The Death of Superman
The Death of Superman 2018
This was actually my first theater visit of 2019, second Fathom Events superhero film as I watched this in a double feature with the sequel The Reign of the Supermen. This is the second two-part animated movie in the DC Animated Universe after the Dark Knight Returns. This is also the third adaptation of the Death of Superman after what’s generally considered the first DC Animated Universe film release Superman/Doomsday and the much looser adaptation in the live action Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was one of the few major comic books that I actually read when it was released as my friend had a couple copies and I remember skimming through the Doomsday fight but only vaguely remember the latter half of the story. Where this film really shines is not just the fight with Doomsday, but it really gets to the human heart of the story and is one of the most touching versions of Superman’s death that I’ve seen.
Before this film, the best animated battle was also in a two-part animated movie that was also partly adapted within Batman v Superman with the battle between the two heroes in the Dark Knight Returns part 2. But where this battle really shines is how it not only raises the stakes in a major way, but it’s a battle that feels like it takes over a full half of the film but it’s never repetitive. It’s exhausting, but that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. It really shows the strength of Superman after we get to see Doomsday take out the entire Justice League before he manages to join the battle and then continues that battle for twice as long. But Superman wouldn’t be Superman without the human moments and while it may seem like too much of a break in the battle, it’s important to see the touches of him taking the time to save civilians whenever he is able to. The animation is also fantastically able to show the raw power of the two heroes and how the battle takes Superman to his absolute limit.
Where the movie really shines is the human component as Superman is always the most boring when he’s merely a nigh-unstoppable fighting machine whose only weakness is Kryptonite. Here it’s another story where he reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane for the “first” time and in a film that’s primarily supposed to be a giant fist fight, it’s really more of a romance between the two characters. The romance and chemistry is helped by having them voiced by real-life married couple Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn. We see the struggles of their work romance, egged on by office gossip Cat Grant. Their romance is given time to build from one level to the big next step (short of marriage) and there are plenty of additional moments that allow Clark to reflect on his decision. It’s nice that it’s a part of the larger Animated continuity that started with Justice League: War as we get to see a callback to his short-lived relationship with Wonder Woman (even though it doesn’t get a mention in Lois’s meeting with the parents), but we also get to have a few other perspectives from the Justice League. Even though Batman’s meeting with Damien Wayne’s school seems like a throwaway joke, it actually helps to see his familial side before getting the much closer analogue with Barry Allen’s upcoming marriage to Iris West who has known his secret identity for quite a while. But even more important than the reveal of his secret identity, the real show of vulnerability and true humanizing moment falls down to the single note revealing his “one last secret” in a pitch perfect note that comes back in a great way in Reign.
But what’s even better about this version of Superman isn’t just about the romance between him and Lois Lane, but it’s also so much about his humanity and personability. The film really focuses this trait of his down to a single character that would often seem to be an extraneous character. After a mostly unrelated opening sequence crime involving Intergang in Metropolis, Superman is about ready to hand off clean-up duty to the Flash when he takes a few moments to talk to the general public, specifically a sailor who he has had multiple run-ins with, knows him by name, and takes the time to take a picture with him to hang in his newly opened restaurant which he will later frequent. This is the Superman that is important. This is the Superman that represents hope. This is a Superman that the film takes the time to show him not just interacting with the general public, even if it’s just a quick wave, but this is a Superman that actually remembers people’s names. He isn’t just a God among men saving people’s lives, he’s a part of the community. There really isn’t a lot of time spent on this, but it’s time well-spent. It’s not boring boy scout Superman, it’s Superman the way he’s meant to be seen.
This is far and away the best DC Animated movie that I’ve seen in a long while, probably since the Dark Knight Returns which was my previous favorite. I’m incredibly glad that I took the time to see this in theaters and my review of the second half will come tomorrow. This is Superman how he’s supposed to be done. We get to see his heroism, his strength, but most importantly, his humanity. We even get to see his faults with his early doubts and hesitancy when it comes to his decision to take his relationship with Lois to the next level. And it’s contrasted by the sheer brutality of Doomsday in his early scenes as he brutally murders several civilians and Atlanteans. One other quick note, it’s actually quite refreshing and often overlooked that Lois tends to have a different outfit and slightly different look in each scene that she’s in, you know, like how normal people change their clothes every day. A minor note, but worth mentioning. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.