'Toon Review - Superman: Doomsday
When Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics decided to create more mature direct-to-video projects based on some of the most popular storylines from DC’s rich history…well, as both a DC fanboy and a Superman fanboy…I was thrilled that they chose to start with what ultimately became Superman: Doomsday. The only other information offered was that the animation style would be more akin to the art seen in the comics as opposed to what had been seen up to this point in the DC Animated Universe (consisting of Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited) and that the voices would be recast, so that each movie had a fresh and new take to these timeless characters. And while it really didn’t live up to expectations or what was advertised, Superman: Doomsday was a pretty good to excellent start to this new direction.
Let’s start with the visuals. Overall, I liked the redesign of many of the characters, Lois and Jimmy in particular (actually, now that I think about it, Lex was pretty good too). But…not only is Bruce Timm’s style easily identifiable, this is nothing like the look of the comics at that time. Now, granted, they backed away from that claim as the release of this feature drew nearer and nearer, but still, one can’t help but feel this might have been more suitably advertised as a movie for Superman: the Animated Series in the same way that Mask of the Phantasm was a movie for Batman: the Animated Series. The problem is Superman himself…and honestly, even from the neck down he looks fine. But the cheekbones…WHY??? Ugh. Not good. Moving away from that, the animation is as solid as we’ve come to expect. The fight with Doomsday is as brutal as it should be, as is the fight at the end, which to say anything more would be to spoil it, but does give me a good segue to talk about the plot!
I have to admit that when I saw the Screenplay credit, I was gripped with fear. You see, my only experience with Duane Capizzi up to that point had been the DREADFUL Superman: Brainiac Attacks direct to video that had been released to coincide with the theatrical run of Superman Returns. Thankfully, well, I’m not sure how much credit should be given to Bruce Timm, as he is given a Story credit, but aside from the occasional wooden line or Superman trying to cure cancer in his spare time, it’s a pretty good adaptation. Now, fanboys were kinda pissed when the whole “Reign of the Supermen” storyline wasn’t strictly adhered to, but come on! The entire Death and Return of Superman storyline ran for at least a year…and this with Superman comics coming out every week! To put everything in was impossible. And, at that point in the comics, you had this Lex Luthor II thing that was just…ugh. By making Lex more integral to the story is a vast improvement…especially when Lex’s own grief is highlighted. There’s just one thing that really, REALLY bugged me. Before Superman delivers what ends up being the finishing blow, well, let’s face it, he was getting a rather brutal beatdown…you know, as the story dictates. But then some little sobbing little girl wanders out into the street…WHERE THEY’RE FIGHTING. I’m sorry…just…no. That reeks of plot device. Sigh…you know, just taking 5 extra minutes at the keyboard and anything just even slightly more evolved than a chimpanzee could’ve come up with something…ANYTHING. Okay. Minor nit picked.
The new voice casting? Well, I have to risk sounding like a broken record, because my opinion on that is very similar to what I said about the visuals. Anne Heche as Lois, Adam Wylie as Jimmy and Ray Wise as Perry all do great jobs. In all honesty, I’d love to hear each of them take on the characters on a more regular basis. James Marsters is masterful as Lex. Hell, even DC/WB thought so too…since he would go on to voice Lex again in the DC Universe Online game! And again, I’d love to hear more. You’ll notice who I’m leaving out…again. Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, Adam Baldwin does a fine job, acting-wise, with the role…and it had to be tough because for the last 15 minutes of the movie, he’s basically talking to himself. That’s really to be applauded. But, and this is just my own personal taste here (of course it is, jackass, it’s your review!), I just felt like his voice was a little too gravelly for Superman. He did Hal Jordan’s voice for the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us…and he was fantastic. Perfect for Hal. Not so much for Superman. And I really should emphasize, it’s not that he’s bad…not at all…but compared to how right the rest of the cast sounded tonally…hrm…now that I think about it, it’s really got nothing to do with him, per se. Instead, gotta put the blame on this one at the feet of the casting and voice director, Andrea Romano. Unfortunate too…she’s usually soooo good. Still, she’s human, they can’t all be home runs.
Overall, it’s a good start to a new line. It does a fair amount of things right, yet shows that there’s room for improvement. Had not the last episodes of Superman: the Animated Series been the “Legacy” two-parter, this would have been an excellent movie to close out the series. In some ways, it still is, even though the two end with the same question of “How will people ever trust Superman again?” I would say, actually, that this movie serves almost as a prequel to the DC Universe direct-to-video line…a final hurrah to the Timm era of designs. If you’re a fan of Superman or of Bruce Timm’s era in the DCAU (DC Animated Universe), definitely check this out. If you’re a casual fan, it’s at least worth a rental. If you’re a Bat-Fan…skip it, there’s nothing for you here.
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