Superman II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the transfer seemed quite good.
Sharpness was solid, as the majority of the film appeared accurate and well-defined. A little softness affected some wide shots, but this examples were minor. Most of the flick was concise and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I noticed only a little edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed absent. No distractions from specks, marks or other debris marred the presentation.
Colors appeared good. They came across as reasonably lively and vivid, as I noticed no issues connected to the hues. Black levels were acceptably deep and firm, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. Overall, I found a lot to like about the image.
Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Superman II. The soundfield was largely oriented toward the front spectrum, where I heard fairly good atmospheric delineation. The forward area provided a nice range of effects that broadened the action well, and music seemed to show good stereo separation as well. Surround usage seemed good but not tremendously involving; the rears offered general reinforcement of the forward spectrum but didn’t provide a whole lot of unique activity. Nonetheless, they made the entire package appear acceptably broad.
Audio quality was fine. The movie featured a very high number of looped lines, so dialogue often came across as rather awkward and unnatural. A lot of the speech simply didn’t fit in well with the action. However, the dialogue may have been a bit thin, but it remained consistently intelligible and relatively clear, with only occasional bouts of edginess.
Effects worked better, as they seemed clear and distinctive. They showed good bass when appropriate and only suffered from a smidgen of distortion. Music also displayed nice range and delineation. The mix didn’t excel, but it was well above-average for its age.
How did the picture and audio of this 2006 DVD compare to those from the original 2001 release? Both fared better here. The image was crisper, cleaner and better developed, and the sound seemed livelier and more dynamic. Both elements boasted notable improvements.
The old disc came with virtually no extras, whereas this Special Edition adds a bunch. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary with executive producer Ilya Salkind and producer Pierre Spengler. Both sit separately for this edited track. The piece looks at controversies related to the change in director from Richard Donner to Richard Lester, and it gets into connected issues. We also learn about music, effects, and other technical elements related to the movie.
I really enjoyed the commentary these two did for Superman, so this one comes as something of a disappointment. While we do get a reasonable amount of information, the track just never really takes flight. It starts well with notes about the producers’ side of the controversies, but it becomes defensive before long, and much of the time we just hear defenses of various choices. Some gaps appear that leave the impression remarks have been edited out; during some of the juicier moments, the conversation will stop cold. This is still a useful piece, but it falls short of expectations.
DVD One also includes both the film’s trailer and a Deleted Scene. Called “Superman’s Soufflé”, this 36-second clip offers Superman’s first attempt at cooking. It goes for a comedic bent and isn’t anything special.
As we shift to DVD Two, we open with two “vintage specials”. The Making of Superman II runs 52 minutes and 12 seconds as it presents movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Salkind, Spengler, producer Alexander Salkind, director Richard Lester, matte artist Ivor Beddoes, special effects supervisor Colin Chilvers, and actors Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, and Gene Hackman. The show looks at the movie’s story and characters, stunts and fight choreography, performances, the work of the art department and costumes, locations, sets and matte paintings, various visual effects, editing, and other technical topics.
Usually “vintage” shows like this serve to do little more than promote the film at hand. Happily, “Making” proves more useful than that. We get lots of great footage from the shoot, and the information provided fleshes out the production well. I especially like the glimpses of the different sets and models. This is a solid program.
For the next “vintage special”, we find the 48-minute and seven-second Superman 50th Anniversary. Originally aired in 1988, Dana Carvey hosts this look at the character’s milestone. We find clips from various Superman projects and interviews. We hear from Reeve, actors Kirk Alyn and Jack Larson, mentalist The Amazing Kreskin, musician Lou Reed, journalist Jimmy Breslin, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and artist John Byrne. Hal Holbrook appears as the lead in “An Evening with Superman”, and we also get characters played by Fred Willard, Carol Leifer, Jan Hooks, Peter Boyle and others, all of whom pretend to live in Metropolis or otherwise have a connection to Supes.
“Anniversary” plays things mostly for laughs. Even the speakers who don’t appear in character act as if Superman really exists and reflect on his work and existence. This motif starts as silly and doesn’t improve from there. I like the compendium of pieces from the various movies and comics, but the goofy premise makes this a less than useful program. A more straightforward view of the subject would have worked better.
A new featurette shows up via First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series. The 12-minute and 50-second piece features notes from filmmaker’s son Richard Fleischer, author Leslie Cabarga, cartoon historian Jerry Beck, animator/director Myron Waldman, Superman: The Animated Series director Dan Riba, animator’s son Leonard Grossman, S:TAS writers/producers Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, DC Comics librarian Allen Asherman, and writer Roger Stern. The piece looks at the history of the Fleischer Studios, their various innovations and the tone of their work, their involvement with the Superman series, cast and audio, and reflections on Fleischer’s nine Superman shorts.
“Flight” provides a solid examination of its subject. We learn a lot about the Fleischer Studios and their impact on the Superman series. The show gets a little fluffy and praise-heavy at times, but it offers enough nice details to work.
If you want to see the Fleischer shorts, you’ll have to head back to the four-DVD set for Superman. Here we get Eight 1940s Famous Studios Superman Cartoons. These include “Japoteurs” (9:09), “Showdown” (8:23), “Eleventh Hour” (8:58), “Destruction Inc.” (8:34), “The Mummy Strikes” (7:49), “Jungle Drums” (9:01), “The Underground World” (8:16) and “Secret Agent” (7:39).
While these are fun to see, don’t expect them to live up to the high quality of the Fleischer shorts. These come across as a bit shoddier and cartoonier. They lack the same drama and fine-tuning found on the Fleischer efforts. They’re still entertaining, though, and they make a nice addition to the package.
By the way, it’s good to see that the folks behind this DVD didn’t worry about political correctness and included World War II cartoons that portray the Japanese in a stereotypical light. This may seem crass today, but history shouldn’t be censored to match subsequent concepts.
“Eleventh Hour” does prompt this question, though: if Supes got involved in the war effort against Japan, why did he restrict himself to basic sabotage? He could’ve ended the war in short time. Of course, Supes never did this because it couldn’t match the real world, but it creates a lack of logic nonetheless.
Superman II remains a flawed but fun film, one that often balances comedy and action with romance and drama. It can be a tentative mix, but for the most part, it worked well and created an interesting program. The DVD offered very good picture and audio as well as a smattering of generally interesting extras.
This is the Superman II for fans to own, and that goes for all the folks who already have the original DVD. This special edition offers notable improvements in terms of picture, audio and extras. It’s a strong upgrade.
To rate this film visit the original review of SUPERMAN II