Reign of the Supermen
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: January 15, 2019 – Digital; January 29, 2018 – 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, DC Universe Streaming Service
Synopsis: Reign of the Supermen finds Earth’s citizens – and the Man of Steel’s heroic contemporaries – dealing with a world without Superman. But the aftermath of Superman’s death, and the subsequent disappearance of his body, leads to a new mystery – is Superman still alive? The question is further complicated when four new super-powered individuals – Steel, Cyborg Superman, Superboy and the Eradicator – emerge to proclaim themselves as the ultimate hero. In the end, only one will be able to proclaim himself the world’s true Superman.
Producer Sam Liu (Gotham by Gaslight, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract) directs Reign of the Supermen from a script by Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) and Tim Sheridan (Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost). Amy McKenna (The Death of Superman) is producer, and Alan Burnett (Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) is co-producer. Executive Producers are Sam Register and James Tucker (Justice League Dark).
The Reign of the Supermen cast includes Jerry O’Connell (Carter, Bravo’s Play by Play, Stand by Me), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men, The Librarians) and Rainn Wilson (The Office, The Meg) as the voices of Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, respectively. In addition to returning actors portraying members of the Justice League and Superman’s supporting cast, newly featured cast members include Cress Williams (Black Lightning) as Steel, Cameron Monaghan (Gotham) as Superboy, Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul) as Hank Henshaw, and Tony Todd (Candyman) as Darkseid.
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Reign of the Supermen Feature Review
By James Harvey
Following last year’s acclaimed The Death of Superman animated feature, Reign of the Supermen does right by the source material while also taking some pretty interesting chances that might take some fans by surprise. However, it remains a faithful adaptation of the beloved 1990s comic event and, coupled with solid (if occasionally inconsistent) animation, is an undeniably strong entry in the ongoing DC Universe Movie line.
Reign of the Supermen picks up six months after The Death of Superman, throwing the audience right into the thick of things. New “Supermen” are showing up, Lois Lane is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of Superman – as is the Justice League and countless others – and Lex Luthor is trying to take advantage of the whole situation. But underneath all of that, there’s something more sinister at work and, as the film’s story plays out, we start to see there’s something bigger going on, and Lois is determined to find out exactly what is going on. There’s a palpable mystery that gives the film its drive and, while it may stumble a little, it manages to keep that tension for the film’s duration.
Before this review continues any further, please note it will contain some slight spoilers, so proceed with caution.
As faithful as Reign of the Supermen is to the comics which inspired it, there are some understandable changes made to adapt it for the ‘in-continuity’ DC Universe Movie titles. The major change is that Mongul, one of the major foes in source material, is switched out for Darkseid. However, this actually works in the context of building on his appearance in Justice League: War and also explaining where Doomsday came from in The Death of Superman. Yes, the story here is streamlined and shuffled around. Coast City is not destroyed like in the original comic story, for example, but honestly, it would not have work in the movie to begin with. We don’t know anything about Mongul in this continuity and there’s not enough work done with Green Lantern to really make such an event resonate like it should (and did in the comics). It’s a smart choice.
The movie is also tightly plotted, with barely a wasted moment, as nearly every moment serves to push the narrative forward. Character beats early on (even from other movies), including those of minor or side characters, come into play in varying degrees later on, and never once does anything feel disingenuous. The movie unfolds naturally, with character choices and changes actually feeling organic to the story and not like something done to superficially push characters and events from Point A to Point B. Writers Jim Krieg and Tim Sheridan deftly navigate what could’ve been a jumbled, messy script with ease, propelling the story forward while also making sure the viewers connect to the characters. There’s a scene early in Reign of the Supermen, when Ma and Pa Kent visit a grieving Lois Lane and, as she breaks down, Ma says “We’ve got you.” It’s a moment that just hits you in the gut (while also serving as a nice nod to Superman: The Movie).
The only time Reign of the Supermen really stumbles is how it goes about removing the Justice League from the film’s narrative for a sizable chunk. To avoid spoilers, will be vague. That said, it occurs early on and, while it does serve a purpose on a couple fronts – both as part of a larger plan by the film’s antagonist and to clear the table and keep the story focused solely on Superman’s supporting cast – the actual execution is a little underwhelming. It just lacks impact and emotional resonance.
Much like The Death of Superman, the animation quality here is fairly impressive, though more inconsistent then the first installment of this two-part epic. The creative team definitely had a higher budget with these two movies. Action scenes are incredibly dynamic, especially some of big set pieces in the film’s climax. The assorted Supermen get into more than a few tussles during Reign of the Supermen, usually with each other, and the superb directing by Sam Liu keeps every single action beat engaging and intense at times. Unfortunately, especially in the last half of the film, the animation quality takes a bit of a dip which ultimately hurts some of the really impressive boarding and directing seen in those latter fights.
And, as always, Frederik Wiedmann turns in another fantastic score. It’s as epic as it should be, and features some great callbacks to his work on The Death of Superman. Weidmann continues to consistently turn in fantastic work, and his turn here is no exception (also, check out his work on The Dragon Prince, it’s pretty wicked).
On a somewhat related note, where Reign of the Supermen leaves the DC Universe Movie continuity (which started with Justice League: War) is also pretty interesting. If these in-continuity movies continue, there’s clearly going to be some changes coming and that’s intriguing. The film’s end credit stinger also hints at what the next in-continuity Justice League movie could be about, and it seems things are about to get very interesting.
In terms of the characters, Reign of the Supermen is really Lois Lane’s movie more than any other. Lane drives the film’s story and Rebecca Romijn, who voices Lane, is fantastic in the role. She brings such weight and nuance to nearly every bit of dialogue, allowing the viewer to connect with this rather big-scale, fantastic story on an emotional level. Her performance sounds so genuine and ultimately brings the character to life in a way we haven’t seen since Superman: The Animated Series. Other notable characters include Cyborg Superman, Superboy and Lex Luthor, all of whom get some major story beats that too are effortlessly sold by their respective voice actors. Patrick Fabian is especially effective as Cyborg Superman – especially as we learn more about who he is and what his role in the story is, while Cameron Monaghan brings some surprising depth to Superboy and Rainn Wilson brings a fun, devilish streak to Lex Luthor. Cress Williams is also great as Steel, but despite getting a lot of screen-time, the character comes across as a little underserved (that said, his team-up work with Lois is awesome).
Not only is Reign of the Supermen a solid sequel to The Death of Superman, but it also acts as somewhat of a “season finale” to the universe/continuity that started with Justice League: War. Overall, it’s an excellent spin on the epic Superman event comic fans know so well, one that’s surprisingly more emotional and human than one might expect. It also offers up a couple legitimate surprises (which haven’t been hinted at here in this review) and stellar action beats that viewers will definitely enjoy. While the film stumbles once or twice, overall, it’s an unmitigated success and an excellent conclusion to the story that began inThe Death of Superman. Coupled with its predecessor, Reign of the Supermen will assuredly go down as one of the best animated Superman movies to date. Highly Recommended.
Note: Review based off the iTunes purchased edition of “Reign of the Supermen.” Warner Bros. Home Entertainment also provided The World’s Finest with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition of “Reign of the Supermen” for review, though that does not have any impact on the reviewer’s assessment of the movie.
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