Warner Brothers’ somewhat polarizing Superman re-boot debuts on Blu-ray, soaring high with an unsurprisingly fantastic presentation. The special features take a slight break from form, however, that may necessitate a purchase sooner rather than later.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Run Time: 2 Hr. 23 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/12/2013
After 75 years, it’s understandable the character of Superman would be struggling to find his footing in today’s world. Created in the late 1930s, when times were arguably simpler, Superman’s unequivocal goodness and incorruptible sense of morality represented the ideals of his time, but these days offer little more than warm feelings of nostalgia for a bygone era. While Richard Donner’s 1978 film adaptation stayed true to the original character, and proved highly popular even in increasingly cynical times, Bryan Singer’s unsuccessful revisit of Donner’s treatment, almost 30 years later, showed audiences had effectively moved on. Thus, unlike most franchise and character re-boots lately, a re-boot for Superman made sense; tapping Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) to write and produce, even more so. The only thing that seemed to give followers pause was the selection of Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) as director, though his signature, visual excesses (slow motion effects, for the most part) would prove to be a non-issue.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
In Man of Steel, the outcome of Warner Brothers’ efforts to make the character relevant for today, we get a Superman unlike any other. Primarily, we see a Clark Kent mired in an internal struggle over where he’s from and what he’s meant to do. Where past films have merely touched on this theme, Man of Steel embraces it in full, showing Clark’s deep sense of alienation and loneliness as a child and how, as an adult, those unresolved issues lead him to wander the world looking for answers. The more emotional quality to both the character and his origin story don’t create a Super “Emo” Man, fortunately; as played by Henry Cavill, Clark Kent / Superman is as physically and mentally strong as ever, but knowing what he had to go through to get there finally gives him a humanizing accessibility, the absence of which has been a longstanding issue since the character’s inception. Where this more three-dimensional, less black-and-white, treatment ultimately takes him as he battles against old enemies of his home planet, some have objected to as a violation of what the character has long represented. While I don’t disagree that it’s a fundamental change in the Superman we’ve known, it’s also wholly consistent with the Superman we’ve now been given – one who has to make hard choices and obviously feels the burden of the consequences.
Devoting as much time as it does to its main character and his journey of self-discovery, Man of Steel inevitably shortchanges some of its supporting characters, namely Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who serves mostly as a narrative device rather than a bonafide foil and love interest. Now that the requisite origin story is out of the way, however, I’m sure the sequel will include more of her, editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), and the environment of The Daily Planet.
In contrast, we get an awful long look at the culture and civilization of Krypton, courtesy of Clark’s biological father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his nemesis General Zod (Michael Shannon). It’s definitely the most detailed (and fantastical) presentation of Superman’s heritage ever put to film, but I’m not sure all of it was necessary, especially as we’re unlikely to see Krypton figure so heavily in future stories. The flashbacks to Clark’s youth with his adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) feel more relevant, and ultimately balanced, in comparison, though I’m sure trimming the amount of Krypton scenes wouldn’t have made Crowe (and those who paid for his casting) very happy.
Framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the picture may not appeal to everyone’s aesthetic sensibilities, with its metallic color grading, slightly crushed blacks, and sometimes excessive detail, but the transfer seems faultless in presenting the filmmakers’ stylistic choices. Black level, contrast, and color all look great across the board. Noise pops up on occasion in more challenging scenes but the image appears free of digital artifacts related to grain reduction or sharpening.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Dialogue in the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible. The surround channels carry an aggressive, but expertly balanced mix, of atmospheric, directional and environmental effects, alongside strong presence of the film score. LFE extends deep, and is clean, robust and balanced.
Audio Rating: 5/5
The bulk of the behind-the-scenes material is tied to the “Journey of Discovery” video commentary, located on Disc Two, and will prove the most interesting compared to the more perfunctory featurettes found on Disc One.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
UltraViolet Digital Copy: Redeem by 11/12/2015.
Strong Characters, Legendary Roles (26:00, HD): The piece provides a brief history of Superman in comic books, then moves to the development and production of the film, elements in the adaptation, and major story and character themes.
All-Out Action (26:02, HD): The featurette covers the actors’ physical training and stunt work, and how their fitness helped shape their approach to the characters.
Krypton Decoded (6:42, HD): Dylan Sprayberry, who played 13-year old Clark Kent, takes viewers on a tour of the production design for the Kryptonian culture and technology.
Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short (2:03, HD): The celebration of 75 years of Superman highlights the character’s pop culture milestones (interestingly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a reference to the Lois and Clark TV series).
New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth (6:35, HD): What’s a featurette on The Hobbit’s New Zealand shooting locations doing on a Blu-ray for Superman? Beats me. The whole time I was watching it I thought it was a disc authoring mistake, but since it’s also on the DVD copy, I guess it’s just a clumsy attempt to promote another of Warner’s franchises.
Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel (2:54:05, HD): The picture-in-picture video commentary (referred to as “Maximum Movie Mode” on previous Warner product, though I haven’t seen that term used in a while) incorporates video footage from production, concept art, cast and crew interviews, and other material to show what all went into making the film. I’ve always been a fan of the feature, but putting it on Disc Two, while bundling the usual slate of featurettes with Disc One, is something new, most likely to facilitate the release of a single-disc, movie only release of the title down the road.
Planet Krypton (17:18, HD): The featurette explores the culture, history, and language of Krypton, as if the fictional planet and civilization were real.
Warner Home Video delivers an impeccable high definition presentation for the studio’s largely effective Superman re-boot starring Henry Cavill as the titular superhero. The video commentary is the highlight of the special features, but given its placement on Disc Two, don’t expect to see it in any future, single-disc repackaging. Consequently, if you want the video commentary, you’ll likely have to spring for this edition over eventual, less expensive alternatives.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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