13th Aug2018

‘The Death of Superman’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Features the voices of: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Nyambi Nyambi, Jason O’Mara, Rocky Carroll, Trevor Devall | Written by Peter Tomasi | Directed by Jake Castorena, Sam Liu

death-of-superman-dvd

Based on the acclaimed DC Comics graphic novel, The Death of Superman – the latest in DC’s long-line of animated features – showcases Superman’s greatest battle: an asteroid hurtles through our atmosphere and crashes into the ocean, with it arrives an unstoppable force fueled by uncontrollable rage known only as Doomsday! It’s a fight to the finish when Superman becomes the only hero who can stand in the way of the monstrous creature and his unstoppable rampage of destruction. With innocent lives threatened and Metropolis under attack, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League rally to meet this otherworldly menace. But when the dust settles, it’s a fight to the finish when Superman becomes the only hero who can stand in the way of the monstrous creature and his unstoppable rampage of destruction.

The death of Superman story line was one of THE defining moments in recent comics history. Even though it ultimately came to naught (the opportunity for a DC universe without Superman was wasted IMHO and he was brought back waaaaay too fast!) it jump started something of a revival in DC Comics – at least with the casual comic readers out there. Interest in the how and why DC were killing off such an iconic character was at an all time high, so much so that I distinctly remember walking into WHSmith when the collected graphic novel was released and seeing people scrambling to buy a copy. Not only that, but the book was given a prominent position at the very front of the store near the doors where it was literally the first thing you saw when you walked in.

It was also the book that got me to finally, actually, read a Superman comic. Until then my exposure to the character was in movies and on TV – I never had a desire to read any Superman-only book before he was spectacularly killed off. So, when the Death of Superman trade paperback came out I, like many other [more] casual Superman fans, bought a copy to see what all the fuss was about. I also bought the follow-up books World Without a Superman and Reign of the Superman AND even the ridiculed  Superman Transformed graphic novel (the death story line made me a sucker for Superman event books it would seem).

So why am I telling you all this? Well this latest iteration of story is based more closely on the trifecta of graphic novels that got me into reading Superman than any version that has come before. And this story line has come before… In fact the inaugural release in this epic line of DC animated movies was an adaptation of the very same story. Though that version was VERY different, eschewing plot lines and focusing on a core, singular story to keep the run time short. In fact so different is The Death of Superman, that this time round we’re getting not one but two movies that will conclude with Reign of the Supermen in early 2019, the pair of films restoring many of the moments and characters that were missing first time round and telling the complete death and return of Superman story.

It, like its predecessor, also changes the original story…

Yes, despite being touted as a more faithful adaptation of the original comic, The Death of Superman actually takes liberties with the plot, yet still maintaining that core “Superman vs Doomsday” battle that literally makes this story what it is. The changes aren’t actually all bad though – there’s more attention to the relationship between Lois and Clark/Superman; couple that with the interaction between Superman and members of the Justice League (as this film is tied into the now-monikered “DC Animated Movie Universe,” it maintains established continuity) and you have more of an emotional core to this version of the story than the last animated attempt. That additional storytelling also works to shortcut the need for audiences to be familiar with the entire backstory: if you’ve seen the recent DCEU movies then that’s all you need to know. The rest of the emotional investment, needed to really feel the impact when Superman dies, comes from the script by Peter Tomasi, who’s a dab hand at the DC animated movies, having penned three previous entries.

Yet whilst The Death of Superman succeeds where Superman/Doomsday failed, it’s not all good news. Like a number of the DC animated movies, this film suffers from some slow pacing and the animation seems sub-par when compared to its stable mates – perhaps the need to produce two films affected the quality? Who knows, but this outing looks more rushed and less polished than other entries in the DC animated line. Thankfully, and as is typical with these animated features, the voice cast are all on-point, each performer perfectly cast in their respective roles – with Rebecca Romijn, playing Lois against Jerry O’Connell’s Superman, being the real standout. Romijn brings a real gravitas and authority to Lois Lane when the character needs it, and at the same time isn’t afraid to tap into a vulnerability when Lois is confronted with the death of Superman.

Post Superman’s demise, The Death of Superman plays out a series of credit sequences that hint at what’s to come in the next film, Reign of the Supermen, teasing just enough to guarantee that, despite any issues I had with this film, I’ll be back for the second half of this epic tale. After all, I really, REALLY, want to see (and hear) more of Cress Williams as Doc Irons, aka Steel – one of my all-time favourite DC characters. A character I fell in love with thanks to this particular DC Comics tale…
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Special features on the DVD release include merely a “sneak-peek” at the next film in the DC Animated Movie Universe, and the sequel to this movie, Reign of the Supermen. The Death of Superman is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

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