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This review appears direct to the web courtesy of THE CINEMA LASER.
SUPERMAN II
SUPERMAN III

The fine folks at Warner Home Video have finally come around and released long sought after title SUPERMAN II ($40) in the Letterbox format, along with SUPERMAN III ($40).

For me, SUPERMAN II is the best and most satisfying film in the SUPERMAN series. SUPERMAN II is a find blend of action, romance, comedy and just a bit of campyness which renders the film an entertaining winner. The plot of SUPERMAN II explores the relationship and romantic triangle between Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Superman, in addition to giving Superman his greatest challenge- fighting three super-villains from the planet Krypton. The three villains were imprisoned in the Phantom Zone by Superman's father Jor-El in the first film. Upon their accidental release from the Phantom Zone, they seek vengeance upon the House Of El. As with the first film, SUPERMAN II features a top notch cast that enhances the film's appeal. Christopher Reeve creates magic as the bumbling Clark Kent who is finally forced to acknowledge his true feelings for Lois Lane, and reveal his secret identity. Margot Kidder's Lois Lane is brash and impulsive, yet she reveals a tender feminine side to the man of steel. Gene Hackman returns to the role of criminal mastermind Lex Luthor. Hackman's portrayal is hammy brilliance. Hackman’s ego-maniacal Lex Luthor is hilarious, yet the character never loses his dignity. Terrence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran are the three super villains. Susanna York, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, Jackie Cooper and Marc McClure fill out the primary cast.

Warner Home Video has given SUPERMAN II an acceptable Letterboxed transfer which restores most of the film's 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This factor alone justifies the purchase of this Laserdisc. The Letterboxed transfer of SUPERMAN II is superior to that of the first film, but I'm sure that fans will find the transfer somewhat disappointing. Unfortunately, the fault lies not with Warner Home Video's transfer, but with the special effects work contained in the original SUPERMAN II production. Scenes without any optical effects work look pretty good, but anytime an optical effect is part of a scene the image quality is diminished. Colors are reasonable throughout the film, but never vibrant. The level of detail is high in any sequence without an optical effect, but softens whenever one is introduced. The special effects also tend to add a bit of grain to the image. Both SUPERMAN THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II would benefit greatly from some sort of restoration, which would involve redoing all of the optical effects with today's best digital technology. The likelihood of this happening, I would imagine to be slim (they have restored the STAR WARS films). But with a 20th anniversary coming, perhaps a theatrical re-issue of SUPERMAN THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II could justify the cost. The digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack has a pleasing mix for the early eighties, but no one will confuse it with today's best aural pyrotechnics. The Pioneer pressing had only a modest number of inclusions. Side three of SUPERMAN II has been encoded in CAV, and includes a theatrical trailer.

******

I remember sitting in a movie theater on the opening day of SUPERMAN II, and when the "Coming Soon: SUPERMAN III" credit flashed on the screen, the audience went wild. If they only knew what was coming. Honestly, I don't know what the producers were thinking when they gave the green light to the SUPERMAN III screenplay. A bit of campy humor worked to great advantage in the first two Superman films, but here the producers insult the Superman mystique by attempting to make SUPERMAN III into an all out comedy. Casting Richard Pryor may have looked like a good idea on paper, but having him up on the screen as Superman's unwilling nemesis isn't funny- it's down right embarrassing. The plot to SUPERMAN III is somewhat lightweight. Instead of facing Lex Luthor again, or some super-foe, The Man Of Steel comes up against a greedy billionaire bent on controlling the commodities markets, with the help of Richard Pryor's computer genius. The sub-plot of Clark Kent returning to Smallville for his high school reunion is the most interesting aspect of the film. Clark once again falls for his high school love Lana Lange, and this time the feeling is mutual. In addition to Reeve and Pryor, the cast of SUPERMAN III includes Robert Vaughn, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure and Margot Kidder in nothing more than a cameo.

Since there doesn't appear to be any justice in the universe, SUPERMAN III turns out to be the best looking of the three SUPERMAN films. Therefore, SUPERMAN III also turns out to have the best Letterboxed transfer. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio certainly improves one's enjoyment of this film, but only because the pan and scan transfer that plays TV is so god-awful. Colors appear far fresher than they do on the first two SUPERMAN films, and the image is better detailed. SUPERMAN III has a respectable digitally encoded Dolby Surround mix. The Pioneer pressing was clean, but the CAV encoded side three of my sample suffered with Laser-lock during the theatrical trailer.

******

ATTENTION SUPERMAN FANS: If you would like to see SUPERMAN THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II re-issued in a collector's edition boxed set with fresh transfers and restored footage, please go to the issue 14 OPERATION: LASERDISC objective page for details.

 
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Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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