The Death of Superman
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: July 24, 2018 – Digital; August 7, 2018 – 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD
Synopsis: The Death of Superman ultimately finds Superman in a fight to the finish when the Man of Steel becomes the only hero who can stand in the way of the monstrous creature Doomsday and his unstoppable rampage of destruction. As the inaugural film in the DC Universe Movies series, Superman Doomsday told an abridged version of The Death Of Superman, DC Comics’ landmark 1992-93 comic phenomenon. But with a runtime of 75 minutes, the film focused on a core, singular storyline. The new, animated The Death of Superman, the first of a two-part film experience that will conclude with Reign of the Supermen in early 2019, restores many of the moments and characters that fans hold dear to their hearts.
The all-star cast is led by Jerry O’Connell (Crossing Jordan, Stand By Me), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men, The Librarians) and Rainn Wilson (The Office) as the voices of Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, respectively. The potent trio is joined by the DC Universe Movies’ returning voices of the Justice League: Jason O’Mara (The Man in High Castle, Terra Nova) as Batman, Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Rent, Daredevil) as Wonder Woman, Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds) as Cyborg, Nathan Fillion (Castle, ABC’s upcoming The Rookie) as Green Lantern/Hal Jordan, and Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs, Ugly Betty) as The Flash.
Producer Sam Liu (Gotham by Gaslight, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract) co-directs The Death of Superman with Jake Castorena (Justice League Action) from a script by New York Times best-selling author Peter J. Tomasi (Green Lantern: Emerald Knights). Executive Producers are Sam Register and James Tucker (Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay, Justice League Dark).
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The Death of Superman Feature Review
By James Harvey
Updating and reworking the classic DC Comics storyline, The Death of Superman is a thrilling adventure that makes the viewer dread the inevitable. While it’s not a beat-for-beat recreation of the famed DC Comics storyline from the 1990s, it definitely holds true to the original story. Character work between the Leaguers and Superman’s supporting cast is solid, making the film’s climactic battle with Doomsday that much more intense. You want the heroes to win here, but can’t help but feel worried knowing things – at least for now – are not going to end well. With fantastic animation (this is easily the best animated installment in the DC Universe Movie line since Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) and a solid script, The Death of Superman beautifully brings the gripping story-telling of the source material to life.
Now, we already know the story, and it’s already been adapted to animation before (in 2007’s Superman Doomsday), so we know the destination, but what about the journey itself? Is this a trip worth taking again? Short answer: Definitely. While it’s not perfect, the character work is handled well and the onscreen action is really engaging. And boy, there is a lot of action here. Given that the film features a massive extended fight sequence, the creative team deserve props for making it so riveting from start to finish, building to a surprisingly emotional fatal finale. Directors Sam Liu and Jake Castorena bring it all to the table, no question, and Frederik Wiedmann’s score nicely accentuates the dramatics unfolding on the screen. Naturally, spoilers will be as light as possible … even though we do know how this is going to play out.
The Death of Superman, after a short cold open where Superman faces off against Bruno Mannheim, works hard to make us care for these characters before the fists fly. We know it’s coming, that the fight is coming, and the movie does an admirable job at giving us a more thorough look at Superman’s world. And while it’s nice to see his supporting cast get more screentime, it does fall a little bit short. At this point in the DC Universe Movie continuity, it feels like Superman’s world should be a little more established, so we’re subject to a lot of character introductions that feel like they should have been done ages ago (though, granted, some of this are re-introductions for new viewers). If this was a stand-along entry, it likely wouldn’t have mattered as much, but after a host of shared continuity movies, this feels a little early.
Another hurdle this film attempts to overcome is how to wrap up the formally-burgeoning relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman, which has been growing since Justice League: War, in order to introduce and establish Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane. Given the tricky situation, The Death of Superman acknowledges Superman and Wonder Woman’s time together, and that it’s come to a close, but it also rushes Superman and Lois Lane to a couple specific relationship hallmarks that doesn’t quite work. There’s no real sense of how much time has passed between the end of Superman’s previous relationship and his current relationship with Lois Lane, and that ends up kind of muddling things up a little. Still, the creative team makes the best of the tough story-telling situation they’re in. There’s a really great moment with Lois Lane toward the end of movie that just packs such an emotional punch that it really sells the her relationship with Superman. That should come as no surprise, as writer Peter J. Tomasi is a pretty brilliant scribe (as evident by his amazing runs on Superman, Super Sons, and Batman & Robin, to name a few).
And while there are a couple issues that hold The Death of Superman back just a little, the final product we get is still a riveting film that features stunning action sequences, great choreography and nice character work among Superman, the Justice League and some of the Man of Steel’s supporting cast. There’s a nice small scene, after Superman takes down Mannheim, that involves some light, fun character work between Superman a couple of his fellow League members. Cyborg gets a little focus in the movie, too, which is a nice continuation of the plot threads started in Justice League: War. It’s also interesting to see how the characters have developed and changed since then. The Death of Superman really excels as presenting Superman as that beacon of hope and kindness, both in his interactions with his fellow teammates and how some of the film’s supporting cast see the hero.
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What The Death of Superman really excels at is the build-up and actual brutal showdown between Superman, the Justice League and Doomsday. The animation is top-notch and the action itself intense and riveting. Again, we know how this fight is going to end, but it’s still a brutal slugfest that manages to keep things tense despite the well-known climax to the whole bloody affair. Each Justice Leaguer gets a few moments to shine, too, with Wonder Woman’s last stand against Doomsday an incredible display of power that really establishes the stakes of what this threat could mean to the world. No punches are pulled here and, man, this fight gets absolutely savage. And nearly every moment of this battle looks pretty amazing, in terms of animation and staging. It’s clear the budget was a shade bigger than usual because, wow, The Death of Superman is one pretty lookin’ movie.
If you’ve watched any of the Justice League movies since Justice League: War (from 2014), you know what to expect here. The New 52-inspired costumes look sharp, though a little too busy for some of the Leaguers (Green Lantern and The Flash are two, for example). The design for Doomsday, however, is absolutely stellar. Fierce, ugly and …just a beast, Character Designer Phil Bourassa nails it here. A huge, hulking monstrosity of a creature, Bourassa’s design helps sell the massive threat Doomsday presents, which in turn helps to sell the inevitable result of its deadly clash with Superman.
And, much like the source material, this is one fight that Superman does not walk away from. The battle itself is absolutely engaging from start to finish, even though we know the outcome. That final moment between Superman and Doomsday, the one the brings the fisticuffs to end, hits hard and it still manages to be a little shocking. The Death of Superman handles that, along with the impact felt on his friends, his fellow Leaguers and the world, nicely. However, the film does move a little too quickly in setting up the sequel, which while still cool, does deflate things a little. Still, there are some great standout moments that spin out of this, including one with Luthor that just sells his manipulative and devious nature.
In terms of voice work, the cast is solid across the board. Everyone sounds comfortable in their roles, which should be no surprise as fair chunk of the cast consists of established DC Universe Movie players, but there is one performance that really pops. Rebecca Romijn absolutely shines as Lois Lane, and just utterly sells every single bit of that role. Lois endures a lot in this movie, providing the emotional core for The Death of Superman, and Romijn is stellar every step of the way. Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor is also a legitimate surprise, perfectly encapsulating the malicious genius of the character. You can hear the contempt in nearly every line of Luthor’s dialogue, and it works so well for this take on the classic Superman foe. Once again, Wes Gleason’s voice directing is spot-on.
Overall, The Death of Superman is a solid entry into the DC Universe Movie line. Did we need this story retold? Nah, but what we get here is a worthwhile, faithful retelling of the original comic book classic that’s worth checking out. While the script isn’t able to overcome a couple hiccups with Superman’s supporting cast and relationships, it more than makes up for it in its recreation of Doomsday’s reign of terror and his epic battle with the Man of Steel. It’s superbly executed and is littered with great dramatic moments and some show-stopping beatdowns. For those let down by Superman Doomsday over a decade ago, this is the adaptation you’ve been waiting for. The Death of Superman is a heckuva good time, folks. Highly Recommended!
Note: Review based off iTunes purchased edition of “The Death of Superman.” A Blu-ray edition was also provided to The World’s Finest by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment to review.
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