Review - Superman: DoomsdayBy Neal Bailey
Superman: Doomsday surprised the hell out of me. To be quite honest, I haven't really enjoyed much Superman animation at all since the original series, and even then it was good, but nothing to set a clock for. I enjoyed it, but I didn't sit at the TV every time it was on. I watched at my leisure. Expecting this kind of fare, I stepped into Superman: Doomsday excited, but ready to tear it a new one, given the fact that we couldn't get a screener, they were about to rip apart the favorite comic story of my childhood into little chunks not resembling the original, and that it had... James Marsters as Lex?
I walked out of the theater blown away by the fact that I had truly enjoyed the film with little exception, and will probably be purchasing it. It'll be the first animated movie I've bought since The Iron Giant, and while I'm not putting it in that class, I'll certainly say it's a good watch for any Superman fan.
Is it the Doomsday story? Nah, not that much. Is it a retelling of the Doomsday comic story? In structure, yes. In actuality, not that much.
What's really great about it is that if you put aside the Death of storyline and focus on this as an animated feature, it's actually quite compelling and surprisingly adult. Doomsday kills people left and right, Superman, when evil (long story) decimates a number of people left and right, culminating with an extraordinarily surprising and shocking death, a good use of the film having it's own continuity. I won't spoil it for you, but when the rogue Superman starts busting chops, it's rad. There's also a very, very cool Kevin Smith cameo that I won't spoil either, but which will rock your world if you're deep into the mythos/behind the scenes stuff.
Lois is a little flat, Martha seems thrown in without purpose, and Jonathan is conspicuously and quite egregiously missing. The funeral is played very pat and quickly, and you never really develop a sense of sorrow at Superman's passing, because it's obvious he'll be back, unlike when it occurred in the comics.
But that's about it. Doomsday TRASHES everyone, as does evil Superman, and the fight scenes, if a bit repetitive, show that Superman doesn't screw around. Lois and Superman as a romance plays better than I thought it would given odd circumstance. Lex is spot-on in all respects and written masterfully from top to bottom, particularly given one extraordinarily harsh moment where he coldly executes someone you wouldn't expect.
The best part of this movie, despite bad character models, is the stark animation of them in motion, kicking the hell out of each other, causing explosions, tearing up the city. There's one scene where Superman saves Lois and it results in him being thrown into a building which collapses, proving the age-old rule that one Lois is worth about a thousand poor people. Give or take a few kittens.
The plot is pretty tightly structured and well-executed as well. If you're a die-hard who will not rest until you see the Eradicator, you're going to hate it. If you like Smallville because of its new take on continuity (as opposed to its character treatment, perhaps, an important distinction), then this movie will blow you away. If you're a kid coming into this with a clean mind, it'll probably help define Superman for you.
I remember in the 80s, movies for kids still had a few cylinders to fire on. In Monster Squad, Dracula grabbing an amulet and going, "Give me the amulet, you #%$^!" Indiana Jones getting shot and shooting a bunch of folks. Misery for Luke. Friday the 13th. Nightmare. Goonies. They're much harder, stronger films than the fare of today, which usually feature a misunderstanding of a kid that leads to wacky circumstances easily solved when the random object of desire is found, with no one ever in any real danger.
This movie shows Doomsday stomping heads, Superman dying, and quite literally, a murdering, evil Superman that chilled ME. Some kid is going to watch this because his parent doesn't know better, and that kid isn't going to be corrupted, he's going to realize that there's a reasonable, adult, rational way to explore violence in a way that simultaneously condemns its bad aspects and shows what can be cool about it. He'll see how Superman can fight even beyond death to score a victory for justice.