In 1992, the world was treated to a comic book story that would rock the world and make national headlines. Now, DC Animation has given it the treatment it deserves with a faithful adaptation that makes the changes necessary to make sense with the movies before it but still keeping the heart and soul of the original story.
THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN
Written by Peter Tomasi
Directed by Jake Castorena and Sam Liu
Music by Frederik Wiedmann
US Release Date: July 24, 2018 (Digital), August 7, 2018 (DVD/Blu-Ray)
Production Company: Warner Brothers Animation
Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion
What You Should Know:
This is one of those setups that everybody should pretty much know at this point and if you want to prepare yourself more, you can watch several of DC’s Animated movies, such as Justice League War, but nothing’s really necessary. Everybody knows that Superman is an alien. Everybody knows that he’s part of the Justice League (although the members often change, this one has Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Hawkman). Everybody knows that Clark Kent loves Lois Lane (although she doesn’t yet know that Clark is Superman). There’s very little you need to know in preparation for this movie.
What You’ll Find Out:
It’s always hard to put out a movie that’s an adaptation of a particular story, especially one that’s so beloved by many. It’s even harder when you have to somehow do a story justice when that original story attracted so much media attention. And then to have the baggage of TWO previous versions of this story on the screen? The story had been done with Superman: Doomsday and then it was one of many plot points in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
I guess third time’s the charm.
The plot is pretty obvious. Superman dies.
It’s how he gets there that’s interesting.
The movie is paced really well, with the only complaint the generic bad guys that open the film. They’re boring and predictable but they still serve their purpose: to establish that Metropolis is Superman’s city. It’s under his protection. The rest of the movie is fun to watch, sprinkling in the slow and steady approach of Doomsday to break up the personal scenes, giving us a great buildup.
When the initial comic came out back in the 90’s, we’d had decades to establish Superman’s popularity in Metropolis. However, with this movie, there’s only a handful of previous stories in the direct continuity. I don’t think the filmmakers really thought that people needed to be reminded that Superman’s city is Metropolis and that they love him. He’s an icon and right up there with knowing that Batman’s parents were murdered and Peter Parker was bitten by a spider. But even though they didn’t need to explain to us how popular and beloved he was, they do, and they do it well. It’s not done (for the most part) through exposition. It’s the little things, the fandom displayed by Bibbo, the Superman bobblehead on the dash of a car, the wonder that people look at him with. It’s an amazing use of background to give us the story.
Superman and Lois’ romance is slightly rewritten here as well (to keep with the previous animated films) but it doesn’t take away from the relationship we all know and love. Similarly, the Justice League is rewritten from the version in the comics, but it’s done to fit the movies already released. Plus, we get to see Batman, Flash, Aquaman, all the classics.
The animation is bright, colorful, but also dark and gritty. You don’t really feel like you’re watching a cartoon, it’s definitely a movie for adults. There are a couple times where it feels a little lazy, almost like it’s a painted image with just the lips moving, but those are few and far between. Overall, the animation is fantastic and feels more like a live action than some live action films.
Ultimately, Death of Superman has the heart and soul of the original story with updates made to keep it in line with it’s preceding movies while at the same time, keeping the core story alive. It’s about Superman, the icon of Metropolis, and what happens when you watch one of your gods die and this movie gives me the feels like few movies have done before.
What This Means for the Future:
With such a near-perfect adaptation of a classic story, it’s hard to know how they will top it. But DC animation sure is going to try, with Reign of the Supermen coming out next year. Maybe this is the start of a DC Animated Universe that can far exceed what has been delivered by the DC Cinematic Universe. I’m looking forward to this more than I thought I would, but after this movie, I’m willing to go all in.
Final Thoughts: It’s a fantastic movie, both for fans of the original comic and for new fans who have never watched an animated movie before. It’s almost perfect in its animation and its feeling. You’ll enjoy this from start to finish.
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