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Superman: Doomsday sounds the death knell of a hero

Damon Jason | Monday, September 24, 2007

“Superman: Doomsday” is DC Comics’ entry into a recent series of animated films based on some of the comic book industry’s most popular characters and stories.

This particular film is based loosely on a number of storylines collectively known as “The Death and Return of Superman.” While production values obviously aren’t as high as last year’s “Superman Returns,” the film does a solid job at creating its own identity.

In an attempt to boost sales in the lagging comic book industry in the 1990s, DC crafted the “Death of Superman” story arc. In this storyline, an unstoppable alien named Doomsday terrorizes Metropolis after taking out the entire Justice League. Superman goes to face Doomsday and a lengthy battle ensues. In the end, Superman fights until his dying breath, but not before killing Doomsday first.

The subsequent storyline, “Funeral for a Friend,” deals with the world’s reaction to losing the most powerful superhero ever. In their post-Superman world, four individuals attempt to step up and take the mantra of the “new” Superman.

As with many comics, through various machinations, DC does not allow its hero to stay dead for too long. These events conclude with the eventual and triumphant return of the original Superman.

“Superman: Doomsday” is an interpretation that fuses together pieces of these various storylines.

The film is good – viewers can approach “Superman: Doomsday” with no previous knowledge of Superman lore and have a satisfying movie experience. The fight scenes are great, especially the final battle between Superman and Doomsday. Adam Baldwin (“Full Metal Jacket”) and Anne Heche (“Nip/Tuck”) provide solid vocal acting for Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane.

The only complaint with the presentation of the film is the animation. Something about the character models feels slightly off, but viewers can’t expect everything in a direct-to-video film to be perfect.

The main problem with this movie is its targeting strategy.

It’s rated PG-13 and has some very mature themes. Logic would lead one to believe that this movie would be targeted at a more mature audience – an audience, like college students, that read the comics growing up.

There are, however, too many discrepancies between the comic’s original storyline and the film adaptation. It simply tries to accomplish too much in its 75 minute running time.

The film does a great job of creating an intelligible storyline that can be approached by all. However, this is not a summer blockbuster like “Superman Returns,” so “Superman: Doomsday” is unlikely to attract a lot of casual fans.

The DVD has excellent special features. There is the standard director’s commentary, which is well done, as well as the standard “behind the scenes” look at the voice actors.

Perhaps the best extra feature is a vignette called “Requiem and Rebirth: How the DC Comics Team Decided Superman’s Fate.” The short highlights various members of the Superman creative team, giving viewers a sense of the passion and emotion that went into creating “The Death and Return of Superman.” It makes the DVD a must-have for any hardcore Superman fan.