’s silkscreen. I must tell you that it would look kind of, at this point, like a billboard or something. It had to be just the right proportions. You really have to go back and look, and see the evolution of the comic. It’s transformed immeasurably in ways that would surprise you.”

I can understand some of the reservations about the suit prior to the release of the film. The publicity photos just didn’t capture it or Brandon Routh very well. Though I still think they went a bit overboard with the S’s all over the boot soles and patterned on the main S, I’m definitely very happy overall with the way the suit looked in the actual movie.

Most of my nitpicks about it aren’t even visible onscreen, anyway. I think the muted colors worked extremely well and that the three-dimensional S was a nice upgrade.

Bryan Singer’s Video Journals was a disc that I had high hopes for, because my favorite bonus features on all three of the Star Wars prequel DVDs were the collections of web logs featuring the making of the movies.

While Bryan Singer’s Video Journals doesn’t quite match up to the web logs presented on the Star Wars prequel trilogy discs, they are still worthwhile viewing experiences. Incidentally, despite being their namesake, Singer doesn’t actually appear in all of the video journals.

Requiem for Krypton is definitely better overall, and obviously much more structured. Superman Returns: Special Edition doesn’t really lose anything by leaving the journals out, though they do make a nice addition to the collector’s set.

BlueTights Network has a great discussion thread detailing the recommended viewing order of chapters of Requiem for Krypton and installments of the video journal.

There are also two “bonus” journals that were not made available online. #28, “Outré,” begins with an interesting tidbit as to why it was not previously released:

Originally slated as Blog #12, “Outre” began as a sequel to the wildly popular “The Call.” Soon after, Bryan realized more than a few people actually believed he stepped in and directed part of KING KONG. Bryan felt this blog, depicting another director taking over the reins of SUPERMAN RETURNS after he’d been unknowingly fired by the studio, might not be such a good idea…

Who would actually fall for that whole Bryan Singer directing King Kong for a day thing? Being the seasoned reviewer that I am here on The Film Frontier, I was with it all the time. You can’t put one like that past me.

Really.

“Outré” isn’t actually all that funny, though, and the “replacement” director isn’t even named Richard Lester or some variation thereof. Kate Bosworth does seem genuinely surprised when given the news that Singer had been replaced, but she is an actress after all so it’s hard to tell if she was in on the gag or not.

The other exclusive entry, “KR83.80” is another poor attempt at humor, a look at the element Krypton featuring Kal Penn. No big loss that it didn’t make it online.

There are some video problems, most notably parts of the on-screen text (and, presumably, the picture) being cropped off at times despite being presented in a letterboxed format. This is likely due to the Web origins of the blogs.

Overall, this is a nice disc and a good companion piece to Superman Returns: Special Edition. It’s not one I’ll play often, but I may have to try it in sequence with Requiem some day when I have five hours to kill.

Features: 8 (out of 10)
Video Quality: 7
Audio Quality: 8
Bonus Features: N/A (the entire disc was a bonus feature)
Overall Experience: 8