Superman: Doomsday is NOT a Superman cartoon for the kiddies. On the contrary, this straight-to-DVD feature is pretty adult, a fact quickly established in the first ten minutes when Doomsday, the unstoppable devastator from the early 90’s “Death Of Superman” story-arc, brutally murders a team of Lexcorp researchers who unwittingly unearth him, while Lex Luthor himself puts a pistol to the head of a female assistant and blows her brains out.
Even Superman’s character gets bumped up from PG to PG-13 status in this flick. His relationship with Lois gets a modern, adult rendering, best illustrated in an early scene where the pair of them are alone in the Fortress of Solitude, swapping innuendo about the best way to do the horizontal tango without inflicting too much bodily harm to Lois. (What fanboy hasn’t pondered the physical mechanics of super-sex?)
But hey, sometimes a more adult tone is necessary for a story to be properly told. Even if it is a cartoon story.
Utilizing their extra length of chain, DC animations guru Bruce W. Timm, along with co-writer Duane Capizzi and co-director Lauren Montgomery, let their freak flags fly, spending a good fifteen minutes on Doomsday’s swath of destruction and Superman’s lovin’ troubles, before placing Supes and Supes-killer center stage in Metropolis for their legendary showdown.
And what a showdown it is. If nothing else, I would say that the 10+ minute slam-fest between Superman and Doomsday alone is worth watching. Forget The Incredible Hulk vs. The Abomination; Supes vs. Doomsday is the real clash of the titans. In just three punches it becomes apparent that Timm and Montgomery totally get the characters they’re playing with. Cars, skyscrapers, moving trains, the very ground underfoot, all become party favors for Superman and Doomsday to knock each other through, bash each other with, or crush one another with. This is everything that Superman fans WANT to see: two guys who can’t be hurt going to ridiculous lengths to hurt one another.
Of course by now we all know how the Superman death saga plays out: trading one last, epic, final blow, Supes takes out Doomsday at the cost of his own life. But it’s at this point that Superman: Doomsday stumbles. Unlike the comic books, where various DC heroes tried to fill Superman’s shoes until four mysterious “Supermen” hit the scene, the movie opts for an abridged story involving Lex Luthor, The Fortress of Solitude, super-clones, and, of course, Superman’s J.C.-like resurrection. None of the latter half of the movie is too atrocious; but at the same time, the story is never quite as thrilling as those initial forty minutes of action. Lucky for the film, those first forty minutes are enough to carry the rest.
The only two major gripes I have with this flick are that 1) Not one other DC Universe hero ever makes an appearance, and 2) The idiotic sub-plot explaining Clark Kent’s absence while Superman is dead.
Apparently, Superman: Doomsday takes place in an alternate reality where Supes is the lone superhero on Earth, because once he’s gone, Metropolis is overrun with emboldened criminals in the blink of an eye. No Batman, no Wonder Woman, no Justice League. Just Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson, holding down the fort. Unacceptable.
Even worse, to explain where Clark is while Superman is dead, the filmmakers chose to go with a half-baked sub-plot about Clark Kent going on assignment in Afghanistan to do some war reporting. When Superman dies, and Clark is never heard from, they figure he is just another victim of an unjust war. Yawn. (I watch animated films to forget reality, Mr. Timm, not to be preached to.)
VERDICT: If you were a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, or any of the other DC animated series masterminded by Bruce Timm, then Superman: Doomsday is definitely worth your while. If you are a fan of pro-wrestling, and feel like that industry hasn’t been delivering a fair quotient of body-slamming mayhem lately, this flick will be up your alley, too.
DVD EXTRAS: None to really write home about. Commentary, trailers, the usual.
(Release date: September 17, 2007. Featuring the voices of Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, John Di Maggio, Ray Wise, and Adam Wylie.)