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Review - “Superman: Doomsday”

Superman: Doomsday DVD Cover By Jason Larouche

Synopsis:

While Superman and Lois enjoy a weekend getaway at the Fortress of Solitude, the pair fight over Kal-El's fear of commitment over his refusal to reveal his secret identity, which Lois claims to already know, since the closer they get the more distant Clark Kent becomes. Elsewhere, in an undisclosed location, LexCorp's off-the-books Project Applecore unearths a bizarre alien craft two miles below the earth. On a live video broadcasted to Lex's office, Luthor and Mercy watch as an accidental puncture in the outer shell shuts down a self-sustaining cryogenic system housing a huge, hulk-like monster who immediately breaks loose and slaughters the entire underground team. The rampage continues as the creature emerges above ground, while Lex tells Mercy to "Scorch earth" if it's required to keep LexCorp's involvement out of the limelight.

Back at the Fortress, Superman's robot tells him of the impending threat. The back-story from Jor-El's archives reveals this "Doomsday machine" to be a genetically engineered soldier whose creators disposed of when it became apparent that it could not distinguish friend from foe and kills because it feels it must. As Doomsday reaches the Hobbs area of the city despite the military's best efforts, Superman drops Lois off at the Daily Planet where she'll be safe. Lois, of course, has other ideas and commandeers a helicopter with Jimmy Olsen in tow.

Superman: Doomsday The battle between Superman and Doomsday is brutal, televised nationwide (even on Martha Kent's TV in Smallville) traveling above and below street level. When Doomsday notices Lois and Jimmy in the helicopter he immediately leaps upward and tries to tear them out of the sky. Superman pries him off and helps Lois land safely. She tries to stop him from continuing but he tells her it's what he's here for and resumes the fight. As it continues to escalate, Superman's on his last legs, and several severe blows to the gut make him cough up blood. A crying child attracts Doomsday's attention, which enrages Superman. He grabs the monster and soars to the stratosphere, then does a 180 and plummets earthward, decimating a quarter of a mile of Metropolis in a huge crater. Lois and Jimmy catch up in time to see Superman stagger forward and drop to the ground. Cradling him in her arms, Lois assures him they're all safe. "That's all that matters," he says as he dies. Lois whispers Clark before she loses her composure. All are in shock... even Lex.

Superman: Doomsday The next seventeen days are filled with dramatic changes. The funeral is joined by all of Metropolis, including Martha. Jimmy is approached by National Voyeur publisher Damon as he leaves due to the pulitzer prize he won for the photos of Superman's demise. He takes the job, which drives Perry up the wall. Either out of grief or the need to cover his tracks, upon hearing from Mercy that Applecore's been taken care of, Lex shoots her dead. Lois is heartbroken and decides to finally talk to Martha at the farm. Martha isn't phased by the fact that this complete stranger knows her son's greatest secret and is defensive. Lois finally breaks down as she explains how empty and alone she feels in her grief and that the only one who could possibly understand is someone who Clark loved and who loved him in return.

Superman: Doomsday Later on, back in Metropolis, Toyman has taken a busload of kids hostage in a mechanical spider and placed it on top of a building. Though Lois tries to secretly get them off the bus, the mechanical doll with a knife attacks the kids and alerts Toyman. The bus finally starts to plummet to the ground when help arrives out of nowhere... in the form of Superman. He quickly dispatches Toyman and takes Lois home, but when she tries to kiss him he's taken aback suddenly, leaving her with doubt. The doubt increases when Clark doesn't report in at work. Even Martha is concerned. Elsewhere, "Superman" confronts Luthor in a room that turns out to be walled with red solar lamps that dampen his powers. Lex then confronts him with metal gauntlets with kryptonite-gemmed knuckles. Beating him senseless, he vents his rage at how the Man of Steel could have left him when they had so much unfinished business. When his opponent is unconscious he tells him he approves of how he's convinced the public that Superman is back. He then adjourns to a hidden chamber where the actual body of Superman is hanging in a glass case like a trophy. Apparently Luthor collected blood from the scene of the battle and cloned Superman, then had his doppelganger tunnel under the memorial park where his body had been laid to rest and smuggled it to LexCorp to complete the ruse of his resurrection.

Superman: Doomsday Outside a night club, Lois confronts the new Jimmy Olsen - sporting Italian silk and attitude - and asks for his help in proving the Superman flying around Metropolis isn't who he says he is. She points out the photo op he did with Lex Luthor as proof. Jimmy refuses, saying he likes his life the way it is. Back at LexCorp, Luthor is shocked to find the body missing, and that the gap in the security video could only have been done with an EMP. At the Fortress of Solitude, meanwhile, the Kryptonian robot revives the real Superman, now with long hair. The robot reveals that he hadn't really died, but rather his vitals had slowed to a crawl beyond the detection of normal medical technology. On patrol, Superman's clone notices in Metropolis Square that Toyman, upon escaping from jail, had taken the life of a five year old girl before being apprehended. Enraged, the clone immediately snatches Toyman from the police, takes him to the top of the city... then drops him. Lois arrives shortly after to see the bloodied body laying atop a police cruiser. Jimmy's also there in shock. Based on how cavalier and arrogant this Dark Superman acts in an interview defending his actions, Martha knows it's not her son.

While Kal-El endures the rigors of bathing in artificial solar radiation to restore his powers, Dark Superman continues a downward spiral. The police try to apprehend him but he flashes heat vision on their weapons and flies away. Lex scolds him for his actions and tells him to go on the hunt for whoever may have taken the body, giving him a list of scientific competitors. Suspecting Luthor has an ace up his sleeve, Dark Superman goes into a ladies' salon and x-rays himself, revealing in his brain a small lead ball, possibly a kryptonite bomb. Before a stunned company of women, he lobotomizes himself and gets rid of the device.

Superman: Doomsday Lois approaches Lex in his office, claiming she's quitting the Daily Planet and moving on but wants to find out the truth as to how Lex bent "Superman" to his will. Lex takes advantage of her vulnerability and kisses her. She takes advantage of his guard finally being down and injects him with an anesthetic. She calls Jimmy to come to LexCorp before delving into Lex's personal files until coming across genetic research. Together they use Lex's eye for the retinal scanner and open the cloning lab where there are hundreds upon hundreds of Superman clones in artificial wombs. Luthor recovers and holds them at gunpoint when Dark Superman appears and disarms him. Lex tries to activate the device, but when it fails to go off, he notices the imprint of the hole left by the clone's lobotomy he puts two and two together. Dark Superman destroys the clones and the lab while Lex runs for the "red room" for round two, but the clone instead seals him in and drags the entire room out of the building and throws it down to street level. The news reaches the Fortress' alert system. At only 67% strength, Superman decides it'll have to do and leaves the Fortress with a black solar suit and a kryptonite cannon Luthor himself designed.

Superman: Doomsday The president has ordered military action against the Man of Steel, now perched atop a tall building's eagle head gargoyle. The army reserves give him a warning to surrender, but the clone responds with heat vision slicing up their tanks, then the approaching fighter jets. The area soon becomes a war zone. Jimmy, on the scene with Lois, spots the black-suited Superman streak towards Dark Superman. Dark Superman tells him he's not needed and that Metropolis is under his protection . "Over my dead body," Clark responds before firing the cannon. Dark Superman dodges the blast, disarms him, and engages his weaker counterpart in a brutal aerial battle. Lois and Jimmy follow in an abandoned military jeep, but Lois changes her mind and goes for the kryptonite gun. Twice Dark Superman tries to convince Superman to leave, but he refuses. the battle is carried over to the memorial park. Jimmy and Lois make it there and blast Dark Superman with the gun. It only phases him and Dark Superman destroys the cannon while it's in Lois' hands. The pair engage again, this time getting down and dirty in the tar spilled from a destroyed truck. Again, Dark Superman gets the upper hand, and prepares to bury Superman with the massive "S" statue. Superman then notices the kryptonite cartridge stuck on Dark Superman's chest courtesy of the tar. Via heat vision he punctures it, and Dark Superman is lethally bathed in kryptonite vapor, weakening him and dropping the stone on himself. Much as Clark did following Doomsday's defeat, the clone staggers forward and falls into his arms. "Protect the people" are his final words as he dies. Lois is still unsure of this Superman, having been fooled before. Superman kisses her passionately, which is proof enough. The crowd immediately offers their gratitude.

The next morning at Lois' apartment, Superman has finished showering and cutting his hair while Lois finishes up her article. With in-jokes about her spelling, Superman lets it slip how he was Smallville Elementary's spelling bee champ. She turns and sees him wearing Clark Kent's glasses. She races over and kisses him deep, pausing to tell him to call his mother.

Elsewhere, Lex, who survived but is now laid up in his office in his hospital bed and equipment, is glad Superman survived and that it is possible to make sure next time he doesn't.

Superman: Doomsday Special Features:

Directors Commentary: Bruce Timm

Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!
A four-chapter video documentary on the true story behind the concept behind the Death of Superman story line.

Justice League: New Frontier Teaser Reel
A behind the scenes look at Warner Premiere video's next direct-to-dvd animated release based on DC: The New Frontier by writer-artist Darwyn Cooke.

4Feature - 4 out of 5: First off, I want to say that I am glad that Warner Bros. put time and energy into creating a true visual feast for comic book fans. From epic fight sequences to subtle moments, this brand of animation was so fluid and not one part of it was stock footage or sketchy. It surpasses all of the previous DC animated features and TV series. This was worthy of such a project involving Superman.

Second let's talk about characterization.

Starting it with an introspective shot of Lex Luthor's obsession with Superman was perfect; James Marsters (aka Spike "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" aka Brainiac "Smallville") was dead-on for Lex. The cold tone of voice devoid of emotion and concern was a good fit for the businessman. Speaking of which it is good that they returned him to his Byrne roots.

Adam Baldwin ("Firefly"), meanwhile, was a tough sell at first as Clark Kent, then as Superman. To be honest, he sounded more like Jonathan Kent from the "Superman: The Animated Series", not to mention older than Lex. The look of Kent, again reminiscent of Brandon Routh's appearance in "Superman Returns" keeps also with the current look of the character in the comics, strengthened by Leinil Yu's designs in Superman: Birthright. In fact both Lex and Clark resembled those designs slightly. The cheekbones, however, I disagreed with. It made Clark look too cartoonish at times in addition to being older. Still, over the course of the movie Baldwin seemed to grow in his duties as Kent, Kal-El, and as Dark Superman.

Lois Lane's voice done by Anne Heche was also initially less believable than Dana Delany's harsh back-to-the-wall vocals, but it was obvious that Andrea Romano wanted a Lois that could also sound vulnerable in mourning. The part where she breaks down in front of Martha Kent was a complete 180 for this character who usually was tough as nails.

Speaking of Martha, I wish there were more lines for Swoosie Kurtz; I feel that Martha was terribly underused and I don't agree with the decision to follow the line of thought "Smallville" and "Superman Returns" embraced by killing off Jonathan Kent. That decision was probably to make the film translatable to fans of the movie.

Ron Wise as Perry White worked in the sense that the movie called for a voice that embodied the personality, which was strict and hard-hitting but fair and objective. Jimmy was another character that was underused. Having him sell out to the local news tabloid should've been explored more and not even the commentary was satisfactory in explaining this career change.

Now on to the fight.

Obviously I understand the need to avoid the clutter of a three-year story line and focus on the real meat of the peace, which was the Death of Superman. In the comic, Doomsday first pounded his way through the post-Crisis Justice League before getting to Metropolis, and it was also Superman running the gambit before the final round. Also, there was a similar battle that took place in the second season of Justice League entitled "Brave New World." Thus it was also understandable why they had to make it different and more brutal. Still, there were moments where Superman shouldn't have been so winded so soon. Over a course of a day then maybe that would make sense, but not in hours. However, the amount of ground (literally) the slugfest covered did justify some of the brutal toll it took on the Man of Steel. But the ending of the fight I'll allow only because the simultaneous punch to the jaw had been done before in Justice League and the amount of damage these two had done to each other to that point made a "Rocky II" ending a little redundant and less of an impact. I detect again Superman Returns as a reference in the drop from space idea being catastrophic enough to take out both combatants.

Finally, the return.

When I first learned of the DVD I was expecting to see the Reign of Supermen - Steel, Superboy, Eradicator, and Cyborg - but given the fact that key DC heroes were involved, such as Green Lantern and Mongul, bringing them in would have worked only if the return was a separate film. It seems as though the Dark Superman character was a combination of three of those characters. For starters, like Superboy, it was a clone grown from blood gathered at "ground zero"; second, like the Eradicator - though moral it lacked the touch of humanity that made him relatable to fans, not to mention the value on all life; and finally, the self-righteousness of the Cyborg Superman in how he felt his take-no-prisoners attitude was the kind of approach Metropolis needed to stay safe. However, Dark Superman was somewhat sympathetic in that, like Bizarro in "Superman: The Animated Series", he didn't ask for the responsibility of being the new Superman; he was literally grown overnight and handed Metropolis on a silver platter courtesy of Luthor with strings attached.

As for Superman's return, they did however keep in step with the explanation as to how he survived, as well as the long hair and black suit, at least giving it a function. However, for a cannon, the kryptonite weapon was a little dainty; then again it was for Lex so maybe he designed it compact so it could be concealed in his coat and cheaper when you think about it. I kinda wish though that the battle had ended differently than Dark Superman getting a whiff of vaporized kryptonite; have the guy decompose or something, revealing the skeleton or something and have him resemble the Cyborg. Then again we'd be in R-rated range and have to bring in Bruce Campbell.

All in all, the ONE plot point that I'm glad that got resolved is the issue of Lois still being in the dark about Clark Kent and Superman's connection. To me, because I've been a fan of the Byrne era of the comic books, in which Clark didn't want Lois to get close to Superman because it was a false identity, seeing her being intimate with Kal-El and not Clark seemed too Silver Age for me. To me, Clark sees himself as Kent first and Kal-El second. It seemed backwards for Clark to rationalize how okay it was for Lois to buy into the notion that Superman is as he is without any civilian guise living in the arctic. I think this was to give the character a severe flaw, illustrating how even a Superman can have problems with commitment as Lois pointed out.

One redeeming fact this time is that Lois Lane is not idiotically buying into the ruse; the fact that she's already deduced his secret but wants HIM to tell her his "other real name" shows how much of an intellectual compliment she is to Clark. To see them finally connect in the end was a conclusion that "Superman: The Animated Series" and "Justice League" skated around but never landed on.

What they missed their mark on was the camaraderie between Lex and Superman; the banter between Dark Superman and Luthor didn't count. Guess it's the "Smallville" fan in me.

Anyway, though this DVD didn't follow the Death of Superman story line exactly, it still delivered on a hard-hitting, emotional story. I hope they do another film covering their wedding but I don't have the faintest idea what Super-threat they can bring into the mix. Maybe Final Night. Nuff said.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

5Rating - 5 out of 5: Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives

FINALLY the truth behind Superman's death! I never liked "Lois & Clark" past season one, but I never would've guessed the concept of the series interfered with the wedding story line in the comic. The wedding of those two on the show was NOT worth the wait for starters, but it did bring about a powerful story of death, rebirth and redemption that was needed to bring prestige back to Superman.

The chapters were very extensive in detail, even aided by actual film reels of news broadcasts and Brett Breeding's original video recordings of those conferences. It brings the viewers into the comic book process, in particular how the Superman property was handled. Oh, and nice going ABC bribing the Super-team with concurring with their request to postpone the wedding by having them appear in the third episode of "Lois & Clark".

Also, did anyone notice how when they got to explaining the character of Superboy in the Reign of the Supermen story that Superboy's not even SHOWN! I guess it's due to the ongoing legal battle over the rights to Superboy. The only glimpse we have of the Boy of Steel is a shot of his legs, but that's accidental on account of the need to feature the title of the first story "The Adventures of Superman... When he was a boy." Other than that, it's nice to know that the late Jerry Siegel gave the creative team his blessing for the decision to kill off Superman in order to shake things up.

Overall, the documentary gives us an introspective look into the lives of these men and women who re-injected life into the Last Son of Krypton, and ironically all it took was to kill him.

5Rating - 5 out of 5: Justice League: Final Frontier Teaser Reel

This ten minute short has wetted my appetite and has me yearning to get a copy of that series in TPB version. I'm anxious to see a fifties take on Superman and (rrrrrrr) Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman. Nuff said on that one for now.