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iReview :: SUPERMAN THE MOVIE: Extended Cut

Still the “Gold Standard” by which all superhero blockbusters should be measured, director Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE gets a new Blu-ray release of the very rarely seen “3-Hour Long” TV Version!

 

In 1978 director Richard Donner did more than just prove that a man could fly — he made moviegoers believe in a super hero, and it made their hearts soar! Superman The Movie has since become one of the cinema’s most beloved adaptations of the DC Comics icon. The film inspired a franchise that has endured for decades, would incite the studios to seek out their own big screen counterparts, and that’s not to mention how many industry creatives, including DC Comics own Geoff Johns, who were indelibly impacted by the success of the film.

The feature length film was huge at the box office and would be followed by an equally successful sequel; Superman II would itself be well received by critics and audiences alike, though the film would be highly scrutinized and years later fans would learn of the conflicting personalities behind-the-scenes. When the original Superman The Movie made its way to primetime television, the film would receive a “Special Edition” redux and not long after, in a very special televised event, it would be exhibited in a re-edited 3-hour-long TV Version.

Though the Special Edition release has been commercially available on Blu-ray ever since the turn of the new millennium, it’s 3-hour-long cut has only just been given the same attention. For nearly 3 decades this version of Superman The Movie has gone unseen by many, and although it’s being hailed as the “definite” version of the film, it doesn’t diminish the greatness of Richard Donner’s vision. In an era of filmmaking that has become jaded to or expectant of “director’s cuts” or “extended versions” of theatricals Superman The Movie was way ahead of the curve.

A Man Could Fly

I’m reminded of the exhilaration I felt that first time sitting in a darkened movie theater whenever I see that curtain opening at the beginning of Superman The Movie and the opening notes to John Williams’ score. Donner’s movie intro harkens back to the origins of the Man of Steel, who was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster during the Great Depression. The character became a beacon of hope for many who felt powerless and stifled by the threat of war and poverty. Superman inspired a purpose; his incredulous deeds and powers made possible the impossible!

More than 75 years later, Superman is still DC Comics most iconic character and is as relevant a part of the motion picture franchise. The hero will be among the line-up that makes up part of the most anticipated cast of heroes to headline a full-length blockbuster when Justice League launches worldwide in November. In the heroes most recent big-screen incarnation, he is played by Henry Cavill (who will reprise his role in JL) who embodied the Lost Son of Krypton first in Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel released in 2013.

When Cavill returned to the world of DC Comics it was for 2016s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice also directed by Snyder, the film would mark the first time in contemporary cinema that both Batman and Superman, along with Wonder Woman would be appearing on film together. The event would also set the stage for what fans had long hoped would be the case, the inauguration of the expanded cinematic universe that would include a linked-up continuity that would match the pace established by the Marvel Films.

Though the feature-length film received very mixed reviews, it’s the Extended Cut released for home exhibition that truly fully incapsulated the story that should have been played for audiences in theaters. Through the reedit, Snyder was able to flesh out more character nuances and add some filler to scenes that felt stunted in the theatrical release. BvS The Extended Cut benefitted from its release and undoubtedly rallied the troops especially after the successful reception that its follow-up film Wonder Woman got.

3-Hours More Super!

Before the advent and popularization of the now very common post-theatrical release of the “Director’s Cut” of a film, Superman The Movie: Extended Cut was way ahead of its time in delivering a more full-bodied narrative to its audience. The film just released on Blu-ray finally puts into the hands of fans a 188 minute cut of the film, that is a touch different from the “Special Edition” version that was released in 2000, and is touted as the director Richard Donner’s definitive version of the film.

The pace of the film is much more deliberate; the added scenes allow for more story to evolve for example, for the film opens on the planet of Krypton, Jor-El (portrayed by the legendary Marlon Brandon) has just sentenced three criminals to the Phantom Zone (who will infamously return in the sequel to spell doom for Superman). The following scene has Jor-El confronting the Kryptonian council on the theory that their planet will soon face its own destruction, and unless they do something quick, their race will become extinct.

Although Jor-El promises that neither he or his wife Lara will leave the planet, the council detect an energy signature coming from his lab that would suggest they are likely preparing to evacuate and send a sentry to capture Jor-El. Unfortunately, Jor-El’s prediction comes true and the planet begins to crumble, but not before he sends his infant son Kal-El into space. The destruction of Krypton is much longer as its citizens make haste to try to escape, a futile attempt, and as Kal-El’s rocket soars into deep space along its trajectory to Earth, it passes the Phantom Zone prisoners.

When the baby finally arrives on Earth, he is rescued and raised by The Kents in Smallville, Kansas. As an adolescent the young Clark Kent (Kal-El’s new adopted name) must keep his powers a secret from everyone around him. Inevitably Clark must leave home, and after his father dies, he is determined to uncover his true nature. There are extended moments from Clark’s moments on the field in Smallville, and after his dad passes away, his journey North is much more perilous, as we get a better idea of the terrain he crossed before finding the Fortress of Solitude.

The extended scenes runout plenty of the film’s quieter moments, giving breath to scenes like Clark’s first day at the Daily Planet and when he first meets Lois Lane. Christopher Reeve perfectly captures the moment as he sits across from Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane for the first time and takes her in — for Clark it’s love at first sight. The scenes that don’t work all that well are the ones that are applied to Lex Luthor’s backstory. Although the criminal mastermind is expertly played by Gene Hackman, the additional buffoonery doesn’t do him any favors.

Superman The Movie: Extended Cut is worth the experience, and will appease the die-hard fan, but for the definite extended experience the “Special Edition” release is just as eloquent and charming as is the Theatrical Version equally well executed.

Superman The Movie: Extended Cut 2-Film Collection is now available on Blu-ray and can be purchased through the WB Shop www.shopdcentertainment.com.

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