Marvel Entertainment owns box office records. But it has yet to own the world of home entertainment, even if its Blu-ray releases are propelling recent sales increases in this high-definition format. In other words, Marvel has something to learn, including a little humility and presentation tips from its rivals such as Warner Bros.
With that in mind — and with the current release of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the forthcoming debut of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past on May 23 — I sorted through my archives looking for favourite Blu-rays of live-action superhero movies. While not necessarily the greatest superhero movies ever, these are the best movies with the best presentation on Blu-ray, including upgraded picture and a sound plus of great extras. Here they are, in order of preference:
The Dark Knight Trilogy: Limited Edition Gift Set (Warner Bros. Home Video released this Dec. 4, 2012):
It is a must-own for every comic book geek who also loves beautiful cinema. The Blu-ray box is a five-disc set with the three Christopher Nolan films: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The trilogy ranks among the best ever in any genre, while the Blu-ray treatment is excellent because Nolan is as sophisticated about his bonus materials as he is meticulous about his filmmaking. These extras document Nolan’s 10-year odyssey into the arcane world of Batman. We see a caped crusader with a dark shadow hanging over his cowled head. We see a director with a singular obsession to make the story matter. We see an actor, Christian Bale, on a mission. We see the tragic genius of Heath Ledger unfold. We explore the technology, including the design elements of the Batman costume, his gear and the re-imagined Batmobile, and we explore how Nolan selectively used IMAX for enhancement. Bloody brilliant!
The Superman Motion Picture Anthology, 1978-2006 (Warner Bros. Home Video released this June 7, 2011):
Not every movie in this series worked, not even remotely in the case of the laughable Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). But, starting in 1978 with the debut of Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent, the modern era of superhero movies began. This amazing, eight-disc anthology has more than 20 hours of extras. You even get to see the 1951 theatrical movie, Superman and the Mole-Men in all its cheesy goodness. Among more historically important extras, you get Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, with a commentary by Donner, who was fired from Superman II after shooting scenes for the sequel while making the original.
X-Men Trilogy (released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment April 21, 2009):
While the third instalment is unsatisfying, the first two are quality films — and this nine-disc box set is perfect for the legion of fans who wonder how Days of Future Past is going to play out.
Iron Man: Ultimate Edition (released by Paramount Home Entertainment on Sept. 30, 2008):
Marvel, then working through Paramount, did it up right when first breaking out into mega-hit territory. Of course, it helps when you have someone as interesting and eccentric and articulate as Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role.
Watchmen Collector’s Edition: Ultimate Cut (Warner Bros. Home Video released this on Nov. 13, 2012):
Let’s be honest, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is a lesser film. But his refinements in the re-editing room finally led to his “ultimate” version in this four-disc box set. The earlier Director’s Cut Blu-ray, which was released on July 21, 2009, is also interesting, but this final cut has even more layers, more dialogue, closer connections to the graphic novel and just more, more, more of everything else.