The Death of Superman
Written by Peter Tomasi
Directed by Jake Castorena and Sam Liu
Superman is know for two things: Super powers and dying. Okay, that’s a vast oversimplification, but Superman does die a lot, and here he dies again, in animated form. But wait, didn’t they already do a Death of Superman animated movie? Why, yes, they did! It was one of the first animated DC movies (and it was quite bland!) This redo is more than just a remake, it’s incorporating multiple prior films that form a loose continuity while also flowing into the later parts of the story (Reign of the Supermen), all while updating and modifying where necessary. Sliced out is a lot of the embarrassing 90s stuff and unimportant plot elements (though the bigger changes are in the sequel!) In their place is story that makes Superman more human and necessary for humanity, right before the biggest threat appears that we all know is about to snatch him away.
One of the themes of the live-action films is if the world even needs a Superman. It’s the story Lois wrote in Superman Returns, it was one of the reasons Clark tried to hide his power and later is investigated by the government in the Snyder movies (yes those films are far more complicated than that, say with me here…) There is even shades of it here, with astronaut Hank Henshaw convinced Superman will save them when there is a problem in space (spoiler alert: he doesn’t!) But all those points become moot when a giant guy starts smashing his way through major cities and your heroes fall before him. The world needs people who can stand up to evil.
If you remember the original story, at that time the Justice League was largely made up of second string heroes. In fact, the only one now considered a core member (besides Superman) in the roster who fought Doomsday in the comics was Martian Manhunter, who was in disguise at the time! As a non-regular reader of DC at the time, I had no idea that was even him until years later. Finally you can see Batman and Wonder Woman fight Doomsday…oh, wait, that happened already in the live-action films. But finally now you can see it again! And also see Green Lantern get beat up! Take that, Green Lantern! No one likes you, or your lantern!
Clark Kent is growing close to Lois. So much shows that he’s considering revealing to her that he’s actually Superman. He’s revealing a lot to her, as Superman is showing her the Kryptonian spaceship he arrived to Earth in and the supercomputer inside (which manifests as a hologram…essentially Superman’s nanny!) Superman showing her a holographic representation of his parents dovetails nicely with Clark introducing Lois to his human parents. While Superman is calculated in showing the one woman he trust this information, Clark is hesitant. He doesn’t want Lois in danger nor to feel the burden of responsibility he has to save everyone. But he also realizes how special she is, and from talking to his teammates, how behind he is on letting someone that special in on your secret.
Rainn Wilson is FANTASTIC as Lex Luthor, even if he doesn’t get to shine until Reign. He’s the best combination of smug superiority and arrogant righteousness conveyed perfectly. No spoilers, but his lines and brief appearance during the final battle set Wilson as the definitive Luthor voice for the foreseeable future. He schemes to cause Superman problems and save the glory for himself, but he also wants to get the jump on any potential new Supermen who fall from the sky. So when a meteor crashes into the ocean, his team is there to be among the first to die when Doomsday emerges. Yes, there is deaths in this film, a lot of them. While some of the DC animated films cheated out on showing the human cost of things such as Darkseid laying waste to the world’s cities, this time you get the perfect sense that hundreds are dying. And Doomsday squashes heads on camera!
The heroes don’t know what they are up against at first, with only Batman recognizing that this danger seems more than just some powered jerk acting tough. The Justice League starts dropping like flies, and Superman has to step in. Even then, the power level is off the charts. Death of Superman doesn’t cheap out, the fight with Doomsday is long and continually ups the danger, Doomsday growing stronger and copying powers from Superman as they fight.
I’ve been continually impressed with the DC animated films and I continue to be with Death of Superman. It keeps up the solid work from the studio and is a reminder that you don’t have to be afraid to redo stories until you can get them right. The credits are filled with teasers for the newcomers in Reign of the Supermen, and having advanced knowledge that there would be two parts of this, I deliberately delayed watching Death of Superman until I could marathon them both. It was worth it. You know if you are into these kinds of movies, and for those who are, this is an upstanding entry.
Please give feedback below!