Follow up on the new Superman home video releases

This week the Superman 1978-1987 5-Film Collection Box Set ships in the US. Its release was delayed here in the United States but not the rest of the world so we have some answers that we didn’t have the last time I wrote about this box set. But that’s not the only release this month that WB let down Superman fans with.

Let’s start at the beginning with Superman the Movie. The Digital Bits was right. The rumored updated scan did not come to pass. We are stuck with the problematic transfer from 2018 that has actual errors. Warners isn’t content with just letting us down in one area though. The best part of the 2018 release, the 5.1 mix of the original 4 channel theatrical audio, is dropped. This box which fans hoped to be the ultimate collection is already inferior to the previous release. I was convinced to continue buying physical releases by the inclusion of this audio track in 2018. Before that I had planned on getting my 4K releases digitally. This movie convinced me to buy a 4K player. Guess I’ll be hanging on to that disc.

Fast forward to Superman II and the problems worsen. The Digital Bits was correct, we aren’t getting Dolby Vision on anything but the first movie (which we already had in Dolby Vision). Except, these movies on digital services like iTunes do have Dolby Vision! Dolby Vision is superior to HDR 10 in ways regular people can see. The only explanation I can guess for this is cost. They didn’t want to pay Dolby the licensing fees for the discs. Disney does the same thing with their 4K discs. Once again we are far from the definitive release for these movies. But in true Warners fashion; that isn’t the only problem. There are distinct audio issues with the score at the beginning of the film. The pitch waivers several times during the recap of the first installment. This can clearly be observed when Superman is saving the train. It’s a noticeable problem and frankly one I think they should issue replacement discs for. The problem also exists in the iTunes version so they should fix that too.

Superman II The Richard Donner Cut and Superman III don’t introduce any additional problems just the baffling omission of Dolby Vision. The reviews I’ve read about Superman III say it has an even better transfer than the original two films. Word is a veteran colorist worked on III and IV so they look great. I haven’t seen anyone compare back to back the disc (HDR 10) and the digital (Dolby Vision) versions, but once mine arrives I will attempt to. The brilliant Vincent Teoh does a great comparison with Disney films in the same manner and he has the equipment to do it right. I’ve only got one television in my living room unfortunately.

Finally, Superman IV The Quest for Peace. This might be the biggest disappointment of the whole set. This new release, that is the canonical version of the film moving forward, has the incorrect score. This is an egregious error. There is lots of speculation on why the score is wrong. Could it be a problem with the mix? Could it be an earlier recording from Germany that was redone because of its low quality? We may never know. But if you’re a new fan watching this movie for the first time you are going to see it wrong. This might be the only benefit of them just dumping the old Blu-Rays into this box set. At least that old Blu-Ray includes the correct score. I think Warners should issue replacement discs for this too. Much smaller companies have replaced discs for smaller errors. But those companies seem to care about the movies they release and the people buying them.

The included Blu-Ray discs being nothing but the old discs from 2011 feels lazy. I’m not demanding any new bonus material, the movies are older and the bonus material that exists is pretty good. I get the impression these blu-rays were included to check the bonus materials” box, but zero additional thought or effort was put into it beyond that. Recycling 12 year old releases with zero effort is exactly the money making move you’d expect from WBD these days. These Blu-Rays should include the latest transfers of the films just in 1080p rather than 4K HDR. Like I said though it’s a small saving grace that they don’t because of the errors on II and IV. Not looking forward to a time when the only versions of these movies that are in print have major errors.

I mentioned last time that it felt insulting to include the Fleischer cartoons on a Blu-Ray in standard definition less than a week before they are released on a new Blu-Ray in HD. But now I’m hearing that Warners has dropped the ball on that release too! Poor quality transfers plagued with issues? Real insult to injury situation here.

If it weren’t for the great Steelbooks in the set I think I’d probably recommend most fans go with the 12 year old Blu-Ray box set. It’s less than $50 right now on Amazon compared to $95 for the non-steel 4K set (which I don’t think anyone should buy). What does this new double the price version get you? A darker Superman The Movie with video glitches, Superman II with audio glitches, and Superman IV with a messed up score! The home video market isn’t the same as it was in 2011. The folks that are still purchasing physical media care about the presentation more than ever. Most consumers are fine with what’s available streaming. It’s that special fan that wants the physical object and pays a premium for a premium product. This release ain’t that.

Why is Warners doing our boy Superman so dirty like this on home video? These legendary and frankly historic films don’t get the treatment they deserve. It’s us fans that pay the price. Hey at least the packaging looks awesome. Well except for the terrible non-Steelbook versions. And the Fleischer Blu-Ray’s lazy reuse of the DVD artwork with the wrong logo and a new background.

May 8, 2023 WB

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(The) Daily Planet Globe Good Miracle Monday, dear reader! With the 4K box set in my hands I thought about doing another follow up, but I’ve decided to keep things positive