Superman: Doomsday review – disappointing death of hero tale

Superman: Doomsday doesn’t live up to classic comic tale

On the comic book animated movie front, Warner Bros. Animated has no competition. For about a decade they’ve cranked out adventures so fantastic and well-crafted that they rival their live-action counterparts. Superman/Doomsday is not one of them. This ranks as easily the most disappointing entry in the DC Comics animated film catalog.

The best Superman story arc was the three-part trilogy Death of Superman, World Without a Superman and The Reign of the Supermen. Read that epic in one omnibus here. It brought back readers —most of whom had long written off the Man of Steel as too boring compared to edgier characters like Wolverine, Lobo and Batman — by reminding them of Superman’s relevance even in a more jaded, cynical comic landscape.

Superman Doomsday - Superman bloody

In the comic, Superman tangles with an unstoppable, remorseless monstrosity named Doomsday, in an epic struggle culminating in his apparent death. The world soon comes to understand the full measure of the hero they’ve lost when four new heroes sporting Superman’s shield emerge. Each lay claim to being Metropolis’ protector. One has a more sinister agenda that can only be prevented by the return of the real Man of Steel and his new allies.

That’s a lot of ground to cover in a 75-minute adventure. Screenwriters Duane Capizzi and Bruce Timm try to streamline it to the point that their script never resonates. It seems too impersonal for what should be one of the more emotional Superman stories.

Superman Doomsday - Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen meet Doomsday

Lex Luthor (James Marsters, Smallville) uncovers Doomsday, whose initial encounter with Superman (a passable Adam Baldwin, Serenity) kills them both. The fight doesn’t have a decent buildup so there’s no sense of struggle or accomplishment that Superman stopped Doomsday and the co-titular character doesn’t appear after the 30-minute mark.

Superman Doomsday - Lois LaneThe film’s main character is actually Lois Lane (Anne Heche), who has to cope with the loss of her lover, while honoring his example. I could see how Superman: Lois Lane wouldn’t make for a sexy pitch, but this is definitely Lois’ show and a more Daily Planet-focused effort. Heche isn’t Dana Delaney, the definitive animated Lois Lane voice actress, but she gives a good performance especially in the film’s standout scene when she travels to Smallville to comfort Martha Kent (Swoosie Kurtz).

To work in some aspect of The Reign of the Supermen, Capizzi and Timm have Luthor create a robot impersonator, but the subplot completely misses the point and cheats the film out of the most dynamic aspect of the story that lays the groundwork for Superman’s triumphant return.

Superman Doomsday - Lex Luthor and Mercy

Instead, it just feels like an extended Justice League episode. Luthor and his robot are set up as the main threat and it’s the same old Lex Luthor is the main bad guy plot we’ve repeatedly seen to the point it’s now cliché.

The character designs are all over the place with Superman having deep cracks in his face that make him look about 50-years-old while Lois is drawn like she’s barely 21, but the few action scenes are handled well.

This was Warner Bros. Animated’s worst comic to film translation, largely because it used the most well-read Superman story and watered it down to a dull, throwaway non-epic.

Superman Doomsday - Superman and Superman

 Rating: 2 out of 10