Shown as a double-bill with its predecessor, The Death of Superman (for a limited theatrical release), Reign of the Superman is not only a worthy sequel and conclusion to the iconic storyline, but solid, entertaining film on its own. Director Sam Liu and writers Tim Sheridan and Jim Krieg give us a story large in scope, but still firmly rooted in character, making it another quality addition for the ever-growing DC Animated Movie Universe.
Reign of the Supermen takes place a couple months after Doomsday’s attack; Superman’s body is missing, and four new Superman -Superboy, Eradicator, Steel and Cyborg Superman – have emerged, seemingly helping society. While each of the new Supermen carry out their own agendas, Lois Lane investigates their true identities.
Once again, Sam Liu and company do a great job of balancing plot, character and action. There is a lot going on – perhaps a bit too much for its 87-minute runtime – but the film manages to weave through several character moments and storylines effectively. Plot threads from the previous movie are carried forward seamlessly and given proper closure.
The mysterious motives of each of the Supermen are uncovered gradually, and naturally fit into the film’s main theme of everyone being their own Superman. Moreover, just like its predecessor, the action here is entertaining and brutal. Each version of Superman having a distinct fighting style makes their battles a lot more interesting to watch. Also, the cheeky humour sprinkled throughout is very much welcomed and elevates the already engaging character dynamics.
It’s great how different each of the fake Supermen are, in not only their appearance and personality, but also their motives. While Superboy is all about the limelight and Steel is more of a low-key hero, Eradicator and Cyborg Superman’s mysterious presence provide the narrative’s main source of intrigue. Each of them has their own storyline, but Steel and Eradicator sadly don’t get quite as much attention and development as the others. Nevertheless, the imposter that ends up being the main antagonist is actually really well set-up, with a vendetta against Superman that is personal and emotional. Even if the resolution to his climatic battle with Superman is a bit underwhelming, the actual fight itself is impactful.
To my great delight, Lois Lane is the real stand-out of this movie. She not only drives the plot with her investigation and personal involvement, but her bravery, intelligence, and wit exemplify why she’s one of the DC’s best characters. Lois’ forced partnership with Lex Luthor was unexpectedly amusing, while her brief scene with Wonder Woman makes me really want future interactions between them. Every character interaction with Lois is enjoyable to watch.
Of course, this is still a Superman film, and thankfully he does get his due. Without spoiling anything for those unfamiliar with the storyline, the death and resurrection of the Man of Steel is handled nicely, even with the minor changes from the comics. You really feel his absence in the first half of the film, from being mourned by his loved ones, to the very characteristically different Supermen that emerge. And when he does return, you are quickly reminded why he is so loved, in both his abilities and character. The reunion between Lois and Clark is deservedly satisfying, as their relationship has been a strong part of both films. However, there was a missed opportunity in downplaying his return for everyone else. Despite showing the Kents, Bibbo, Jimmy and the Justice League mourn his death, we regrettably don’t get much of their reaction to his return.
The other characters do get their moments though. All the voice actors are great in their respective roles; Rainn Wilson’s voicing of Lex Luthor is much better this time around. Typical to the character, Lex is all about gaining the public’s adoration, and while there are many instances of his selfish ruthlessness, he actually helps out our heroes too…since it’s in his best interest. Meanwhile the Justice League provides some fun banter and cool action scenes, but their presence is rightfully small. They don’t take up too much of the story but help tie this movie in with the larger universe. The post-credit scene provides a nice tease for a potential follow-up to this story’s events.
Reign of the Supermen is another great entry for the DC Animated Movie Universe that makes me crave future Superman movies in this world. Both this film and its predecessor make for a wonderful double-feature that effectively captures everything we love about Superman and the people in his life. Once again, it’s the character-driven nature of the film and its well executed story that make it so watchable.
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