It’s been a long time coming but DC really needed a movie like this to lift itself out of the mediocrity that has engulfed it over the last year or so. With the DCEU not really impressing thus far (with the notable exception of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman), it’s been up to DC animation to carry the mantle. To be really honest, DC’s annual line-up of stand-alone (or limited continuity) movies has been generally lacking in inspiration in recent times. This is not to say that their movies have been outright bad or a disaster but there is a feeling that the effort going into these movies has reduced. Sometimes, the quality of animation hasn’t been the best either.
The Best of DC Original Animated Movies
When DC started bringing out these stand-alone movies around a decade ago, it was fresh. There were a lot of new stories with characters such as Green Lantern and Wonder Woman even getting their own movies (which were very good). Among all these movies, two really stood out to me for their rather gritty story-telling. Batman: Under The Red Hood and Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox really pushed the boundary with its rather dark story lines. There were a few other movies that were quite memorable but, in my opinion, none stand out quite as much as these two. While the former stood out for its portrayal of the rather controversial death of Jason Todd storyline, the emotional impact from the final scenes was a true highlight of the movie. Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox was very brutal in its alternate take on the traditional Justice League characters and more importantly seemed to hit all the right notes in terms of viewer impact. There was the sense that one could truly feel the depth of what the movie creators were trying to achieve.
So where does The Death of Superman stand ?
Everybody Loves Superman
The movie begins by letting the viewer know that Superman now has a cult hero / legendary status in Metropolis. Everyone seems to love their favourite superhero and arch nemesis Lex Luthor is on house arrest for some previous crime. There is even a brief exchange of words between the two after Superman foils a kidnapping attempt of the mayor by Intergang. The technology used by Intergang appears to have elements of Earth and Apokoliptian technology; and Luthor is suspected as he is the only one to have access to such technology. However, Lex denies any involvement and he is also infuriated by Superman’s comments on how Metropolis could never love Lex. The film really goes out of its way to drive home this love for Superman that the citizens of Metropolis feel throughout the run-time and yet it never feels forced.
Except Lois ?
Another sub-text within the movie is Clark Kent’s relationship with Lois Lane. His reluctance to fully embrace his dual identity as Superman with Lois Lane is a constant source of tension for him. While Clark is romantically involved with Lois, he fears that her life might get endangered if she knew his true identity. This aspect is further explored when the couple visit Clark’s parents and it becomes clear to Lois that there is a lot she doesn’t know about Clark.
So, what exactly is the main plot of this movie ?
Among the many who believe in Superman as an idol is astronaut Captain Hank Henshaw. While on a mission in space, a boom tube suddenly opens up and a huge meteorite hurtles towards Henshaw’s space shuttle. Despite his unflinching and almost fanatical belief that Superman will save him and his crew, the space shuttle gets destroyed; killing all of his crew members but leaving his body unaccounted for.
Similar to the comic book storyline & previous portrayals on screen, the meteorite crashes into the Mariana Trench and Doomsday emerges from the crash site. The rest of the movie follows a fairly well-known path with Doomsday wreaking havoc on Metropolis and Superman being the only person who can stop the creature.
The movie doesn’t really venture into any unknown territory from this point. What makes it standout from previous on-screen portrayals of its source material, is the emotional weight it carries, particularly in its final moments. It is interesting to note that the big bad villain of the movie aka Doomsday is in certain ways not the main highlight of the movie.
While doomsday is a menacing presence, the movie’s measured build up really captures the true essence of this story. In establishing the special bond that several important characters have for Superman, it really makes the viewer care for Superman during his final showdown with Doomsday.
The Low Down
All in all, this is one of the finest entries in DC’s original animated movie line-up and really packs a punch that DC has been missing in a while. The voice acting for the most part is top notch with the probable exception of Rebecca Romijn’s voice over for Lois Lane. Although she did capture Lois Lane’s snobbish attitude towards Clark very well, her acting in the more emotional moments could have carried some weight.
So where does this movie rank in DC’s animated movie line-up ? Its’ probably a step below the two best installments in DC’s animated line-up but is nevertheless a fine entry in the series.
If this movie is anything to go by, the sequel i.e. Reign of the Supermen should have fans excited. This movie also teased quite a few reveals and mysterious characters during its end credits and should make for a very engrossing sequel. Until then, fans can look forward to the much-anticipated Young Justice: Outsiders.
Happy Watching !!
2 thoughts on “The Death of Superman: Review – A Comic Book Classic Packs an Emotional Punch”
Based on your praise for this release I need to add this flick to my long list of things to watch. I enjoyed the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern animated films too. It would be nice to see more movies focused on them, but DC tends to favor Batman/Superman as they sell better.
Haha yes. This one was surprisingly good. I’m not a huge fan of Superman in general primarily because he is too overpowered and his stories usually aren’t compelling. Superman TAS was the best incarnation of him I’ve seen. That said, this movie got the emotional aspect right.
The wonder woman and green lantern films were great. Those were the initial days of the stand alone flicks when the quality was very high. DC should definitely focus more on these characters but as you rightly said batman/Superman sells better. Heck, in the justice league dark film, batman was included. There was no need lol but they had to sell a film with B-List heroes and villains. It was good otherwise and batman had no role lol