Reign of the Supermen, 2019
Directed by Sam Liu
Starring Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Cameron Monaghan, Patrick Fabian, Cress Williams, Charles Hadford, Nathan Fillion, Rosario Dawson, Jason O’Mara, Shemar Moore, Christopher Gorham, Tony Todd
After the death of Superman, several new people present themselves as possible successors.
The Death and Return of Superman is a cornerstone in comic book history and has been adapted in form or another in the years since its publication. Beginning with last year’s The Death of Superman, DC began to tell a more faithful adaptation of the iconic storyline which their latest animated film, Reign of the Supermen, concludes. Considering the depth of the source material, the film adapts and makes changes to the story very well and doesn’t feel overcrowded despite the presence of Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, multiple Supermen and the Justice League. Reign of the Supermen takes all the best aspects of the story and streamlines it while focusing on the characters and asking what it means to be Superman. Direction by DC animation veteran Sam Liu, the result is one of the best animated films DC has put out lately.
Without Superman in play for much of the film, it places the focus instead on his supporting characters and the mysterious new Supermen that have popped up. There are a lot of characters the film has to cover, but it balances out the ensemble very well and gives each character or group time to shine. However, the real star of the show is Lois Lane, played to great effect by Rebecca Romijn. She’s the heart of the story as she grieves for Superman’s death and tries to figure out where the wannabe heroes have come from. Lois’ agency, intelligence and fiery determination are all on display as the film follows her investigations. Fans of the character will be pleased with how much Lois has to do and how Romijn really sells all of Lois’ best attributes, especially in the latter half of the film.
The rest of the cast and characters do well. Rainn Wilson gets some more screentime as Lex Luthor, this time one of the film’s secondary villains as well as reluctant ally. I wasn’t too much of a fan of Wilson’s interpretation of Lex in Death of Superman, but he is much better in Reign and balances Lex’s ego, ruthlessness and sardonic wit very well. Of all the multiple Supermen, Cameron Monaghan stands out the most as Superboy, capturing his youthfulness, recklessness and spirit from the 90s comics very well. Unlike the original story, though, the film takes Superboy’s development a little further and adopting some of the more mature elements to the character. Another notable standout of the cast is Patrick Fabian as Cyborg Superman, balancing the inner turmoil and anger that brews beneath the surface of the possible imposter in a compelling way.
Make no mistake, this is a Superman movie through and through. The story moves at a nice pace and writers Jim Krieg and Tim Sheridan condenses the long comic story into something more manageable while still making necessary changes and adaptations. One prominent villain from the storyline is swapped out for a bigger, badder villain that connects Reign of the Supermen all the way back to Justice League: War, the first film of this continuity. With an 87 minute runtime, though, its the longest animated film DC has made yet, but the time flies by and doesn’t bloat the film, instead using the extra time to focus on Lois and exploring the other Supermen. It also gets into some deeper territory by asking what it is that makes Superman Superman as these new heroes, the Justice League and even everyday citizens like Lois and Bibbo Bibbowski step up in his absence. It goes on to show that while it doesn’t take superpowers to be a hero, Superman is unique among these figures for what he inspires and stands for.
The animation is one of the film’s best aspects, boasting some of the best action sequences in DC’s animated films. Liu knows just what to focus on throughout the film, from the facial expressions to what piece of the action is the most interesting. Each of the Supermen have their own fighting style to differentiate themselves, from Steel’s brawn and use of various tech to the flips and kicks Superboy employs, with their movements being very fluid. The screen can get very busy with how much goes on, particularly during the climax, but its interesting to watch all the characters together and how their styles mesh with or against each other. Fans young and old will have a lot to pour over with the film’s level of detail.
Reign of the Supermen is a fine addition to DC’s stable of animation. It’s writing is sharp with the story and its changes while it zeroes in on why Superman is such an adored figure within the world of DC and pop culture. The voice cast is solid and the characters, including the new Supermen, are all interesting and have their proper roles in the story. With the spotlight on Lois Lane and the quality of the animation, Superman fans will be very pleased at how Liu and company brought this iconic storyline to the small screen in its best adaptation yet.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★