Reign of the Supermen
Reign of the Supermen 2019
This is the second half of a two part DC Animated film that follows directly after the Death of Superman. Several years after Batman got his two-part animated movie based on one of his most famous comics, Superman got his two-parter and it was released in theaters through Fathom Events. Not only that, but I was able to see the double feature in theaters myself and I was glad that I did. While I would give the edge to Death of Superman for being the better movie, Reign of the Supermen was an excellent wrap up and a part of the story that I hadn’t really experienced before as Batman v Superman went a different direction aside from the inclusion of Apokalips in Justice League and Superman/Doomsday was an extremely truncated version with a completely different latter half. Similar to Death of Superman, I vaguely remember bits of the original comic story, but not nearly enough to notice major changes and I’ve never been one to believe that movies should adhere strictly to the original comic. And as I mention with all new releases, I will be discussing this film in full including any potential spoilers.
Several months after the Death of Superman, several slightly off versions of Superman appear in Metropolis who each call themselves Superman though they’re given their own individual nicknames. Superboy is a clone made from a combination of Superman and Lex Luthor’s DNA and initially works for Lex himself. He’s a fun character that’s somehow given a backstory that involves watching 90’s sitcoms which seems to more or less be an excuse to have him talk like he’s from the 90’s. It might be slightly forgivable if it’s supposed to be an homage to when the original comic was released but it felt like a bit of a stretch here. Then there’s the fully robotic looking Superman with a jet powered hammer who ends up being Superman fan and scientist John Henry Irons who created an Iron-Man like suit and tends to be called the Man of Steel, or just Steel. This version is a far cry from the live action Shaq version and while it’s nice that he’s a scientist and actually feels the part, he doesn’t get a whole lot to do other than be an extra pair of legs for Lois and play second or third fiddle in a few battles.
The other two supermen are the more robotic versions. The more brutal version with a yellow visor and the ability to shoot energy beams from his arms is referred to as the Eradicator and the one most closely related to the actual Superman as he is a hologram created by the Kryptonian technology that was protecting and reviving him. Finally, there’s Cyborg Superman who looks like a robotic Frankenstein with sections of his body that look like fleshy Superman. He ends up being a astronaut Hank Henshaw who was killed in the first part by Doomsday’s asteroid while blindly waiting for Superman to save them. He was brought back by Darkseid who plans on invading the Earth as he is wont to do. Henshaw really reflect’s Superman in the first movie. While Superman takes his time to connect with civilians wherever and whenever he can, Henshaw is a prime example of toxic fandom. He is absolutely certain that Superman will save him so that he takes no steps to save himself. Not only that, but when Superman doesn’t save him, Henshaw blames Superman’s lack of action and turns it into the cause of his death. And that blame is taken, shaped, and warped to the extreme by Darkseid to turn him into a tool.
Similar to the last movie, the Justice League make their presence known here in this movie. Unlike last time, this movie uses a slightly more convoluted technique to get rid of them so that the majority of the story is only about Metropolis and the Supermen. Where the first movie was half romance between Clark and Lois and half battle between Superman and Doomsday, this movie spends a large part of its time as a mystery with Lois investigating the different Supermen along with several battle sequences along the way. It does a good job creating the inciting event that gets Lois back into the game after her mourning period along with a nice bit of bonding between her and Wonder Woman. Over the course of the movie, each Superman with the possible exception of Steel each has both the plausible potential to be the real Superman or to be a villain. It’s nice to see Lois as the real main character of this movie and she carries the role well.
Something that happens in both movies to good effect is the use of humor and callbacks to previous movies and versions without feeling too over the top like how it’s used in the LEGO movies. There’s references to the original Donner Superman movie, Adam West’s Batman, and in this movie there’s a quick little nod to Justice League: War with Wonder Woman’s fondness for ice cream. Both films have very serious subject matter and the moments of humor work well to balance it out without ever becoming too silly.
Another character who has his own interesting arc over the course of the two films is Lex Luthor. It took a little while to get used to Rainn Wilson’s version of Lex, but after a while he works quite well. He’s intelligent, opportunistic, and self-serving more than anything else. He eventually comes around to save the day, but it’s primarily due to self-preservation rather than any actual humanitarian feelings. He’s a complex character who has moments of ruthlessness like when he dispatches his scientist Dabney Donovan, while at the same time showing compassion in not dispatching Superboy even though his motives on that decision aren’t entirely clear. Which is a shame and clarity is another issue with the people who volunteer to become minions in Cyborg Superman’s army aka unwitting pawns in Darkseid’s plan. The clarity issue comes at the end when they are defeated and all fall to the ground to their deaths while the Justice League simply watches. The likely explanation is that they were essentially already dead, but as it stands in the movie it’s unclear. But aside from that minor nitpick, it was an excellent ending to the setup of Death of Superman. It wasn’t able to match the heart, humanity, or action of the first film, but it is still a very solid mystery with great action bits and touches of humanity in a slightly different way. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.