Friday, 10 August 2018

The Death Of Superman

Voice cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, and Rainn Wilson

Directors: Jake Castorena and Sam Liu

81 minutes (12) 2018
Warner DC Blu-ray region B

Rating: 6/10
Review by Donald Morefield

When the monstrous beast from space Doomsday arrives in Metropolis, its evil presence on screen evokes an iconic end-of-an-era story, based upon the four-issue series 1992-3 of comic books. As usual, Lois Lane is central to the Kryptonian son’s narrative on Earth, and real-life celebrity couple Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn play Clark and Lois, for an astute genre-savvy casting coup that adds spousal comfort and genuine chemistry to their vocal performances in this animated movie. Despite revisiting and revising the plot of previous animated movie, Superman: Doomsday (2007), there's more than enough going on here, with regard to romantic engagement, and philosophical debates about who should know a hero's secret identity to please fans of DC comics and movies, and would like to see other variants.

Playing alongside in-jokes and various references to Superman lore, The Death Of Superman pays affectionate tribute to Superman: The Movie (1978), and borrows some key images and themes of action scenes from Man Of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016), and Wonder Woman (2017). Clark’s adoptive parents Ma & Pa Kent, necessary as a soap-opera sub-plot to re-create the heroic orphan’s back-story afresh, seem influenced more by TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman (1993-7), rather than Smallville (2001-11), or any of the recent big-screen outings. 

The Justice League attempt to confront Doomsday before Superman, and although Green Lantern (voiced by Nathan Fillion), and Batman (Jason O’Mara) deliver their best efforts, only Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) has the strength and power to manage a fight scene that does much more than simply get the monster’s attention. Eventually, it’s a mega-brawl when a punch-up sequence escalates and intensifies to become a brutish battle, the ultimate mano a mano. There’s a smart plot-twist when Lex Luther attempts to save the besieged city and, by extension, the world, using a hi-tech suit of armour (in something vaguely like a ‘Hulkbuster’ style), of his own invention, for the increasingly savage urban combat against Doomsday.

VideoVista’s editor has argued that what superhero cinema depends upon is photo-real animation, so perhaps that’s what cartoon style movies like this example really do need instead of traditional flat 2D artwork. When actual motion within the artwork frame is as basic and limited as character moments are in this movie, the suggestion in favour of a drastic upgrade to a fully CGI (or PRA?) format for digital animation, does seem valid, so, it’s a bit of a shame, and a great missed opportunity. Should DC to adopt a future-proof business model by investing in greater cinematic realism that is, or should be, a welcome and worthwhile advancement for animated movies? 

Also, it’s hard to identify the intended audience for a movie like The Death Of Superman, especially coming after the Doomsday tragedy has been done in a live-action movie directed by Zack Snyder. Since both live-action and cartoon movies have 12 certificates, and the animated version includes scenes of bloody violence, there’s no direct appeal to younger viewers, and only the niche ‘anime’ market remains.

Animated sequel Reign Of The Supermen (2019) will continue this epic story-arc, and that follow-up movie is promoted with a featurette in this Blu-ray discs extras.

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