I'm a comic book fan, I actually own the "Death and return of Superman" in its original comic crossover form. This event in comic history was very significant (while it lasted) in the early 1990's because of the repercussions felt throughout the DC universe. The comic story arc came at a time when DC’s sales were dwindling and they were desperate to make a quick profit. The “Death of Superman” actually preceded “Knightfall” in the pages of Batman. The mid 90’s attracted a lot of 'investors' (who liked the $$ but never cared about the medium) that birthed gimmicks in the industry and comics were printed in such unbelievable amounts that it lost its value and angered the real comic fans; this lead to the collapse of the comic book inudstry. Now, more than 10 years later, we see this event in animated form. Is it as significant? Honestly, for me, not really.
LEXCORP has organized a dig to find a new source of energy from the Earth's core. Accidentally, they unearth the buried ship of a monster called Doomsday. A killing machine created from the genetic labs of Krypton from the past. A being so powerful, he rampages through the U.S. until he reaches Metropolis. Superman gives his all to stop the monster at a terrible price. All of Metropolis mourns its hero, even Lex Luthor, who mourns the passing of the last son of Krypton in his own twisted and sinister way.
At first glance, I thought this animated movie was going to be reminiscent of the Superman animated series in the 90's. But no, this is a stand-alone movie unrelated to either the fantastic "Justice League" and the Superman animated series. In this movie, Superman is the only super-hero on Earth; Lois didn't know beforehand that Clark was Superman before they had an intimate relationship. You might say that Superman was the real person and Clark was only a disguise. This fact was changed before by John Byrne who marvelously developed the Clark Kent persona as the driving force behind Supes‘ heroism.
I do have very mixed feelings about the film as the script feels a little too rushed and lacks cohesive rhythm. Doomsday’s arrival and his defeat came too quickly that the viewer never really felt any narrative impact to it. Doomsday seems to have just disappeared after the last punch. It seems like the Doomsday that was SCARY, intimidating who killed Superman in the source material was just an outward gimmick to get to the actual return of Superman. The plot was overreaching, and could have been better as a mini-series than as a full-length movie.
The film does also try to bring forth the effects of Superman’s death as we see some of his friends and family grieving his death. Martha Kent makes an appearance but there was no Jonathan Kent present. But given the way the movie was just in a rush to cover as many bases as possible, it never mattered. Supes’ death should have been more tragic, here in Bruce Timm’s creation, it felt that it was just a phase so that Kal-El could be resurrected.
Then after his “death”, we see an emotionless “Superman” who fills the shoes of the son of Krypton. It felt like a wild tribute to the Eradicator (that I could buy into) but this “Supes” that was supposed to be the darker side of a “Superman” was developed poorly that he never made any credible significance. I also had a lot of issues with the resurrection of Superman as a robot made the arrangements. There is just no emotion or feeling of grief in the film, as the characterization was just clumsy. Lois never knew Clark was Supes, but they were together? The subplot with Olsen working in a tabloid was interesting for a short moment but the changes were so done quickly that it never settles in with the viewer; I never cared to know the why and the how as the details were just “speed-fed” to me. When the final fight came, I didn’t care anymore; I was just taken in a film that felt too routine and unimportant.
The animation/art was acceptable, although I can't get over the cheekbones in Supes' face and the big line from Lex's head to his cheeks. Nice rendering with the Lois Lane, though. But I had major issues with Lex Luthor (He's slimmer here) and Perry White. None of them matched the designs in the Superman animated series. The voice acting was alright, but it was inferior to “Batman Mask of the Phantasm”.
Well I guess the movie wasn’t that good but it sure could’ve been a lot worst. There were a lot of plot holes but when you have a rushed production like this, who would care? It's a cartoon even though it runs for almost 2 hours. No one can make a very detailed feature with superman's death and return in those few minutes. It does bring forth a weird sense of nostalgia for fans of the man of steel. It is an acceptable but very flawed, messy adaptation of the "Death and return of Superman"; but maybe you‘re just here to lend support to the character?
This is the DCU in the earliest attempts in adapting a more mature super-hero fantasy so I can forgive them in a way. The documentary “Requiem and Rebirth” that was included in the dvd was good though and may make it worth a watch.
Rental [2 ½ Stars]
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