Celebrate the Christopher Reeve Era of “Superman” films in a 4k UHD five-film collection from Warner Bros. Pictures.

You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly.

– Superman: The Movie tagline

Everyone has their heroes. Athletes, actors, activists, first-responders — individuals that represent the kind of ideal you want to become. Me, I wanted to be Superman. Not because he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but because he lead with empathy first. He tried talking things out before resorting to his fists. Even when that became the only option, he worked hard to (a) minimize collateral damage, (b) did his level best to avoid hurting civilians or have them get caught in the wake of violence, and (c) always used his incredible gifts to help rather than hurt. He may be a comic book character, first created by two first-generation Jewish immigrants Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, yet his methods and belief systems felt all too real for this shy and quiet Jewish kid in Virginia. Much to his excitement, as the little kid grew older, he watched the 1978 Richard Donner film Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Kal-El, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, and for the first time, the impossible seemed possible: a man could fly. Now, decades since that first watch, Warner Brothers Pictures is releasing all four Reeve-led Superman pictures in a single 4K UHD collection (plus the Donner Cut of Superman II), along with all the previously available bonus features so that fans of these films can see them like never before: in ultra high-definition with HDR.

For the uninformed or the forgetful, the four films can be summarized thusly:

Superman: The Movie (1978) introduces the world to the fate of Krypton, Kal-El’s journey to Earth where he meets his foster family, the Kents, his adolescence in Smallville, Kansas, as Clark Kent, and his transformation into Superman before he moves to Metropolis to become a reporter at the Daily Planet. Once established there, Clark begins to save the day, gaining the attention of both the regular populace and criminal mastermind Lex Luthor, who’s on the verge of beginning a real estate plot that would enrich him and kill millions.

Superman II (1980) picks up where the first leaves off, with peace restored and Superman trying to save the day. What he doesn’t realize is that one heroic act has the side effect of freeing three Kryptonian prisoners — Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran) — from the Phantom Zone where Clark’s biological father Jor-El (Marlon Brando) had imprisoned them prior to the destruction of their home planet. Meanwhile, Lois uncovers the truth about Clark, allowing them to be openly romantic with each other; however, this distracts them from the fact that the now freed prisoners are terrorizing the planet as they make their bid to take it over, thanks to their immense powers.

Superman III (1983) finds both Clark and Superman well-established and trusted. With things good, Clark pursues a personal interest story in Smallville related to his high school reunion, while Lois goes on vacation. In Smallville, Clark reconnects with old friend Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole), having a great time and totally unaware that conglomerate owner Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) and his sister Vera (Annie Ross) are moving on a plot to weaponize a government-owned weather satellite to actively change the weather in areas that would financially benefit them. Roped into their plot is gifted programmer Gus (Richard Pryor), a low-level computer programmer who figured out how to take advantage of a financial flaw to his benefit, gaining the attention of the Websters in the process.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) sees a return to form with Superman trying to figure out his place in the world, where his responsibility to use his power for good clashes against man’s fear. Recognizing that the stockpiling of nuclear arms could lead to terrible acts, he gathers all the weapons he can and tosses them into the sun. This hopeful act, supported by many countries, accidentally gives rises to Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), the latest creation by Lex that the criminal mastermind expects to put an end to Superman and get him back on top.

Whether you’re a longtime Reeve-Superman fan like this reviewer or merely a superhero fan in general, a collection like this one is particularly enticing. So let’s breakdown a few things so that you, dear potential buyer, know what you’re getting. The collection is labelled as Superman 1978 – 1987 5-Film Collection and that’s a bit of a misnomer, implying that Supergirl (1984), the fifth in the Reeve-based Superman series is included. Instead, the fifth film is the Donner Cut of Superman II, which was first released in 2006. So the collection is made up of five individual single-film cases, each containing one 4K UHD disc and one Blu-ray disc, but the five films are actually four, with the alternate cut being treated as an extra film. To a degree, this makes sense as the Donner Cut makes significant changes to Superman II that go beyond just shortening the film by a few minutes — Lois is smarter in deducing Clark’s secret identity, the reveal is executed differently and provides Lois more agency, the fight scene in the Fortress of Solitude is gone, and the removal of Lois’s memory is handled differently, among other things. While I, personally, would’ve preferred that the two cuts of Superman II were in one case and Supergirl offered as the fifth film, there is, at least, a sense of completion in the collection itself.


SUPERMAN 5-FILM COLLECTION 1978-1987 Slipcover.

As mentioned, each film is in its own case, with its own film-specific art on the front of the liner. Inside, the case is your basic black with a blue Blu-ray disc and red 4k UHD disc, emblematic of two of the Boy Scout’s most well-known/attributed colors (the third being yellow). These five single-film black cases fit inside a cardboard container possessing its own style, with the Fortress of Solitude making up the larger design, cleverly making it seem that the films are the secrets of the Fortress we guests are given access to. The shame, though, is that it’s a fairly basic cardboard that’s used, flimsy and prone to bends, breaks, and tears through regular use. When compared to the packaging 88 Films uses for its limited edition sets for films like Dragons Forever (1988) and Police Story III: Super Cop (1992), which are comprised of a heavier stock board that feels more likely to protect the contents, the style of the container pales quite a bit.

Unfortunately, like other WB Pictures 4K UHD releases, there’s no information included with the retail edition or within the press release to denote how the 4K UHD editions were created, the process for creating the Dolby Atmos audio track, or anything else related to the remastering process. Having not experienced any prior editions of these films beyond the DVD collections (currently Superman: The Movie is the only film of the collection previously available in 4K UHD solo), I’m delighted to report that all the films look and sound great. The natural grain is present in all of them, reduced in some places, heavier in others, but otherwise the increased definition and color only improves the overall reception to the films. While I’m willing to admit the films’ overall flaws narratively and that some of the effects don’t age as well, the remaster does a fantastic job of capturing the sight and sound of the cinematic wizardry, enabling these stories to recapture the imagination. Personally, I don’t remember the verdict of the council in Superman: The Movie sounding quite so boomy before or the sizzle emanating from the fingertips of Nuclear Man. Also, in my favorite sequence of the quite weak Superman III where Clark fights the synthetic kryptonite-affected version of himself, the makeup work on Superman’s face denoting his less clean-shaven face, his stupor, and muted suit is far clearer in presentation, aiding the sense of just how far the Man of Steel has fallen. With the improved sound, their fight feels gigantic even though its more intimate than any other in the series.

Also worth noting that there is a single digital code provided for all five films to be redeemed either through MoviesAnywhere or Vudu. I decided to redeem via MoviesAnywhere and each film is presented individually, suggesting that digital ownership can be selected on a per-film basis whereas the only means of getting these films physically (currently) is as a collection.

My nostalgia doesn’t blind me to the various storytelling issues present in the franchise that doesn’t even get into the various behind-the-scenes issues involving changing directors mid-shoot, trying to cater to general audiences over focusing on the lead character (Superman III is a Richard Pryor movie that guest stars Superman), or that transfer of ownership + budget restraints led to a final film that’s maligned for its sincerity and story-missteps (despite it being the most focused and on-brand Superman story of the four). And yet I find myself believing that a man can fly every time I see Reeve transform from Clark to Kal-El/Superman. He’s the only actor who’s undertaken the role and made such a distinct character choice that clearly defines which persona is which. I’m old enough to have seen several actors take on the mantle, but none have done so with the grace, charm, and inherent kindness of the character, so much so that the feelings of hope and positivity radiate off the screen. I’m delighted to report that the 5-Film Collection does all of this justice.

Superman 5-Film Collection Special Features:

Superman: The Movie Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spangler
  • The Making of Superman – vintage featurette
  • Superman and the Mole-Men – vintage featurette
  • Super-Rabbit – 1943 WB cartoon
  • Snafuperman – 1944 WB cartoon
  • Stupor Duck – 1956 WB cartoon
  • TV Spot
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer

Superman II Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
  • The Making of Superman II – 1980 TV Special
  • Superman’s Soufflé – Deleted scene
  • Nine (9) Fleischer Studios’ Superman vintage cartoons
  • Theatrical trailer

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz
  • Introduction by Richard Donner – featurette
  • Superman II: Restoring the Vision – featurette
  • Six (6) Deleted scenes
  • Eight (8) Famous Studios vintage cartoons

Superman III Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
  • The Making of Superman III – 1983 TV special
  • Eleven (11) Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following previously released special features on Blu-ray Disc:

  • Commentary by Mark Rosenthal
  • Superman 50th anniversary special – 1988 TV special
  • Fifteen (15) Deleted/Extended scenes
  • Theatrical trailer

Available on 4K UHD digital April 18th, 2023.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo May 9th, 2023.

For more information on these films and other Superman-related projects, head to the official Warner Bros. Pictures website.

Superman 5-film 4k

Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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