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Superman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray+Digital)
Superman: The Animated Series premiered in 1996, created partly in response to the success of the Batman animated series. This 6-disc Blu-ray release collects all 54 21-minute episodes, providing an AV update from the previous DVD release, with a few new extras joining those ported over from the previous release. Even if you already have the DVD set, the picture improvement alone is probably worth the upgrade, but for those who haven't experienced this series, you'd do a lot worse than picking it up.
Superman is of course the godfather of all modern superheros, and has seen numerous incarnations. From my perspective, the animated series comes closest to capturing the spirit of the character while giving him the broadest-based appeal. Not too shabby for a kids' Warner Brothers cartoon! After the dark and moody success of the Batman series, Warner Brothers felt the impetus to give it another go, while facing the challenges presented: they didn't want to imitate Batman, and they needed to essentially reboot a character seen by many as stodgy and stale, a square ‘Boy Scout', as the character was so often derided.
Clearly they put a ton of care and effort into the series, as evidenced by tweaks to Superman's origin, as well as those of his various antagonists, for instance giving Brainiac a role in the destruction of Krypton, and fleshing out a more plausible characterization for Lex Luthor. Once past those archetypal villains, other B-list villains like Toyman, Lobo and Myxzptlk liven up the series with complexity, irreverance, and disturbing menace.
Superman and his alter-ego Clark Kent get the most important upgrades, however, shedding much of the bumbling cluelessness of the latter secret identity, while making the heroic Kryptonian somewhat less of a goody-two-shoes, and more of a knowing, realistic personage. Some of this is done through the characters Superman and Kent bounce off of, many which saw their animated debuts in this series. Though created years-ago in real time, the inclusion of Jack "King" Kirby's Fourth World characters, notably Darkseid, bring a modern flair to the show and character that was missing in previous cinematic or television incarnations.
The series starts off with a three-part episode expounding on the origin story of The Last Son Of Krypton before moving on to a wide variety of story types. Comic plot-lines with psychedelic aliens give way to more serious crime capers involving such real-world concepts as illegal arms sales, (albeit with quite outrageous weapons) and eventually even the caped crusader himself makes appearances. Voice talent is impeccable as well, with Tim Daly and Dana Delaney handling the leads roles of Superman and Lois Lane. Clancy Brown is a standout as Lex Luthor, while guest stars run the gamut from Mark Hamill to Laraine Newman. I was thoroughly engaged with the episodes, quite a mean feat for a what many would consider a ‘kids' show', and could only complain that I'm a bigger fan of heavier line-weight for the animation, which is quite stylized and looks great, but I feel would have made more impact with a thicker line.
Presented in the original 4 x 3 fullscreen aspect ratio, this represents a definite image upgrade, having been remastered from original 35mm interpositive elements. The sources were cleaned up, color corrected, and, for what it's worth, given a grain reduction pass for a sharper image. Blockiness of line work and other failings of the lower resolution release are absent.
The set comes with Dolby Digital DTS-HD Master Audio in Stereo, as well as providing French and Spanish Language tracks. Audio is clean, clear and damage-free. Soundtrack elements sound good, with a decent dynamic range and are mixed nicely. The new Superman theme even seems to hint at John Williams' theme, and gets plenty of use.
Extras include some new items, some ported over from the DVD release, and regretfully (from what I've read) some things not ported over from the DVD. Firstly there are four Commentary Tracks from the episodes The Last Son Of Krypton - Part 1, Stolen Memories, The Main Man - Part 2 and Mxyzpixilated. A 32-minute Documentary Featurette, Superman: Timeless Icon provides a great blend of history and motivation, Menaces Of Metropolis takes 13 minutes to look at some of the villains, and Building the Mythology: Superman's Supporting Cast takes 10 minutes to shine a spotlight on some of the co-stars.
Further extras are: Superman: Learning To Fly, a 10-minute dive into the production process, The Despot Darkseid, a 17-minute featurette about everyone's favorite evil god, and a Pop-Up Trivia Track for the episode A Little Piece Of Home. The set also comes with a Digital Download Code, which, when carried over to VUDU, contains the episodes only.
Superman: The Animated Series collects all 54 21-minute episodes of the late-1990s series, that represent somewhat of a reboot for the character. The series presents, fun, wild, and engaging stories ranging from crime-capers through to high-stakes, crazy alien action. Characters get brought into the modern age of storytelling while still holding true to their roots. The image upgrade for this remastered set might be worth it alone, though a combination of new, old, and MIA extras will have varying value to hardcore collectors. Overall, Superman: The Animated Series is Highly Recommended.