Superman Returns appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. “A”-list movies usually get “A”-list transfers, and that was the case for Returns.
No problems with sharpness emerged. From start to finish, we got a crisp, well-delineated image that suffered from virtually no signs of softness. Jagged edges and moiré effects were absent, and source flaws created no concerns either. This was a clean, fresh transfer.
Although Returns gave us a less candy-colored palette than I expected, the hues worked well within the visual design. Colors were appropriately bright despite a somewhat golden tone lent to much of the movie. I liked the hues and thought they were effective. The same went for the image’s deep, rich blacks, while low-light shots came across as smooth and clear. In the end, I found a great deal to like about this transfer.
Superman Returns deserved a super soundtrack, and that’s what the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix offered. From start to finish, it provided a lively setting. Unsurprisingly, the mix of action scenes worked best. They used all five speakers well to involve us in the developments, and the elements moved nicely across the spectrum. Quieter scenes offered good ambience, and the surrounds kicked in with much unique material, especially during the more active sequences. This was a consistently impressive soundscape.
Audio quality also excelled. Music was bright and dynamic, while effects followed suit. Those elements sounded clear and accurate. They also boasted solid low-end, with deep bass across the board. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other issues. I thought the soundtrack was pretty terrific.
All of this set’s extras appear on DVD Two. We open with Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns. This five-part documentary runs a total of two hours, 53 minutes and 30 seconds. Woof – now that’s a serious “Making of” show!
“Requiem” offers the standard array of movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from director Bryan Singer, producers Gilbert Adler and Jon Peters, writers Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, storyboard artists Ed Natividad and Gabriel Hardman, production illustrators Jim Oxford and Jeff Julian, casting director Roger Mussenden, costume designer Louise Mingenbach, director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel, lead hand Sven Johnsen, key makeup/hair Nikki Gooley, hair stylist Shane Thomas, makeup artists Georgia Lockhard-Adams and Tami Lane, stunts/movement coach Terry Notary, scenic artist Ruben Hill, head scenic artist Michael O’Kane, painter Steven Sallybanks, trainer Michael Ryan, animal trainers Angela Towle and Jeff Griffiths, executive producer Chris Lee, stunt rigger Dave Schultz, first AD Jeffrey Wetzel, visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson, stunt coordinator RA Rondell, hairdresser Wendy Da Waal, on set special effects tech Catherine Hart, on set special effects supervisor Rob Heggie, stunt double Mike Massa, pyro boss Chris Murray and actors Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Stephan Bender, Sam Huntington, Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey.
The program opens on July 6, 2004, as Singer works on his story pitch. We follow script development, sets, production design, and visual planning, casting, and shifting to Australia to shoot. From there we learn about costume design, cinematographic decisions, construction, hair and makeup, creating Superman’s flying images, and Routh’s physical training. The show also looks at the specifics of shooting many different scenes, areas that encompass many different issues like stunts, sets, various forms of effects, animal wrangling, and extras. One section looks at the Lex Luthor aspects of the production, and we finish with the end of the shoot.
“Requiem” works best as an extended production diary. It includes none of the usual talking head interviews, as all the comments come from various sets and other production milieus. They still offer good insight into the various elements, but footage from these settings leads the program and makes it valuable.
This has positives and negatives. On the bad side, it means that we don’t get a tremendous amount of retrospection and insight into the production’s overall arc. We follow it as it happens, so there’s an immediacy to it but not the kind of general summary coherence often found in this sort of show. We also get no information whatsoever about post-production.
Still, it’s hard to knock a program with so much great footage. We really get a great look at the production as we watch the film’s shoot. We also find nice elements like screen tests and similar pieces. While not flawless, “Requiem” offers a consistently interesting and fulfilling documentary.
Next comes a featurette entitled Resurrecting Jor-El. This three-minute and 58-second program looks at the techniques used to integrate old footage of Marlon Brando into the film. It shows us examples of the methods as we get a quick overview. Apparently created to help with advance buzz for the movie, it’s an interesting piece.
11 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 14 minutes and 44 seconds. Many of these show Clark Kent back in Smallville with his mom before he decides to return to active duty. These prove reasonably interesting. We see Clark’s discovery of Lois’s anti-Superman editorial, and we also get good information about why he went back to Metropolis as well as how Clark fooled people during his long absence. There’s also a nice glimpse of his mom’s social life absent from the final cut. I’m glad most of them were cut since the Smallville stuff already runs too long, but I wish we’d still gotten the quick tidbits about how Martha Kent covered for Clark; they help cover some of the film’s less plausible moments.
We also find a funny bit with Lex and Kitty as well as more of Luthor’s trek to the Fortress of Solitude. The remaining snippets offer very minor elements, most of which concentrate on the Daily Planet crew. These prove forgettable. The Smallville elements are the best on display here, while the rest fails to make much of an impact.
Finally, we get a mix of trailers. These include the excellent teaser for Returns plus its theatrical ad. We also find promos for the Justice League Heroes video game, EA’s Superman Returns video game, and the Christopher Reeve Collection DVD set.
To say that I wanted badly to love Superman Returns would be an understatement. It was top on my list of “must see” flicks for 2006 and I really hoped that Bryan Singer would be able to bring new life to the old franchise. Unfortunately, he made a flick that seems less like an invigoration of the series and more like a remake of prior glories.
The DVD offers superb picture and audio along with extras highlighted by a lengthy and often involving documentary. I can’t complain too much about this DVD, though I lament the absence of an audio commentary. Perhaps I’ll someday warm up to Superman Returns as a movie, but right now, I just can’t get into it.