Back in the early 90s Superman was on the decline. Comic sales were down and the DC writers felt the iconic hero was being taken for granted.
What came next has either been credited for revitalising the character, or dismissed as a publicity stunt. Either way, The Death of Superman was a huge moment in the history of the Man Of Steel, and proved to be such a pivotal plot point that it’s been retold in a variety of ways, most recently with last year’s animated direct-to-video release, Death Of Superman.
This year we get the sequel. While the comic book arc involved three chapters – Death of Superman, Funeral For A Friend and Reign of the Supermen – the films have condensed the story into two parts.
With Superman’s demise coming at the hands of vicious killing machine Doomsday, Metropolis is in mourning, and the world slowly recovering from the death of its biggest hero. There are others – the Justice League continues to fight on, but they too are in mourning.
Enter a variety of Super-imposters. There’s Lex Luthor’s creation, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, a mysterious superman called Steel and another called Eradicator. Whether any of them are the real Man Of Steel remains to be seen…
Ordinarily, we’d avoid revealing any further plot points – but that’s the thing with this pair of Super movies – the stories have already been told. Death of Superman and the villain Doomsday have appeared in a variety of ways, from Smallville to Batman V Superman. Fortunately, Reign of the Supermen has more to offer.
If only more was less. This is an extremely faithful attempt to tell the comic book story, but by condensing it down to feature length (even at a hefty 165 minutes) while resisting any cuts to the original plot, director Sam Liu and writer Jon Bogdanove have bogged themselves down.
Characters are squeezed in and sometimes forgotten, and mysteries become short plot beats rather than the drive of the story.
Still, it’s a perfectly entertaining story to tell, enabled by unfussy animation that, while employing CG, harks back to a time when animated movies had a beautiful simplicity that we rarely now see.
The voice cast again impress, with only Rainn Wilson’s whiny take on Lex Luthor occasionally grating. Emotion largely comes as a result of the heart put in by the likes of Rosario Dawson (as Wonder Woman) and Rebecca Romjin (as Lois Lane). Indeed, it’s the smaller-scale moments that elevate the material. Lois and Diane going for coffee being far more memorable than the somewhat repetitive action sequences.
It’s an adaptation that should please the fans and is arguably one of the best Superman movies since Richard Donner was fired, but it’s lack of focus won’t win too many over.