Superman Returns appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this was a satisfying transfer.
Almost no problems with sharpness emerged. From start to finish, we got a crisp, well-delineated image that suffered from only a few tiny signs of softness, and those were restricted to wider shots. Jagged edges and moiré effects were absent, and source flaws created no concerns either. This was a clean, fresh transfer. Edge haloes didn’t appear.
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. Blacks were a modest weak link, as they occasionally looked a bit mushy, and shadows could appear a little on the dense side. Those were the only concerns I had, though, as the majority of the flick looked very good.
Superman Returns deserved a super soundtrack, and that’s what the DTS-HD MA 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.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to the 2006 DVD? Both showed improvements. The audio demonstrated a bit more kick, and visuals looked tighter and clearer. This was a nice upgrade.
All of the DVD’s extras repeat here as well as some additional components. We open with Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns. This five-part documentary runs a total of two hours, 53 minutes and 41 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 four-minute 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.
13 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 21 minutes and 27seconds. 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.
Note that the Blu-ray includes two deleted scenes not found on the 2006 DVD. I no longer own that disc, so I can only identify one of them with certainty: “Return to Krypton”. In this five-minute, 41-second clip, we see Superman’s journey to find his old home planet. The final film alludes to this process but doesn’t show it. That makes “Return” sound intriguing, but in reality, it’s kind of dull. Supes flies around space, encounters a bit of peril and heads back to Earth. The movie doesn’t suffer at all due to the absence of this footage.
Though I’m not positive, I’m pretty sure “How Wrong Can You Be?” is the other cut segment not found on the 2006 DVD. This isn’t really a deleted scene; though; instead, it delivers one minute, 12 seconds of outtakes from Kevin Spacey. It’s entertaining but not vital.
In addition to two trailers, the set finishes with Bryan Singer’s Video Journals. Some of these appeared on a documentary DVD called Look, Up in the Sky - that program will show up elsewhere in the “Superman Anthology” - but it didn’t include nearly as many. We get 29 of these with a total running time of one hour, 22 minutes.
In the “Journals”, Singer gives us his form of “video blog” from the production of Returns. We see Singer on various locations and also check out stunts, visual effects, cinematography, storyboards, script/story issues, presenting at Comic-Con, costumes, and a few other topics.
In addition to Singer, we hear from stunt coordinators Glenn Suter and RA Rondell, actor’s mother Christine Bender, producer Gil Adler, screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, production designer Guy Dyas, director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel, SFX supervisor Neil Corbould, 1st AD JP Wetzel, workshop manager Ray Ferguson, storyboard artists Chew Chan and Phillip Holiday, assistant SFX supervisor David Brighton, construction lead hand Ron Martin, steel foreman Mark Gatt, VFX producer Joyce Cox, lead previs artists Rpin Suwannath and Kyle Robinson, VFX supervising coordinator Maricel Pagulayan, editors John Ottman and Elliot Graham, costume designer Louise Mingenbach, and actors Kal Penn and Sam Huntington.
Most of these are nuts and bolts shots from the production, but some go for a comedic bent. We see Singer fill in for an exhausted Peter Jackson on the set of King Kong, while the studio wants Frank Darabont to take over for Singer on Returns; both are so dry that some fans took them seriously.
Overall, the “Journals” are pretty good but not great. We already get so much behind the scenes material elsewhere that they’re not as valuable and interesting as they otherwise might be. Nonetheless, they add some value and have more than a few good moments.
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 Blu-ray offers strong picture and audio along with extras highlighted by a lengthy and often involving documentary. I feel pleased with this Blu-ray, and it presents the strongest home video representation of the film, but I must admit Superman Returns remains a disappointment to me.
Note that as of April 2012, you can only purchase this Blu-ray edition of Superman Returns as part of an eight-disc “The Superman Motion Picture Anthology”. This includes Superman, its three 1980s sequels, 2006’s Superman Returns and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, and a disc of bonus materials. I’m sure the films will be available individually at some point, but that date is currently unknown.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of SUPERMAN RETURNS