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The WB Centennial Continues with the Reeve Superman Collection on 4K

Warner Bros. 100th anniversary logo
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Here in 2023, Warner Bros. Pictures is celebrating their 100th anniversary with a parade of special physical media releases, many of which have been featured here on Film Obsessive’s “Off the Shelf” series. For many, the classic studio is known for its iconic characters, and Superman is most certainly one of them. Long before Henry Cavill’s muscles and CGI-modified mouth filled the big red cape, it was Christopher Reeve who first made comic book movie fans believe a man could fly on the silver screen.

Hitting store shelves on May 9 for centennial after a slight delay, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing a five-film Superman Collection in 4K UHD chronicling Reeve’s run as the Man of Steel. The box includes the original trailblazer Superman: The Movie, Superman II, the famed Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman III, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. This is the first time all of these films have been remastered to 4K resolution. As you can imagine, the movies look spectacular and the discs carry some choice bonus content carried over from other editions.

The slipcase packaging for the Superman 4K box set.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment


It all started with the 1978 original and, by far, it has had the best treatment over the years when it comes to remastering picture and sound. The John Williams score and Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography really pop. The detail on the miniature work on the early Krypton scenes, for example, feels like a new goal in the extra resolution. The film edition making the 4K set is the controversial “Extended Cut,” which audiences have come to love though director Richard Donner has not.

That inclusion means, from a special features standpoint, that there are no deleted scenes in this disc. Throughout this new 4K set, many of the special features have been retained from the old 14-disc Superman Ultimate Collection steel box set from the DVD era. On Superman: The Movie, you’re find a commentary from producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spangler, a making-of featurette, three Superman-spoofing Looney Tunes cartoons, a Superman and the Mole-Men featurette, and the trio of an original teaser, trailer, and TV spot.


On the first of two Superman II versions, we have Richard Lester’s takeover sequel. Many, including the revered Roger Ebert and this very author, feel the sequel is as good as the original. The remastering kicks this movie up a notch too with improved varnish on the film’s dated special effects. They still play well to amp up the four villains of the picture.

For the disc, Salkind and Spengler return for a commentary track. A single deleted scene, a trailer, and one behind-the-scenes TV special are also on the menu. In this second film in the box set, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment began their segmenting of the classic Fleischer Studio cartoons from the 1940s. 

Much like on the Ultimate Collection, the full Fleischer cartoon collection is spread across the sequel movies. Nine of them are coupled with Superman II, including “First Flight,” “Mechanical Monster,” “Billion Dollar Limited,” “The Arctic Giant,” “The Bulleteers,” “The Magnetic Telescope,” “Electric Earthquake,” “Volcano,” and “Terror on the Midway.” These vibrant relics are a nice touch on these discs, just as they were in 2006.  


Long rumored for over 20 years, the arrival of Richard Donner’s re-cut of Superman II was part of the specialness of that previous Ultimate Edition set. On a commentary track and through a brief introduction, original Superman: The Movie director speaks on the trials and tribulations that led to his replacement and his very different version of the movie. On the technical side, the Richard Donner Cut has the advantage of needing the least polish after its reclamation in 2006. 

The six deleted scenes on Superman II: The Richard Donner cut are tweaks to what Richard Lester would use or finagle for the theatrical version. They also add to the preferred cut debate. An included restoration featurette adds more context to the ordeal as well. Finishing the disc are the second and final batch of Fleischer cartoons: “Japoteurs,” “Showdown,” “Eleventh Hour,” “Destruction, Inc.,” “The Mummy Strikes,” “Jungle Drums,” “The Underground World,” and “Secret Agent.” 

This cut’s existence has challenged fans to decide which one is better. Luckily, both are in the centennial 4K set for discerning audiences to decide. You’ll have to leave a comment to tell us which one you prefer. 


Well, after Superman II, it was all downhill from there. Richard Pryor was the hot commodity he was in the mid-1980s and was flexed into a near-headlining position in Superman III. The presence of the comedian brought a campy tone to what began as something regal and stately. Director Richard Lester returned from his work on Superman II to assemble this failed sequel, yet the hit-assigned confidence in the theatrical trailer is plain to see.

Sure enough, you’ll never hear a group of bankrollers or a studio admit any failure, and that is the case on the commentary track from Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler. Their regret level is low and the movie has its messy fun, especially its Kryptonite-induced scenes of Christopher Reeve turning into a dark and less morally upright version of Superman. Some of that mess is evident in 11 deleted scenes that show how mismatched the ideas and choices were. 


Now, if you think Superman III is a mess, you will marvel at Superman IV: The Quest of Peace. With its patchwork or reused stock footage from previous movies and lesser efforts in music, the fourth and final Christopher Reeve film stands as a cautionary tale of financial woes. This 10% rotten movie on Rotten Tomatoes is the result of a budget slashed in half with no ability to maintain quality. 

Screenwriter Mark Rosenthal gets the commentary track on Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and does his best to give the diminishing returns present their backstory and attempted compliments. This sequel arrived on the cusp of the character’s 50th anniversary in 1988, and a TV special of that event is included on this disc. Fifteen deleted scenes—the most of any of these five in the set—fill the bulk of the fourth film’s special features menu. Even in those cut scenes, you can see there wasn’t enough to save this movie. 

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive and his own website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He contributes as a Content Supervisor and Assistant Editor on Film Obsessive. Don is also one of the hosts of the 25YL Media-backed Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network. As a school educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Independent Film Critics of America, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

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  1. This set is riddled with shoddy disc production and audio errors . The first film is not the version released on 4k five years ago . The fourth film audio is completely botched. Beware. Warners 100 year celebration is off to a shaky start.

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