Superman: The Movie has received the 4K restoration to end all 4K restorations. I know that 4K UHD is still a new platform, but I think we have reference quality material here. Black levels are perfect, film grain is present and the actors don’t look digitally scrubbed. If you don’t have a Dolby Atmos setup, don’t worry. You can eventually upgrade to listen to one of the Top 3 Atmos tracks available in our region. But, the track also downgrades to Dolby TrueHD 7.1
While the Man of Steel is turning 80 this year, it feels like an understated anniversary. I grew up in a time when America made a big deal out of the character hitting 50. This was coming on the heels of the cinematic wet fart that was Quest for Peace. Now, Superman has been crushed under the immense weight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe machine. What kid gets excited about Superman outside of the symbol? Hell, my kid fixates on Batgirl and Harley Quinn instead of the World’s Finest when watching DC Superhero Girls or Justice League Action. When did it become not cool to care about Superman?
More than anything, Superman is the purest creation of true fandom. Siegel and Shuster were just nerdy teens in love with pulp magazines during the Depression. The Golden Age stories wore their hearts on their sleeves. They also cribbed from known series and books, but that was neither here nor there. There is a reason why the film opens on a kid reading the first issue in black and white. That first wave of fans were finally making the movie that their hero deserved. As a result, it’s a time capsule and not a living document.
Somewhere between the special features ported from the last release and my 300th viewing of the Making the Movie TV Special, I’m in love again with this incredibly dated film. But, my point about this film not being a living document remains. Few films get to achieve that feat. However, appreciating cultural history caught in the moment isn’t a bad thing. The pimp is dated, the flying narration is dated and Marlon Brando seems like he took bath salts. But, it’s part of the appeal.
What makes me so happy about this release is the American disc is the theatrical cut. I love getting classic movies in their original forms. Sorry to the UK, but you’re getting the extended version. Extended as in Director’s Cut/theatrical re-release version. The TV Extended Cut is only available on Blu-ray from our pals at Warner Archive. The theatrical cut works better, as it cuts out later means of trying to fix the narrative for modern eyes. It’s not Star Wars Special Edition bad, but achieves the same Brechtian break.
So much of this film works because a generation bought Christopher Reeve hook, line and sinker. If your kid, younger relative, captive audience doesn’t get this movie…they’ll still warm up to Reeve. Why? Well, because magnetic personalities still carry movies. We never had a better Superman and probably never will. That’s not a knock on Cain, Routh or Cavill. It’s just a matter of timing the zeitgeist right.