Superman: 5-Film Collection 1978-1987 (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

One of the most anticipated sets for most home video collectors when a format changes is that of the Christopher Reeve-led Superman films that ran for a decade. Surprisingly still the pinnacle Superman on film to this day, the whole series will be arriving on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray on May 9th. The original film had been released prior, but now we have the other 3, including the 2006 Richard Donner cut of the second one. This is a rather port the extras and update the video and audio release, but so much has been said and done with this, that’s just fine by me. My one wish would be an extended cut of Superman IV, but I know I’m in a short order of folks who would pay good money for that. You can order yourself a copy of Superman: 5-Film Collection (1978-1987) by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Originally published on 6/2/2013 as part of the Naptown Nerd Superman Retrospective

Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth. Raised by kindly farmers Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter), young Clark (Christopher Reeve) discovers the source of his superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis to fight evil. As Superman, he battles the villainous Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), while, as novice reporter Clark Kent, he attempts to woo co-worker Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).

They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be.  They only lack the light to show the way.

With a quote like that, you just kind of know the greatness and legend that comes with Superman.  A movie that kept the big, epic movie fantasy precedent of going to the theater alive after Star Wars the year prior.  Superman is a movie with some historic production troubles that are a fascinating point of research for any film fan and can be almost as entertaining as the film itself.  I’m not here to give you a detailed rundown of it all, but I highly recommend taking the time to watch a documentary or read about it.

For all intents and purposes, Superman was produced by a couple of guys who had no clue what they were doing when it came to making a movie.  When acquiring the rights, they just went with whatever was popular or prestigious at the time, no matter if it was right for the film or not.  Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather to write Superman?  Also hot off The Godfather, Marlon Brando was plucked.  Then The French Connection‘s Gene Hackman.  Cheap director?  Let’s get that guy who did the recently popular The Omen.  Who will play Superman?  How about Robert Redford or Al Pacino?!?!?!  It just sounds bad when its on paper.  But most turned down or didn’t want the role of the last son of Krypton.

Instead we’re given the debut of unknown Christopher Reeve.  This actually feels like the genesis of making a successful comic book superhero movie that is still going on today.  Take a relatively unknown or unproven actor, put him in the iconic role and surround him with award winners and big name vets.  Here you surround him with such people fitting that criteria; Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford and up and coming actress Margot Kidder.  Now, look at superhero movies like Batman (1989), Batman Begins, Captain America and Thor and tell me this isn’t the model they’re using?

Superman is just a big, breathtaking and “aw inducing” film, especially in the time it was released.  The effects were state of the art.  They told you “You will believe a man can fly” and certainly, they held up to their word.  I never saw the film in theaters (born in ’82), but I can confidently say that theatrically, this was akin to seeing Star Wars, Jurassic Park or more recently Avatar (in IMAX 3D) in a cinema for the first time.  Just fully immersing yourself into a world that is beyond imagination, feeling genuine, real and a form of escapism in its finest form.

The film itself just goes for epic proportions right of the bat.  Conceived as one giant film, then two parts filmed back to back, production and money ended up making completing the 1st film the priority and worrying about finishing the 2nd after the first was released.  Superman definitely feels incredibly ambitious.  The first act itself is an hour.  We get a full on origin or Kal-El, starting with the destruction of Krypton to the fields of Smallville, ending at the Fortress of Solitude.  Oddly enough, its so engaging, it never drags at all.  The final hour-hour and half (depends on the cut you’re watching) then introduces of to the world we already know of.  One thing I really enjoy, is Superman isn’t only there to introduce himself and then fight against a big bad, we get to see him stopping petty and daily crimes.  This allows him to prove himself as a public figure and build up his boy scout repertoire.

Christopher Reeve gives the ultimate performance, playing Clark Kent and Kal-El as two entirely separate people.  Its amazing how he pulls this off.  His speech, his stature, his mannerisms, it unbelievable.  Its not just a guy in tights and a cape, its a full on performance.  This may be taken for granted nowadays, but he really is fantastic in this role.  Its a big reason as to why its his image we think of when it comes to Superman, even moreso than a drawing.  Hackman’s Luthor is far more fun than i think he was on paper.  He’s not the traditional Lex Luthor from my memories (normally a wealthy business man, not undergournd), but it works.  He’s just as diabolical.  His scheme brings very much the comic book element to light.  He’s having a lot of fun and it really elevates the cast.  While Margot Kidder doesn’t have any posters hanging up on any boys walls, she is just fine in her role.  Kidder’s Lane brings absolute credibility to her as a the no-holds bar star reporter.  She’s good and it works quite well.  The only issue taken is, what would Superman see in this girl?  I could see what she would see in him, but the other way…eh…I guess we take our preconceived comic book notions in with us on that one.

Superman isn’t a flawless picture.  And its not without controversy.  It contains an absolutely terrible monologue poem from Lois Lane during her first flight with Superman (“Can you read my mind?”).  You all know this one.  Its a beautiful scene of them flying through the clouds over the city (“Who’s got you?”), wonderfully scored and then absolutely destroyed by this thought.  Can you believe they actually planned for Kidder to SING THIS TO HIM!!!???  I didn’t think there was any way to make it worse.  And then, there’s the ending, in which Superman flies around the Earth backwards to transport himself back in time (no, he’s not spinning the Earth around as many misconceive) to save Lois Lane.  This has pissed people off for years and many can’t stand this cheat.  Richard Donner has excellently said something along the lines that if you’re this into the movie and have been loving it to this point, who cares?  And, I can kinda agree here.  It doesn’t ruin the film at all and its what the film feels it has to do to finish, and with all the good will int he first 2 hours, I’ll give them that they earned it. Its not a strong finish by any means, but its fine.

Superman wow’d audiences then and I believe still will today.  Prior to the film, it was just a kid’s thing.  Comic books, TV shows, movie serials, toys.  Superman brought everything to a whole new level.  It set the ground for making it ok to produce big budget comic book films.  It paved the way for everything.  Its the grandaddy of all of them.  And I didn’t even mention how awesome the opening credits and that score is!  Its one of the best comic book movies of all time and once you see it, you’ll never forget it and hopefully want to revisit it again….


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Superman returns (yok yok yok) to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with the same disc already available to purchase in a standalone release. This is restored transfer for 4K and looks quite lovely and friendly to those who prefer minimal tinkering. There’s plenty of grain visible which allows for both better depth and allows the softer photography to breathe a bit more.

Depth:  Depth of field is quite strong with a plenty of space, pushback and large scale on display in the image. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no issues arising from rapid motion or camera movements causing a jitter/blur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural and craft some fantastic looking nighttime scenes and shadow work while still showcasing finer details, textures and patterns in those darker corners. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite natural and very 70s looking with a good bold look to those yellows, reds and blues. HDR helps pop some of those colors in contrast but really adds a nice sting to display lights, car lights, phone booth lights and magical bursts as well as the Kryptonian suits at the beginning. This is a terrific 70s film for HDR and it doesn’t disappoint.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and textures are clear and impressively discernible from any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Original Theatrical English Mono 2.0 DTS-HD, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (Latin American), Portuguese, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Thai

Dynamics: Superman comes with a pretty stellar and carefully done Atmos mix. This update on the 78 classic is one that respects its age while also focusing on merely enhancing scenes as opposed to going crazy and re-envisioning them too much. Of course nothing came from the ceiling watching in the late 70s (well, maybe asbestos), but this only does things in delicate touches where naturally it would work out for added engagement.

Height: From above you get a nice mix of flight, debris, action and scoring touches throughout.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer really carries and hits plenty well, with good explosions, rumbles, smashes and good bolstering of the brass, strings and drums in the score.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a loose, airy experience with good movement, environment building  and unique contributions tracking offscreen and more. Sound rolls around with great power across the room.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and crisp, sounding like audio native to its recording time, yet lacking a sort of audio hiss in the base of it you might expect.

Superman II (1980)

Originally published on 6/4/2013 as part of the Naptown Nerd Superman Retrospective

Superman (Christopher Reeve) foils the plot of terrorists by hurtling their nuclear device into outer space, but the bomb’s shock waves free the Kryptonian villain General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his henchmen Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O’Halloran) from their imprisonment. Traveling to Earth, they threaten the planet with destruction at the same time that Superman decides to renounce his superpowers in order to live a normal life as Clark Kent with his new love, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).

Of course Superman was a massive success. So of course there would be a sequel.  But wait, there already is, and it’s about 75% done.  But wait, there’s a pending lawsuit over payment with a director from a previous Salkind project.  How can we further avoid it?  Oh, let’s dump Richard Donner and have him (Richard Lester) finish the film instead of payment.  But, wait!  We need to go back and reshoot a big percentage of the film in order to give Lester sole credit.  Here we go folks, Superman II!

Within just a few minutes of rejoining the world of Metropolis in Superman II, there’s a definitely a slight difference.  The world is the same, but something is just a half step off.  And it’s quite obvious.  Richard Lester infuses some very British humor into the already established world of Donner’s film.  If you watch a lot of James Bond films from the late 70s to early 80s, its quite noticeable.  Most of it is pretty welcome, but some you can’t help but groan.  While Lester lightens the mood, the film manages to raise the stakes.

After a terrorist fubar in Paris, Superman tosses a bomb into space, release our cameo’d Kryptonian prisoners last seen at the beginning of Superman.  The trio, led by General Zod, boasts Superman’s powers and outnumbers him as well.  Zod is carefree in his terror strike is bound to conquer Earth for himself no matter what is in the way.  Stamp gives an all-time great performance in a superhero villain role, due to his complete devotion to commit to the character.  If anything, this guy made a huge name for himself that he’s still living off of to this day.

Meanwhile, we get the genesis of the “I want to quit being the superhero, only to need my powers back immediately” stories we tend to get in the sequel to a comic book superhero story (Hello, Spiderman 2).  In a smart turn of events, Lois is convinced Clark Kent is Superman and throws everything including her life in the mix to prove her point.  Due to some clumsiness, Lois discovers her intuition to be true.  So we don’t have to spend another movie wondering if she’ll find out or he’ll fess up and tell her.  Superman finds being with her more important than holding up his Earth’s protector duties and has the Fortress of Solitude remove his powers.  About 5 minutes later, he sees the Kryptonians on the news and needs them back.  To undo all this with Lois, we get another stretch of imagination that Superman has the power to kiss someone and have them forget everything.  Spin around the world to transport through time or kiss and forget.  Which do you prefer?

Due to money issues with Brando, he was not brought back.  Instead, he was removed from the retcon flashback and his presence in Superman’s choice to lose his powers void.  Margot Kidder wasn’t happy about coming back which would influence Lois’ involvement in the next film.  She also looks too skinny, has some bad teeth and is terrible in the newly filmed sequences compared to herself from the already filmed material that plays back and forth.  The funniest however is not bringing Hackman back to finish the film.  While Sam Raimi grew up having phone finding Fake Shemps in Three Stooges shorts, I find it quite funny to find Fake Lex Luthors in Superman II.  Having this knowledge, check it out.  Its quite humorous the obvious stand ins and ADR’d imitation voice they use to make due.  It’s not harmful to the film, but being in the know it gives a little chuckle.

Can I go without mentioning Superman pulling off the cellophane “S” on his costume?  Absolutely not!  It’s always pretty dumb when they add powers like this AND kissing in the same movie.  It really serves less of a purpose than a punch or Fortress of Solitude booby trap.  It’s the ultimate head scratcher and WTF moment when you see it for the first time.  It makes for a great joke, but completely dumb in this movie.

Superman II is always a candidate for a sequel being better than the original.  I’m not sure I can quite go all the way with that just yet.  It compliments the first one greatly and really feels like the 2nd half of that movie.  There are things this movie does much better.  The stakes are higher and we get a full fledged movie with no long origin story.  The villain brings more menace.  The action scenes are much bigger and more spectacular.  The fight in the streets of Metropolis is still quite impressive today.  Narratively, some things just come a bit rush or awkward and I think the first one nabs a better tone and gets the fun and goofy a little better.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Superman II debuted on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with very pretty new transfer. This feels like a whole new film and is more cinematic looking than it has even been. The transfer handles the softer cinematography with some wonderful precisions. Its a darker looking image with a little bit more blue of a look to it. Plenty of very fine details show through in this crisp image, more rich with texture and color saturation. The nighttime city battle sequence between Kal-El and the Kryptonian fugitives is a complete stunner when it comes to color and black levels.

Depth:  Depth of field is pretty strong with good distance between characters and background and some wonderful pushback here and sense of scale. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no issues of motion distortions occurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural, really helping give a more dignified look to the film. Finer details, textures and patterns in the darker areas still carry information with ease. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Contrast with the blacks here really bringing out even the most boring of grays and browns, let along your blues, reds, pinks and greens. Some good HDR usage here with green Kryptonite, starlight, streetlights, car lights, display screens and more glowing. One of the colors to really impress actually is white. From the snow to the Fortress of Solitude, there are many shades, tints and texture that are quite immersive to the touch.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones have a slight coldness to them and are consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are plenty discernible from start to finish of the film.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Original Theatrical English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Korean, Spanish (Latin America),

Dynamics: Superman II doesn’t have quite the abrasive experience that the first film does, but it does provide a terrific Atmos presentation. This mix is very spacious, free and loose. Its neatly woven around the room, creating great spaces interior and exterior. There’s a great balance of effects, score and vocals. It sounds plenty sincere to the time of which it was made and not too “new” sounding or reinventive. More like the genuine article with some extra breathing room.

Height: From above, of course you get people flying, debris falling, water from the dam and plenty more neat touches.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer hits with very good anticipated power on crashes, bumps, punches, swooping, glass shattering, explosions, waves roaring and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: This mix really rolls around the room with some good force. It feels full and like a 360 degree experience in the best way possible. The rear and side channels are very busy, building room ambiance as well as tracking off screen sounds and providing their own unique contributions.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with ever so little of an analog nature creeping up in them.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

Originally published on 6/12/2013 as part of the Naptown Nerd Superman Retrospective

Kryptonian villain Gen. Zod (Terence Stamp) and his henchmen are accidentally freed from their outer-space imprisonment and threaten Earth with destruction, just as Superman (Christopher Reeve) decides to renounce his superpowers for his new love, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). This alternate version of the film is based on footage shot by director Richard Donner before being replaced on the project, and it includes material not seen in the film’s original 1980 release.

The most positive thing I can say about Superman Returns is that it gave us this.  Released coinciding with the home video release of Superman Returns, finally came the legendary Donner cut of Superman II.  During production of Superman Returns Warner Bros was able to purchase rights to Marlon Brando’s footage in Superman II, making this possible.

Its not 100% Donner’s film, as he didn’t even get to finish it himself, but the story is crafted in his vision and his footage and scenes that were intended for this film are back in.  Its 83% Donner.  The other 17% is connective tissue to make the film work.  The film even follows what was Donner’s original intentions for the end of Superman: The Movie.  Instead of traveling through time at the end of that film, he merely saves the day from the missiles.  One of them that he launches into space explodes, and comes into contact with the Phantom Zone containing the banished Kryptonians.  Zod cries “Freedom!” and they fly toward Earth.  That was to be the cliff hanger ending of Superman: The Movie.  Its told as a recap here.  And not all is footage from the film’s shoot, some is from screen tests, as they hadn’t fully completely those scene during principle photography.

And my oh my, what a difference his footage makes.  Plot holes and motivations are all of a sudden making sense now.  The film is far less jokey.  It works so much better.  The whole slapstick Paris opening scenes are GONE!  Kal-El’s choices and transformation to human and back MAKE SENSE and are fully weighted.  It’s also incredible how much gravitas Brando brings to this film in the 15 minutes he shows up.  Such a force and strong screen presence that man was.  Lex Luthor’s trip to the fortress of solitude at the beginning is also a lot better.

My favorite change is Lois’ suspicion and discovery of Clark’s identity.  I like her double take looking in the paper.  But the best is the screen test scene placed in the movie.  Its an incredible dramatic and yet fun scene that is suiting and fitting of both characters.  Its a far more revealing and educated scene than Clark stumbling and falling into a far being like “Ope, ya got me”.  And their acting is top notch in the screen test as well.  Reeve’s face after he realized he’s been tricked is PRICELESS.

Margot Kidder is also at her best in the Donner Cut (and surprisingly looks good using Superman’s shirt as a nightie).  I think she’s actually better here than she was in the original.  The reshoot scenes did Margot a disservice for this film.  The love story between Lois and Kal-El is at its most bankable in the Donner Cut.

Guess what else is gone?  The cellophane S.  The amnesia kiss.  But the time travel is still there.  Here, he’s not cheating to save lives.  He just wants the Kryptonians damage and Lois’ memory of his identity gone.  To rectify his choices made.  Its very Last Temptation of Christ like, only years before that movie.  Only, its edited a tad wrong, as the final scene doesn’t make too much sense considering what Superman has just done.

I don’t want to re-review this film, as it pretty much is the same base story.  Yet, its so different.  With much much better details.  I’d also like not to spoil every single little difference.  You should really check this out for yourselves.  To me, this is a much better and definitive version of Superman II.  I liked the original cut a lot too.  But this is much better and its not even its full intended version.  My, what that would have been?  Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was worth the 26 year wait and should dazzle any Superman fan.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut features a lot of the same look and texture as the theatrical version of the film. The difference here are the inserts of alternate takes, new scenes and rehearsal footage posing as scenes that come with this one. Most of it integrates pretty well, but there are some moments with some softer footage and a different sort of look to the aesthetic. Since it was all shot on film, it looks pretty good with loads of details and a crisp image. A healthy layer of grain also suits the image.

Depth:  Depth of field is strong with some good pushback and the same sense of scale as the previous version. Motion is smooth and natural with no issues emanating from distortion or blur caused by rapid action.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and natural. Good details come from the shadows, holding onto texture and pattern. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty much the same here. Contrast with darkness really brings out its best moments. Nighttime in the city is perhaps the centerpiece spectacle visually.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural with a slight coldness to it and consistent from start to finish. Facial textures and features are discernible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Superman II: The Richard Donner cut has a much more bombastic Atmos track than its theatrical counterpart. This one feels much deeper and more engaging than the other. The volume is much louder an the action hits quite a bit deeper. The room overall feels a little more full.

Height: From above you get rockets, flying people, debris, helicopters and more as well as ambiance touches and scoring portions.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer strikes plenty hard here with crashing, glass smashing, punching, explosions, gunshots and plenty more.

Surround Sound Presentation: The whole room is plenty active. There’s a nice power to the rolling sound as it goes across the room. Every interior and exterior feels well lived in and sound.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are on par with the theatrical edition.

Superman III (1983)

Originally published on 6/5/2013 as part of the Naptown Nerd Superman Retrospective

Computer programmer Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) is hired by financial tycoon Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) to seize control of a weather satellite and annihilate Colombia’s coffee crop. When Superman (Christopher Reeve) manages to thwart the plan, Webster commands Gorman to use the satellite to locate kryptonite, the Man of Steel’s mortal weakness. But a missing unknown element in the kryptonite — replaced by Gorman with tar — causes an unintended side effect when presented to Superman.

To start off, this shouldn’t be called Superman III.  A more appropriate title would be Gus Gorman with tag line “You Will Believe A Computer Can Do Anything“.  This is a Richard Pryor movie with special guest, Superman.  Pryor easily clocks in the most screen time and the plot really revolves around every move he makes.  He’s not even the main villain or some sort of hero.  At best I can see, he’s the bumbling henchman of the criminal mastermind.  So, if we ever wanted a movie told from that angle, here you have it.  It’s a Superman movie, but Superman is pretty much shoehorned in and only swoops in to save the day.

From the outset, you can tell Richard Lester is predating Joel Schumacker’s “full control and off the rails” by 14 years.  We start off with a full scale slapstick series of events in Metropolis, making West Side Story look like The Godfather in tone.  Gone are the cool space opening credits that ushered us into the first two films.  Nope, we get this.  A series of comedic destructions, one after another, all because of Lorelei strolling by.  A bank robbery happens, but does Superman catch the culprits?  Nope, he instead saves a man who has run over a fire hydrant and his car is full of water drowning him while people just sit and stare.  BREAK THE DAMN WINDOWS!  So yeah, this is how this thing we call a movie starts.

This movie has done zero research on computers and feels its audience doesn’t know anything either.  The whole angle is incredibly laughable and silly.  And the fact that after a couple buttons pushed Richard Pryor is a mad hacking genius?  Please.  Did this even work back in 1983?  Yes, children could easily buy into this movie.  And that’s where it falls most.  As a kids and nobody else film.  The movie just pretty much believes that computers are evil and he who figures them out first controls the world.  It’s pretty ludicrous.  And this movie is full of this zaniness.  How this was all being approved of, I have no idea.

Also, the first two films’ effects were revolutionary and setting new standards.  This one?  It backpedals about 90 steps and 10 years.  It looks incredibly cheap.  Superman’s flying looks really bad in this.  Everything looks done for quick buck and just assuming people will go with it.  Its pretty sad. Superman III has some of the poorest blue screen work you’ll see. This film should have taken it further, but its too concerned with getting yucks and trying to find a punchline in any film.

One random thing.  Why does the script have Jimmy Olsen go with Clark to Smallville only to have him taken out by an injury BEFORE THEY EVEN GET THERE!  What was the point?  Having Jimmy around could have benefited the viewer by having someone for Clark to console in and give a little more depth to his life in Smallville.  Instead, he acts very Lois Lane and tries to grab some photos of the random nuclear facility having a meltdown on the way.  Was this maybe their way of getting Lois out of the movie before the vacation device was used and later changing it to Jimmy Olsen?

Okay…I’m going to do this a little more 50/50.  I’m going to stop with the complaints here.  The list of dislikes regarding Superman III are well documented on the web and elsewhere.  I’m going to spin this into things I actually liked about the movie.  No, I’m not on the fence about Superman III, I don’t like the movie, but I just wanted to do something a little more fair for it.

While the situation feels very much like on afterthought on behalf of the writers and producers, I really enjoy where they take Kal-El on this journey.  Getting him away from Metropolis and revisiting his roots.  I wish they hadn’t killed off Martha Kent in an offhand line, because that might have been able to bring more weight to the situation.  While some fashions of how she’s viewed as a “single mom needing a man” may be a bit dated, I really like Lana Lang.  I think Annette O’Toole is far more appealing and charming than that of Margot Kidder.  And unlike Kidder’s Lois, you could get a better idea what Kal-El might see in her.  She also shares some good chemistry with Christopher Reeve.  Its a cool thing to see them turn the tables and have a woman who is interested in Clark Kent and not as vested in Superman.  Another plus, she’s not just there to be used as a damsel in distress either.  Her story is about her finally busting out of  small town and exploring the world as she’s always dreamed.  They never truly put her in harm’s way, and the villains could care less about her. Clark is there to help her see that she can do it too, and no matter her situation, does not need to settle.  Now, I’m making this sound grand, but this stuff really is there, it just may be told a bit more clumsily.  And also the Clark/Lana scenes really don’t feature a lot of Lester’s groan-worthy over the top comedic antics.

And this film kind of actually gets Lex Luthor right, except, its not Lex Luthor.  Ross Webster is pretty much a faux-Lex.  As a matter of fact, his whole gang is pretty much here, Lorelei is a faux-Tessemacher and Gus is pretty much the faux-Otis.  I know its not Lex, but bear with me.  They get the maniacal wealthy businessman angle correct.  And its a relief he’s not a real estate enthusiast.  From the office to the outfits, the schemes, the gadgetry, Ross Webster is more Lex Luthor than the Lex Luthor they had provided previous.  So what if Hackman hadn’t come back?  Just recast him.  They even cast a similar style/looking actor to play Webster.  Is he as good as Hackman?  No.  But he’s more than serviceable.

Evil Superman is a pretty big hoot.  Reeve once again commits to his role and makes for one hell of a creep as the darker side of Kal-El.  Weirdly enough his costume changes color and its more in tune with Superman Returns color scheme.  There’s a insanely uncomfortable moment with Lana Lang that plays far more dangerous and off from this film’s tone and feels so damn awkward.  However, looking back at this now, the Evil Superman stage of this film is quite hilarious.  There’s a lot of funny lines and he does some things that are just wildly out of left field.  And then you get to see Clark Kent fight Superman to top it off.  Its probably the highlight of this movie.

While there are some of these saving graces, it is far from enough to even out this film.  For starters, its 125 minutes.  This thing is massively bloated and can be quite a bore to watching, especially when you are watching jokes fail over and over.  If this thing was crunched to 90-100 minutes, it may be a bit more watchable and forgivable.  Most of the time is spent trying to pull off a joke at every single turn.  It gets tiring.  And while this one doesn’t have an ending that has you questioning Superman’s powers, I have NO IDEA why he lets Gus go.  This guy was a part of the Webster’s team.  THE key part of it.  I don’t care if he had a change of heart in the last couple minutes, this man tried to kill you already in the film, Superman!  He’s also behind all this hacking and destruction!  WTF does Superman not only single out him to save, but tries to get him a job?  So lame and infuriating.  Its fitting of this movie.

Okay, there’s tons to talk about this movie, cuz it is pretty crazy.  I know some people have said they liked it as a kid, but this is one where you should watch now and slap yourself for enjoying it then.  And no, this movie is not Richard Pryor’s fault.  He is just doing what they hired him to do.  Blame producers, blame Richard Lester.  This film is a steep drop from the previous two.  But is it truly the worst of the bunch?


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Having the same production company director and proximity to Superman II, Superman III elicits are much similar and equally beautiful transfer. Clarity, sharpness, depth and color all are right on par. It has a that blue slanting look to it as well, having them almost uniform. However, this one was quite impressive to look at (No, I’m not just talking about Annette O’Toole) and despite being the one I like least, it maybe has the best look of the sequels.

Depth:  Depth of field is rather strong and shows off the scale in city flight scenes, street scenes, the open country and the large cavernous lair in the film. Movements are smooth and nature with no distortion issues present.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural. This is a more daylight movie but there are some cavernous scenes and dark moments that bring out some solid contrast. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors fare quite well with some good country farm looking browns, yellows and greens on display. Displays screens, neon lights, car lights and fire really burst out with good HDR glow. The finale has some nice sparking and glowing greens to add.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish with the slight coldness of II still present due to the sort of blue filtering. Facial textures and features like freckles, stubble, wrinkles, make-up lines, lip texture and more show through clear as day.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Original Theatrical 2.0 DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital,

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDh, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Korean, Spanish (Latin American), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: Superman III comes with about as good an Atmos track as you could want here. I like the approach to these releases that sound like they are very much working with what was originally recording and not utilizing “better” effects to make it more modern. Its a spacious and well balances mix that feels accurate to the film itself.

Height: You get the typical guy flying form above and a little bit of debris stuff here in this one. A laser in the final gets a little bit of burst over top.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer rumbles through roaring fires, explosions, hammers clanging on things, punches, rubble crumbling, gunshots, a helluva bowling strike and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a nice space building ambiance for interiors and exteriors utilizing the side and rear channels. Those also assist in travel and add unique contributions while also keeping track of what leaves the screen on angle changes with very good accuracy.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty clear and crisp hanging onto a bit of their analog recording origins in their display.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)

Originally published on 6/9/2013 as part of the Naptown Nerd Superman Retrospective

Seeing the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a nuclear arms race that could lead to Earth’s destruction, Superman (Christopher Reeve) decides that he must take action. He collects all the nuclear warheads from the world and throws them into space. Meanwhile, Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), has broken out of prison with a new scheme. He clones Superman with radioactive material to create Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), a being just as powerful as the man of steel.

With the Salkinds removed from the equation, as rights were transferred to Canon Films, it was a much easier task to get everyone back for Superman IV.  Christopher Reeve, who claimed he was hanging up the cape after III, was allowed to help create the story.  With him fully on board other players like Hackman and Kidder (in full capacity this time) were easy to coax back.  I’m guessing they wanted to wash away memories of III or possibly too many cooks in the kitchen with Superman’s love interests being the reason Lana Lang is nowhere to be found.

Superman IV has some problems, but the biggest one is budgetary restraints.  The film went into production expecting a $36 million budget, only to get a $17 million one instead.  However, I must applaud them, they still went all in with it and tried not to let the budget prevent them from telling the story they wanted to tell.  The movie’s effects look very cheap and pretty crummy throughout the film, but considering what the filmmakers are going for and the amount of ambition that seeps through the entire runtime, I’m able to respect it more.  This is the case for me, I’m guessing not for most.

The Quest For Peace, unlike the previous film, has something to say here.  Whether it’s clumsily handled or doesn’t quite work like it should, its there and the story sticks to it.  Throughout the film we’re treated to a “What if” story about Superman interfering with global affairs.  Would it do anything?  Should he really keep his nose out of it?  Superman does interfere, believing he will rid the Earth humanity’s evil.  He’s far off, for he learns that those up to no good will always find away and it’s up to the people of the planet to handle it, not him.  Meanwhile, there’s also an interesting plot going on at the Daily Planet.  A new majority shareholder comes in and is keen on selling papers as opposed to reporting the truth.  It brings about a debate about journalistic integrity, being old fashioned, staying current and trying to keep the paper industry alive.  This plot actually gives Perry White an active role in something for the first time in the entire series.  The issue is hitting him right close to home and he takes major stance against and actually is present throughout.  Its nice to see the character live up to what has only been stereotyped and built on reputation.

Now, the issues above sound grand, but please remember, this is a PG film and the troubles are handled in a very family-kid friendly fashion.  If you’re looking for something rather deep it’s not there.  But it’s admirable that the filmmakers are thoughtful and trying to bring something to the table here and attempting to build more of a story than a super strength alien from outer space punching and lifting things.

Some crappy flying effects aside, the film sails on pretty good for the first half.  It isn’t until Neutron Man appears that things dip a little south to the credits.  Mark Pillow is quite terrible, but they have the bizarre choice of having Hackman dub his lines.  He’s just quite awful himself.  It’s cool to have Superman vs. another type of Superman man, but really we saw this in Superman II.  And the fact that he’s kinda cloned from Superman, is just like Superman III.  Neutron Man’s appearance also makes the film more effects heavy, showing its hand with its budget even more.  But really, he’s just the film’s “Goon”, just a poor one.

There was a feeling and thought I had throughout this viewing of Superman IV.  I hadn’t seen the film in probably 7 years.  This is the perfect representation of a Superman from the 1940s.  It’s got Superman involved in world events, a big goofy sci fi villain and a very screwball comedy aspect present in the entire picture.  It starts off in Smallville as a very different film, but once we’re back in Metropolis, it just starts right off.  I kind of really liked this feeling and was able to appreciate the film more and overlook a lot of issues this film has because of this feeling.

Okay okay.  I’ve probably caught you off guard as I’ve said nothing really bad about this despised film that bombed at the box office, causing Superman 5 not to happen as well as a live action Spiderman film.  Well, Superman flies humans into space and they don’t die or burn up in the atmosphere.  That’s beyond dumb.  Lenny is a bit ridiculous, but we did accept Otis before.  There’s plenty.  The movie could’ve been worse though.  This movie was trimmed to a tight 90 minutes.  They don’t ask you to stick around for 2+ hours.  It’s a story that never drops your attention and is over quickly.  They cut over 30 minutes from the film.  All of it pretty stupid.  There was a whole Proto-Neutron Man created before Neutron Man and he’s a bumbling mistake.  Something akin to Superman III quality and it brings nothing to the table.  Everything they cut was deservedly so.  So instead we get a tighter more watchable film.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is the end run of the original canon of Superman films.  And it feels complete at the end.  Christopher Reeve would be involved in a devastating horse riding accident in the 90s, rendering him fully paralyzed, thus sealing any hopes of continuing this franchise with him as Superman.  And he was Superman.  When I and many others think of Superman whether it be comics, tv, movies, he’s the image that comes to our mind.  It was a big and sad day when new broke of Reeve’s accident.  It was such big news that a special ticker ran across television shows nationwide reporting the incident.  Nobody could believe what had happened.  And it was because it happened to Superman that made its impact such a tragedy.  Every time I think of what happened to Christopher Reeve, I swell up with some sadness.  I was young, a kid and he was such a big figure to a lot of us.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, in the non effects sequences, is up to par with the other sequels in this set. Its got a uniform look that I do like but I wonder wasn’t made to look “together’ recently. Its crisp with a nice layer of grain that helps the depth and leaves the fine detail intact. Unfortunately, the better this one looks, the poorer some of the flying effects look.

Depth:  Depth of field is pretty strong, even if it does bring out the worst in some of the poor effects of this movie. Movement is natural and smooth with no distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural. There’s some really nice contrast in dark moments or outer space ones that bring out some good color and the special effects. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite lovely in this one. This is the most stereotypical 80s looking one of the bunch and stuff like Lenny Luthor’s attire as well as flashy outfits pop very well. Add to that some glow with Neutron Man’s powers that the HDR hits with a very nice glow.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, slightly cold, and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and details are clear as day form any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English Original Theatrical 2.0 DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Korean, Spanish (Latin America), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: Superman IV has a nice rambunctious Atmos track that seals the deal on all of these having a nice new mix. It hits well and keeps a good balance of music, vocals and effects. There’s some nice layering and depth on display to enhance the experience of this lower quadrant film in the set.

Height: From above you get flight, neutron beams, debris and some of the score and ambiance.

Low Frequency Extension: The lower end really takes care of the explosions, shattering, gunfire, crushing, punching and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: From all around the room you get some ambiance, powered rolling sound and some nice unique attributes as well as tracking the action off screen with good precision.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.


Superman: 5-Film Collection (1978-1987) is a 10-Disc set, with each film coming with the standard Blu-ray edition. A digital code is provided in the case for Superman: The Movie that redeems all 5 films. Each film is packaged in its own amaray case, housed in a glossy shell case. See the video above for a look. Commentaries appear on the 4K disc, but all the other Blu-ray bonus features are on the standard Blu-ray discs.

Superman: The Movie

Audio Commentary

  • by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

The Making Of Superman: The Movie (SD, 51:50)

Superman And The Mole-Men (SD, 58:05)

Cartoons (SD, 19:27) – Super-Rabbit, Snafuperman, Stupor Duck

TV Spots & Trailers (SD, 4:25)

Superman II

Audio Commentary

  • by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind

The Making Of Superman II (SD, 52:15)

Superman’s Souffle Deleted Scene (SD, :40)

First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series (SD, 12:55)

The Fleischer Studios Superman (SD, 1:19:29) – 9 of the 17 shorts appear here in SD. For the full gamut and restoration, you’ll need to purchase the separate release from Warner Bros.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:22) 

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Audio Commentary

  • by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz

Introduction By Richard Donner (SD, 1:54)

Superman II: Restoring The Vision (SD, 13:20)

Deleted Scenes (SD, 8:44)

Famous Studios Superman Cartoons (SD, 1:07:49) – The remaining 8 shorts appear here, again, the old ones in standard definition.

Superman III

Audio Commentary

  • by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind

The Making of Superman III (SD, 49:08)

Deleted Scenes (SD, 19:43)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:11)

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace

Audio Commentary

  • by Mark Rosenthal

Superman 50th Anniversary Special (SD, 48:10)

Deleted Scenes (SD, 31:02)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:26)


The Christopher Reeve Superman films, for better and for worse, are always a must-own for me when they take the next step forward in home video upgrades. The sequels’ new transfers are pretty lovely and have a sort of uniformity to them that I dug. Even Superman IV looks pretty pristine here. Dolby Atmos updates feel a bit more true to their source origins and not a revisionist. I wish they’d do more in the way of updating the Blu-ray disc that comes with it rather than just the same ol same  ol. But, it is what it is and I’m glad we get everything carried over here. Price-point feels a bit expensive right now, but this is a must own, easily for collectors and fans alike.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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