Superman flies high on Blu-ray courtesy of a superheroic DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack
With Batman proving to be a real hero at the box office it was inevitable that Superman would quickly follow suit. And with Christopher (The Dark Knight) Nolan producing, Zack (Watchmen) Snyder directing and David (Blade II) Goyer on scripting duties, fans were surely in for the Superman movie to outdo all other Superman movies. Weren't they?
Well, yes and no. The good news is that Man of Steel is as action-packed as you could hope for, with the kind of ridiculously exaggerated superhero action you never thought you'd see outside of a comic book. But Man of Steel also follows too closely in The Dark Knight's footsteps by giving us a surprisingly dark and angsty take on the 'Big Blue Boy Scout' that's riddled with odd religious allusions.
Still, Man of Steel gets much more right than it gets wrong and represents a huge improvement on the terminally dull and referential Superman Returns. And with Superman vs Batman on the way, it appears that the best is yet to come…
Picture: While you'd be hard-pushed to describe Man of Steel's post-converted 3D visuals as being particularly demo-worthy, the MVC 2.40:1 1080p encode is more accomplished than we expected.
Snyder's fast-cutting, shaky-cam style isn't always conducive to creating cohesive stereoscopic imagery, yet the Blu-ray still serves up some convincing volumetric effects during its action scenes. There are also a few quieter moments – such as a close-up of a child's cart lying on its side in a field or Superman reaching for Lois' hand on Zod's spaceship – that are surprisingly effective.
The 2D platter's AVC 2.40:1 1080p transfer delivers a viewing experience that seems very similar to our memories of seeing Man of Steel at the cinema. As with much of Snyder's work, colours are deliberated muted and there's a surfeit of digital grain in every shot (this is understandably dialled back somewhat, but not completely, in 3D). It's an authentic transfer, but perhaps not the one you'll want to use to show off what your system can do.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: Do you like your lossless soundtracks to be faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive? If so, you're gonna get a kick out of the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that is replicated across the 2D and 3D versions of Man of Steel in this US hi-def release.
As suits Snyder's directorial style, there's no room for subtlety here. Instead, we get a visceral audio experience that thrills with its constant (and absolutely seamless) deployment of the surround speakers and some of the most potent bass effects you're ever likely to encounter.
By the time you get to Chapters 12 and 13's devastation of Metropolis you'll be enjoying the sonic equivalent of going 12 rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali and loving every single minute of it – for large parts of the film's running time, Man of Steel's soundtrack has seemingly been constructed for the sole purpose of annoying and/or terrifying any pets and neighbours you might have. Any true home cinema fan wouldn't want it any other way.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: This US import release doesn't skimp on extra features. Up first on the 2D film disc is the Strong Characters, Legendary Roles featurette (26 minutes) looking at how the comic book characters were tackled in Zack Snyder's reboot. While All-Out Action (26 minutes) focuses on the fitness training that actors Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon and Antje Traue underwent, before moving on to look at the creation of the movie's action scenes.
Krypton Decoded (seven minutes) tackles the creation of the Kryptonian tech featured in the film. Also included on the disc is the superb Superman: 75th Anniversary Animated Short that charts the history of the character from Action Comics #1 to Man of Steel in two minutes.
Finally, there's the completely superfluous New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth (seven minutes), which acts as an extended promo for both Peter Jackson's Hobbit films and New Zealand's tourism industry. What it's doing on this Blu-ray is a complete mystery to us.
Moving over to the additional Special Features Blu-ray, you'll find the Planet Krypton featurette (17 minutes) and Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel (174 minutes). The former is a faux TV show looking at what we now know about Krypton and its inhabitants in the wake of the events of Man of Steel, while the latter is the set's answer to a 'Maximum Movie Mode' picture-in-picture feature.
While some may find the decision to put this last extra on a separate disc annoying, it's a better solution than we get in the UK, where Warner has ditched the bonus disc and is only making Journey of Discovery… available exclusively via UltraViolet. If you're not UV-savvy, import this all-region release!
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: If you want the definitive Blu-ray incarnation of Superman's latest adventure then you need to import this US release
Man of Steel 3D, Warner Home Video, All-region BD/R1 DVD, £30 Approx (US Import)
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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