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The Death of Superman (2018)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/7/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/10/2018

There was a time when reading comic books was something which was done for pleasure. (And it can still be that way today.) However, in the early 1980s, people really began to focus on the fact that comic books could be valuable and what had once been a simple hobby turned into rampant speculation. "Investors" were buying multiple copies of issues purely for the sake of selling them later and every issue became an event. Few things typify this more than The Death of Superman story arc from 1993. This plot was a media event and people came out of the woodwork to buy Superman #75, a book which sold out immediately and was a hot property for about a minute until everyone realized that like so many deceased comic characters before him, Superman would come back. Therefore, this period left a bad taste in the mouths of many readers. Twenty-five years later, is it time to re-visit this story? Let's find out with the new animated film The Death of Superman.

The Death of Superman presents us with an altered version of the events seen in The Death of Superman comics. Superman (voiced by Jerry O'Connell) is at a good place in his life. He is a member of the Justice League, he's adored by the citizens of Metropolis, and, in his guise as Clark Kent, his relationship with Lois Lane (voiced by Rebecca Romijn) is growing more serious. So much so, that he's ready to tell her that he's Superman. However, everyone's world is turned upside down when a meteor falls to Earth, releasing a monster which is quickly dubbed Doomsday. This creature carves a bloody swath from the sea, through the forest, and finally to Metropolis. The other members of the Justice League confront Doomsday, but all are swiftly defeated. Only Superman can stop this force of nature, as it mindlessly destroys everything in its path.

In the comic books, the battle between Superman and Doomsday was notably light on story. Doomsday emerged from the ground (with little to no explanation as to who it was or how it got there), beat up some minor Justice Leaguers and then headed to Metropolis, as it was enticed by billboards advertising a wrestling match. (That's absolutely true. Look it up.) Once in the city, Doomsday and Superman fought for quite some time, with the comic book pages often having little-to-no dialogue. Eventually, they killed one another. There wasn't much in the way of extra characters or subplots.

The Death of Superman takes this framework and expands it for a modern audience, one which the movie assumes is aware of other DC properties. The movie hopes that you saw Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, so that you'll be somewhat familiar with the story and characters. We get appearances by all of the major Justice League characters, and they all get to take a swipe at Doomsday. Lex Luthor (voiced by Rainn Wilson) (who did appear in the comic version) also plays a significant role here, as he's very interested in learning more about the monster. The movie also takes liberties with the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane, place the story in a time when she was still unaware of who Clark Kent really was. These additions certainly lengthen The Death of Superman, but the third act is made up almost exclusively of the battle. Credit must be given where it is due, the movie is able to squeeze some emotion from the fight sequence, and we get a genuine sense that Superman is laying his life on the line to save the city. The ending paves the way for the sequel "The Reign of the Supermen".

The really weird thing about all of this is that DC and Warner Bros. already released an animated version of this story in 2007 which was entitled, Superman: Doomsday. I guess with the recent live-action movies, especially Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice which featured Doomsday, they felt that it was time to reboot the tale. I don't know if that was 100% justified, but The Death of Superman is pretty good. The animation, which skews towards an anime style, truly lacks in detail at times, and inclusion of the Justice League feels somewhat tacked on (although there is a truly funny scene at the Hall of Justice), but, as stated above, the movie is able to find some heart in a story about a character who we all know can't die.

The Death of Superman has way too much Bibbo on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080 which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably reds and blues. As noted above, the animation is lacking in great detail at times, and the clarity of this image unfortunately emphasizes this at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver an impressive amount of surround sound and subwoofer effects, which help to place us in the middle of the action. They aren't incredibly powerful, but we get just enough bass and some nicely detailed rear-channel effects to have us nodding in approval at times.

The Death of Superman Blu-ray Disc contains just a few extra features. "The Death of Superman: The Brawl that Topped Them All" (16 minutes) gives an overview of the story, exploring both the movie and the origin comic (to an extent). Through conversations with personnel from DC Comics and those who worked on the movie, we get an overview of the Superman's greatest battle. The only other extras here are two episodes from the Legion of Super Heroes show.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long