Today I am sitting down to watch Superman: The Movie: Extended Cut. To date, this is the longest cut of Superman: The Movie to be released – running longer than both the 1978 theatrical release and the 2000 Expanded Edition.
For those unfamiliar with the Extended Cut, this version of Superman: The Movie originally aired on television in 1980, two years after the film arrived in cinemas. It was screened on US TV channel ABC as a two-night television event.
Utilising footage originally snipped from the theatrical release of the movie, the film’s producers reinserted an extra 45 minutes of unseen footage into the picture, to take the running time to just over three-hours.
For decades, most of this additional footage remained exclusive to that television edit. However, in 2000, Warner Bros. released Superman: The Movie on DVD and used around eight minutes of that extra footage to create a director’s cut, known at the time as the Expanded Edition.
The Expanded Edition became the de facto version of Superman: The Movie until 2017, when Warner Bros. decided to re-release the film on Blu-ray – this time with all of the footage that had appeared in the TV cut. This version – released through Warner Archive – clocked in at three-hours-and-eight-minutes and was given the official title of Superman: The Movie – The Extended Cut. And this is the version I am about to watch.
I am going to play the movie and record my thoughts in real-time. I will pass comment on some of the additional footage which is exclusive to this release, while also adding some general musings and asides.
I have watched this version of the movie previously – so this is not a new experience. However, as a huge fan of this film – my Blu-ray is signed by actor Jeff East – I believe this to be a very significant edition and one I can’t wait to talk about.
Before I begin, if you have never watched any version of Superman: The Movie, then I highly recommend you don’t read any further. Go and watch the film, any version and then come back and read my thoughts on this one.
Superman: The Movie: Extended Edition
1min 30secs – Superman: The Movie has one of the best openings of any movie ever. And I will argue with anyone that says otherwise. The roll call of cast names, which ‘whoosh’ on and off screen, backed by John Williams’ bombastic Superman theme is just perfect. It is clear from the very start that this is an epic movie.
5mins 20secs – The titles are over. What an opening!
5mins 30secs – Krypton!
7mins – This initial scene, which introduces Superman’s biological father Jor-El – as played by Marlon Brando – also introduces the three Kryptonian criminals: General Zod, Ursa and Non. Originally, the Kryptonian criminals were to appear in the opening AND the conclusion of the movie (as a stinger for the sequel). However, plans changed and apart from a few minutes at the start of the film the characters are benched until Superman II (1980).
12mins – By the way, Brando is a great bit of casting. He brings gravitas to the role of Jor-El.
12mins 45secs – I should mention that in this Extended Cut there is a little bit more footage of Krypton, including a few extra moments with members of the Kryptonian Council.
18mins 40secs – Brando is delivering a speech as Jor-El says goodbye to baby Kal-El (aka baby Superman). Kal is being sent to Earth to escape Krypton’s fate.
19mins 50secs – OK so here is something which I always think is confusing. When Jor-El prepares the capsule to send his son away from Krypton, he places a green crystal in the vessel. The crystal contains knowledge about Kal-El’s heritage, which is fine – but why make the crystal green? Later in the film it is established that the glowing green rock known as Kryptonite is deadly to Superman, so doesn’t it seem a bit bizarre that this crystal would also be green?! Surely I’m not the only person that thinks this – am I?
22mins – The art design of Krypton, as well as all the special effects in this movie are superb. It’s not surprising that Superman: The Movie picked up a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects.
23mins – This Extended Edition includes more scenes of Krypton’s destruction. It’s brutal stuff, but it is visually mesmerising. If you have never seen the Extended Edition but you LOVE Superman: The Movie then I urge you to seek it out purely for the additional moments of Krypton’s demise. It’s shocking but captivating at the same time.
24mins 10secs – Krypton is no more.
27mins – The story has now shifted to scenes set in Smallville, where Kal-El is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent.
29mins 10secs – Kal-El performs his first ‘Super’ feat – rescuing the Kents from being crushed by their truck. Superbaby?
30mins 30secs – Kal-El has now grown up to become the teenage Clark Kent. Jeff East takes on the role for this section of the film. For the part, East had to wear a prosthetic nose, so he looked more like Christopher Reeve, who plays Clark/Superman for the majority of the movie. East’s voice is also dubbed in these scenes, with the dialogue coming from Reeve.
32mins – The characters, Brad and Lana are briefly introduced here. The pair are brought back for a more significant role in Superman III (1983), albeit played by different actors.
34mins – A nice little cameo for Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill at this point in the film. These actors played Superman and Lois Lane respectively, in the film serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950).
39mins 15secs – Clark Kent: “All these things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn’t even save him.”
40mins – The scenes set in Smallville offer up the perfect contrast to the opening scenes set on Krypton. Krypton was futuristic and tech heavy. Smallville is rural and a little more gentile in its approach to life.
42mins 45secs – Clark has discovered the green crystal that will provide him with all the details he needs about his heritage.
46mins 45secs – The Smallville scenes are now over. Young Clark Kent – still played by Jeff East – is now travelling to the Arctic to create his new home – the Fortress of Solitude.
50mins – Another stunning special effects scene, as the Fortress of Solitude rises from the ice.
56mins – In this Extended Edition, the scenes of the Fortress include some additional material with Jeff East, as well as a little more dialogue from Brando.
59mins 45secs – After almost an hour, Superman makes his first (very brief) appearance. Christopher Reeve takes over as the lead from here on out.
1hr 1min – The first scenes at the Daily Planet are taking place and there are a few minor moments of extra footage. It’s nothing particularly necessary, just longer takes/extended scenes etc.
1hr 15mins – Gene Hackman makes his debut as Lex Luthor. I like Hackman’s Luthor, but in my mind he doesn’t match John Shea (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), Clancy Brown (Superman: The Animated Series), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) or Jon Cryer (Supergirl) who are all excellent Luthors.
1hr 20mins – Otis feeds ‘the babies’. This scene was not in the theatrical cut or the Expanded Edition. It is never stated what ‘the babies’ are, but it is suggested they are lions.
1hr 23mins 30secs – And now the set-up for my favourite scene in the movie. Lois Lane is about to hitch a ride in a helicopter, which is about to land on top of the Daily Planet building. But the ride doesn’t go to plan, as a roof cable comes loose, wraps itself around the base of the copter and causes it to crash. Pure ‘70s disaster movie stuff – and I love every second of it!
1hr 27mins – Lois is now hanging out of the helicopter… as Clark Kent notices what has happened. Cue a quick change into…
1hr 27mins 35secs – …Superman!
1hr 28mins 30secs – The Man of Steel saves Lois and stops the helicopter from crashing to the ground as the John Williams theme plays out and the crowd cheers! Perfect. Just perfect. I could watch this scene on loop.
1hr 36mins – The montage scene, which follows the big rescue, is a little longer in this cut, with a few additional shots here and there. More of the jewel thief, more of the cat rescue, more from Air Force One etc. If you’re familiar with this sequence, and you watch this cut of the movie, then you’ll know which bits are extended.
1hr 41mins – By the way, for those who have never watched this Extended Edition before, the majority of the additional material tends to focus on elongating scenes that already exist, rather than adding new ones. Where director Richard Donner cut a scene in the theatrical release (or in the Expanded Edition), in this version the producers let scenes run on a little further, to make use of all the material that was originally shot. It’s not always necessary, but if like me you really love this movie, it is great to be able to see even more of the footage and spend more time in this world with these characters.
1hr 54mins 30secs – Lois Lane: “Can you read my mind.”
1hr 58mins – Arguably one of the most important scenes is taking place now – Clark comes very, very close to telling Lois that he is Superman. This is important as it demonstrates the difference between Clark and Superman. Removing his glasses, straightening his back and altering the pitch of his voice, Christopher Reeve makes it clear to every doubter and naysayer, that there is a significant distinction between the two characters he plays.
2hr 7mins – I have now reached the point in the movie where Lex Luthor begins to put his grand plan in place, by hijacking two missiles. In my opinion, this is quite a lengthy scene in the theatrical cut and it certainly didn’t need any more adding to it. But yep, it is even longer in this cut because it is extended with additional scenes. The extra content really slows things down and is my only gripe with this Extended Cut.
2hrs 17mins – Christopher Reeve is so good in this film. So, so good.
2hrs 20mins – Superman has entered Luthor’s gauntlet. Some of the scenes that take place here were not in the theatrical release, but they were present in the 2000 Expanded Edition. As far as I can tell, nothing additional has been included for this Extended Cut – which kind of makes sense. If more material existed it would have already been used up – this whole scene should never have been trimmed in the first place.
2hrs 25mins – Luthor is explaining his scheme to Superman. He plans to use two missiles to cause an earthquake.
2hrs 28mins – Some additional material has been added to expand the missile launches. One scene takes place midway through a golf game, with the US President discovering the missiles have misfired. It makes sense that material like this was trimmed in the theatrical release, but I do like its inclusion here – it adds more drama and depth to the big finale.
2hrs 35mins – After surviving near-fatal Kryptonite poisoning, Superman soars into the sky to stop the missiles.
2hrs 37mins – I love everything about the finale of this film.
2hrs 39mins – An earthquake, fire, falling power lines – the film has veered back to becoming a disaster movie.
2hrs 40mins – Additional scenes here, of local citizens being caught up in the earthquake.
2hrs 41mins – Some additional material to show how the incident is impacting a train.
2hrs 43mins – The disaster that Luthor has caused feels truly epic in this cut of the movie. All of the additional material that has been included in this extended finale is cinema gold. To be able to watch this film, all these years after it’s initial release, with even more action feels like a blessing.
2hrs 51mins – Hurrah! Superman has saved the day by stopping the earthquake from escalating. Oh wait, he forgot to save Lois!
2hrs 53mins – Superman is too late to save Lois and she has died because of the Earthquake. A genuinely shocking moment in the movie, played to perfection by Reeve. How can the movie end this way? Oh, yeah, it can’t!
2hrs 55mins – Flying around the Earth at super speed, Superman is able to turn back time and stop Lois from dying. I know that in reality this would not be possible, but it is such a fun idea that I am more than happy to let it slide. By this point in the movie, the film feels as if it has earned a little bit of creative license, so I am down for pretty much anything.
2hrs 59mins – An additional scene is added before the wrap up, with Lex and Otis feeding Miss. Teschmacher to ‘the babies’. Lucky, Superman turns up in time to save her.
3hrs – And as the movie comes to a close, Superman makes it clear that he doesn’t need to be thanked – he is working to make things safer for everyone. A good message to end on.
I have watched Superman: The Movie countless times, both the theatrical cut and the Expanded Edition. Prior to this screening, I have only watched the Extended Cut once; but for me this is the version I will return to again and again.
While the majority of the additional material isn’t vital, it is certainly welcome for fans of this film. The extended takes and new scenes enhance what is already a fantastic movie and make this a joy to view.
Superman: The Movie is one of my all-time favourite films and this Extended Cut gives me the opportunity to spend more time with something I enjoy so much. It is a must-see for fans who truly adore Superman: The Movie.
Is it worth watching for casual viewers? Not so much – the 2000 Expanded Edition is probably the version that is more suitable for general audiences – but if you’re curious, certainly don’t overlook this one.
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