One of the most anticipated movies of the year, Superman Returns has finally arrived on DVD. Receiving a mixed-to-positive response, Superman Returns has finally brought the classic hero back to the big screen in a very unexpected, way. While Superman flew on the big screen, can he fly on DVD? Short answer: Yes!

Now, this movie was definitely not what I expected when I first viewed it during the Tuesday night sneak peek back in June 2006. I expected something to pay homage to the classic Richard Donner Superman films, but not be directly linked to them. I was initially skeptical of this venture, but was surprised at how well it paid off. What we get is Superman’s return to Earth after a lengthy absence, a story that can also easily reflect the long absence of the Man of Steel from the big screen. But now he’s back, and, clearly not everyone is happy about it.

On-screen villains aside, many moviegoers were upset over how faithful Bryan Singer played to the original Donner films, with many fans citing this as basically re-filming Superman: The Movie instead of daring to do something different or new. But, what people fail to see, is that he did do something new with the cinematic Man of Steel. Not only did he add modern twist to the continuity of the classic movies, he also successfully brought them back by putting in that five year gap. Not only does it move the movie continuity ahead, but it helps push the moviegoers ahead, too. And given the vague connection to those classic films, he’s made is accessible (I believe) to moviegoers unfamiliar with the classic Superman movies. He brings the movies into “today” in a way that keeps the movie’s style timeless and applicable to just about any era. It works, plain and simple.

His approach to Superman’s return allows us to feel the weight of it and how big this is for the characters in the film. We’re not immediately tossed into countless action scenes, but we feel the drama of it unfold, setting up future installments and giving the characters some real depth. We feel how dramatic and important the Man of Steel’s return is, pulled off perfectly by the cast of the film (though Kate Bosworth could use some lessons from an acting coach). Handling it in this fashion allows us to easily accept some of the more sillier attributes to the characters and situations, making it easy for the audience to look past the spandex and relate to these characters. We’re given an understanding of every character and where they come from (and feel).

Singer also uses this opportunity to make some major changes to the Superman mythos, adding a much needed boost to a formula that can go stale so easily. The decisions he makes in the movie are bold ones, but ones that will pay off amicably down the line. A solid film that plays out well, easily belonging next to Batman Begins, Superman: The Movie, X2: X-Men United, Spider-Man 2 and Sin City as one of the great comic book films.

Now, what about the DVD? Warner Home Video has provided a splendid collection of extras for Superman Returns and a fine transfer.

The audio and video are a mixed bag, with the audio sounding just tremendous on all fronts. The shuttle sequence is something that has to be heard at full blast, rattling through your speakers. Every minute of the film simply sounds amazing, but I can’t say that for the video transfer, however. A bit too grainy for my liking, the transfer is just shy of being great, though sometimes the darks come across as too muddy. Grain is apparent throughout most of the scene, disappearing for nearly every scene of massive CGI actions. Given how strong the audio and video were on WHV’s Batman Begins DVD release last year, I can’t help but feel a bit letdown by the quality shown in this release.

The extras, however, shine where last year’s Batman Begins DVD release failed horribly. Included is an excellent three-hour documentary, deleted scenes, a short featurette on bringing Marlon Brando “back to life,” an assortment of trailers, and an easter egg (Note: the easter egg can be accessed on the first page in the “Deleted Scenes” menu).

The three-hour documentary covers just about everything of the filming process in great detail; from pre-pre-production to the final days of shooting Superman Returns. Nearly everything involving production is covered, though at times it seems like we’re not getting the whole picture. There are moments in the documentary where it jumps from Bryan Singer being happy to being incredibly pissed off, even screaming at the DVD crew to shut off their cameras. I get the impression there’s a bit more left to be told, as this was undoubtedly a stressful shoot for Singer. Still, an incredibly thorough and pleasing documentary.

The deleted scenes, for the most part, should’ve remained in the film. There’s a fair amount of great material, specifically the Smallville stuff, that would really fill out the movie nicely and even answer some of the questions movie-goers had of the film (such as Lois not even clueing in to Clark and Superman returning to Metropolis at the same time). There are a couple scenes that don’t need to be reinserted, but overall I feel the movie would’ve been stronger if these were left in.

And no, no ten-minute “Return to Krypton” scene. I’m sure that’s being saved for a future DVD release.

Overall, a very pleasing collection of extras that really do justice to a great film, a film that is one of the best in the comic super-hero genre (easily in the top five). Superman Returns is available in either a one-disc edition, a two-disc edition (reviewed here), or as apart of the massive fourteen-disc Superman: The Ultimate Collection boxed set release. It’s a worthy addition to any fan’s DVD collection and a worthy successor to the Donner/Reeve Superman films. Highly Recommend.