The Death of Superman Review
Superman is iconic. There is little doubt about that. He made his first appearance on the world stage in 1938 in a comic by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. From there he birthed a genre of story and has been the star of radio, television and film. Most recently Henry Cavill played the Blue Boy Scout. Despite this, however, there has always been a problem with Superman. While other Justice League members have more interesting, flawed personalities, Superman is an omnipotent saint. This unfortunately translated into poor sales and a general lack of interest. To kick-start interest again, DC writers came up with an idea that would shake the world. This turned into a storyline called The Death of Superman; after all the best way to humanise a god is to kill him.
Superman/ Clark Kent (jerry O'Connell) is having difficulties. Other than the standard issues with criminals and arch enemy Lex Luthor, his relationship with Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) is stalling. This is because he has yet to tell her that Clark Kent is Superman. However, at the same time, a massive meteor crashes into the sea unleashing Superman's Doomsday. We have already seen a basic retelling of this tale before. It is in the last half of DC's Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, when the titular heroes, (and Wonder Woman) battle a botched clone of General Zod that bears a striking resemblance to the spiny grey devil, Doomsday. As well as another animated version Superman: Doomsday made back in 2007.
James Tucker and Sam Liu's The Death of Superman markets itself as a more faithful adaptation. However, it is only one half of the story. Of course, DC couldn't let their cash cow lie for too long. So they brought him back with the Reign of the Supermen storyline (that film will be out next year). In theory, this allows for greater character exploration and includes a lot more cameos from characters that fans will recognise. However, in practice, this is not the case. The story seems perfunctory. It tells us the necessary details to get the plot to that famous fight and the image of Superman's cap blowing in the wind.
The other members of the Justice League are extended cameos without influence on the plot or the story. This is apart from Wonder Woman, who, in the previous animated movies released after the New 52, was in a romantic relationship with Superman. Despite this, the all-star cast of Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), Rainn Wilson (Lex Luthor), Jason O'Mara (Batman), Matt Lanter (Aquaman), Christopher Gorham (The Flash), Shemar Moore (Cyborg) and Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan try their damndest to add life to these rather brief appearances. Doomsday never had any character to begin with so it's unsurprising that he remains the same - a Superman killing machine, designed to stop the unstoppable force.
For a film that is leading to this epic showdown audiences cannot be that emotionally invested in it. There is little in the way of conflict outside of the brawl. Not only that but it is also incredibly heavy-handed when it comes to foreshadowing. It introduces us to characters that we know are to be included in the next film and for those who know the story already the way is visibly signposted.
We have seen that the live action versions of DC's caped crusaders have been visually muddy, relying too much on muted colours and an overall dark appearance. The Death of Superman, I am grateful to say, has some colour in it. However, there is a uniformity of character design and flatness to the animation that may have been fine for television. As a piece of animated film, however, it lacks any soul or personality outside of being a DC property.
Similarly, any well put together anime series could put the fight sequences to shame, which are just as lifeless. It relies on still frames to tell stories and repetitive background characters, unimaginative shot structure and cloned extras. This is disappointing, it's 2018 and you should not be shown up by the Fleischer cartoons made back in 1941. Overall this adaptation is functional. It tells the story that it is designed to tell with the barest effort to inject any life into proceedings. Multiple retellings of the same story in recent years may have soured reception somewhat but the fact that it fails to meet the challenge of making an original film out of an old story is perhaps even more telling.
Outside the movie itself, the Blu-ray has a 1080p high definition 16:9 1.77:1 aspect ration video with a DTS- Master Audio in English, Spanish, Castalian, French, German and Latin Spanish. It has a similarly exhaustive selection of clear subtitles.
As for extras, it is a little bit of a mixed bag. Not only does the film contain a brief history of The Death of Superman and the iconic fight, as well as a sneak peek at the Reign of the Supermen, due in 2019, but it also contains two episodes from the cartoon series Legion of Superheroes. The former feels more promotional than informative; the feature dealing with the Death of Superman's fight delves briefly into the importance of the story, but it doesn't go into enough depth to make it attractive for comic book historians. The two episodes provide an example of how similar the quality of animation is between a feature film and a 20-minute TV episode, but due to some creative character design, the show comes off a lot better which is a shame.
The Death of Superman is an odd release. It is only one part of a complete story that we have already seen before told in a dull manner. The extras may give us a glimpse at the iconic stories' historical importance and include an interesting two-part TV series story. However, you may be better off waiting until the other part comes out, or seeing if it's in one of your subscription services as the animation style and storytelling are somewhat bland.