I wonder how long he’s going to stay dead this time.
The Death of Superman (2018) is a direct-to-video DC animated action film, the 11th movie in the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) and directed by Jake Castorena and Sam Liu. It stars Jerry O’Connell as the Big Blue Boy Scout himself, who must battle the insurmountable foe Doomsday when he suddenly crash lands on earth.
Despite not being a particularly well-liked or even good superhero story, this is the third time ‘The Death of Superman’ has appeared on-screen. And, big shock, the third time is not the charm. While not as painfully messy and long as Batman v Superman, nor as overstuffed as Superman: Doomsday, The Death of Superman does little to resolve the problems with the source material and manages to even throw a couple more onto the pile. Its not the concrete milkshake that BvS was, but for fans of the Last Son of Krypton, this is not the inspired obituary you’re looking for.
Now lets talk about ‘The Death of Superman’ story arc. While a monstrous success at the time, history has rightly so begun to question the quality of the story just a little. Questions typically come in the form of:
‘Why is the way Superman died literally the one way he shouldn’t die?’
‘Why do the Justice League seem so useless?’
‘Why was Doomsday as a walking plot device created when there are so many other rogues that could have been used?’
‘This was just a publicity stunt, right?’
These questions and many many more are not solved by The Death of Superman. While the story is graciously simplified a little bit, it suffers from all the same frustrations as the original story and does nothing to address any of them. There are a bountiful amount of ways to make a good story about the death of Superman but its frustrating to see that all these projects rather than fixing what’s broken just keeps trying to do the same thing over and over again. Its madness.
What doesn’t help this fact is the already established DCAU. Aside from Justice League: War and the recently released Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, I largely have not been a fan of the continuing films. Often suffering from stilted animation, lacklustre performances and a general lack of imaginative writing, The Death of Superman does nothing to buck those trends. Jerry O’Connell has never done much to distinguish his performance as Superman (side note: what happened to Alan Tudyk from War!?) and here he delivers all the right emotions and with perfectly fine delivery, but there’s nothing memorable about him or his character in any way, and for the lead performance in a movie that hinges on him dying, that’s not great. The rest of the returning cast members are perfectly fine as well (with special mention going to Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman who has always been great at selling the New 52 battle-hardened Diana). The weakest element goes to Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor however. Dwight is not the guy you cast as an evil genius and his nasally and stilted performance here is more annoying than memorable.
The one place where the film feels like it goes all out is with the fight itself. The action in the DCAU has always been fine but nothing special, but here its clear special attention has been given to making the Superman/Doomsday brawl have the weight it needs. Booming sound design and an almost anime-esque approach to scale and destruction lends it a lot more energy I expected from a film that’s largely dull during its relatively short run-time.
While I’m sure fans of this character and the DC universe as a whole (me included) will already be planning to give this latest effort a look in, there’s not an incredible amount to recommend. Fans of the original story are certainly going to get a kick out of seeing it hit the screen yet again, but for anyone who is not a fan this is more frustrating than entertaining. Maybe the DCEU isn’t the only universe in need of a soft reboot right now.
General Audiences: Not Recommended
True Believers (DC): Meh