Director: Sam Liu
Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn & Rainn Wilson
Rating: 12 Duration: 72 minutes Release date: 6 August (UK)
We’ve been here before, twice in fact and this is now the third time DC have told the story of how Superman dies. 2007’s Superman Doomsday and 2016’s Batman v Superman both told the story in slightly different ways, but the outcome was always the same. The Death of Superman is a brighter and more enjoyable affair though, and does something Zack Snyder never could and makes us care about Superman again.
The film starts off on shaky ground as Superman stops Intergang from kidnapping the Mayor of Metropolis. There are quips and smirks, and it feels like someone paid far too much attention to how the character was portrayed in 2017’s Justice League. The action fumbles and sets up the cast of characters quickly. In no time we are introduced to Superman, the Flash, Cyborg, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and super-hanger on Bibbo Bibboswki. We also get a clue as to why Lex Luthor dislikes Superman so much, and how Intergangs tech relates to the looming threat of Doomsday.
A lot happens in a short amount of time, but at 72 minutes the film can be forgiven for wanting to get a move on. Director Sam Liu still finds the time to develop characters and has some nice beats added in along the way. Superman’s conversation with Wonder Woman regarding his alter ego’s relationship with Lois Lane is a nice exploration of how these characters interact. There’s also a lovely scene at Justice League headquarters, again surrounding Superman/Clark Kent’s love life which is underpinned by a great moment where the Flash willingly makes fun of Batman. The character interactions are what makes The Death of Superman tick, and because of this there is real air of sadness by the films end.
I won’t berate their live-action films too much, because it’s getting to the point where it’s not even funny doing so. But, DC’s animated films are doing a much better job with their characters. Superman is warm & caring, which gives you the sense that they are giving us the best version of him. The same goes for the other members of the Justice League, with the Flash and Green Lantern being particular stand-outs. There are two gripes though. Lex Luthor is somewhere between Gene Hackman & Jesse Eisenberg and Rainn Wilson feels oddly cast as Superman’s greatest foe. Doomsday, for all intents and purposes is little more than a hammer to beat Superman with. There is no drive or destiny behind the character other than an off-shot comment about how he wants to defeat earth’s strongest hero, like some sort of Predator but without all the tools and iconic flair – Doomsday feels rather flat. On the other hand, this gives Superman the right to go ballistic and unleash his true powers.
There are some great scenes here. Both visually and emotionally. There is a throwback to Superman: The Movie, which features a skilful role reversal. The set-pieces are well timed and aren’t afraid to add a touching moment in among the carnage – see the bridge scene for one example of this. What lets the film down however is the way it sets itself up for a sequel. No sooner has Metropolis begun to mourn the death of its greatest hero, and the film is busy showing us what is going to happen next. A little bit more subtlety would have gone a long way, and making the audience wonder what will happen while giving them some breathing space would count for a lot.
Nonetheless, The Death of Superman is an enjoyable film. It doesn’t quite hit every beat, but it works well in the parameters of this animated universe and is a good jumping-on point for anyone not endowed in its