Plot Summary: IMDB Synopsis (warning: spoilers)
Starring: Adam Baldwin (Clark Kent/Superman), Anne Heche (Lois Lane), and James Marsters (Lex Luthor).
Directed by: Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm, and Brandon Vietti.
“Superman Doomsday” marks the beginning of a new era for DC Comics animation. Produced in the style Bruce Timm made famous with “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman”, this film is adapted straight from one of DC Comic’s most famous storylines (the Death and Return of Superman) and was made for adults. The violence in the film is brutal and unforgiving. Nothing is held back in Doomsday’s rampage, or that of the Eradicator’s (fans of the comic will recognize that name that is sadly never mentioned in the film). One character’s death leaves a nice sized pool of blood and the image of a sheet draped over a murdered 7 year old girl is unsettling. I highly recommend viewing the film before you let anyone under 13 years old watch it.
First I want to commend the writing team for adapting a long spanning story (over a year worth of comics) and making it work, while adding enough new elements to the story to keep it fresh. Even though it works, it is not without its problems… in fact, it has a lot of problems.
My biggest problem with the film is a glaring mischaracterization of Superman. He is having an out of wedlock (and very sexual) relationship with a woman that he is lying to, and he has a complete disregard for human life. The film tries to tell us verbally how great Superman is when ever they can fit it in, but actions speak louder than words. Multiple times throughout the film, Superman is so focused on trying to beat up the bad guys with complete brute force that he is completely clueless to the damage that he is causing. Damage that not only takes peoples lives, but is worse than the rampage of the villains before Superman came onto the scene. This film shows Superman as a reckless hero that only knows how to use brute force, instead of the intelligent hero of the comics whose first thought is always “how can I get this fight away from the people”, then “how can I beat him”. At one point in the film, Superman saves Lois, but in doing so throws Doomsday directly through a building, collapsing it on top of itself and likely killing hundreds of people who were trying to get a good night’s sleep. The Superman I grew up with would never sacrifice hundreds of people to save one person, even if it was his girlfriend. The filmmakers disregarded who Superman is at his core, just to have really cool fight scenes… and don’t get me wrong, these were really cool fight scenes.
All of the action in the film was top notch. The fight between Superman and Doomsday is epic and never holds back. The animation is sleek and stylized. There were multiple WTF moments that kept me completely engrossed in the film. This is the type of action that I’ve been waiting to see with Superman and I hope that who ever is in charge of the reboot of the live action movies takes notes and ups the anti as this film has. Speaking about the animation, Metropolis never looked better. The backgrounds of rendered beautifully and locations have influence which has been taken from the past films and the comics. Its always nice to have something just fit, and this does.
Sadly, the designs weren’t perfect. Superman’s face has very awkward lines that make it look like he’s pushing 60 years old. There is no way people could see that ugly mug and not know that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Lois is beautiful, but with so much influence from the other characters taken from “Superman: The Animated Series”, this completely redesigned Lois stood out and felt out of place. Her character also started way to whiny. I’m used to having a tough and confident Lois. As the movie progressed, she became more likable and her scene was Martha was touching. Lex Luthor was rendered perfect and it was great to see a team that gets him. He was smart, charming, and completely psychotic.
The film had a lot of great small details; Lois’ problem spelling (which has been a running gag since Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie”), and a ton of imagery straight from the comics (Superman’s cape waving in the wind, Doomsday meeting a dear). The film also fixed what I always thought was a glaring plothole in the comic’s storyline. Before any of the action occurs in the film, Clark leaves Metropolis on assignment as a foreign correspondent from the Daily Planet to a warzone in Afghanistan. When they don’t hear from Clark after Superman’s death, his friends and co-workers assume that something went wrong on assignment or that he is having trouble checking in. In the comics, they explained Clark’s disappearance by saying he was killed by falling rubble during Superman and Doomsday’s epic battle. Then when Superman returned and they had to bring Clark back, they explained that he was in a hospital recovering the whole time (or something to that effect, it has been a while since I’ve read the back issues).
Overall, if you are looking for an adult animated Superman film that doesn’t hold back, “Superman Doomsday” is a great choice to watch. The DVD also features a great documentary on the making of the original “Death and Return of Superman” storyline and how it effected the world of comics.