Director: Jake Castorena, Sam Liu
Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Rocky Carroll, Patrick Fabian
Screenplay: Peter Tomasi
81 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action including some bloody images.
I remember seeing Superman: Doomsday when I was younger. The animated movie sounded incredibly exciting to me, even though I had not read The Death of Superman, the comic it was based on. It was, to me, probably the most famous Superman run that I could remember, and it was incredibly intriguing as an idea. The animated film version wasn’t very good. I remember finding it slugglishly boring, and that was that. Probably wouldn’t see another version of that story play out, especially with the reception of the most-recent live-action Superman film, Superman Returns. I just figured that was the end of it. To my surprise, DC’s animated films have decided to play this out again, and this new incarnation, The Death of Superman, is thankfully much better.
Clark Kent (Jerry O’Connell, Stand by Me, Boy Band) is struggling internally to tell the love of his life, Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men, TV’s The Librarians) his biggest secret: that he is really Superman. He can see that his secrecy about his past is straining things in their relationship, and if he plans to move forward with their courtship, he needs to figure out how to deal with his identity. He sees fellow Justice League members Batman (Jason O’Mara, The Siege of Jadotville, TV’s The Man in the High Castle) and The Flash (Christopher Gorham, The Other Side of Heaven, TV’s Insatiable) moving forward with their real lives and he wants the same thing. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts led by Hank Henshaw (Patrick Fabian, The Last Exorcism, TV’s Better Call Saul), on a mission aboard the Excalibur space shuttle, witness a boom tube opening and unleashing a meteorite toward Earth. When it crashes, a giant creature is released from the wreckage, and it has a trajectory for Metropolis.
I like the voice cast for The Death of Superman. I feel as though the star players involved really understand their characters and I like how they brought them to life. I also wouldn’t have been able to peg a lot of these performers without having looked at the cast to write this review. The only true standout is Rainn Wilson (The Meg, TV’s The Office), who is woefully miscast as Lex Luthor.
The action is much better in The Death of Superman because it takes the time early on to establish its characters and their motivations. Superman spends the whole of the film fighting with himself to open up and be a normal human. Even The Flash describing his normal life makes Clark pine for one of his own, and yet he is the only meta-human capable to taking down the creature, Doomsday. It’s his internal conflict that makes the external conflict so intriguing.
There’s still some pacing issues in the film, especially with the large-scale fight with Doomsday. It is broken up quite nicely but the narrative does tire out earlier than it should. It’s the same problem that Man of Steel had. Superman is such a powerful guy that the stakes don’t feel like they are there, even knowing how this one is going to end, and perhaps that’s part of it. This is very clearly The Death of Superman, and perhaps it would be a stronger outing to focus on the fact that this is the first part of a two-part story or even just smash it all in one film, a bit of a lengthy film, but perhaps one that doesn’t sputter so close to the finish line.
Overall, though, The Death of Superman is a strong DC Animated film. It stumbles a bit as it builds momentum, but for fans of these animated superhero tales, I think there’s a lot to like on display here. It definitely sets up the sequel really nicely and made me all the more excited to see the conclusion. This is a Superman film for Superman fans.
-Kyle A. Goethe