The Superman Anthology - Blu-ray Review (Part 1 of 2)

The Superman Anthology is available to buy in the UK on Blu-ray from 13th June 2011

Beginning with Richard Donner's 1978 Superman and working its way all the way up to 2006's Superman Returns, The Superman Anthology on Blu-ray collects together all of the feature films currently in existence and a lot of the peripheral franchise material out there in the form of numerous dedicated extras.

One of those said extras, the Richard Donner Director's Cut of Superman II, was sadly absent from the press copies but no matter: the theatrical cut is a more than worthy representative of the second of  Christopher Reeves' four films.

The troubled Superman II, with direction eventually credited to Richard Lester, wouldn't have been possible had it not been for Donner's well produced first film, which bears more than a few similarities with today's much-celebrated superhero films. Donner holds back the payoff of seeing Superman in cape and boots until way into the film, with the first glimpse coming around the forty-minute mark and the real significant shot not appearing until past the hour. Like Chris Nolan in Batman Begins, Donner knows that this reveal is a big weapon and he uses it appropriately, although the script does miss the chance for a Batman-alike zinger when Superman (Reeves) replies to Lois Lane's (Margot Kidder) 'who are you?' question with a rather meek 'a friend'.

The elongated flying segment - where Superman romances Lane mid-flight - was parodied to hilarious effect in the Hot Shots series and, when you experience its mawkish romanticism again, complete with Kidder voiceover, it's easy to see why. A debate entertaining the notion of believability is a bit redundant when concerned with a film featuring a flying man but the end still feels like it stretches the audience's comfort zone a little too much and the model set of the village in danger from the dam is awful.

Still, Reeves shows in both Superman and Superman II why the role was solidly his for the best part of a decade. Imperious as Superman and attractively bungling as Clark Kent, the moment in Superman II when his personas cross and are revealed to Lois stands out as amongst the best in the entire series. That scene in fact, which starts the middle act of the second film, is the precursor to the finest parts in the first two films. General Zod's (Terence Stamp) arrival on 'Planet Houston', juxtaposed with Superman's vow to give up his powers in order to have super-nookie with Lois, is a masterclass in slow-building story manipulation, which mixes humour with slightly cheaply produced action and a well-directed thriller sequence in the diner.

Though on more-or-less equal terms, there is a general feeling that the second film doesn't quite aspire as high as the first. Whilst the first had a lengthy, Star Wars-esque, opening credits sequence (complete with John William's fantastic theme, the maestro's music remaining a feature throughout) and Marlon Brando-starring prologue, the second film opts to spend five minutes showing footage of the first film in far too reverent a manner. That said, the first film spends a long time (rightly) setting Superman up as a character but then forgets all about developing Lex Luthor's (Gene Hackman) dastardly plot, whereas the second film has a much better established central threat. Swings and roundabouts. Both films are prime examples of how to do a superhero movie and do it well and the Blu-ray transfers of each are individually impressive.


Superman II

The Superman Anthology is out in the UK on Blu-ray on 13th June 2011.

Look further...

'Superman II is–as a narrative and a sequel–rife with problems' - The Stop Button


  1. Love the original - mixed feelings on the sequel.

  2. Both films grew on me more after I'd watched them. I think the first is marginally better but I really don't think there's that much in it.