The Death of Superman, 2018.
Directed by Sam Liu and James Tucker.
Featuring the voice talents of Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Rocky Carroll, and Patrick Fabian.
The Man of Steel’s final confrontation pits him against a monstrous creature that cannot be reasoned with after it crash lands on Earth.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s Superman’s dead body. Too Soon? It would be hard to expect any less in a film so aptly titled that it almost ruins itself. The Death of Superman takes place in a shared animated universe that DC and Warner Bros. Animation have neatly created for themselves. It allows them to bring classic comic book storylines in animation with some surprisingly big cast names voicing some of the most iconic characters that DC have to offer. The draw here isn’t a surprise twist ending where a hero isn’t able to win, for once. It gladly makes no attempt at being anything other than exactly what it says on the tin.
While some of the DC animated movies haven’t been as gripping, The Death of Superman keeps audiences gripped by mapping out Supes’ personal life as Clark Kent. He might be faster than a speeding bullet, but he’s not great at dealing with his relationship problems now that he’s secretly dating Lois Lane. It’s something that the most recent live action counterparts couldn’t quite find the time for, fleshing out and legitimising their relationship from anything other than perfection. They fight and disagree over things like any normal couple would, whereas their relationship didn’t get to that depth in the DCEU since it was dealing with other plot points and villains.
It isn’t until the 20 minute mark that Doomsday is introduced, after that the monster manages to wreak a trail of death and destruction all the way to Metropolis before any of the Justice League can even slow him down. It’s here that the shared aspect of this animated universe really lends itself to the story, as each member of the team throw everything they have at the hulking grey giant. The villain of the film isn’t anything other than a near invincible punching bag that can hit twice as hard as everyone else. What is surprising to see from Warner Bros. Animation is how gory and violent The Death of Superman is. People are crushed, splattered and ripped limb from limb. Although the final confrontation never reaches those heights for either hero or villain, it’s still brutal. There’s no intelligent, witty dialogue outlining Doomsday’s plans for world domination or trying to get in Supes’ head, he’s just pure violence. And although it’s a (closely) faithful adaptation from the character’s comic book origins, the fight can’t help but feel absent because it doesn’t have that communication between the two.
Luckily, the connection between Superman/Clark and the citizens of Metropolis is well established within the opening half an hour that they become the emotional focus for the destructive conflict. At times, it proves to be more emotionally resonant than previous adaptations of the story, which means the ending packs more of a (literal) punch than ever before. The film also masterfully explores what Superman and his symbol of hope means to the people in his life, and how he inspires them in their day-to-day lives. Even if it struggles with pacing issues midway through, it still manages to provide an interesting peek into Superman’s head as he contemplates balancing his superheroics with a relationship.
While The Death of Superman may not be a perfect film, it is a thoroughly entertaining addition to the DC Animated Movie Universe that not only pushes it in bold directions, but sets up a direct sequel adapting the equally iconic follow-up storyline. The pieces for said sequel (Reign of the Supermen), are all peppered throughout the introductory half hour, and it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with all these players going forward.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★