DC Universe Animated Original Movies (Part 1): Superman: Doomsday

2013 marks a big return for everyone’s favorite All-Star hero following a seven-year cinematic hiatus.  With the release of Man Of Steel, it got me thinking about The Last Son of Krypton.  Eventually, it got to me connecting him with a certain direct-to-DVD series that has been going on since 2007 and that’s what brings us together.  Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the birth of a review series called…

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Here, we’ll be taking a look at every entry in the mini-franchise and see how well each film holds up as a whole.  Kicking things off is the inaugural entry called…

Our Title Card!

Originally released on September 18, 2007, the film is based off the September 1992-September 1993 story line The Death and Return of Superman.  As with any adaptation of a famed piece of literature to the big or small screen, I’ll also point out what liberties the film took from its source material.

A private and illegal mining operation called Project: Applecore is being held miles outside of Metropolis by Superman’s long-time enemy Lex Luthor (voiced by James Marsters) and his company LexCorp in an attempt to use the radiation from the Earth’s Core and harness it into a new energy source.  During the operation, the workers come across an alien craft buried within the planet.  As Luthor and his assistant Mercy Graves (voiced by Cree Summer) view the process via a video transmission, they accidentally release a gigantic alien creature named Doomsday which goes on a rampage, killing all of the workers and anything that manages to get in its way.  As such, Luthor orders Graves to get rid of any trace of LexCorp’s involvement in the project.

Supes & Lois-Romantic Time!

Meanwhile, Superman (voiced by Adam Baldwin) and Lois Lane (voiced by Anne Heche) are enjoying an intimate getaway at the Fortress of Solitude.  They’ve been romantically involved with each other for six months and during the time, Lois has been piecing together that fellow Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent and Superman/Kal-El are one and the same.  Despite her being right about it and wanting an admission on it, Supes doesn’t want to acknowledge her fact since he thinks that it would jeopardize her safety (despite saving her numerous times in the past and that the media has been picking up on the relationship).  However, the quiet time gets put on hold when “The Robot” (voiced by Tom Kenny, yes seriously) informs Superman about Doomsday carving his path of destruction towards Metropolis.

The military tries its best to stop Doomsday from reaching the city, but nothing (not guns, not bazookas, not rocket launchers and not even tanks) could even remotely scratch this seemingly-unstoppable juggernaut.  Superman manages to arrive and initially slows it down with freeze breath, but Doomsday easily breaks free and the two begin their colossal fight.

Meanwhile, Lois (who was dropped off on the Daily Planet’s roof prior to the fight) calls for fellow co-worker and photographer Jimmy Olsen (voiced by Adam Wylie) to get a helicopter so that they check out the epic alien scuffle.  As they check out the action and get some shots from above, Doomsday notices and leaps for them, trying to bring the chopper down.  Superman manages to save them and continues his escalating battle with said monstrosity.

In the end, Superman manages to permanently defeat Doomsday.  However, the victory came at a high cost, as his battle damages causes him to collapse into Lois’ arms and succumbs to his injuries.

Ma Kent!

A funeral service is held as a memorial is erected within the city’s Centennial Park.  The citizens of Metropolis gathered to pay their respects to their fallen hero as the service is broadcast across the world.  Looking for consoling, Lois heads to the midwestern town of Smallville and to the Kent Family Farm to talk to Martha Kent (voiced by Swoosie Kurtz), who saw the broadcast of Superman’s duel with Doomsday and attended said funeral.  Lois tells Ma about her relationship with Superman and how they both have a loving connection towards him.

Back in Metropolis, crime has gone up since Superman’s demise; Jimmy (because of his photos of Supes v. Doomsday) got him hired to a tabloid paper called the National Voyeur and Daily Planet editor Perry White (voiced by Ray Wise) starts hitting the bottle.  At LexCorp, Mercy informs Luthor that all ties that the company had with Project: Applecore has been destroyed.  For extra measures, Lex shoots her in the head so that he’s the only one who knows about it.

As if the soaring crime rate wasn’t bad enough, we even have Toyman (voiced by John DiMaggio) having kidnapped a school bus load of children and threatens to knock them off a building if the police doesn’t back off.  Lois manages to reach the roof of said building and is able to rescue a majority of the kids.  However, she (and a remaining little girl) gets caught by Toyman and end up being tossed off the building.  Fortunately, Metropolis gets a huge shock as Lois and the little girl get saved by Superman, back from the dead.  He then proceeds to defeat Toyman and gets him arrested.

However, things aren’t as they seem to be.  As Superman flies Lois home, he forgets where her apartment is and is shocked when she kisses him.  Also, he hasn’t returned to the Daily Planet as Clark Kent and hasn’t called Ma Kent, which starts making Lois suspicious.  It turns out that he’s actually a clone made from Superman’s blood sample that Lex was able to get from the fight and its knowledge is only what Luthor programmed into him.

If that wasn’t enough, he even had the clone tunnel to Supes’ grave and steal the body.  Despite being robbed of his chance to kill his longtime adversary, Lex has bigger plans waiting in the wings.

Fortunately, “The Robot” is able to make his way into LexCorp and tamper with the security cameras long enough to get Superman’s body back to the Fortress of Solitude so that he can get his strength back.  While that’s going on, the clone’s rash behavior continues to grow when he finds out that Toyman broke out of jail and killed a four-year-old girl before the police caught up and arrested him again.  As he’s being led into jail, the clone picks up Toyman and carries him high above the city before letting him drop onto a police car, dying on impact.

Dark Superman!

After getting berated by Luthor for his actions, the clone gets ordered to find Superman’s body.  However, he ignores the orders and heads into a hair salon.  He uses his X-Ray Vision on a mirror to discover a tiny lead ball was embedded into his head by Luthor himself.  Since lead is able to negate X-Ray Vision, he assumes that the fail-safe mini-explosive within his skull contains kryptonite (radiated fragments of Krypton that drains him of his powers and kills him).  After using his Heat Vision to create a deep enough opening in his head, he then uses scissors to get the pellet out of his head and disposes of it.

Lois, having discovered Luthor’s connection with the clone’s actions, breaks into LexCorp to confront him.  She manages to tranquilize him, giving her a 1/2 hour to search through his files and discover the truth.  Having also gotten Jimmy on board, they find out (and capture on film) about Lex’s true plans, since having one Superman clone was only the beginning.  Luthor aims to have a whole army of Superman clones under his every command.  However, Lex was able to catch up to them and is about to shoot them, but the Superman clone comes in to save them and wipes out Luthor’s clone armada.  Luthor tried to subdue the clone with the red sun room and kryptonite gloves again, but the clone locks him in the room, rips it out of the building, and throws the room through said building and onto the streets.

At the Fortress of Solitude, Superman gets informed by the Robot about the Metropolis newscast catching the clone’s actions.  Despite being only at 67% strength, he decides to go take on his doppelganger and stop him once and for all.  He dons a cape-less black outfit called a “Solar Suit”, which will let him absorb more sunlight during his flight.  The Robot even goes into the archives and gives him a weapon from Luthor’s past: The Kryptonite Cannon, a hand gun that shoots out the lethal mineral that’s encased in a lead-lined cartridge.  Even though it’s in his nature not to use guns, Superman knows that he’ll need it because of his weakened condition.

The military tries to subdue the Superman clone, but they didn’t even get a chance to fight back.  Everything from standard guns, chain guns, and rocket launchers, to tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters gets instantly annihilated by heat vision.  The real Superman arrives and tries to attack with the Kryptonite Cannon, but the clone moved too fast and knocks it out of his hand, causing it to fly many blocks away.  So, the two Supermen begin the climatic fight.

Superman V. Clone Superman!

Smashing through buildings, tossing extremely heavy objects, a heat-vision duel, and swapping blows in the air and on the ground, both Supermen refuse to hold anything back. Meanwhile, Lois takes a military jeep and gets Jimmy with her as they go to retrieve the Kryptonite Cannon.  Eventually, the fight makes its way to the Superman Memorial at Centennial Park and the real Superman gets punched into a tanker truck, causing it to spill out tar.

Superman begins the falter against his clone, but Lois and Jimmy come driving into the rescue.  Lois was able to score a shot from the Kryptonite Cannon, but the clone easily dodges the second shot and destroys the Cannon with his heat vision and the lead-lined cartridge lands on the ground.  However, it was enough time for the real Superman to get back into the action.  The fight continues onto the tar-covered grass as they exchange a few more blows with each other, but the fight starts to take its toll on the real Superman as the clone scores successive head shots with his knee and prepares to end the fight by taking the giant S-Symbol monument and crush him with it.  Fortunately, Superman notices the lead-lined cartridge sticking onto the clone via the tar and uses his heat vision to cause the cartridge to explode.  The clone falters from the deadly mineral and gets crushed by the monument.

Despite being able to get out from under the monument, he collapses at Superman’s arms. A combination of his battle scars and the kryptonite ultimately does the clone in as he dies from his injuries.

Picking Up The Pieces In Victory!

Superman lets Lois know that he really is back with a kiss and is able to start winning the crowd back into his favor.  At Lois’ apartment the next morning, Superman has finished his shower while Lois is typing up her news article.  Having telling her that he misspelled “resurrection” in the article, he mentions how he was a Smallville Elementary Spelling Bee champion and confirms to her of his earthly identity of Clark Kent to her.  We close out on them in an embrace, while we truly end with seeing that Lex survived his ordeal and smirks towards future ways to possibly kill his longtime foe.

Because the original story line was 39 issues long spanning four Superman books (Superman, Adventures of Superman, Action Comics, & Superman: Man of Steel), two issues of Justice League America, an issue of Green Lantern, and a “Legacy of Superman” special, of course you’re going to find some changes made for the adaptation.  First off, a lot of characters don’t appear in this.  Omitted are the likes of Supergirl (who was with Lex Luthor but he was disguised as Lex Luthor II), members of both the Justice League of America and Justice League International, Martha Kent’s husband Jonathan, and Mongul.  Lex Luthor WAS in the originally story, but his role with very minor.  Also, the Superman clone replaces the four beings that popped up following Superman’s “death” in the comics (Superboy, Steel, Eradicator, and Cyborg Superman).

Also in the comics, Superman fights Doomsday multiple times before they tussle in Metropolis.  Beginning in the Ohio/Pennsylvania area, Supes dukes it out once alongside Justice League International & eventually throws Doomsday into a lake bed, once with Maxima at a gas station, and once with Guardian at the mountain headquarters of Cadmus after Superman throws Doomsday towards there.  Also, before being thrown towards the mountains, Doomsday hears about Metropolis after seeing a commercial of a wrestling event being held there while he’s smashing up an appliance store and even sees a street sign for said city.

Doomsday's Fury!

There are other differences here and there, but I don’t own the trades that contains the original story lines and had to look up said differences.  However, I am reviewing this film, so here’s my thoughts on it.  I definitely praise the art work and animation.  The hand-drawn characters have a consistent flow while some computer animation gets used at times with effectiveness.  This film came out a little over a year after the DC Animated Universe finished up its stellar 14-year run, so you feel a bit of a transition from the somewhat kid-friendly restraints of Kids’ WB! and Cartoon Network to delving into maturity.  Showing a little more blood, seeing a covered-up corpse of a dead girl, and even using a needle to tranquilize someone shows the tonal shifts from TV to direct-to-DVD.

The voice acting (for the most part) held up really well.  Andrea Romano continually has a knack for finding the right actors whose voices can carry the script.  For example, Anne Heche held her own as Lois Lane, providing a certain kind of toughness to get the job done.  She can even bring to life how much her character’s deep caring for Superman and how much of an impact he makes on her life.  For Swoosie Kurtz as Martha Kent, I was shocked to find out on the DVD commentary that her first vocal work for this feature was her crying.  After all, the first time we see her character is when she’s watching Superman’s fight with Doomsday and then having to see her Kryptonian son “die” on TV.  Her initial cry was able to be effective enough to show the pain and sorrow, while the rest of her performance (in particular when Lois visits her on a consul visit) shows the carrying and supportive nature of Ma.

With our ol’ pal Superman, Adam Baldwin does a modest job.  While he’s able to bring the kind soul that embodies the fabric and being of our hero to the forefront, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of tonal shifts in the voice.  Maybe its because the main Superman is absent for a good portion and we’re with his clone (where he does a stellar job at being terrorizing with the low tone) for a lot of the film, but while I have nothing admiration for those who voice him, it seems like (at the time as least) I was more comfortable with Tim Daly or George Newbern (after all, DC Animated Universe).  Even then, Adam Baldwin did an OK job.  With our other Adam (Adam Wylie), I enjoyed his performance as Jimmy Olsen. He delivered a youthful charm while getting the most of the time his character is on screen. However, his character arc kind of feels incomplete.  He initially works for the Daily Planet, but his stellar photos of the Superman v. Doomsday battle gets his hired by a tabloid paper.  After we see him taking pictures in front of a celebrity night club and at Toyman’s death, we see him once again with Lois for the final chain of events.  We never see or hear about him leaving said tabloid and it’s left without closure.  As far as Lex Luthor goes, James Marsters steals the show hands down.  Because his character gets an expanded role, he really shines with the maniacal exploits that goes on.  From serious to cunning and calculating, this was an awesome choice that Andrea Romano waited a long time to get.  Let me tell you, it paid off big time.  Finally, as far as Tom Kenny and Ray Wise go on their parts, no complaints here.  They did their jobs.

Superman-To The Death!

As far as the fight scenes go, (Superman’s fight with Doomsday and Superman’s fight with his clone), they each do a well-done job of being epic slug fests that causes a lot of the delicious destruction that comes between two super-powered beings and also not overstaying its welcome.  After all, all of that constant abuse isn’t ideal for one’s health.  Doomsday has a historical appearance to himself in the “Silent, but Deadly” category.  Silent: He’s doesn’t talk our language and believes in the “Less Chat, More Splat” philosophy.  Deadly: He’s an near-indestructible being.  It’s not clear in the film, but in the comics, he could adapt to anything that previously harmed him and make it so that it’s just a minor annoyance the next time.  He makes his presence felt during his screen time.  Meanwhile, the Superman clone’s decent towards evil has nice subtle tones.  From forgetting simple things about the relationship with Lois to taking murderous revenge on someone who killed an innocent kid, he runs the gambit and makes Metropolis paranoid with fear.

Overall, this is a good start to the series.  There isn’t a lot of things to complain about this, aside from a voicing concern here to a character arc there.  Just like my reviews series here, it’s trying to find its roots.  While kind of playing it safe with the familiar style from the DC Animated Universe, future installments would branch out and try new things with the animation.  The story is solid enough to keep your attention with some nice action scenes and plot development along the way.  In the end, this film is worth your time.

The Eternal Couple!

Hope you enjoyed my first entry.  As this series progress, I’ll be making my own style on this and make this as constant as possible.  Feel free to comment on what you liked and what I could improve on for future installments.

Next Time: Let me take you back to a story that takes place in the silver age of comics as I forge towards reaching new foreign lands with my series.  I’ll be digging into a yarn called, “Justice League: The New Frontier”.

Superman (created By Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) is owned by DC Comics.

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