June 26, 2006

DVD Review: Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman

Continuing Warner Brothers' media blitz build up to the upcoming release of Superman Returns, comes this documentary from Kevin Burns and Bryan Singer. The documentary is worth it for the sheer fact that Kevin Burns directed it. If you are unfamiliar with the name, he was also in the chair for the excellent Star Wars documentary, Empire of Dreams, that appeared in the box set a few years back.

This film tracks the long and storied history of Superman from his creation in the 1930s, up to Singer's film, and everything in between. This is a very well put together overview of the various changes and incarnations the Man of Steel has appeared in over the 70 years since his creation.

The story begins with the early collaborations leading to the creation of the superhero by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. It took them a number of attempts before they were able to get the character into the action anthology startup for what would come to be known as DC, Action Comics. The character was a hit and would soon get his own book. As the character grew in popularity, his powers also developed, because he was not nearly as strong as he would become later on. From there we move to the very first screen incarnation, which came in the form of Max Fleisher's cartoon shorts. The animated product gave fans their first look at Superman in action. The animation was as stylish as the stories were simplistic. The 1940s also brought changes to our hero, as he was used in wartime propaganda, and was portrayed as fighting Nazis. This moves into the serials of the early 1950s, a series of theatrical run shorts featuring our hero.

As the 1950's rolled on, we were introduced to George Reeves and the first television series for the boy scout, Adventures of Superman. The series ran for six seasons, before it's cancellation. We move into the 1960s and the ill fated musical. The history continues into the 1970s when Ilya Salkind decided to bring Supes to the bigscreen with director Richard Donner. There is a lot of interesting footage here, including audition footage for those who were not cast. The 1980s brought the reboot with John Byrne, along with the Superboy series. Keep moving forward to the 1990s and you get the romantic side of Superman on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Keep on going and in the new millenium you get a new take on the mythos, focusing on the teenage years of Clark Kent on Smallville. The journey ends with a look at Superman Returns.

Throught the 110 minute feature are interviews with many notable figures. Among those interviewed are Bryan Singer, Richard Donner, Margot Kidder, Noel Neill, Jack Larson, Annette O'Toole, and Dean Cain. This is a fascinating look at Superman, showing a lot of information I didn't know, as well as much that I did, all in an interesting manner.

Audio/Video. The technical presentation of the disk is flawless. It looks and sounds great, but then again, this isn't a full featured film. There is nothing to complain about, it looks great.

Extras. None. However, there is a two disk version also available which contains Bryan Singer's production diaries for Superman Returns.

Bottomline. This is an excellent look into Superman's career, and well worth taking the time oto watch. My only hesitation is the possibility of this material appearing in the massive box set coming in the Fall.

Mildly Recommended.
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