Superman: Doomsday

danger, Will Robinson: major spoilers ahead

Superman: Doomsday, a 90’s DC animated film, combines the familiar “death of Superman” arc with the “evil Superman” arc, both of which have the potential for a great Superman movie. I was able to forgive the decade-old animation style and quality (Superman had one too many jawlines), Romano’s differing voice cast from the series, and the fact that a certain Gotham hero makes no appearance. Even so,  the film was drawn out to the point of all-out boredom and failed to impress me.

Doomsday is noticeably darker than the Boy Scout’s usual stories. The villains mercilessly kill soldiers and civilians both on and off-screen; Superman dies; and when he returns, he doesn’t hesitate to return the favor to said villains. Plus, several bathrobe-clad scenes blatantly affirm that Clark and Lois’ relationship is an intimate one…making Superman Returns, astonishingly, more plausible. The adult elements certainly make Supes more interesting and complex to watch, as opposed to corny one-liners and boom-pow action.

Most Superman fans will enjoy a Metropolis-only cast, which makes sense for a Superman movie. But if Superman was believed to be dead–really, truly dead–wouldn’t all the DC superheroes attend his funeral? If Superman suddenly returns from the dead and starts killing people, won’t said heroes, especially Batman, be suspicious? And didn’t Superman give Batman kryptonite in case he ever went rogue? Granted, toss Bats in and he figures it all out in five minutes. You can’t get him out of the story and it’s no longer just Superman’s gig. Nevertheless, Superman isn’t a B-list hero; killing him off and pretending the rest of the DC universe doesn’t exist left gaps too conspicuous for me to ignore.

The battle between Superman and Doomsday was exciting, followed by a downward spiral: there was zero tension as the fake Superman went public and the real one regained his strength. And what did Lex’s Superman actually do? He killed a creepy villain and then rescues an old lady’s cat from the evil clutches of an oak tree. Now if “Superman” tried to kill the president, maybe I would be more emotional, more impatient for the real Superman to return and set things right. Lex doesn’t use Superman to the farthest extent, so he never becomes the villain we love to hate. Lex isn’t much fun unless he’s in a suit blowing up stuff, or hiring henchmen to do it (this explains everything).

The voice acting fell flat, too.  Adam Baldwin (Chuck‘s John Casey) voices Superman, and I was incredibly excited. But Baldwin was monotone and perhaps restrained by the script, which doesn’t allow him to let loose. While Toy Man was creepy, the voice talents for Lane, Luthor and Olson gave forgettable performances.

Superman will always be DC’s golden boy. While Batman is an almost-vigilante in corrupt (and constantly moonlit) Gotham, Superman, a farm boy at heart, defends sunny Metropolis with truth, justice and the American way. And it is that golden boy status that asks how he could betray our trust: if Superman becomes judge, jury and even executor, would he still be a hero, would we still trust his judgement and would the world be a safer place? While Superman: Doomsday asks the question, the “death of Superman” fails to engage and instead retracts from what could have been a great film.

My suggestion: don’t waste your time. Read Superman: Red Son, and watch Justice League’s second-season episodes “A Better World” (for a badass Superman) and “Hereafter” (for Superman’s death, and the JL’s more appropriate reaction).

Images thanks to World’s Finest

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