A Superman Mega-Epic

Right in time for the upcoming holidays, Warner shamelessly combines two perfectly good animated Superman movies into one whole for collectors and gift-seekers. Taking last year’s The Death of Superman and this year’s Reign of The Supermen sequel, the pair form together like Voltron into The Death And Return of Superman.

Clocking in at nearly three hours, the epic animated adventure is based on the acclaimed comic book arc that grabbed headlines in the 1990s. Superman confronts the deadly Kryptonian monster known only as Doomsday, resulting in the hero’s courageous sacrifice protecting Metropolis. Saddened by his heroic death, new heroes inspired by the Man of Steel look to replace him in the city.

Boxed in a limited edition UHD gift set, the lavish release is catnip for eager Superman fans that had been waiting for a unified release of the two movies. There’s no extended new footage in this joint cut outside of a few seconds. Read our prior reviews for The Death of Superman and Reign of The Supermen for more. The movies play no differently together than watching them separately, unless the short opening credits excised from Reign of The Supermen is a big deal.

Video

Warner’s HDR colorists have been getting a better handle on using the expanded color space of HDR for these animated DC features. While the bump in sheer resolution to 4K is questionable for animation originally intended for normal HD, The Death and Return of Superman on UHD shows subtly improved contrast and deeper black levels than the included Blu-ray.

The biggest benefit for these animated DC films is the tighter and more transparent HEVC encode, which shows dramatically less banding than the included Blu-ray version. The banding isn’t completely eliminated, indicating some of the banding is inherent in the source material, likely a result of a rushed production schedule.

The Death and Return of Superman looks quite nice on UHD, if less spectacular than the latest Hollywood blockbuster CGI films that have also hit the format. The crisp, vibrant traditional animation takes full advantage of the brightly colored palette. Superman’s costume pops with vivid reds and blues. The 2160P presentation arrives in the animation’s intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

Audio

Both the Blu-ray and UHD versions share the same 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. This may be the most aggressive surround mix heard yet for one of DC’s animated films. Some attempt has been made for more discrete action across the soundstage, from front to back. The symphonic score from regular animated DC films’ composer Frederik Wiedmann has the usual heroic flourishes, heard in crystal-clear fidelity.

Secondary French and Spanish dubs are included. Optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles play in a white font. It should be noted that the UHD has fewer subtitle options for some inexplicable reason than the included Blu-ray.

Extras

WB pulls out all the stops for the limited edition The Death and Return of Superman: The Complete Film Collection 4K UHD gift set. The three-disc gift set includes a poseable Steel action figure produced by toy manufacturer Gentle Giant. The figure is the same size as prior limited edition sets included in DC’s animated line. Each gift set is individually numbered out of 52,000 units.

The actual UHD set comes inside the over-sized outer packaging, complete with a glossy slipcover. The exterior packaging may not survive transit unless packaged in a sturdy box, so take that in consideration when ordering from places like Amazon known for questionable packaging.

It’s a nice package made especially for collectors and looks handsome on the shelf. The included digital copy redeems in UHD quality on Movies Anywhere. Steel is probably the best-looking action figure included yet with an animated DC video release.

The best get here is the bonus UHD included for Superman: Doomsday, not available separately at 4K resolution. The original Blu-ray release for Superman: Doomsday lacked lossless audio, which this UHD rectifies with a 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. It makes this UHD gift set essential for videophile Superman fans.

This pulls all the extra bonus material together from the individual releases for The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, not to mention an excellent all-new documentary celebrating Superman’s history and the recent Action Comics #1000 milestone. Making individual releases for both movies more or less redundant. Alas, all bonus material is only contained on the included Blu-ray.

Superman: Doomsday UHD (77:42 in 1.78:1 4K UHD; 5.1 DTS-HD MA; Optional English SDH) – This was one of the first direct-to-video animated DC movies released during the Blu-ray era, all the way back in 2007. Produced under Bruce Timm, it’s a slap-dash adaptation of The Death of Superman from the comics that changes many key elements for the sake of brevity and pacing. It’s not a bad effort, but DC got much better adapting their famous comic book arcs into animation soon after this movie was released. Adam Baldwin voices Superman and Anne Heche voices Lois Lane. This is the first time it has hit 4K resolution and looks pretty good for older animation.

Long Live Superman (45:46 in HD) – A new and absolutely essential documentary celebrating Superman as a character in different mediums as Action Comics hits 1000 issues, the first comic to do so. Jim Lee, Dan DiDio, Neal Adams and others associated with DC Comics and Superman discuss the character’s lasting appeal and enduring traits. Clips from other mediums help provide context, as well as a discussion of his iconic costume design.

Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis (16:08 in HD) – Mike Carlin and others in this featurette discuss the yin to Superman’s yang, Lex Luthor.

Batman: Hush Trailer (01:48 in HD) – This movie trailer precedes the main Blu-ray menu.

WB Trailers (04:31 in HD) – Trailers for Joker and Teen Titans Go! Vs Teen Titans play back to back.

The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All (16:23 in HD) – A discussion by Mike Carlin, then head honcho of the Superman line in comics, of the pivotal clash in Superman #75 that saw Doomsday kill Superman. The featurette focuses on Dan Jurgens, the Superman artist at the time, and how Doomsday came about on the drawing board.

Sneak Peek At Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (10:00 in HD)

A Preview of Justice League vs The Fatal Five (09:29 in HD)

A Preview of Reign of Supermen (09:33 in HD)

A Preview of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (12:36 in HD)

A Preview of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (06:52 in HD)

From The DC Vault – A variety of six Superman-related animated episodes listed below from different programs.

Justice League Unlimited “The Doomsday Sanction” (23:02 in HD)

Batman: The Brave & The Bold “Darkseid Descending!” (22:52 in HD)

Legion of Superheroes “Dark Victory Part 1” (22:53 in HD)

Legion of Superheroes “Dark Victory Part 2” (22:49 in HD)

Superman: The Animated Series “Heavy Metal” (20:52 in SD)

Justice League Unlimited “Panic In The Sky” (23:04 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Death and Return of Superman
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A giant epic combination of two separate animated Superman movies, telling the story of his death at the hands of Doomsday.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 39 full resolution 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD (plus additional Superman: Doomsday screens):