Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #10

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#10: Superman: Doomsday

When Warner Brothers launched their new “DC Universe” animated movie series, they wanted the first one to be big. Well, you can’t get any bigger than the story that shocked the world.

“Superman: Doomsday” was released by Warner Brothers as a direct-to-video movie in 2007. It was re-released as a Special Edition version in 2008. The movie stars the voices of Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters (who plays Brainiac on “Smallville”), Swoozie Kurtz, and a guest voice of Kevin Smith.

The movie is based on three interlocking storylines in DC Comics involving the death, mourning, and resurrection of Superman. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers executives insisted that the film be just long enough to fit into their Cartoon Network schedule, so much of the intense drama of the whole “Doomsday” series had to be abbreviated.

As the movie begins, we are introduced to scenes of Superman (Baldwin) doing heroic deeds. As he is seen saving the day time and time again, we discover that the person narrating his life is none other than Lex Luthor (Marsters), who comments that even though Superman is worshipped as a god, even gods can die.

At the Daily Planet, Lois Lane (Heche) argues with her editor over her story attacking a charity that serves as a cover for yet another Luthor plot. After having her story nixed, she sees Clark Kent preparing to leave for Afghanistan. She acts cold towards him, but after he leaves she gives him a longing look.

Later that night, a team of LexCorp scientists unearth a strange alien device. Luthor is alerted to the discovery as he postpones the discovery of yet another medical cure. It is inferred that Luthor has the cure to almost every ailment known to man, but that he is intentionally withholding them so he can turn the treatments into perennial fortunes.

Meanwhile at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman tries and fails to develop a cure for cancer. He is comforted by Lois, and it’s pretty clear that their relationship is more than just “professional”.

The LexCorp workers crack open the alien device, letting loose a destructive monster that kills everyone there before moving on. The scene is witnessed by Luthor through a video camera. He comments that the aliens that put the monster there did so because they couldn’t kill it. Out in the open, we see that the monster is huge, with bony protrusions coming out of its body. It also demonstrates that it is quite capable of killing anything it sees, including helpless animals.

Back at the Fortress, Lois talks with Superman and alludes that she knows that he’s Clark Kent, but still tries to get him to actually admit it. He continues to play coy. Superman is alerted to the monster’s attack and is told that it is a genetically-engineered “Doomsday” weapon that cannot differentiate between friend and foe.

Doomsday arrives in Metropolis as the military tries to stop it. Superman drops Lois off at the Daily Planet rooftop and then rushes to take on Doomsday, who is at that time decimating the soldiers. We see several minutes of tremendous fighting between Superman and Doomsday, with Lois and Jimmy Olson watching in person, and with the rest of the world watching through TV, including Clark’s adopted mother Martha Kent (Kurtz). Superman gives everything he has, only to find Doomsday giving just as much in return, if not more. When Doomsday turns his attention to a crying little girl, Superman uses the last of his powers to put the monster down once and for all. The monster is finally stopped, and then Superman collapses and dies in Lois’ arms. She whispers “Clark” as she cries.

Superman is given a brief but immense funeral service. Jimmy’s photos covering the battle and Superman’s death make him a media celebrity and he is soon hired by a gossip magazine. Lois, still grief-stricken, visits Martha and lets her know that she knows the truth, and that she really needs someone she can talk to. Luthor is perplexed by the injustice of not being the one to kill Superman. He makes sure that his assistant has cleaned up any connection to his company releasing Doomsday, and then he kills his assistant.

Time passes, crime escalates, and soon Lois is putting herself in danger again, this time trying to rescue a bus full of kids from the Toyman and his mechanical spider. (Note to Toyman: take a few tips from Lord Recluse on how to build a menacing spider.) As the bus falls, with Lois inside, a fist punches up through Superman’s grave. Superman is back, but it soon becomes clear that he is not the same man as before.

The story at this point deals with the revelations surrounding Superman’s “return” and who is really behind it. But as Superman makes some shocking new changes, another figure appears at the Fortress. Could he be the REAL Superman?

If you ever read the “Death and Life of Superman” book or read the whole comic series, or even heard the audio drama “Superman Lives” (this Pundit did all three), then you probably would be disappointed by the heavily abbreviated story. There were multiple elements from the original comic book series that were not conveyed in this movie. Gone was any mention of other heroes such as Batman, Supergirl, or members of the Justice League. Superman appears to be the only superhero in this world. Also missing was Jonathan Kent, Clark’s adopted father, who played a significant role in Superman’s return in the comics, not to mention the four men that would be considered Superman’s “replacements”, including the one that would be his new enemy. All of these things were lost in the name of time constraints and had an effect on the scope of the story.

As an end result, the battle between Superman and Doomsday, though spectacular, was far from epic. The loss of Superman was not as emotional and seen as almost a footnote. And his return, along with the final battle, seemed almost anti-climactic.

As a stand-alone story, presuming that your understanding of Superman is restricted to the TV series “Smallville” or what you’ve seen in the motion pictures, it has some entertaining elements. There is still enough emotion in the battle with Doomsday for you to feel the sense of loss when Superman dies. The resolution with Lois at the end of the movie (which I won’t spoil for you) was good, but seemed somewhat contrived.

The characters seemed to be adequately cast, and that’s really not much of a compliment. Adam Baldwin did an okay job doing the voice of Superman. Anne Heche seemed out of place, though, as Lois. She does a good job doing the voice of Lois as a hard-hitting reporter, but it’s hard to connect the voice to the character during the emotional scenes. James Marsters makes Luthor sound more of a psychopath than as a Machiavellian corporate villain. Marsters probably should have gotten some pointers from his “Smallville” co-star Michael Rosenbaum on how to portray Luthor.

As mentioned earlier, Kevin Smith does have a cameo appearance as a “grumpy guy” that exclaims “Like we really needed him to bust up a mechanical spider, right? - lame.” The line is a studio joke as Smith balked at the idea of Superman fighting a giant spider in his failed attempt at doing the story for “Superman Returns”. That probably explains why Toyman’s spider looked lame.

The biggest mistake made on this movie, though, was that Warner Brothers executives insisted that the story fit their Cartoon Network timeframe. This left a story that seemed rushed at times. Had the studio thrown out the clock and left Director/Producer Bruce Timm to really develop the story the way it should have, it probably would have been a guaranteed blockbuster.

This movie is rated PG-13, and not just because of the violence. The personal relationship between Lois and Superman really is designed for a more mature audience than the kind that watches Cartoon Network. Plus we have blood and the destruction of certain “genetic creations” which I won’t mention too much because that would be spoiling things.

In terms of a hero movie, this one is good. Not great, but good. The cheese factor is thankfully low, the heroes and villains are iconic, but the story left a little more to be desired.

Capes: It earns all five capes. This is, after all, SUPERMAN!
Cheese: Psycho-Lex gives the movie some cheese… but only of the Swiss (1) variety.
Books: Sadly, only three out of five books. Studio-imposed time restraints left the story lacking in many places.

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