“The Death of Superman” Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment’s new adaptation of the 1993 classic comic book storyline of the same name, lives up to its source material as well as any straight-to-video animated title from DC Original Animated Movies series has to date.
It’s a vast improvement over the company’s first attempt to bring the story to animated life, 2007’s “Superman: Doomsday.”
It also fits surprisingly well into the established New 52-inspired continuity that the animated films have been building since 2014’s “Justice League: War.”
Most importantly, it packs the requisite emotional, cathartic punch that this story demands. Well-scripted and voice-acted, the film delivers heart to match its epic scale.
What’s it about?
If you know the comics, you know the story here in the broad strokes. An unstoppable, mindless monster appears headed straight for Metropolis, killing everything in its path.
The Justice League tries to stop it and is left incapacitated. It falls to the city’s greatest champion to stand alone and pay the ultimate price to save everyone.
It’s the day Metropolis stood still.
The day a Superman died.
Differences from source
One of the ways this new “Death of Superman” version benefits from being set in the animated movies’ continuity is that Superman’s individual world and supporting cast haven’t really been developed within those confines.
As a result, it’s relatively easy to set up the character drama in the run-up to the slug-fest. Veteran comic scribe Peter J. Tomasi’s screenplay for the film deftly establishes who Superman has become to Metropolis, as well as his personal connections beyond his superhero persona.
The most important task within that effort is to establish Superman/Clark Kent’s relationship to Lois Lane. In the source material, that relationship was well-established, while here, it’s completely uncharted.
Just how Tomasi handles that task is perhaps this film’s greatest strength. The heart and emotion that he injects into the relationship’s progression greatly heightens the stakes when it comes time for Superman to face his fate.
It’s important to mention that all the elements for the next chapter in the story, “The Reign of the Superman,” are all well seeded here, too. Longtime comic book fans will recognize them right away, but they don’t feel obtrusive or distracting to the overall narrative.
The technical stuff
For review purposes I picked up the Limited Edition gift-set of “The Death of Superman.” The set includes the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo release, along with a battle-worn Superman mini-figure.
The gift sets, for those keeping track, are numbered. Mine was #22,243 out of 55,000.
Really the draw here for collectors is the figure, and it’s … nice. Not thrilling, but nice.
If we’re nitpicking, he, well, doesn’t have a mouth, but the rest of the detailing matches what you get in the film.
In terms of audio and video quality, “The Death of Superman” offers pretty much what fans of these movies have come to expect — middle of the road.
What does that mean? The sound field is immersive, but only to a point. Your 7.0 speaker system certainly isn’t going to get a workout here, but the film’s big booms and explosions shouldn’t disappoint, either.
Visually, colors are crisp and vibrant, and darker tones as deep as they’ve been in previous releases. There’s nothing glaringly deficient here, and certainly nothing that will distract from the movie experience.
For the consummate Superman fan, for the comic book fan in your life who grew up in the 90’s and read “The Death of Superman” with tears in their eyes, this new version of “The Death of Superman” is the perfect gift.
Don’t just settle for the digital download. Track down one of the gift sets if you can — the recipient will certainly appreciate it.
And they may cry while watching the movie. Be kind — don’t judge them.
For everyone else, the film should stand as one of the more enjoyable entries in this ongoing franchise. The voice acting is solid, the action is intense, and the overall experience is a satisfying one.
Just ignore the voice in the back of your head telling you, “You know he’s coming back, right?”
That may be true, but that takes nothing away from the power of what the film makers deliver here.
The Death of Superman
Starring the voices of Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lantner, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Rocky Carroll, Patrick Fabian. Directed by Jake Castorena and Sam Liu.
Running time: 81 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action including some bloody images.