Over 10 years ago, ‘Superman: Doomsday‘ premiered to launch DC’s original animated movies. While the movie garnered commercial success and was positively received overall, it changed several aspects of the Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen story arcs it was based on.
This year, Warner Brother’s Home Entertainment and DC released another adaption of the classic story. ‘The Death of Superman‘ is the first of a two part film saga, with its follow up set to release early next year. I had the opportunity to watch the world premiere of this movie at San Diego Comic Con. I can safely say it is not only a more faithful adaption of the comic, but a noteworthy entry into DC’s shared animated movieverse.
Here are the five things that stood out to me in evaluating this exciting DC animated entry. Spoilers of varying degree follow!
1. Comic Accuracy
Unlike its predecessor, this film is only Part 1 of 2. ‘Superman: Doomsday‘ suffered greatly from time constraints and having to merge two iconic storylines into one movie. Splitting the story in two freed up this movie to be more true to its comic book counterpart. This movie provided a much more accurate fight against Doomsday, including the fatal blows exchanged that brought both down. The entire Justice League also fought with and were taken down by Doomsday prior to Superman’s arrival. For the most part, Doomsday’s origin adheres more to the comic origins as well in his crash-landing to Earth. Clark and Lois’ relationship was again front and center in this version, but paid more tribute to the comic than ‘Doomsday’.
2. Emotional Grip
This movie strongly emphasized Clark and Lois’ relationship and Clark’s hesitation to open up to Lois. He struggles with revealing that he is Superman for fear of bringing her completely into his world. Additionally, he worries that he cannot protect the world and still be happy with her. As the movie progresses, his secrets drive a wedge between himself and Lois, forcing him to reveal that he is in fact Superman. The dialogue between the two carries strong emotional weight that goes to the heart of who Superman is as a character. Interactions with other supporting characters including Jimmy Olsen, Bibbo Bibbowski, Johnathan and Martha Kent, Batman, Wonder Woman, and even Lex Luthor drive home the impact that not only Superman has had as a hero, but Clark Kent as a reporter and friend.
3. The Brawl
As mentioned before, the entire League is easily taken down by Doomsday, save for Wonder Woman, who holds her own for awhile before being defeated. The scale of the threat is made instantly aware as Doomsday begins dropping Leaguers left and right. The animation changes tonally from precision to chaos. Only chaos and destruction follow as they try to detain him. The fighting style intensifies further as Superman joins the fray. As the adversaries exchange punches, it’s clear that directors Sam Liu and James Tucker knew exactly how they wanted the battle to play out. The animation was executed flawlessly. The fight was neither overdrawn nor underwhelming. It ran until its natural conclusion, and the death of Doomsday by the hand of Superman was incredible. The emotion carries over in that final scene of the fight, as Superman must stop the monster from taking away the person he most holds dear. He summons the last of his strength to punch Doomsday with enough force to snap his neck; he is consequently impaled by Doomsday. The shock rolls over as Lois holds his body. Believe me, out of 2500 people in a live audience at the convention, not a pin drop was heard. It was tragically stunning.
4. Voice Acting
The cast was amazing! I cannot be the only one who enjoyed seeing married couple Jerry O’Connell (Superman/Clark Kent) and Rebecca Romijn (Lois Lane) match their voices together as the iconic pair. While we’ve heard O’Connell in previous DC Animated installments, we haven’t really been able to hear him tap into a more vulnerable Superman/Clark until now. Portraying the Man of Steel can make this a feat to accomplish, but O’Connell delivers on all counts. Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor is so genius I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before. Fans of ‘The Office’ will know that he has the capacity to portray a devious and egotistical character (although Dwight Schrute is my personal hero of that show). Wilson’s voice echoed the maniacal machinations we’ve come to expect from Lex Luthor along with dark humor. A surprise voice cameo from Cress Williams came in the form of John Henry Irons aka Steel, which promises to be fun to hear in next year’s follow up!
5. Shared Continuity
One of my favorite parts of this movie is seeing this storyline in a brand new landscape. ‘The Death of Superman’ marks the 11th entry into the DC Animated Movie Universe shared among recent DC animated films. It’s so interesting to see stoylines of all eras both pre and post Crisis brought together in a new and exciting order. Seeing classics like Dan Jurgen’s “The Death of Superman” and Marv Wolfman’s “The Judas Contract” brought to the small screen alongside stories from Geoff Johns’ New 52 Justice League run such as “Origins” and “Throne of Atlantis” and having these unrelated stories play off of each other in the same animated continuity has been a treat. It has been great to see the designs of various characters used again and their voice actors brought back into the fold. Jason O’Mara (Batman), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), and Christopher Gorham (Flash) all return in this film. The Justice League actually plays a big role in this movie aside from continuing to flesh out the shared universe with the expansion of new heroes and villains. They build on Superman’s journey as teammates fighting Doomsday, but more importantly as friends who help him realize he must be honest with Lois. They also mourn him following his death in a way that emphasizes his irreplaceable role among them. Additionally, a scene in the Hall of Justice where the JL is having a weekly meeting leads to some of the best DC Universe comedy across any medium that I’ve ever seen. Well done to the writer Peter J. Tomasi.
Watching this movie live among hundreds of other DC fans was an experience I’ll never forget. We laughed, cheered, and cried together. No joke. Someone was sobbing behind me. Ouch. Following the premiere, a Q/A with the cast and crew followed. It was so cool to hear from the directors and writers about what goes into the making of the film and it was fun to hear the cast interact in person and find out what they enjoyed most about the movie.
After fans got their answers to pressing questions, the panel concluded with the announcement of next year’s DC Animated Film slate: ‘Reign of The Supermen‘, ‘Justice League v The Fatal Five‘, ‘Batman: Hush‘, and ‘Wonder Woman: Boodlines‘. That sounds like a powerhouse lineup!
I’m so glad I was able to see this movie in such an exciting environment, and I’m quite pleased with what I saw. Here’s hoping Part 2 has just as much to offer! Did you like ‘The Death of Superman‘? Are you excited for ‘The Reign of The Supermen‘? Let us know in the comments!