Reign of the Supermen (2019)

Director: Sam Liu

Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Cress Williams, Patrick Fabian, Cameron Monaghan, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson

Screenplay: James Krieg, Tim Sheridan

87 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, DC is killing it with their animated universe. While their live-action work has struggled finding its footing (though I believe they have it now), their animated cinematic universe is chugging along quite well. They took their time in killing Superman, something that the live-action series did not do, and it paid off well for The Death of Superman, a really strong adaptation of the famous comic book arc. So what happens next?

Following the death of Superman (Jerry O’Connell, Stand By Me, Boy Band), the world has been in mourning for six months until four very different new heroes arrive on Earth, each one laying claim to the title of Superman. There’s Superboy (Cameron Monaghan, Amityville: The Awakening, TV’s Shameless), a young and arrogant teen with Superman’s abilities is seemingly backed by LexCorp and Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson, The Meg, TV’s The Office). There’s also a hero named Steel (Cress Williams, Never Been Kissed, Lowriders), a Cyborg Superman, and a protector called The Eradicator. Needless to say, these multiple possible iterations of Superman are not playing nicely, and it is up to Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men, TV’s The Librarians) and the Justice League to make sense of it all.

Reign of the Supermen gets a little more convoluted than its predecessor. There’s a lot going on and I wish the film had more time to explore these different Supermen. It would make some of the more interesting developments all the more impactful. The story does get a little lost while building up its central plot.

The voice work again is spectacular in this film, with the exception of course being a woefully miscast Rainn Wilson. I like Wilson, but he does not exude the presence of Lex Luthor. Cameron Monaghan gives Superboy an injection of snobbiness that permeates the realism of a teenager with angst and superpowers.

The ending, though, is where the film’s impact is at its strongest, allowing all the buildup of two films to be resolved. It’s a well-edited, well-paced finale that makes up for some of the earlier plot problems. It doesn’t feel like a setup for future films but a culmination of much of what has come before.

Reign of the Supermen is an enjoyable superhero adventure is mostly successful in translating this popular Superman run into the feature film format. I would have liked more time given to the different Supermen, but overall, handing a larger portion of the screen time to Lois Lane has its benefits. If you liked The Death of Superman last year, you won’t be disappointed with this conclusion.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jake Castorena and Sam Liu’s The Death of Superman, click here.

[Early Review] Annihilation (2018)

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

Screenplay: Alex Garland

115 mins. Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality.

 

Alex Garland (Ex Machina) is a director to keep an eye out for. He is mostly known for his writing on films like Dredd, Never Let Me Go, Sunshine, and 28 Days Later, but now that he is directing, his vision has never been more focused.

Annihilation is the story of Lena (Natalie Portman, Jackie, Song to Song), a biologist who signs up for a dangerous exploration of a mysterious area called The Shimmer to find out what happened to her missing husband Kane (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). What she quickly discovers upon entering is that The Shimmer does not operate by the standard laws of nature, and there is something else alive inside.

Okay, so I just got home from Annihilation and there’s a lot more to unpack before I really understand. Don’t worry, no major spoilers here. In fact, I did a pretty good job tiptoeing around spoilers in the above description. Suffice to say, Annihilation is an impressively ambitious mind-bender. I was enthralled as the film’s chess pieces moved into place and the ending was strange, beautiful, haunting, and confusing in all the right ways.

As the film moves along, there are some tremendous set pieces and some truly disturbing imagery. One of the flaws of the film, though, is that it takes a bit before it starts rollicking along. There’s some heavy exposition chunked up at the beginning of the film, and it isn’t until they enter The Shimmer that the film really takes off.

Annihilation is bolstered by tremendous acting performances from Portman as expected. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Amityville: The Awakening) plays Dr. Ventress, the leader of the expedition. Leigh is cold and broken as Ventress, a haunting portrayal of a woman driven to discover. Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok) is also brilliant as Josie, another member of the expedition.

Annihilation has a lot in common with other sci-fi fare on its surface, but what makes it different is the calculated pacing and the slow build of tension that is at times horrific and shockingly beautiful in equal measure. The questions it asks are not easily answered, some are not answered at all, but for all of its inquisition, Annihilation is a beautiful examination of ideas and thoughts. This one is likely to keep viewers dissecting and reassembling the piece long after leaving the theater.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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