With 14 discs, this is truly a collection to own.
Flimsy packaging that lets the discs get shuffled around within the enclosure.
The Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition is certainly not misleading in calling itself that. Filled with all the movies that are currently available in this franchise, it also contains extra discs that give viewers even more of the lore behind the Man of Steel. The following movies are available in this collection. They are:
Superman: The Movie (Also with the 2000 expanded edition)
Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Superman: The Movie sees the first big screen incarnation that Christopher Reeve made famous. All of the main characters are established and a standard was set for what could be achieved if the superhero genre was taken seriously. Superman II and Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut continue to show us Superman nt. Things become strained when Lois Lane thinks that Clark is Superman and General Zod, Non, and Ursa come to earth hellbent on destroying it. Sadly, Superman III seems to be the turning point in the franchise, as the character was split in two (good and bad) because of a new kind of kryptonite. Then Superman decided to battle an evil computer that was responsible for all the problems. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace takes a 1980s look at Nuclear Arms in which Lex Luthor has reentered the picture, and has unfortunately gotten some WMDs into his possession. Lastly, there is Bryan Singer's new yet familiar take with Superman Returns. In this incarnation, Superman has come back after being away for some time, and once again finds himself pitted against Lex Luthor and a Lois Lane who has moved on.
In addition to all the movies in this set, most of which are packed with extras, there are the following discs:
Look Up In the Sky - The Amazing Story of Superman
You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman
Bryan Singer's Video Journals
These three discs give fans even more information on this seminal character who seems to have transcended comic books. We find out about the lore of the character, the movies, and we are even taken behind the scenes to see Bryan Singer putting together the 2006 version of this film.
All in all, if you want almost everything available on this character and the franchise, to the best of my knowledge, the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition gives you exactly that and more.
Since this set is so comprehensive, I have decided to go through each movie and thus be able to touch on each disc in a more comprehensive fashion.
Superman: The Movie
Complete with 4 discs, they have really given this film the treatment. The following is a breakdown of what the discs contain:
Theatrical 1978 Version of Superman: The Movie
This track is done by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler, both of whom did producing duties on this film. They talk about getting the project together, working with Christopher Reeve and the rest of the cast, and basically the vision behind it. All in all, I found this to be pretty darn interesting. This is one of those movies that is just beloved by fans, and to get to sit back and really get to the heart of it was quite interesting and intriguing for me. I feel that these two both brought very insightful takes to this track while not boring us with the nuts and bolts of their jobs.
Superman: The Movie (Expanded Edition)
Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz sit back and recall the glory that is this film. I sadly didn't have time to listen to all of this but what I heard was really good. These two were able to sit back and objectively watch this film. They could admit what they thought was both good and bad, and they weren't above mentioning things that they hadn't been able to do the first time around. Superman is the kind of franchise that simply lends itself to being redone. The more that technology advances, the more we are going to see this character expanded throughout time. It's weird to think that eventually a set like this could be outdated.
Music-Only Audio Track
Taking Flight: The Development of Superman
This was something I went out of my way to watch. I love seeing these development pieces because they always start with the germ of an idea. That is all on display here as we see how the major players were brought on board, and also how it was decided that the Man of Steel was going to go in the direction that he did. Looking back now, everything seems to be so perfect, but I think it was certainly apparent, at least initially that this project was going to be done at a great risk to the backers.
Making Superman: Filming the Legend
The Magic Behind the Cape
I don't really don't know what I was expecting from this segment, but it left me a little wanting. I guess I didn't find that there was any real magic to be had, or maybe I am just jaded by the amount of movie magic I get from other films. If you are a diehard Superman fan than I am sure you'll enjoy this, I just think that maybe they should have left a little more to the imagination.
Normally screen-tests don't really grab me but considering who we are talking about, how could I miss the early formation of the characters from this film? What impressed me the most was the amount of work that went into getting these characters to play on screen. I might be reading too much into this, but it's hard to think of Superman as simply a live action cartoon character. This featurette proves that all the characters are much more than that.
Additional Music Cues
The Making of Superman The Movie TV Special
Superman and the Mole-Men
This George Reeves starrer sees the Man of Steel pitted against beasts that hail from below. It is an interesting and ultimately inspired film, that I think really shows just have much George Reeves informed that character. While the effects may not look that great, and a lot of this film seems campy by today's standards, I have to give this movie credit for giving Superman a really interesting foil to go up against. This is certainly worth checking out if you have never seen it.
Nine Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons are on display here. They are: "Superman," "The Mechanical Monsters," "Billion Dollar Limited," "The Arctic Giant," "The Bulleteers," "The Magnetic Telescope," "Electric Earthquake," "Volcano" and "Terror on the Midway."
Superman II -1980/1981 Theatrical Version
Commentary Track by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
After the scarring experience that was watching Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut, I decamped to these deleted scenes simply to return to the original world of that film. You can surely read my in-depth review below of that film, but I will state that the scenes in this section are just what the doctor ordered. More Superman lore, more looks at the characters, and more attempts to humanize this story. I hate to say it but Richard Lester seemed to have a bit more of a handle on this material than Richard Donner. I know that that is blasphemous to say and I should probably be strung up, heck, I don't even know how Donner couldn't grasp this stuff, but seeing these deleted scenes made me feel a lot better about this sequel.
Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut
Click here to read the review I wrote for that title.
Disc 7 - From the Vault
The Making of Superman II
A really cool TV special about the making of this movie. The best part was that it was from the time that this film was created. There is just something about these old time programs, maybe they make us recall a part of our past, but I think this did a solid job of giving this film it's proper perspective. In fact, even watching the newer stuff that Richard Donner did for his cut of this film, I felt like maybe they should have left it alone. This set is so packed with content it couldn't help revealing more than it probably should've, but this TV special really captures the essence and excitement that this well done sequel provided.
Superman 50th Anniversary TV Special and News Featurette
First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series
1940s Superman Cartoons
Eight cartoons are also offered on this disc. They are "The Japoteurs," "Showdown," "Eleventh Hour," "Destruction, Inc.," "The Mummy Strikes," "Jungle Drums," "The Underground World" and "Secret Agent." I loved these. There is something about the cartoons from the old days that really grab my attention. They were so ambitiously done and simply crafted, yet they had a look and a style that is so unique and, sadly, we don't see as much of it any more.
Disc 8 - Superman III
Superman III - 1983 Theatrical Version
Commentary Track by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
I decided to take a listen here because I had skipped the last one. I wasn't able to listen to all of it but I liked hearing what they had to say about Christopher Reeve and Richard Pryor. It didn't really hit me until I listened to this that both of these actors are no longer alive. It was really bittersweet listening to this commentary track because I wish it had been done for a better film in the series. While I think they tried to make Superman III as good as they could, ultimately this movie plays better as piece of fun than something that should be a part of this franchise it seems.
Disc 9 - Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace - 1987 Theatrical Version
Screenwriter Mark Rosenthal talks here and I have to admit, it sort of seems like people have distanced themselves from this movie (after all Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler did commentary tracks for the first three installment). While I don't think anybody is going to ever take credit for almost sinking a franchise, I think that on the whole Rosenthal acquits himself quite well. He discusses how he was hired, the writing process on the film, working with the actors and producers, and the legacy that he thinks this movie will have. As Rosenthal wrote The Legend of Billie Jean, one of my favorite movies of all time, I have to give him credit for doing the best job possible. This may have been the weakest film out of the first four, but looking at it now, we could only wish our worries were that simple.
Superman Returns - 2006 Theatrical Version
After watching these scenes, I couldn't help but wonder about some of Bryan Singer's editing choices. It isn't that I think he made a bad film, it just didn't have the human qualities that the first two Superman films had. I think people were expecting that it would, and in a lot of ways the film had good merits, but the story didn't really move me and I didn't find Lex Luthor to be that much of a menace. It seemed more like a bad relationship between a young boy and his grandfather. In the other films, I really got the sense that these two were trying to outwit one another. Certainly check these out if you had a hard time with this newest film
Requiem for Krypton
The Joy of Lex: Menacing Superman
I don't know what it is but Kevin Spacey has ceased being an actor to me. He is now simply a personality, and I sadly think that George Clooney might be headed in that very direction. Whenever an actor gets as exposed as Kevin Spacey has, they lose a lot of their mystique. Sure, he looked good as Lex Luthor, and I think he did everything he could to create menace, but I felt really letdown down by his performance in the film. Unfortunately, all this segment did was make me realize why I didn't buy him in the first place.
Secret Origins and First Issues: Crystallizing Superman
Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman
He's Always Around: Wrapping Superman
This was probably the most interesting supplemental piece on this DVD. As I have stated before, with the amount of content at the viewers disposal, it would be hard not to repeat yourself. So much was made about Marlon Brando being in this movie, but I never got the sense that he was in the film. This segment showed how they tried to do that, but I wonder how things might have been if they would have made a completely synthetic version for the other characters to play off of? Still, this was enjoyable to watch and I certainly recommend it for fans and newcomers to this franchise.
Disc 12 - Look, Up In the Sky! - The Amazing Story of Superman
Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns produced this documentary that takes viewers from Superman in his earliest inception all the way to Superman Returns. We get to see how the character has evolved over the years, how the films have changed, and how at it's best this character does everything it can to represent the worldwide zeitgeist. This is actually a disc that somebody should put on before they really got into this set (if they weren't familiar with the films beforehand). I feel that way because this is very comprehensive, yet it allows people to get a quick and easy glimpse of the many different incarnations and mediums that Superman went through.
You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman
It is about time that something like this existed. If ever a franchise needed to take a cold, hard look at itself this is it. From the success of the first films, to the delayed version that finally got jump-started to big screen this year, it is truly amazing that it would be so hard to bring this character back. From the Salkind's taking a beloved character out of comic books and TV and on to the big screen (and dealing with the fans in the days before the internet), to the problems on the set of Superman II, to the uninspired efforts of Superman III and Superman IV, it's great to see something that isn't merely a puff piece. Also, as great as this set is, it does allow the flawed films to be seen so that everything can continue to be judged and reevaluated. One can only guess how this will look years from now.
The Mythology of Superman
The Heart of A Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve
Christopher was such a good actor, the quintessential leading man, it was very nice seeing how he was honored in this set. Maybe it's just me, but Brandon Routh looks like a boy in a costume compared to him. Seeing Reeve here as Superman, in his personal life, and also hearing other people talk about him, I really felt I got a genuine sense of who this man was. While I think he would like to be known for other roles, I feel he would be happy at how much joy him playing this role has given to people.
The Adventures of Superpup and Three Warner Bros. Classic Cartoons
Disc 14 - Bryan Singer's Video Journals
From what I gather, these are video blogs that I think might have been posted on the internet concurrently as Bryan Singer was making Superman Returns. It was because of this disc that I didn't review a lot of the bonus features from that film as heavily as the others. We get the whole shebang in terms of seeing Singer on the set, Brandon Routh inheriting the mantle of the Man of Steel, Singer's brief stop at Comic-Con in 2005, and just about anything else you could want to know. I had heard about these video blogs as he was making this movie, but it's nice that Warner Bros. decided to include them in this set. I can safely say that I think few franchises will ever get as in-depth a release as the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition has.
Bravo Warner Bros., bravo.
All color theatrical features in this set are in the widescreen version presented in a "letterbox" widescreen format preserving the scope "aspect ratio" of it's original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. I sadly don't have exact specs for you in regards to the other discs, but everything that I went through looked fine. However, I didn't go through this set on the best kind of system, and thus I may not have been able to get all the bells and whistles that surely accompany this release. What is amazing is how good all of these movies look here and the effects, while leaps and bounds different from Superman IV: The Quest For Peace to Superman Returns, actually don't seem as lacking as one might think. These films are all cleaned up and seem like they have been put through rigorous paces to look as strong as they do in this set.
Dolby Digital. All the movies in this set are Close Captioned. I knew the sound in this set was very solid by virtue of the fact that it sounded as good as it does on my TV. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I only have a one speaker television, but I never felt like the audio experience with the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition was bad. Oddly, I don't ever recall the movies sounding as full as they do in this set. I know that there was a problem when this set was released in regards to the audio on the discs (click here if you want to read more about it), but I truthfully don't think that I experienced anything like that. In fact, watching these movies again, I realized that even if the subject matter of some of the later films (III and IV mainly) was wanting, the scores were really what kept things together.
If the gray tin with the S on the cover isn't intimidating, than the DVD booklet containing 14 discs is bound to make you little nervous. A vinyl, cardboard covering goes over this which displays all the contents of this release on the back. It lists out all the movies contained in the set, as well some of the 20+ hours of bonus material. On a flap that goes on the bottom of the tin are a bunch of system specs. The tin opens up revealing the booklet of DVDs, and a moving picture of Superman as he smashes the S into little pieces. Interestingly, there is a piece of styrofoam inside the tin, and it's job is to keep the booklet from not moving around too much. The covering around the booklet of DVDs slides off so that you can access the discs as well as the comic book that comes with this set. There is more Daily Planet artwork as well as a listing of all the films, a cast list, and another booklet that tells you very simply find where everything in this set is.
From purely a user standpoint, I love the way they have put together this set. It seems daunting but if you use the info booklet to navigate through the DVD booklet, you shouldn't have any problems. My only complaint is that I think the tin packaging could have been smaller so that would have eliminated the need for the piece of styrofoam. Also, the last disc in this collection was detached from it's tray. It would be a shame to watch through this whole set and then find out that you had a problem with the last disc.
One would be hard pressed to say anything derogatory against the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition. This is one of the few releases that a studio can put out because getting all the assets together is such an insanely laborious project. It wasn't simply gathering all the assets from the films and then creating a bunch of extra content. That in itself would have been an immense job. What Warner Bros. has done is to put together a whole other film Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut, as well as three separate discs containing a litany of content. This is a 14 disc set and while the packaging seem to be a tad shoddy, overall I think that fans of the franchise and the character will be very excited to add this set to their collection. One thing I wonder however, is what happens when something like the Untitled Superman Returns Sequel comes on the scene? What do consumers do when that 15 disc set containing even more bells and whistles asks for more of their hard earned money? These are questions that have been very much creeping up about DVDs for at least the past five years, but it only seems that when sets like this come out we have to deal with them.
I really loved Superman when I was younger. Growing up and looking at these films now, sure some of them don't hold up as well as I remember, and I wasn't that big a fan of Superman Returns, but I think that this is a franchise that will always pique people's interest. Who doesn't want super powers? Who wouldn't love to be able to fly? Who doesn't have their own personal Lois Lane in their lives? It is because of this that this character will always be relevant, and with Warner Bros. packaging up a set like the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition, I feel confident that a new generation of kids are going to find the varied amounts of content to be highly valuable. A set like this puts everything in perspective. It allows fans from all age groups to come together and form a common understanding. They can share a common love of one of history's most interesting comic book and cinematic creations.